Hello fellow travelers!
Monday, we journeyed to Northern Wales where we had what seemed like a “castle marathon.” As you can probably guess, it was all about castles. Wales is one of the primary areas to find castles thanks, in part, to King Edward I of England who in the 13th century decided to build castles all over Wales. Monday, we visited four castles. I will be discussing only two of them here while my colleague, Tyler, will discuss the other two. So if you would like information on the other two castles visited, check out Tyler’s post.
One of the castles that we explored was Dolwyddelan Castle. Located in County Conwy in Northern Wales, this castle is situated on a motte overlooking the surrounding countryside. Because of its location inland, attacks on the castle were limited, allowing for more to have survived. It was built in the early part of the 13th century by Llywelyn the Great who was, at the time, the Prince of Gwynedd. When first built, it only contained a tower, but by the mid-13th century, King Edward I added another structure with an enclosure around the site, providing defenses for the castle. Unique to this type of castle was its construction by the Welsh instead of the English, and also, the windows within the castle are noticeably larger than their English counterparts. This is due to the defense strategies the Welsh used that required more space. As mentioned before, it was not attacked as often as other castles did due to it being so far inland. Nonetheless, the English did overtake it during the Civil War in the 17th century, but it fell out of use until the 1930s when it was placed in the hands of the Ministry of Works. It is currently under the protection of Cadw, the Welsh society in charge of historical environments.
Another castle that we visited on Monday was Rhuddlan Castle also located in North Wales. Built in 1277-1282 by James of St. George, the castle stands out among the Welsh countryside. It is situated on a motte and was designed in a concentric style which includes having an inner and outer curtain wall. Not surprisingly enough, Edward I ordered to have it built during the Welsh Wars. Because of its inland location, a waterway was built alongside the outer curtain wall to allow food and supplies to be brought in from the sea not too far from the castle. In 1282, Edward I’s eighth daughter Elizabeth was born in the castle. Other than a few attacks in the late 13th and 14th centuries, the castle remained intact until the 16th century when the upkeep fell apart and its importance fell out of practice. During the Civil War, the castle was overtaken by Royalist troops and later was demolished in order to prevent further military use. The remnants of this act can be seen today. The outer curtain wall is almost entirely dismantled. Holes in the inner curtain wall show evidence of cannon fire. Windows and doorways are destroyed, also providing evidence of demolition. While the full castle doesn’t remain, the history and significance in the area make up for the lack of physical evidence. The Cadw are also in charge of the castle, providing care and protection to the structure.
Both of the castles explored here provide great examples of how Edward I created many castles during his reign. They also show contrast between an English and a Welsh castle. The histories of the castles provide evidence for use and are part of the Welsh history that remain to be seen.
Until next time!