The Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site located in Gwynedd, Wales. It includes the castles of Beaumaris and Harlech and the castles and town walls of Caernarfon and Conwy.


They were built or rebuilt by the English king Edward I when in 1283 he expanded his domain into north-west Wales. He wanted to build an "Iron Ring" of castlesband new towns to house English settlers. All were built by the same man, James de Saint George from the Savoy, the king's chief achitect in Wales. The four castles of Beaumaris, Conwy, Caernarfon, Harlec are the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe, as demonstrated through their completeness, pristine state, evidence for organized domestic space, and extraordinary repertory of their medieval architectural form. Some of this castles are reminders of a turbulent time, when English kings and Welsh princes vied for power.

In 1276 and 1282, King Edward I led two military campaigns in Wales to defeat the Welsh princes and bring Wales under English rule. To do this, between 1276 and 1295 many castles were built or repaired.
All were begun and substantially completed between 1283 and 1330. The result, both individually and collectively, is the finest surviving example of late thirteenth-century military architecture in Europe. Together, these four great castles and two sets of town walls were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1986 as the Castles and Town Walls ok King Edward in Gwynedd World Heritage Site.

Between the 18th and 19th centuries the sites began to pass into varied private ownership. Lord Thomas Bulkeley bought Beaumaris from the Crown in 1807, incorporating it into the park that surrounded his local residence. Conwy Castle was leased by the descendants of the Conways to the Holland family. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, the ruined castles started to be considered picturesque and sublime, attracting visitors and artists from across a wide area. The fashion was encouraged by the events of the Napoleonic Wars at the turn of the 19th century, which made it difficult for British artists to visit the continent, leading many to travel to North Wales instead. Among these artists we find William Turner, one of the most important painters of English Romanticism. The sites became heavily overgrown with ivy and other vegetation. In the 1830s the stonework of Caenarfon Castle began to collapse, and the Crown employed Anthony Salvin to conduct
emergency repairs. 

Transport infrastructure to the region began to improve throughout the 19th century, adding to the flow of visitors to the sites, including the future Queen Victoria in 1832. Academic research into the sites, particularly Caernarfon and Conwy, began to occur in the middle of the 19th century. Local and central government interest began to increase. In 1865 Conwy Castle passed to the civic leadership of Conwy town who began restoration work on the ruins, including the reconstruction of the slighted Bakehouse tower. 

From the 1870s onwards, the government funded repairs to Caernarfon Castle and In the early 20th
century the central British state began to reacquire control of the sites. 


Beaumaris on the island of Anglesey is famous as the greatest castle never built. It was the last of the royal strongholds created by Edward I in Wales and perhaps his masterpiece. Here Edward and his architect James of St George took full advantage of a blank canvas: the 'beau mareys' or 'beautiful marsh' beside the Menai Strait. By now they'd already constructed the great castles of Conwy, Caernarfon and Harlech. This was to be their crowning glory, the castle to end all castles.

The result was a fortress of immense size and near-perfect symmetry. No fewer than four concentric rings of formidable defences included a water-filled moat with its very own dock. The outer walls alone bristled with 300 arrow loops. But lack of money and trouble brewing in Scotland meant building work had petered out by the 1320s.

The south gatehouse and the six great towers in the inner ward never reached their intended height. The Llanfaes gate was barely started before being abandoned. So the distinctive squat shape of Beaumaris tells of a dream that never quite came true. Still it takes its rightful place on the global stage as part of the Castles and Town Walls of Edward I World Heritage Site.

This castle is special - both for the scale of its ambition and beauty of its proportions. Gloriously incomplete Beaumaris is perhaps the supreme achievement of the greatest military architect of the age.


Harlech Castle (Welsh: Castell Harlech), located in Harlech, Gwynedd, Wales, is a Grade I-listed medieval fortification, constructed atop a spur of rock close to the Irish Sea. It was built by Edward I during his invasion of Wales, between 1282 and 1289, at the relatively modest cost of £8,190. UNESCO considers Harlech to be one of "The finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th centurymilitary architecture in Europe", and it is classed as a World Heritage Site.

The fortification is built of local stone and concentric in design, featuring a massive gatehouse that probably once provided high-status accommodation for the castle constable and visiting dignitaries. The sea originally came much closer to Harlech than in modern times, and a water-gate and a long flight of steps leads down from the castle to the former shore, which allowed the castle to be resupplied by sea during sieges.

Harlech is built from local grey-green sandstone with large, regular blocks used for the towers and irregular material, possibly taken from the ditch, used for the walls. A softer yellow sandstone is used for the decorative work in the castle, possibly quarried from around Egryn Abbey near Barmouth. The main entrance to the castle would have involved crossing a stone bridge between the two easterly ditch bridge towers and the main gatehouse; little remains of the bridge towers today and a timber entrance way to the gatehouse replaces the bridge. A water gate overlooks a protected stairway of 127 steps that runs down to the foot of the cliffs. The gatehouse follows the design, sometimes termed the Tonbridge-style, that became popular during the 13th century, with two massive "D-shaped" defensive towers flanking the entrance. The passage into the castle was guarded by three portcullises and at least two heavy doors. The gatehouse has two upper floors, broken up into various rooms.The use of these rooms has been the subject of academic debate: historian Arnold Tayler argued that the first floor of the gatehouse was used by the constable as living accommodation, with the second floor used by senior visitors; Jeremy Ashbee has since challenged this interpretation, suggesting the high status accommodation may instead have been located within the inner ward, and the gatehouse used for other purposes.

The inner ward is guarded by four large circular towers. Over time these acquired various names: in 1343, clockwise from the north-east, they were called Le Prisontour, Turris Ultra Gardinium, Le Wedercoktour and Le Chapeltour, but by 1564 they had been renamed the Debtors', Mortimer, Bronwen and Armourer's Towers respectively. The architecture of Harlech has close links to that found in the kingdom of Savoy in the same period. These include semi-circular door arches, window styles, corbelled towers and positioning of putlog holes, and are usually ascribed to the influence of the Savoy architect Master James.


Caernarfon is architecturally one of the most impressive of all of the castles in Wales. It is located at the southern end of the Menai Strait between north Wales and Anglesey and it is grouped with Edward I's other castles at Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech as a World Heritage Site. It's defensive capabilities were not as overt or as powerful as those of Edward I's other castles but Caernarvon was instead intended as a seat of power and as a symbol of English dominance overthe subdued Welsh. 

Begun in 1283, the castle reached approximately its present state in 1323. It was never completed, and even today at various points of the interior walls you can see several connections ready to accommodate further walls that were never built; the only tower of the castle completed during the first phase of building was the Eagle Tower.

The castle was born out of bitter war with Welsh princes in fact, during Edward I's invasions of Wales, this was strategically an excellent place to build a castle. The castle was intended to and capable of accommodating the household of the king's eldest son (created Prince of Wales under Edward I), with his council, family and guests also in attendance.


One of the most beautiful castles in Europe is located in Wales: Conwy Castle is a fortified castle built between 1283 and 1287, commissioned by Edward I of England. This castle is part of the Iron Ring, the set of four fortresses, to defend the region, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The other three fortresses are Caernarfon Castle, Beaumaris Castle and Harlech Castle.

The castle is located on Rose Hill Street, along the Conwy River estuary, which consists of eight main towers. After the first decades, the castle risked falling into ruin. Almost sixty years later, the first restoration work on the castle was carried out by Edward the Black Prince. During the Civil War, the castle was occupied for three months by General Cromwell's Republican troops. Despite the passage of time, the fortress remains today mostly accessible and well-preserved. Reaching the top of one of the towers, the visitor can see one of the most beautiful views of the area, the city, the coast and the surrounding countryside, but the rest of Conwy also offers a pleasant visit.

Its bridges are worth seeing, but also, a few minutes from the centre, the Conwy Butterfly Jungle, anature reserve for many species of butterflies. Reaching Conwy is easy, both landing at Manchester Airport and Liverpool Airport: the distances are about 100 km, easily accessible by public transport or by renting a car. 

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