Conwy Castle, an iconic medieval fortress situated in the picturesque town of Conwy in North Wales, stands as a testament to the region’s rich history and architectural prowess. Constructed between 1283 and 1289 under the orders of King Edward I, the castle was part of an extensive campaign to consolidate English rule in Wales. Designed by the master military architect James of St. George, Conwy Castle is a prime example of 13th-century military architecture and is considered one of the finest examples of Edwardian castles in Europe.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986, Conwy Castle boasts an impressive set of eight massive towers, interconnected by a high curtain wall that encircles the entire complex. The castle’s strategic location on a rocky coastal ridge allowed for both natural and man-made defenses, which contributed to its formidable reputation. The castle’s defensive features include the fortified town walls, which extend over 1.3 km and are punctuated by 21 towers and three gatehouses, providing additional protection to the town and its inhabitants.
The castle’s layout consists of two separate wards, the inner and outer wards, each with its own distinctive features. The outer ward houses the castle’s primary living quarters, including the Great Hall, where banquets and other important events were held. The inner ward, accessed through the King’s Gate, contains the private royal apartments and the castle’s chapel. The castle’s interior showcases remnants of elaborate decorative elements, such as ornate fireplaces and arched windows, reflecting the opulence of the period.
Over the centuries, Conwy Castle has witnessed numerous historical events and changes in ownership. It played a crucial role during the Welsh uprisings led by Madog ap Llywelyn in 1294-95 and Owain Glyndŵr in the early 15th century. The castle also saw action during the English Civil War, where it was held by the Royalists before eventually being captured by the Parliamentarians in 1646. After the war, the castle was partially dismantled to prevent future military use, leading to its current state of ruin.
Today, Conwy Castle is managed by CADW, the Welsh government’s historic environment service, and is open to the public for exploration and educational purposes. Visitors can traverse the castle’s well-preserved walls and towers, taking in stunning views of the surrounding town, mountains, and coastline. The castle also hosts various events and reenactments throughout the year, providing an immersive experience into the history of medieval Wales.