April 8th, 2019
Today on the blog we head to one of the Welsh coast’s most regal of towns, and finds that there’s a whole lot more to Caernarfon than just castles and crowns.
When Edward I decided that the noisy Welsh rebels of the 13th century were keeping him from world domination, he pondered on a way to quash their rowdy protests. After some thought, he hit on the idea that a mighty castle or two would show the rebels who was boss, and so he set about building his so called iron ring of fortresses around the coast of Wales.
Today, Edward’s castle is probably the most famous feature of the town of Caernarfon, and it seems it’s made of pretty strong stuff. It has stood defiantly keeping watch over the town and the sea for well over 700 years; fending off assaults by angry Welsh armies, as well as withstanding the brutal coastal winds that can batter more lowly buildings to submission.
Despite being left to fall into disrepair in the medieval years, the castle is remarkably well preserved, so it’s easy to imagine some of its history as you walk through the historic stone rooms and along the mighty walls. And it’s not just ancient history either, because in 1969, the stately Caernarfon Castle was used as the place of investiture for Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. Then, in the 1980’s, the United Nations recognised the historic importance of Caernarfon Castle and added it to their UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, so that it can be protected, preserved and promoted for many more future generations.
The castle is well worth a visit, and big and little kids alike can let their imaginations run wild. But, the castle is not the only gem of this lovely seaside town. Situated on the banks of the Menai Strait between mainland Wales and the island of Anglesey, Caernarfon has loads to offer.
Since the castle and the city walls were built around the twelfth century, a handsome town has slowly built up around it, with some lovely independent shops interspersed with the usual high street chains. The square behind the castle still retains much of its charm, and the streets nearby, like Palace Street and the uniquely named Hole in the Wall Street, are really pretty and quaint, and you’ll find some good pubs serving hearty meals and local ales here.
Heading northwards from the castle along the pier edge takes you past the marina and to the new development of the Galeri arts centre and café bar (an excellent stop for some more local ales!). And Caernarfon is also the home of the famous Welsh Highland Railway……. One of the country’s finest vintage railway lines, it has seen a long programme of renovation and restoration which was finally completed in 2011. The line now runs all the way from Caernarfon, heading south through the hills of Snowdonia to the coastal town of Porthmadog where it meets the famous Ffestiniog Railway.
And if it’s more family fun you’re looking for, then how about a trip to a local animal park called Gypsy Wood, just a five minute drive from the town. The enchantingly named park is absolutely packed with things to see and do. There’s a huge selection of animals to point at, including llamas, donkeys, ponies, pigs, pygmy goats, rabbits and chickens. There’s also a fantastic miniature railway as well as mini zip wires, play areas and the chance to meet the Gypsy Wood Fairy Queen.
The area isn’t short of beautiful beaches either. The nearest beach to Caernarfon is at Dinas Dinlle, an enormous stretch of rich sand with a stunning backdrop of the hills of the Llŷn Peninsula in the distance. But, sometimes there are more important things to do than look at the view – the serious business of practicing some castle building skills, of course. Edward I, eat your heart out…..
Caernarfon is a short drive or bus journey from the Oakeley Arms Hotel (approx 25 miles). Ask staff for directions or details.