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Friday, 24 January 2014

Criccieth Castle

Criccieth, places to eat, restaurants, Llwelyn ap Iowerth

I like castles, I really do.  Even scant and scraggy ruins can have a certain allure - a hint of romance blended with an aroma of past power.  It is easy to lose yourself in these monuments of stone, trying to understand a little of their history and the lives of the people that built, lived and died in them.  We are lucky to have so many castles in Britain: there are more than 640 in Wales alone.

It’s unfortunate, then, that Criccieth Castle didn’t do much for me.  Maybe this was due to mixed feelings about the town, where the welcome was sometimes less than cordial – though we did enjoy two excellent meals, in the Spice Bank and the Moelwyn Hotel.  Yum.  

Criccieth, ruined castles, Gerald of Wales

But there are three really good things about Criccieth Castle.  First – position: it is situated on a rocky promontory sticking out into Tremadog Bay, towering over the town and the two beaches either side.  So it has a wonderful silhouette and, when you get to the top, the views from the battlements are spectacular – particularly east toward the distant mountains of Snowdonia National Park.  Secondly, just look at that massive gatehouse – it is, literally, awesome – as no doubt it was meant to be.  It almost makes the castle look top-heavy: there is nothing elegant about Criccieth Castle; it is what it is – a no-nonsense medieval fortress designed to deter attackers.  Thirdly, the castle has a fascinating exhibition about Gerald of Wales, a 12th century cleric and scholar of Anglo-Norman/Welsh heritage, who wrote at least 17 books (all of them best-sellers?), including an account of his Journey through Wales, Itinerarium Cambriae, in 1188.  I hope Cadw, who look after the castle, keep this exhibition going.

Welsh flag, Criccieth, Cadw, war with England
Unlike so many castles in Wales, Criccieth is generally reckoned to have been built by the Welsh, rather than the English.  Though there is scholarly debate about who actually built what, and when, it is believed to have been constructed by Llwelyn ap Iorwerth, also known as Llwelyn the Great, in around 1230.  It was extended about 30 years’ later and considerably developed after 1283, when it was captured by the English.  Criccieth was besieged by the Welsh in 1294 during an uprising led by Madoc ap Llwelyn, but was kept supplied by sea with essential food and equipment from ships sailing from Ireland, and the garrison managed to hold out.  By the 14th century, Criccieth was being used as a prison.  It was finally captured by Owain Glyndwr in 1404, whose forces tore the walls down.  It is said that the fires started that day have left their marks in the stonework – and it is certainly true that some on the western side had a reddish hue about them.

However, for me – and sadly – the walls of Criccieth Castle exude little of these great and tumultuous events.  Don’t take my word for it; hundreds of people love Criccieth Castle, I’m glad I’ve seen it and I’d certainly go again if I happened to be nearby and didn’t need to be somewhere else.

Visit Criccieth Castle’s website.

For a bit about the English conquest of Wales, see Whatever happened to Wales?

Criccieth Castle, visit Wales, English conquest


  1. it looks impressive to this stateside resident. :)

  2. It would be fun to do a tour visiting various castles.

  3. The view in that last shot surely did something to compensate for your disappointment (?).

  4. I adore castles! And I can't wait to win the lottery to spend a year touring Britain just to take photos of the castles there! I love your shots and thanks for the info, too.

  5. I'm rather a castle freak myself, and being the daughter of a Welshman I really want to visit Wales and explore my roots so to speak. Though I don't think this castle is anywhere near where my dad lived, I would still love to visit it.


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