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Harlech b&b, guesthouse and hotel accommodation

Harlech in Gwynedd

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Visit Harlech and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:

Harlech, Gwynedd. Anciently, Harlech was the county town of Meirionydd. “They have but few townes,” observes Saxton in his l7th century way, when speaking of the people of Merioneth. But Arlech, as he writes it, deserved his special mention: “Hard by the sea in the little territory named Ardudwy, the Castle Arlech, in times past named Caer Colun, standeth advanced upon a very steep rock, and looketh down into the sea from aloft, which being built as the inhabitants report, by King Edward the First, took name of the situation. For Arlech in the British tongue signifieth as much, as upon a Stony Rock. Whiles England was disjointed with civill broiles, David Ap Ienkin Ap Enion a noble Gentleman of Wales, who took part with the House of Lancaster, defended it stoutly against King Edward the Fourth; until that Sir William Herbert Earle of Pembroke making his way with much adoe through the midst of these mountains of Wales, no lesse passable than the Alpes, assaulted this Castle in such furious thundering manner that it was yeelded into his hands. Incredible it is almost what a cumbersome journey hee had of it, and with what difficulty, hee got through, whiles he was constrained in some places to climbe up the hilles creeping; in others to come down tumbling, both he and his company together. Whereupon, the dwellers thereabout call that way at this day Le Herbert”.

This incident occurred in 1467; the Dafydd (David) mentioned was a man of great strength, bodily and moral, and when summoned to surrender made the famous reply that he had held a castle in France till all the old women in Wales talked of it; and he would now hold Harlech till all the old dames of France would know of it. He yielded at last, in spite of what Saxton reports, through pressure of famine. From this tale originates the equally famous song “Gwyr Harlech” (Men of Harlech), known probably all over the world; it does not matter that its writing cannot be traced to any date before the 18th century.

Saxton's account is otherwise correct in its details. The area is very rich in antiquities; the original name for the fort set upon the sharp and inaccessible point of rock was Twr Branwen (Tower of Branwen), a title that recalls the heroine of one of the most mysterious tales in the Mabinogion, buried, they say, at Amlwch in Anglesey, where in fact an ancient mound when opened showed an urn of the Iron Age filled with cremated bones.

The present Harlech Castle is a monument to Edward I, and is one of the well-known series of garrison points he established to complete his mastery of Gwynedd. The building was finished in 1283. It is quadrangular in plan and strengthened by round corner-towers with a wide moat at the landward side. After Henry VI was defeated at Northampton in 1460, his wife, Margaret of Anjou, took refuge there with her son. In 1468 it was the last castle to hold out against the triumphant Yorkists and their leader, Edward IV. Owain Glyndwr took it after overcoming fierce resistance in 1404; but his whole movement for the independence of Wales came to an end when Henry of Monmouth, Henry V of England, stormed it and captured Owain, his wife, and his family. It was also the last castle to hold out for Charles I, surrendering in 1647.

Inside the Castle today are preserved six centurial stones, records of the Roman command at Tonien y Mur at Maentwrog nearby; their faces are 15 in. by 8 in. and bear the commander's name. At Harlech itself, a looped palstave and a bronze axe-head of the type known as Celtic were found. The evidence they give of habitation in the area by a Bronze Age civilization long before the Roman is supported by a bronze palstave found at Llanfair and one of the most remarkable finds of its period - the gold torque, a curved rod-like collar 4 ft long, in the possession of the Mostyn family.

Coleg Harlech (Harlech College) is recognized as one of the most efficient centres for adult education, providing summer schools and year courses.

About ½ mile from Harlech, a small hillock, Glas Ynys. shelters an old farmhouse, Lasynys Fawr. In it was born Ellis Wynne, the author of Y Bardd Cwsg (The Sleeping Bard), who, Borrow states, wrote that prose-poem in Abercywarch. He died in 1734, and is buried under the communion table in Llanfair church, l1/2 miles from Harlech. In 1934, his bicentenary was celebrated in the old parish church at Llandanwg.

Harlech is noted for its healthy climate, and the commanding beauty of the area is proved by the fact that at Llandanwg the National Trust preserves the view across Tremadoc Bay to the rugged line of the Lleyn peninsula.

The Morfa (Marsh) of Harlech, where sea and land intermarry, leads to Portmadoc and contains the link of the Royal St David's Golf Club, by many considered the best in Wales.

Nearby towns: Barmouth, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Porthmadog

Nearby villages: Bryncir, Capel Arthog, Chwilog, Criccieth, Dolgellau, Ffestiniog, Garndolbenmaen, Llanaber, Llanbedr, Llanddwywe, Llandecwyn, Llanelltyd, Llanenddwyn, Llanfair, Llanfrothen, Llangybi, Llanystumdwy, Maentwrog, Minffordd, Penrhyndeudreath, Portmeirion, South Beach, Talsarnau, Tan-y-Bwlch, Tanygrisiau, Trawsfynydd, Tremadog

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