Visit Caernarfon and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Caernarfon, Gwynedd, or Caernarvon, in the more or less English spelling is Y Gaer yn Anon (Fort on the Shore), facing Anglesey. It lies directly on the Menai Straits at their South West mainland point, where the River Seiont runs into the sea. Like most British river-names. this Sciont is a word going far back in time, at least to the Celtic peoples who settled here before the Romans came. Rome built its fortress on the site, ½ mile from the present town on the Beddgelert road, that is still marked Segontium. The Romans accepted the native word for any place they set their military stations to command, and Segontium preserves a British name close to if not identical with Seiont. This was their most westerly position in Wales, mounting guard over the great line of communication called in medieval times Watling Street, which ran from London to the North West and formed the main strategic route for the whole island. An outlying fort, watching the ways to Watling Street from the South, is at Dinas Dinlle, not far off. Some Roman remains can be seen in the small museum at Segontium, and the ground has been sufficiently excavated for the plan of the first Caernarfon to he made clear. Whether or not this position was chosen for a town or encampment by the native British folk before the Roman invasion, is not certain; they may have preferred the Tre'r Ceiri in the Rival hills near Llanaelhaearn. “Caer”, however, the Welsh for a town or fortress, is now recognized not as a contraction of the Latin castra, but as a native word for an enclosure.
The town is overshadowed in every sense by the great citadel set up by Edward I of England between 1285 and 1322. The work was not begun until three years after the last independent Welsh Prince of Wales. Llywelyn, was killed and his principality occupied; the building was done in three stages, with great care. For Edward intended to secure his future footing in Wales beyond any doubt; and the whole of Gwynedd, the northern province of the country, was to be held in a chain of castles from the border with England round to Harlech. Caernarfon Castle was to be the most potent of them all. Probably it replaced a wooden strong-point put there by the Princes of Gwynedd.
The Castle is the finest in Great Britain, only Alnwick in Northumberland coming close to it in magnificence. The area enclosed by the Castle walls is 3 acres, and the walls themselves are from 7 to 9 ft thick. Once they extended to encircle the entire town, but now they surround only a portion of it, crossing the High Street where the original East gate, bearing the Guildhall, can be seen. There were at first only two main gates into the town. but others were added from time to time as conditions for the garrison became more secure. Although the Castle is now only a shell, the shell is perfect. Entrance is still made through the Gate of the King over what was the Castle ditch and moat. This is a great arch surmounted by an effigy of Edward II, the first English Prince of Wales to be so proclaimed, and set there in 1321. The inner and outer baileys, once chief centres of strength, are now represented by tidily mown lawns. The remains of the kitchen can be seen, where huge cauldrons once rested on the fireplaces, and water-gullies ran to supply them. The Well Tower and the Eagle Tower stand together, this last 124 ft high, with three fine turrets. It is named after a worn figure placed there representing Edward's crest, an eagle; rumour has it that a Roman eagle-standard found at Segontium originated the name. The top of the tower is reached by 158 steps. They pass the room known as the Queen's Oratory, small and dark, where the son of Edward I was supposed to have been horn. He was certainly by birth a native of Caernarfon: but this room was not where he first saw the light. The foundations of the existing Castle were not laid till 1285; and the future Prince was born at least a year before that, in the older and native fortress of the rulers of Gwynedd. The entrance on the East side, called the Gate of Queen Eleanor, is where the infant (legend tells us) was presented to the people as their new Prince by King Edward. He was not installed in that office until 1301; and some important historical facts turn on the point.
At Rhuddlan in 1284 Edward promulgated the Statute of Wales to give the country a new relationship with England, In the preamble he offers thanks to God that at last Wales, which had never until then come under the direct sovereignty of the Kings of England, was now fully part of his sovereignty. The relation between the two countries, in spite of unceasing warfare, was one in which they shared a heritage of Roman and Christian civilization. The Middle Ages, throughout the whole of western Europe, was an attempt to restore the unity its peoples once had under a common law and culture. The institution known as the Holy Roman Empire, founded by Charlemagne, was intended to revive in A.D. 800 the empire that had drifted into dissolution in the 5th century. The idea that all European sovereigns were bound together within that system lasted long enough for Henry VIII of England in the 16th century to think of accepting nomination as Holy Roman Emperor. Between national sovereigns, the medieval mind insisted on a relationship of degree, not of dominance; for, if the Law of God could require observance of the Truga Dei, or Divine Truce, to mitigate the evils of war, the Law of Justice similarly insisted that every nation had its separate right to exist. In 1284, the Great Charter was barely seventy years old; and Edward I himself is famed for first introducing the parliamentary system based on the distinct privileges and identities of all communities within the realm. Just as Edward I himself owed allegiance to the Holy Empire, so Scotland, Wales, and Man had always had a certain fealty to England, while keeping their right to their own identities. The Baron, or King's man, who was himself King of Man, and that other who was crowned King of Wight and the Channel Islands, attended the English Parliament. So both the King of Scotland and the Great Llywelyn, Prince of Wales, were signatories to Magna Carta. Perhaps Edward at first intended to annex directly to himself the northern land of Gwynedd, which the last Llywelyn had controlled, though the Marcher Lordships, with the possible exception of Monmouth, he was prepared to leave with their own jurisdictions. But the death of Llywelyn did not end the sense of Welsh national distinctiveness. In 1294 Pembroke, Cardigan, and Glamorgan were in revolt; in the same year one Madoc, who claimed to be the son of Llywelyn, seized Caernarfon Castle itself and Denbigh and even succeeded in capturing Oswestry. In 1301, therefore, the son of Edward was proclaimed Prince of Wales, not by way of tactfully abolishing but of tactfully accepting the independent nature of Wales.
This recognition of the right of all people to be different became a guide for the later development of the British political idea. Under the Stuarts, Wales was referred to not as part of England but as a dominion by itself the first use of the word that in our own time initiated the structure of the British Commonwealth. The same principle was applied by Thomas Jefferson, one of the American Founding Fathers, himself of Welsh descent, to justify the argument for American independence of direct rule from Westminster.
Caernarfon town is a a centre for markets in North Wales and the Lleyn and Anglesey, and for tourists who come to see not only its monuments of the past but the tremendous scenery around the mass of Snowdon, the bright beauty of the Menai Straits, and the scattered churches that touch the last years of dying Rome.
Owain Glyndwr failed to take the place in 1401. The Castle was held in the Civil Wars by Parliament and then captured by Col. Byron for the King. In 1646 it surrendered to Mytton, the Roundhead general, on honourable terms; but, as a storm centre for Royalist attempts at reviving the lost cause, it was dismantled by order of Parliament, which accounts for its present emptied state. Indeed, in 1660 a writ of Parliament was issued to demolish it altogether, but fortunately the order was never carried out. The statue of the man who in modern times did most to re-establish it stands in the Castle Square. That man was David Lloyd George, O.M. Constable of Caernarfon Castle and one-time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who officiated at the initiation of Edward VIII in his younger days as Prince of Wales. The Castle now houses the memorials of the former Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
Nearby towns: Bangor, Bethesda, Llanberis, Pwllheli
Nearby villages: Aberffraw, Beaumaris, Beddgelert, Betws Garmon, Bodorgan, Bryngwran, Clynnog Fawr, Cwm-y-Glo, Dinorwic, Dwyran, Dyffryn, Gaerwen, Groeslon, Gwalchmai, Gyrngoch, Llanddyfnan, Llandegai, Llandegfan, Llandwrog, Llanedwen, Llanfaelog, Llanfaes, Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Llangadwaladr, Llangefni, Llangristiolus, Llangwyllog, Llanllechid, Llanllyfni, Llanrug, Llanwnda, Menai Bridge, Nantlle, Newborough, Pentraeth, Penygroes, Pontllyfni, Tregarth, Waenfawr, Waunfawr
Have you decided to visit Caernarfon or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Caernarfon bed and breakfast (a Caernarfon B&B or Caernarfon b and b)
- a Caernarfon guesthouse
- a Caernarfon hotel (or motel)
- a Caernarfon self-catering establishment, or
- other Caernarfon accommodation