At the mouth of the River Seiont where it empties into the southern end of the Menai strait, stands Caernarfon, the county town of Gwynedd and the mighty Caernarfon Castle.
Building of the walled town and its castle, began in 1283, shortly after the defeat of the native Welsh prince, Llywelyn the Last, by the English king, Edward 1st. Built as a fortress, palace and administrative centre, the castle’s purpose was to subjugate the Welsh. Edward’s architects took inspiration from Imperial Constantinople, creating a magnificent edifice complete with polygonal towers, intimidating battlements and masonry with coloured banding. At the water’s edge, supplies could be brought in from the sea and a watchful eye could be kept on Anglesey, Snowdonia and the Menai Strait.
The castle took 50 years to complete, during which time it temporarily lost control to the rebel forces of Madog Ap Llywelyn, though later easily withstood two sieges led by Owain Glyndwr in 1403 and 1404.
Edward’s heir was born in 1284 at Caernarfon, becoming the 1st “English” Prince of Wales. In the 20th century, there have been two more investitures at Caernarfon, the future Edward 8th in 1911, under the instigation of David Lloyd George and Prince Charles in 1969.
Today’s visitor can wander within the walls of this grandiose structure and learn more about its construction and history from the audio-visual presentation, displays and exhibitions. Within one of the towers the Royal Welch Fusiliers have a regimental museum, with tableaux and interactive displays.
The narrow streets, within the town walls are arranged in a grid and are a delight for shopping, taking refreshment or just to wander around. Outside the town walls a promenade alongside the waterfront is a pleasant place for a stroll.
In the nineteenth century the waterfront would have been a hive of activity, as slate arrived from the mountains to be loaded on ships, for distribution worldwide. The slate would have arrived on the trains of the Welsh Highland Railway. Today part of the journey can again be made, for visitors are invited to ride the trains, through dramatic scenery and enthusiasts are busy laying track, to complete the route through Snowdonia to Porthmadog.
On the outskirts of town are the ruins of a Roman Fort, Segontium. The Romans arrived here around 77AD and stayed for more than 300 years, at the time one of their most remote outposts.
Water sports, cycle tracks, footpaths and historical sites are all on Caernarfon’s doorstep and Caernarfon is perfectly situated for exploring the Lleyn Peninsula, Anglesey and Snowdonia.