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Caernarfon Castle Timeline

Caernarfon Castle Timeline

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  • c. 1093

    A motte and bailey castle is built at Caernarfon in Wales by the Normans.

  • 1115 - 1282

    Caernarfon is the site of the Welsh royal court.

  • 1272 - 1307

  • 1283 - 1330

    Caernarfon Castle in Wales is built, a project begun by Edward I of England.

  • 1283 - 1292

    The first major building phase at Caernarfon Castle in Wales.

  • 25 Apr 1284

    Edward II of England is born in Caernarfon Castle in Wales.

  • 1294

    The Welsh leader Madog ap Llywelyn attacks and burns Caernarfon Castle.

  • 1295 - 1323

    Second major building phase at Caernarfon Castle in Wales.

  • 1295

    Edward I of England recaptures Caernarfon Castle in Wales.

  • 1316

    The traditional wooden hall of the Welsh princes is moved from Conwy to Caernarfon Castle.

  • c. 1317

    The Eagle Tower, a castle keep, is completed at Caernarfon Castle in Wales.

  • 1330

    Caernarfon Castle reaches its final appearance (even if parts will never be completed).

  • 1403 - 1404

    Caernarfon Castle is twice besieged by the Welsh leader Owain Glyn Dwr.

Caernarfon Castle Timeline - History


Caernarfon Castle was built in the wake of the second War of Welsh Independence to serve as the administrative centre for North Wales. It was the most elaborate of all of the castles raised by Edward I and was designed to imitate the Imperial Roman city of Constantinople. It was attacked during both the Madog ap Llywelyn and Owain Glyndŵr rebellions.

Caernarfon occupies a strategically important location overlooking the Menai Straits, a 500 metre wide stretch of water that separates mainland Wales from the Isle of Anglesey. The crossing was critically important to North Wales as the fertile agricultural land of Anglesey meant it was the region’s main food source. Accordingly control of the Menai Straits directly affected the ability of the populace of the mainland to resist occupation. This was not lost on the Romans who built Caernarfon Roman Fort, known as Segontium , nearby in the late AD 70s as the military suppressed the Ordovices tribe. The fort remained in use throughout the next three hundred years and was particularly important in the latter decades of the Roman era as it provided a coastal defence role guarding against Irish pirates. The fort was probably abandoned when the Roman Army withdrew from Britain in the early fifth century AD.

The remains of Caernarfon Roman Fort.

When the Normans arrived in North West Wales in the late eleventh century, they also appreciated the importance of Caernarfon. Around 1090 Hugh of Avranches, Earl of Chester built an earth and timber motte-and-bailey castle there. Hugh opted for a different site from the Romans and built his castle directly adjacent to the Menai Straits on a peninsula of land protected on the south side by the River Seiont and on the east by the Cadnant Brook. This castle was seized by the Welsh in the early twelfth century and presumably destroyed. However, some form of Hall was retained on the site by the Welsh Princes of Gwynedd as both Llywelyn ap Iorwerth and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd were recorded as staying there during their reigns.

Welsh Wars of Independence

In the two centuries that followed their conquest of England, the Normans had vied with the native Welsh to secure control of portions of Wales. Ownership of land ebbed and flowed between the two factions and the high point of Welsh dominance came in 1267 when Henry III agreed the Treaty of Montgomery which recognised Llywelyn ap Gruffudd as Prince of Wales. However, when Edward I became King of England in 1272, relations with Gruffudd broke down resulting in the First War of Welsh Independence (1276-7). The Anglo-Norman war machine crushed the Welsh and Edward took control of all land to the east of the River Conwy. Gruffudd was allowed to retain his title of Prince of Wales but, in effect, his domain had been reduced to little more than Gwynedd. Peace did not last long though and the Second War of Welsh Independence started in 1282. This time Edward I resolved to conquer Wales in its entirety and launched a three pronged attack from Carmarthen, Chester and Montgomery plus a maritime assault on Anglesey. Wales was overrun, Gruffudd was killed at the Battle of Orewin Bridge (1282) and Welsh strongholds were systematically besieged and captured. To secure his victory, Edward I started construction of a chain of fortresses around Snowdonia, the traditional redoubt of the Welsh Princes. Caernarfon was one of these new facilities but was also built with the intention that it would serve as the centre of English Government in North Wales.

Construction of the Castle and Town Walls

Work started on Caernarfon Castle and the Town Walls in 1283 concurrently with other fortifications at Conwy and Harlech. However, Caernarfon was by far the most elaborate and expensive of the three Edward I ultimately spent in excess of £27,000 at the site. He was particularly keen to exploit the reference to Caernarfon in the Mabinogion, a twelfth century document that recorded oral sagas of Welsh history in circulation at the time. One of these stories was the 'Dream of Macsen Wledig', a story about Magnus Maximus (Macsen Wledig), Roman emperor from AD 384 to AD 388, who allegedly married Elen, the daughter of a Caernarfon chieftain. To demonstrate a link with this legend, Caernarfon Castle was built with polygonal towers and incorporated darker stone banding in imitation of the walls surrounding the Roman Imperial capital of Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). The suggestion to the locals was clear Edward I was an effective conqueror, an Imperial power and continuity with what had gone before. In an amazing coincidence, the English found the body of Magnus Maximus at Caernarfon during building work on the castle. Edward I ordered his reburial nearby with a degree of pomp.

The castle was built with polygonal towers in imitation of the Imperial capital of Constantinople.

The castle was built around the existing earthworks of the earlier fortification under the direction of the King's chief engineer, Master James of St George. The castle was a long but narrow enclosure that was divided into Upper and Lower Wards. Two major gateways - King's Gate and Queen's Gate - provided access into the Upper Ward. Seven large polygonal towers dominated the structure and provided the residential accommodation. Two smaller turrets flanked the Queen's Gate. The town walls were built concurrently at the same time and enclosed an irregular area extending 250 metres north of the castle. The town was laid out in a grid pattern with High Street, the main road through the settlement, running between two major gates. Eight circular towers guarded the town wall.

In March 1284, with work on Caernarfon Castle and town underway, the Statute of Wales was sealed by Edward I. This legislative measure merged the three shires of the newly conquered territories into a single political entity administered from Caernarfon. The following month Queen Eleanor, who had accompanied her husband to Caernarfon, gave birth to the future Edward II at the castle. Never one to miss a political opportunity, Edward I promised the Welsh "a Prince born in Wales, who did not speak a word of English" and promptly gave his baby son the title of Prince of Wales. Regardless, tensions with the native Welsh simmered and erupted into rebellion in 1294 under the leadership of Madog ap Llywelyn. The castle was still incomplete by this stage the south walls had been built to a reasonable height but the castle's north walls were only at foundation level and were defended solely by a ditch and the town walls. The rebels overcame the latter and simply seized the castle. The Sheriff was summarily executed by the rebels, all timber structures were burnt and extensive damage was done to the masonry structures. However, the English response was swift and Royal forces swept back into Wales to crush the revolt. Caernarfon was soon recovered and work started on repairing the damage and completing the defences. Work continued apace from July 1295 through to the end of 1301 alongside construction of a new fortress, Beaumaris Castle, on the Isle of Anglesey. Thereafter a hiatus in construction seems to have occurred, perhaps due to treasury resources being directed towards Scotland, but by 1316 work had resumed. In 1316 the Hall of Llywelyn, a timber framed court formerly used by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, was moved from Conwy and erected within the Caernarfon Castle's Lower Ward. Work continued on the castle until 1330.

Caernarfon Castle was attacked in 1403 and 1404 during the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr. Unlike many other fortifications across Wales, Caernarfon resisted the attacks and provided a secure base from which Government forces could operate against the rebels although it took almost ten years to suppress the uprising. Thereafter the castle remained garrisoned until the Tudor era but the accession of Henry VII saw a significant change in Government policy. Henry had come to power with help from the Welsh and he continued to rely on their support once he was crowned. He systematically dismantled the power of the Marcher Lords and introduced equality for the Welsh in law. This ended any requirement for great fortifications such as Caernarfon Castle and accordingly the structure was neglected. A survey in 1620 reported most of the structure was roofless but it was hastily reactivated and garrisoned for the Royalists during the Civil War. It was attacked by Parliamentary forces on several occasions but it wasn't until 1646, after Royalist hopes of victory had faded, that the castle was surrendered. Thereafter the castle was largely neglected although it was used in 1911 to host the investiture ceremony for Prince Edward (later Edward VIII) as Prince of Wales and served the same role in 1969 for Prince Charles.

Davies, R.R (1987). Conquest, Coexistence and Change: Wales 1063-1415 . Oxford.

Douglas, D.C and Rothwell, H (ed) (1975). English Historical Documents Vol 3 (1189-1327) . Routledge, London.

Emery, A (1996). Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Gravett, C (2007). Castles of Edward I in Wales 1277-1307 . Osprey, Oxford.

Guest, C.E (1998). The Mabinogian . Dover Publications.

Johnson, P (2006). Castles from the Air: An Aerial Portrait of Britain’s Finest Castles . Bloomsbury, London.

Kenyon, J (2010). The Medieval Castles of Wales . University of Wales Press, Cardiff.

Kighty, C (1991). Caernarfon: A Royal Palace in Wales . Cardiff.

King, C.D.J (1983). Castellarium anglicanum: an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands . Kraus International Publications.

Pettifer, A (2000). Welsh Castles: A Guide by Counties . Boydell Press, Woodbridge.

Purton, P.F (2009). A History of the Late Medieval Siege: 1200-1500 . Boydell Press, Woodbridge.

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle is one of many castles built on the orders of King Edward I of England as part of his annexation of Wales in the late 13th century. Unlike the others, Caernarfon has polygonal towers, modelled on defences built for the emperor Constantine in Constantinople, capital of the eastern Roman empire. The towers&rsquo shape was meant to project England&rsquos conquering power.

A Norman motte and bailey was built here in the 11th century but captured by the Welsh in 1115. Edward&rsquos castle was planned and built in conjunction with a new town to the north, surrounded by defensive walls which joined onto the castle. Castle construction began in 1283, focusing initially on the southern side because the new town walls protected the northern side.

Welsh rebels captured the town and castle, causing damage, in 1294 but were soon ousted. The episode inspired a renewed focus on the castle&rsquos northern walls. Building the castle took 47 years. Some of the castle&rsquos stone was taken from the nearby Roman fort.

The Eagle Tower, with walls 5.5 metres (18ft) thick, housed the royal quarters. Edward&rsquos son, who became King Edward II, was reputedly born there in 1284, although local tradition says he was born at Plas Puleston, a mansion in the walled town, before being presented at the castle. Edward named the boy &ldquoPrince of Wales&rdquo to emphasise that Wales no longer had indigenous princes. This began the convention of male heirs to the throne taking that title. Investiture ceremonies for Princes of Wales were held in the castle in 1911 and 1969. The latter was watched on television by over 500 million people worldwide.

The castle was captured by Parliamentarians in the Civil War of the 17th century. It fell into the ruinous state shown here in JMW Turner&rsquos painting of 1799. This view of the castle was transformed in 1817 when the slate quay was greatly enlarged. High retaining walls replaced the slope on the right and the ground was built out into the river alongside the castle.

Local civic leader Sir Llewelyn Turner instigated restoration works in the 19th century. He was conscious of the growing economic importance of tourism and tried to have the town&rsquos jail rebuilt on the outskirts of town so that it wouldn&rsquot be visible from the castle.

Today the castle is in the care of Cadw. The castle and walled town are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with those of Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech. Two of the castle&rsquos towers host the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum. Follow the links below for visiting information.

3. The original castle was built by William the Conqueror

After the Norman Conquest of England in the year 1066, William I established dozens of castles all across Britain. The first Norman who was given control of the area was named Robert of Rhuddlan, but he was killed by the Welsh in 1088.

A stronger motte-and-bailey castle was established which was defended by a wooden keep and defensive walls. The motte was later integrated into the current castle but nothing of the original structure remains.

Current Times

Caernarfon castle today is a UNESCO world heritage site and was the place where Charles, Prince of Wales received his investiture or crowning in 1969. With the castle having a lot of towers, winding passageways, and rooms, it has become an ideal spot for housing museums of interest and permanent exhibitions.

“Caernarfon Castle on the Afon Seiont” (CC BY 2.0) by Nelo Hotsuma The castle’s courtyard (CC BY 2.0) by barryskeates

The Museum of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers which showcases memorabilia from the 300 years history of this important welsh regiment is found here.

View of the castle from one of its towers – (CC BY-SA 2.0) by s1ng0 Poppies Sculpture, Caernarfon Castle – Craigowen1976 [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

An interactive history of the tower, as well as items from the crowning of Prince Charles, are showcased in different towers of the castle.

Entrance to the castle [Public Domain] “Amazing view of the castle grounds from its tallest tower – Eagle Tower. (CC BY 2.0) by Nelo Hotsuma


The present city of Caernarfon grew up around and owes its name to its Norman and late Medieval fortifications. [7] The earlier British and Romano-British settlement at Segontium was named for the nearby Afon Seiont. After the end of Roman rule in Britain around 410, the settlement continued to be known as Cair Segeint ("Fort Seiont") and as Cair Custoient ("Fort Constantius or Constantine"), [8] of the History of the Britons, cited by James Ussher in Newman's life of Germanus of Auxerre, both of whose names appear among the 28 civitates of sub-Roman Britain in the Historia Brittonum traditionally ascribed to Nennius. The work states that the inscribed tomb of "Constantius the Emperor" (presumably Constantius Chlorus, father of Constantine the Great) was still present in the 9th century. [9] (Constantius actually died at York Ford credited the monument to a different Constantine, the supposed son of Saint Elen and Magnus Maximus, who was said to have ruled northern Wales before being removed by the Irish. [10] ) The medieval romance about Maximus and Elen, Macsen's Dream, calls her home Caer Aber Sein ("Fort Seiontmouth" or "the caer at the mouth of the Seiont") and other pre-conquest poets such as Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd also used the name Caer Gystennin. [11]

The Norman motte was erected apart from the existing settlement and came to be known as y gaer yn Arfon, "the fortress in Arfon". (The region of Arfon itself derived its name from its position opposite Anglesey, known as Môn in Welsh.) [12] A 1221 charter by Llywelyn the Great to the canons of Penmon priory on Anglesey mentions Kaerinarfon [13] the Brut mentions both Kaerenarvon and Caerenarvon. [14] In 1283, King Edward I completed his conquest of Wales which he secured by a chain of castles and walled towns. The construction of a new stone Caernarfon Castle seems to have started as soon as the campaign had finished. [15] Edward's architect, James of St. George, may well have modelled the castle on the walls of Constantinople, possibly being aware of the town's legendary associations. Edward's fourth son, Edward of Caernarfon, later Edward II of England, was born at the castle in April 1284 and made Prince of Wales in 1301. A story recorded in the 16th century suggests that the new prince was offered to the native Welsh on the premise "that [he] was borne in Wales and could speake never a word of English", however there is no contemporary evidence to support this. [16]

Caernarfon was constituted a borough in 1284 by charter of Edward I. [17] The charter, which was confirmed on a number of occasions, appointed the mayor of the borough Constable of the Castle ex officio. [18] The former municipal borough was designated a royal borough in 1963. [17] The borough was abolished by the Local Government Act 1972 in 1974, and the status of "royal town" was granted to the community which succeeded it. [17] Caernarfon was the county town of the historic county of Caernarfonshire.

In 1911, David Lloyd George, then Member of Parliament (MP) for Caernarfon boroughs, which included various towns from Llŷn to Conwy, agreed to the British Royal Family's idea of holding the investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle. The ceremony took place on 13 July, with the royal family visiting Wales, and the future Edward VIII was duly invested.

In 1955 Caernarfon was in the running for the title of Capital of Wales on historical grounds but the town's campaign was heavily defeated in a ballot of Welsh local authorities, with 11 votes compared to Cardiff's 136. [19] Cardiff therefore became the Welsh capital.

On 1 July 1969 the investiture ceremony for Charles, Prince of Wales was again held at Caernarfon Castle. The ceremony went ahead without incident despite terrorist threats and protests, which culminated in the death of two members of Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (Welsh Defence Movement), Alwyn Jones and George Taylor, who were killed when their bomb – intended for the railway line at Abergele in order to stop the British Royal Train – exploded prematurely. The bomb campaign (one in Abergele, two in Caernarfon and finally one on Llandudno Pier) was organised by the movement's leader, John Jenkins. He was later arrested after a tip-off and was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. [20]

In July 2019 Caernarfon hosted a rally for Welsh independence. The event, organised by AUOB (All Under One Banner) Cymru, included a march through the town centre. Organisers estimated that roughly 8,000 people joined on the march on the town square local authorities confirmed at least 5,000 attendees. [21] The event featured a number of speakers including Hardeep Singh Kohli, Evra Rose, Dafydd Iwan, Lleuwen Steffan, Siôn Jobbins, Beth Angell, Gwion Hallam, Meleri Davies and Elfed Wyn Jones. Talks covered criticism of Brexit and Westminster with advocating Welsh Independence. [22]

The history of Caernarfon, as an example where the rise and fall of different civilizations can be seen from one hilltop, is discussed in John Michael Greer's book The Long Descent. He writes of Caernarfon:

Spread out below us in an unexpected glory of sunlight was the whole recorded history of that little corner of the world. The ground beneath us still rippled with earthworks from the Celtic hill fort that guarded the Menai Strait more than two and a half millennia ago. The Roman fort that replaced it was now the dim brown mark of an old archeological site on low hills off to the left. Edward I’s great gray castle rose up in the middle foreground, and the high contrails of RAF jets on a training exercise out over the Irish Sea showed that the town’s current overlords still maintained the old watch. Houses and shops from more than half a dozen centuries spread eastward as they rose through the waters of time, from the cramped medieval buildings of the old castle town straight ahead to the gaudy sign and sprawling parking lot of the supermarket back behind us. [ citation needed ]

Caernarfon is situated on the southern bank of the Menai Strait facing the Isle of Anglesey. It is situated 8.6 miles (13.8 km) south-west of Bangor, 19.4 miles (31.2 km) north of Porthmadog and approximately 8.0 miles (12.9 km) west of Llanberis and Snowdonia National Park. [23] The mouth of the River Seiont is in the town, creating a natural harbour where it flows into the Menai Strait. Caernarfon Castle stands at the mouth of the river. [24] The A487 passes directly through Caernarfon, with Bangor to the north and Porthmadog to the south.

As the crow flies, the summit of Snowdon lies a little over 9.6 miles (15.4 km) to the southeast of the town centre.

Caernarfon's historical prominence and landmarks have made it a major tourist centre. [25] As a result, many of the local businesses cater for the tourist trade. Caernarfon has numerous guest houses, inns and pubs, hotels, restaurants and shops. The majority of shops in the town are located either in the centre of town around Pool Street and Castle Square (Y Maes), or on Doc Fictoria (Victoria Dock). A number of shops are also located within the Town Walls.

The majority of the retail and residential section of Doc Fictoria was opened in 2008. The retail and residential section of Doc Fictoria is built directly beside a Blue Flag beach marina. It contains numerous homes, bars and bistros, cafés and restaurants, an award-winning arts centre, a maritime museum and a range of shops and stores. [26]

Pool Street and Castle Square contain a number of large, national retail shops and smaller independent stores. Pool Street is pedestrianised [27] and serves as the town's main shopping street. Castle Square, commonly referred to as the 'Maes' by both Welsh and English speakers, is the market square of the town. A market is held every Saturday throughout the year and also on Mondays in the summer. [28] The square was revamped at a cost of £2.4 million in 2009. However, since its revamp the square has caused controversy due to traffic and parking difficulties. During the revamp, it was decided to remove barriers between traffic and pedestrians creating a 'shared space', to force drivers to be more considerate of pedestrians and other vehicles. This is the first use of this kind of arrangement in Wales, but it has been described by councillor Bob Anderson as being 'too ambiguous' for road users. [29] Another controversy caused by the revamp of the Maes was that a historic old oak tree was taken down from outside the HSBC bank. When the Maes was re-opened in July 2009 by the local politician and Heritage Minister of Wales, Alun Ffred Jones AM, he said, "the use of beautiful local slate is very prominent in the new Maes."

There are many old public houses serving the town, including The Four Alls (that has recently had a £500,000 renovation), The Anglesey Arms Hotel, The Castle Hotel, The Crown, Morgan Lloyd, Pen Deitch and The Twthill Vaults. The oldest public house in Caernarfon is the Black Boy Inn, which remained in the same family for over 40 years until sold in 2003 to a local independent family business. The pub has stood inside Caernarfon's Town Walls since the 16th century, and many people claim to have seen ghosts within the building. [30]

In and around the Town Walls are numerous restaurants, public houses and inns, and guest houses and hostels. [31]

Gwynedd Council's head offices are situated in the town. The local court serves the town and the rest of north-west Wales, and in 2009 moved to a multimillion-pound court complex on Llanberis Road. The Caernarfon parliamentary constituency was a former electoral area centred on Caernarfon. Caernarfon is now part of the Arfon constituency for both the UK Parliament and the Senedd. The town is twinned with Landerneau in Brittany. [32]

At the local level, Caernarfon Royal Town Council comprises 17 town councillors, elected from the wards of Cadnant (4), Menai (4), Peblig (5) and Seiont (4). [33]

The population in 1841 was 8,001. [34]

The population of Caernarfon Community Parish in 2001 was 9,611. [35] Caernarfon residents are known colloquially as "Cofis". The word "Cofi" / ˈ k ɒ v i / is also used locally in Caernarfon to describe the local Welsh dialect, notable for a number of words not in use elsewhere.

Within Wales, Gwynedd has the highest proportion of speakers of the Welsh language. The greatest concentration of Welsh speakers in Gwynedd is found in and around Caernarfon. [36] According to the 2001 Census, 86.1% of the population could speak Welsh the largest majority of Welsh speakers was found in the 10–14 age group, where 97.7% could speak it fluently. The town is nowadays a rallying-point for the Welsh nationalist cause. [ citation needed ]

Caernarfon Castle Timeline - History

Located in Gwynedd Wales on a peninsula bounded by the River Seiont and the Menai Strait, Caernarfon Castle was built by Edward I of England as part of his iron ring of castles to control Wales.

Caernarfon Castle has a distinct pattern of stone that make up the outer walls, resembling the walls of Constantinople that Edward saw firsthand during the Crusades. Edward used Caernarfon has his seat of power in Northern Wales. The castle was never fully completed as attentions and finances turned to support the struggles in Scotland, but it was attacked a few times by the Welsh and also saw action during the English Civil War when it was besieged three times by Parliamentarian forces trying to uproot Royalists hiding within the castle.

Given its turbulent past, it is no surprise that Caernarfon Castle has some resident ghosts .

Though one is not the ghost of a medieval or Roman soldier as one might suspect, but of a woman. The ghost of this female and sometimes glowing phantom has been spotted floating through the air, down the corridors of the castle. It has been reported that electrical equipment left at the castle overnight has been found tampered with upon returning to the castle the next day, often unexplained and then ascribed to the Floating Lady of Caernarfon Castle.

There is also the ghost of a blueish white figure caught on camera in 2001.

As Richard tells the story .

On August 11, 2001, an American tourist, Kristi Ormand from Dallas, Texas, visited Caernarfon Castle and climbed to the top of the Eagle Tower, from where she proceeded to take photographs of the castle interior. Although she saw nothing at the time, she was aware of “feeling a presence,” but believed it to be caused by the history that surrounded her. When she returned to America and began downloading her images, she noticed that one photograph showed a strange, white figure surrounded by a blue mist, standing in a castle doorway. On closer inspection she thought it looked like, “a small king, with his scepter, a crown, and a cloak on.” None of her other photographs showed the image, although it did appear on a videotape she had taken of the same doorway.

The photograph has since been the subject of animated debate among ghost enthusiasts. Some believe that Kristi may well have caught a spectral apparition on camera, while others attribute it to either lens flare or some reflective, though non-ghostly, object that was in the vicinity of the doorway at the time.

- Richard Jones
Richard Jones

This ghost story is from the book "Haunted Castles of Britain and Ireland" authored by Richard Jones.

About the book:

Region by region, ghost-seeker Richard Jones reveals, explains and delights in the tales of tortured phantoms eager to restage their dark and turbulent pasts. The cast of characters ranges from ghostly queens that hurl themselves from the ramparts to malevolent monks that wander the corridors. This authoritative and accessible guide to haunted sites is illustrated throughout and includes extracts from original documents.

We would like to thank Richard for graciously allowing Great Castles to use excerpts from his ghost stories on this site.

Caernarfon Castle Guidebook World Heritage Site

Some six-hundred years after the Roman legions had left Caernarfon, the Normans established a motte-and-bailey castle on a small peninsula alongside the Menai Strait. By 1115 Caernarfon, along with the rest of Gwynedd, had been recaptured by the Welsh, who continued to hold it until the defeat and death of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, prince of Wales, in 1282. Little more than six months later, Edward I set about building a new stronghold — one of a series of castles established in north Wales to secure the newly conquered principality.

Caernarfon Castle, begun in 1283 and still not completely finished when building work stopped in about 1330, is one of the most striking buildings the Middle Ages have left us. It is one of a group of imposing and majestic castles in north Wales that still remain in a state of some completeness.

But Caernarfon undoubtedly stands apart from the others in its sheer scale, in its nobility and in the degree of its architectural finish. Small wonder, then, that this great castle should have caught the imagination of scores of writers and painters through the ages.

Published 2015 / 44 pages / ISBN 978-1-85760-209-8

Size 210mm (w) x 255mm (h) English language

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Where information is shared with Public Health Wales or your local authority to carry out the Test, Trace, Protect Service, Public Health Wales and your local authority will be the Data Controllers for your personal information at the point they receive the data from Cadw.

How long will we keep your information?

We will only use and store your information for as long as it is required for test and trace purposes. Your personal information is collected to allow us to support the Welsh Government Test, Trace and Protect strategy will be retained for twenty one days from the date of your visit.

What are your legal rights?

Allowing us to share your information with the Welsh Government Test, Trace, Protect programme helps us to keep our members, visitors, customers, contractors, volunteers and staff members safe.

Only those that have shared their details shared for the purposes of Test, Trace Protect will be allowed in to the site.

Under data protection legislation, you have the right:

  • to be informed of the personal data Welsh Government holds about you and to access it
  • to require us to rectify inaccuracies in that data
  • to (in certain circumstances) object to or restrict processing
  • for (in certain circumstances) your data to be ‘erased’
  • to (in certain circumstances) data portability
  • to lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) who is our independent regulator for data protection

Contact Information

For further information about the information which the Welsh Government holds and its use, or if you wish to exercise your rights under the GDPR, please see contact details below:

Data Protection Officer
Welsh Government
Cathays Park
CF10 3NQ

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), our independent regulator for data protection can be contacted at:

Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire. SK9 5AF

Telephone: 01625 545 745 or 0303 123 1113 Website: www.ico.gov.uk

Changes to this privacy policy

This privacy policy may be updated in due course. When we make changes to this notice, the ‘last updated’ date at the top of this page will also change. Any changes to this policy will apply to you and your data immediately. If these changes affect how your personal data is processed, we will take reasonable steps to let you know.

Shop products

Prices shown are for UK delivery only. To discuss overseas orders please email [email protected]

Delivery Information
Standard UK delivery (by Royal Mail or Courier) £2.95

Standard Delivery
Applies to UK standard rate delivery only – you can expect delivery by Royal Mail or courier within 7 working days of placing your order.

It may take longer to deliver to remote areas, including the following post codes: AB, BT, DD 8-11, HS, IV, KA 27-28, KW, PA20-23, 28-29, 31, 34, 41 onwards, PH8, 10, 16, 18 onwards, TR21-25, ZE.

When will my products be delivered?
After you have placed your order online, we will send you an order confirmation email with the subject ‘Cadw Online Shop – thank you for your purchase’.

If you have not received this email within 24 hours of placing your order or your products have not been delivered within the timescale stated in the email, then please email: [email protected]

Returns and refunds

Our online tickets refund policy:

  • Ticket prices, ticket availability and site opening times can be found on wales/cadw
  • Tickets and booking fees must be paid at the time of your order and tickets cannot be reserved pending payment.
  • All online tickets for events are non-refundable unless the event is cancelled by Cadw whereby a full refund will be given.
  • All online day admission tickets are non-refundable.
  • Our online day admission tickets are valid for six months from date of purchase. Please use them before the expiry date as we’re unable to give refunds for unused tickets.
  • Online tickets cannot be exchanged, transferred or resold for commercial gain.
  • Defaced or altered tickets may be void and the holder will be refused admission.
  • Proof of entitlement for certain online ticket purchases may be required on entry e.g. NUS.
  • We’re sorry but discount vouchers, promotions or any other offers are not valid when purchasing tickets online, including Tesco Clubcard vouchers.
  • Under 5s receive free admission, so an online day admission ticket is not required for entry

Our shop returns policy:
We hope you will be delighted with your purchase. Should you wish to return a product (excluding publications) bought from us, we will be happy to refund or exchange in full.

Important: Publications can only be refunded if faulty/damaged during transit or prior to dispatch, or if the incorrect publication/s is sent to you by us.

Items must be unused, in original packaging (with labels) and returned within 30 days of receiving your order. This policy is in addition to your statutory rights and consumer rights.

To arrange a return, please email [email protected] where you will receive a Returns Authorisation Code and a returns form. Goods should be returned along with your completed returns form to:

Cadw Retail – Online Shop,
Unit 5/7 Cefn Coed,
Parc Nantgarw,

Please send your package using a secure or traceable method and keep your proof of postage. Return costs are borne by the customer unless an item is faulty.

If we sent you an item you did not order (an "incorrect" item), please email us and we’ll send you a pre-paid postage voucher in order to return to us.

All refunds will be processed within 14 days from the date the returned items have been received.

Refunds will be credited back to your original method of payment within approximately two days of being processed. Depending on your bank, it may take longer for the credit to appear on your account statement.

Please note: If you have purchased an item at a Cadw shop and would like a refund, this can be processed in store only. Please do not use the above process.

Items we are unable to refund or exchange

We are unable to offer a refund or exchange on the following products (unless faulty):

  • publications such as guidebooks / guide pamphlets
  • perishable goods such as food
  • personal grooming products
  • cosmetics
  • pierced jewellery
  • unsealed CD, DVD or videos

We will refund you the full delivery charge when a product is returned as faulty or damaged, but not when a product is simply unwanted.


Caernarfon in North Wales is widely known for two main reasons it is the home of what is undoubtedly the finest of all King Edward I’s castles, and it is where male heirs to the throne of England are invested as Prince of Wales. The last person to receive this honour was Prince Charles, at his investiture in 1969.

Caernarfon, located strategically at one end of the Menai Straits, was just a short distance across the Strait from the Anglesey town of Beaumaris, and thus made Anglesey easily accessible. The Romans placed their main fort near here named Segontium, and built circa 80ad, which they occupied for over 3 centuries. Their choice of location was for the same reason, that was to be able to keep control not only of Caernarvonshire but also of Anglesey. The word Caer in welsh means fort, and normally signifies the location of a fortress or stronghold, normally of Roman origin.

Prior to the building of Edward I’s castle, which was started in 1283, there had been a Motte and Bailey defence system designed by the Norman – Hugh of Avranches – in the late 11th century. The Welsh won the castle from the Normans 25 years later (1115), and remained in control of it until Edward’s army invaded North Wales.

What's been found in Caernarfon Castle's biggest ever archaeological dig - and how it's reshaping history

The largest ever archaeological dig to take place at Caernarfon Castle has been completed.

Work began in January 2019 and some significant artefacts have been uncovered since then, shaping our understanding of the site&aposs early history.

Among the items found were fragments of Roman pottery that date back to the 1st century, cannon balls, tile and animal bone.

Evidence for the use of the site shortly before Edward I built the existing castle in 1283 was also discovered, adding weight to the suggestion that there had been an earlier motte and bailey fortification.

From March 2021, post excavation assessments at Salford University will examine the data to determine how the discoveries will enrich — or even alter — what is known about life on the castle grounds.

Ian Miller, director of Salford Archaeology within the University of Salford, said: "The excavation and survey at Caernarfon Castle — one of the UK&aposs most important heritage sites — will have a huge impact on the way we understand the history and development of this iconic site.

“Working closely with Cadw’s archaeology and conservation teams, we’ve discovered tantalising evidence of Roman settlers dating back as far as the 1st century, suggesting that the site of Caernarfon Castle was of huge strategic significance long before a castle was built in 1283.

“What&aposs more, this once-in-a-lifetime project has yielded some very significant clues as to the use of the site immediately prior to the construction of the castle, and an insight into how this incredible building developed during the late 13th and 14th centuries.

“Excavation is essentially a data-gathering exercise, and our next task will be to analyse all the records we’ve created and closely examine all the artefacts discovered.

"We’re confident that once this analytical work has been completed, we will gain a far greater understanding of the historical development of the site. We may not rewrite the history of Caernarfon Castle, but we will certainly enhance it.”

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Archaeologists are also questioning whether newly discovered stone foundations might lead to a re-interpretation of the markings currently laid out at the Castle’s Lower Ward, indicating where original buildings would have stood during the 13th or 14th century.

Over the coming months, archaeological analysis of the findings will help to confirm this, while providing a clearer picture of the site’s historical timeline.

When complete, the investigation is expected to offer enough evidence for Cadw and Salford Archaeology to add a new chapter to the story of Gwynedd and Caernarfon Castle.

This archaeological news is the latest in a long line of announcements for Caernarfon Castle — which recently received planning approval for a £4m redevelopment and conservation programme, due for completion in 2022.

Ian Halfpenney, Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Cadw, said: “It is very rare indeed to see an excavation on this scale within a World Heritage Site, and the results will undoubtedly shed further light on the use and development of the Castle site.

“The scale of the work at Caernarfon Castle has provided an unprecedented opportunity to undertake a major excavation within the Lower Ward, and to create a comprehensive digital record via 3D laser scanning of the whole area.

"This laser model will not only aid our understanding of the Castle’s history, but it will also inform the subsequent conservation works and provide a permanent digital record of the King’s Gate — for the public to enjoy.

"We hope this revelation brings even more visitors to the site as soon as it can re-open safely, and highlights that Welsh history is never standing still."

Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, added: “This ground-breaking research adds a further depth of interest to the site of Caernarfon Castle, demonstrating the vital work that Cadw undertakes not only to preserve, but also to enhance understanding, of historical sites in Wales.

“I’d like to thank our Cadw members and loyal visitors for their continued support of Welsh history and conservation during this difficult time. I hope that, like me, you will look forward to hearing more about this exciting development, and discovering how it impacts what we thought we knew about Caernarfon Castle.”

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Watch the video: Caernarfon Castle, Wales - Visit Britain - Unravel Travel TV (May 2022).