"A Royal Town" Top 5 Page for this destination Caernarfon by Balam

Caernarfon Travel Guide: 108 reviews and 424 photos

Early History

In the summer of 77AD a regiment of Roman Cavalry was ambushed and massacred by members of a tribe known as the Ordovices. It was a great military defeat and a blow to the moral of the Romans but a great boost to the British resistance to the Roman occupation. It was considered to late in the year for a counter attack but as soon as Agricola, the new Roman Governor of Britain crossed the Channel he set about greatly reversing this set back. Leading his Legions and Auxiliaries straight into North Wales and almost the whole fighting force of the Ordovices was destroyed. The Romans built a ring of forts around the heartland of the conqard tribe, Each linked by a road and the 2 main Forts being accessible by sea from the Legionary fortress of Chester. These 2 forts were Canovium on the river Conwy and Segontium near the Menai Strait.
In it's heyday Segontium was Gassisoned by the 20th Auguston Legion and was surrounded by a shanty town inhabited by traders and soldiers families representing an impressive urban complex in what would then have been a totally rural world.
Once established as a centre of administration for North Wales it has continued in much the same function ever since, and as it was mentioned as a Kings seat in an old Welsh story and apears in early history as one of 'twenty eight cities of Britain' it certainly seems evident that it remained a political centre and maybe was a court for the Welsh Princes in the centuries after the Romans had gone. It was mentioned by Giraldus Cambrensis that there was a castle there when he passed through North Wales in 1188 and Llywelyn the Great dated a charter from there in 1221 which indicates it was a Welsh seat of Goverment long before it became an English one.

The coming of the English and Edward I

Ar-Fon was one of the areas of the ancient kingdom which is now the county of Gwynedd and it means 'across from Mon, (Anglesey). The name 'Caer-yn-Arfon' or Castle in Arfon is very ancient reflecting that from roman times there has always been some kind of fortification there.
The castle refered to by Giraldus was most probably a motte and bailey structure built by the Norman Earl of Chester towards the end of the 11th c, It is known that the motte of such a castle was on the eastern end of the site used by Edward I and was actualy incorporated into the design of the excisting castle. unfortunatly the motte was removed at the end of the 19th C .

Whith the Death of the last Welsh prince at the end of 1282 Edward I had finaly secured a hold over North Wales which was sufficient to start annexing it permanently to the English throne, he imediatly started to build a series of castles so as to secure hi conquest. As at Conwy and Harlech the building of the New Caernarfon dates from early 1283 the castle and town growing together from the start.
In the summer of 1283 the King visited his project staying in a tempory wooden building and returning in April 1284 he returned with the Queen and it was in the tempory residence that his son the future King Edward II was born and as the story says he was presented to the Welsh leaders in fulfilment of a promise given by Edward I that he would give them a prince that was born in Wales and who could speak no word of English.
The castle and town walls of Caernarfon were mostly constructed by 1285 although work continued for many years to come with a number of setbacks the first of which was probably the main reason that it was never really completed. in the winter of 1294-5 while Cearnarfon was unfinished and thus unprepared the people of North wales Rebeled after the death of Llywelyn and under the leadership of Madoc they overran the incomplete walls of Caernarfon, took the town and stormed into the castle over the foundations of the North wall burning everything that would burn. Edward marched into North Wales and quashed the rebelion in person, the Castle was greatly damaged and a considarable amount of building work had to begin again and the building plan changed to make it more heavily defensive.

From the begining a town of Caernarfon had exsisted both inside and outside the town walls but in Edwards day no Welsh would have been allowed to live or venture within the town walls.
It is within the town walls that almost all of the older building lie and the town has kept the simple grid pattern of medieval streets and a feeling of enclosure whith certainly adds to it's character, Archways in the town walls at the ends of Market st, church st and north gate st were added during the 18th and 19th centuaries to aid the flow of traffic and compliment the original gateways and the postern 'watergate' at the bottom of Castle Ditch. The main entrance to town became the point were a light curtain wall had joined the town walls to the castle, this was known as The Green Gate (now Greengate St) so called because Castle Square which was levelled in 1817 was formaly the towns Green.
Due to the large amount of building which took place here as with everwhere during the 19th c not many old houses remain from the period of Caernarfons importance as a great trading and administrative centre. The buildings of the medieval town would have been built of an Oak frame with walls of interwoven sticks plastered with clay and lime, several of these buildings remained until the end of the 18th c but all have now disapered and the best example of the older buildings that remain is the 17c Black Boy Inn on North Gate St. There are several other 17th and 18th C buildings remaining mostly of a modest scale

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Great Castle, Town Walls and some nice shops
  • Cons:As with all places in the UK, The Weather :(
  • In a nutshell:A Nice Walled Town with a Great Castle
  • Last visit to Caernarfon: Apr 2010
  • Intro Updated Mar 28, 2011
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Reviews (14)

Comments (8)

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    May 20, 2013 at 4:42 AM

    Nice page

  • MalenaN's Profile Photo
    Nov 26, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    The castle looks great and to have a drink at the old Black Boy Inn sounds nice. I'm looking forward to visit next year.

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Dec 4, 2009 at 12:40 AM

    Caernarfon looks a nice place to explore, especially that huge castle, it would take quite a while to get around!

  • Myfanwe's Profile Photo
    Aug 8, 2009 at 2:31 PM

    Caernarfon looks lovely, you have some fantastic tips, I must visit here soon x

  • ranger49's Profile Photo
    Apr 13, 2009 at 12:24 PM

    My daughter, on a business visit last week to Caernarfon came back with a glowing report of Black Boy Inn and a generally improved ambience in the town. We must try to get back there soon.

  • mickeyboy07's Profile Photo
    Apr 13, 2009 at 7:26 AM

    Excellent,lots of detail

  • Maurizioago's Profile Photo
    Apr 1, 2009 at 11:21 AM

    This should be a nice place. Ciao!

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Mar 31, 2009 at 12:35 PM

    What a great place to pay a visit to! Thanks!

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