Harlech Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Harlech Castle

Harlech, Wales, United Kingdom

Harlech Castle is a dramatic medieval stronghold and one of a ring of imposing castles built by Edward I in his conquest of Wales.

About Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle is a dramatic medieval stronghold and one of a ring of imposing castles built by Edward I between 1283 and 1289 during his conquest of Wales. With the rugged peaks of Snowdonia in the background, Harlech is one of four castles in the area, along with Conwy, Caernarfon and Beaumaris, which has been designated as a World Heritage Site.

History of Harlech Castle

The castle was completed in just seven years during Edward I’s invasion of Wales between 1282 and 1289. It is made of local stone and is concentric in design, featuring a huge gatehouse and a water-gate with a long flight of steps which would have originally reached the edge of the seashore, which came much closer to Harlech at that time.

Over the next few centuries, the castle played an important part in many wars. In 1404, Harlech Castle was subject to a siege and captured by rebel Welsh forces led by Owain Glyndwr. Glyndwr would hold Harlech Castle for four years, housing a parliament there.

The site would also play a role during the 15th century in the Wars of the Roses, when it was laid siege by the Yorkists and eventually taken from the Lancastrians in 1468. This event was the inspiration for the song Men of Harlech.

After the English Civil War broke out in 1642, the castle was held by forces loyal to Charles I, holding out until 1647 when it became the last fortification to surrender to the Parliamentary armies.

Today, Harlech Castle is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, being described as one of ‘the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe.’

Harlech Castle Today

Today, the castle is managed by Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, as a tourist attraction. Visitors can enjoy walking around the castle’s historic battlements and admiring the stunning view of the hills of the village, Snowdonia mountain range, and the sea.

The informative guides will explain how the castle would have looked when it was first built, as well as detailing the day to day lives of those who occupied it.

Opposite the castle is a modern cafe which serves homemade food and is well worth a visit after an afternoon walking around the castle’s extensive grounds and battlements.

Getting to Harlech Castle

The castle is accessible by car, taking only a few minutes from the centre of Harlech via the Stryd Fawr/B4573 and Twtil roads. Paid car parking is available on site. It is possible to reach the site by foot, but be warned – it’s very steep!


Featured In

Castles in Wales

Discover Wales' rugged and scenic castles, including Beaumaris, Harlech Castle, and more.