Caernarfon Castle is one of the top tourist attractions in Wales, and one of a series of castles built by King Edward I over 700 years ago.
One of my most vivid childhood memories was touring several notable castles in the UK with my parents and siblings. My mother is from Wales, and both sets of grandparents were also from the UK. With an abundance of family overseas, we visited several times through my childhood years.
I Love Visiting Castles
Over the last few years, we have dragged our kids to lots of fun places including the U.S.S. Midway in San Diego. But traveling across water on a long flight to see something of this magnitude is definitely an experience to remember.
(It almost reminded me of the trips I made with my parents as a young kid — now that I have 5 kids of my own, I know why my parents did many of the weird things I do now!)
My father met my mother in England in the late 70’s – they married there in the Church of England in 1976. In 1991, my mother achieved her citizenship here in the U.S. I’ve had the opportunity to visit England more times than I can mention. Being able to tour the castles and hear the history is something my kids have enjoyed immensely!
When visiting the UK, doing a trip in Wales is something I highly recommend. It is beautiful and chock full of historical places to see. Castles are definitely among the most interesting of these places, and most are within a short drive if you’re staying in Wales. They are also inexpensive to visit.
Caernarfon Castle was one of the best of the several our family visited – the town around it is a great little spot to check out as well.
History of Caernarfon Castle
Edward I built many castles in Wales and this one he started in 1283. It was never completed fully but there is plenty of it to still see.
Edward I of England was fixated on capturing “independent” Wales. In 1282 he defeated and killed the last prince of Wales (Llywelyn ap Gruffud). After that defeat, he appropriated the Welsh castles for his own use. He also restored and built new castles.
Caernarfon Castle was one of the most ambitious and expensive projects – a whopping 22,000 pound, over a 5-year completion.
Caernarfon was the birthplace of the first Prince of Wales – crowned prince in 1301. Even today, the UK has a Prince of Wales – now it’s Prince Charles (next in line to the throne).
If Prince Charles becomes King of Great Britain, then it’s likely that Prince William will be crowned Prince Wales in Caernarfon – which will take place at the castle.
There are neat rooms inside the castle walls that you can follow. Through oversized sculptures and historical information, Caernarfon Castle has detailed his life, ideas and creativeness rather well.
Touring the Castle
The castle entrance is called the King’s Gate and they do have a really nice shop here too. It had many different price levels of items, and we found it to be very reasonable on many things and bought some gifts there.
There are 12 towers in the castle – some octagonal, others hexagonal and some ten-sided). You can go up most of them. However… I would strongly recommend wearing good supportive shoes (I know from experience!) The stairs are very small and steep – you have to climb slowly and use a great deal of caution.
The views from the towers are spectacular. If you dislike the idea of climbing, at least try to make it up one. If you are able to grab a map, aim for the Eagle Tower. The Eagle Tower is a whopping 10m across at its base and has 3 turrets – when you enter from the bottom, you’ll be able to see an exhibition on the Princes of Wales. Don’t miss it!
In the North-East tower, you can see a film about the castle that is done on a really fascinating curved screen. Towards the end of the film, you’ll see the current Queen and Prince standing at this castle at the Queen’s gate.
Once you are done with that area, make sure you visit the gate and grab some unique photos as you stand where they once stood. The gate overlooks the main street in town – it’s fun to just envision the Queen standing there with her subjects filling the streets down below.
When you are viewing the castle from the top or the bottom floors you can still tell where many of the rooms and floors would’ve been. There are arches as well as openings for fireplaces and ovens,. It doesn’t take much imagination to get the idea of what it was like back in historical times.
The middle area and center of the castle is very open and full of green grassy manicured areas. It is absolutely beautiful.
The Castle Today
Caernarfon Castle is owned by the Queen and it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site group, along with several other Welsh castles that Edward built. You can find information on these castles online.
Most of the better-known castles are very well kept and have extra things for you to see and do. You can even find an app on your phone to help guide you and give you tips on your visit. (gov.wales/cadw)
CADW is the Welsh Government’s historic environment service working for an accessible and well-protected historic environment for Wales.
You can get free entrance to the castle if you join the CADW group. We found that the castles in this group had more historical information and were nicer to tour than the others. Though every castle we saw was spectacular – pictures do not do them justice!
The town by Caernarfon Castle is right on the water and the castle is in the corner of the area. There is a walled section around the main part of town, which is common with many of the castles Edward I built.
This town is very small, but has an abundance of unique restaurants and shops. We ate at Bell Tower and it was perfect for our family.
If you plan on visiting the castle, check their hours of operation online before making a trip. While they are open year round, they do close December 24th – 26th and also on January 1st. Many places in Wales close around 5 pm, so plan your trip earlier in the day to ensure you have ample time to tour.
Take the opportunity to do some research on Edward I before making a trip.