Edward I built Harlech Castle over 6 years from 1282 to 1289; like a giant clenched fist it symbolised power and domination. It was a response to an uprising led by Llewellyn in 1282 in which the English had big losses. But Edward I drove Llewellyn back to Snowdon and he died in a skirmish. Edward pressed on, and Harlech is part of his iron ring of castles, controlling access to Snowdonia from Aberystwyth to Flint.
The stones here breathe history. They are a testament to the military engineering skill of their designer. The Castle sits on top of solid rock to prevent undermining which caused the downfall of many other castles. Castle corners were vulnerable, but there are no corners here. There are two concentric walls with towers, and the inner ward is a rectangle with a sole gatehouse.
A concentric castle was one with walls within walls. They were the ultimate in defence fortifications. The inner circle of walls was itself defended by an outer circle of wall. The inner circle wall was higher than the outer circle wall. As a result, archers on the inner walls could fire over the heads of the archers on the lower walls. This design came here with Knights who had seen concentric castles in the Holy Land, such as Krak de Chevaliers.
The gatehouse itself is a fortress. Making the castle impregnable used skilled craftsmen from all over England and Europe. No expense was spared. However, the castle fell to Owain Glyndwr’s forces in 1404.
The Siege of Harlech Castle
During the Wars of the Roses, the castle came under siege in 1461, and withstood for seven years! Supplies came by water from Ireland. This is the longest siege in British history and is probably the origin of the song Men of Harlech.
Today, the Castle’s visitor facilities are second to none, with great exhibitions and activities for families to see and do.
Royal St David’s Golf Course
Royal St David’s Golf Course is one of the premier Welsh golf courses. Founded in 1894, the club is on the dune lands between the castle and the sea. The course offers top-flight golfing, spectacular views and some of it is a site of special scientific interest. In the summer, the wild orchids add charm to the rough.
The theatre is a small theatre in the wake of Harlech Castle and next to the dunes. The fully accessible theatre has 256 seats, and presents high quality performances to a wide range of audiences.