32 km. north from Dolgellau along the A496 via Barmouth.
Harlech formed part of a bold military strategy and its power
and might are unquestioned even today, 700 years after
the castle was built. Set on its towering rock above
Tremadog bay, Harlech is the most dramatically sited
of all the castles raised by Edward I to overawe Wales.
Its soaring walls and towers are challenged for supremacy
only by the purple mass of distant Snowdon Mountain.
These rugged peaks played a large part in determining
Harlech's siting as one of the so-called 'Iron Ring'
of fortresses, built to contain the Welsh in their mountain
The castle was designed by the brillant
James of St.George, it was raised between 1283 and 1290
by an army of craftsmen and labourers: at one stage
nearly a thousand men were hard at work here. They came
from far and wide: masons from Savoy and Ireland, carpenters
and blacksmiths from all over England. Between them
they created a seemingly impregnable fortress, naturally
protected on three sides by cliffs and defended by concentric
lines of mutually supporting fortifications. The castle's
great glory is the massive, twin towered gatehouse:
attackers who reach it, a stronghold in itself, must
penetrate its devilish complex of gates, portcullies
No wonder Harlech became the castle of
lost causes, where diehard garrisons could defy thousands
of besiegers. But it's one of history ironies that this
castle, built to subdue the Welsh by an English king,
was captured in 1404 by Owain Glyndwr. It was the final
refuge of his Welsh patriots and later of Welsh Lancastrians.
Owever, Harlech was the very last Royalist stronghold
to fall during the Civil War.
Despite the assault of war and time, this
masterpiece of medieval fortification has survived remarkably
intact. Views from the battlements and wall-walks are
truly panoramic with the high peaks of Snowdonia that
are just one ingredient in a scene which extends across
the waters of Tremadog bay, to the long Lleyn Penisula.
The castle is now a World Heritage Site and in the care