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Harlech Castle

UNESCO World Heritage site

Harlech Castle, managed by Cadw - please find opening times and prices via the link below.

Opening Times and prices 


A number of events are run throughout the year with historic Knights, take a look at our events page for more information. 

Have a picnic at the castle - Why not take a stroll up to Harlech High St and gather a picnic basket full of fresh breads, local cheeses and meats, or vegetarian and vegan delights.  

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Harlech Castle: Sentinel of the Sea

Nestled high upon a rocky crag in Harlech, Gwynedd, North Wales, Harlech Castle commands breathtaking views over the surrounding landscape, stretching from the rolling hills of Snowdonia to the tumultuous waves of Harlech Beach, Cardigan Bay. Its imposing presence and strategic location have made it a significant fortification throughout history, embodying the medieval might and architectural brilliance of the late 13th century.

The Conception of a Stronghold

Harlech Castle was conceived by King Edward I of England as part of his ambitious campaign to conquer Wales and subdue its rebellious princes. The construction of Harlech, alongside other mighty fortresses like Conwy, Caernarfon, and Beaumaris, formed an "iron ring" of castles intended to establish and maintain English dominance over Wales. Construction began in 1283, under the masterful guidance of James of St. George, a renowned Savoyard mason whose expertise in military architecture was unrivaled.

The castle's design is a testament to James of St. George's genius. Harlech is characterized by its concentric layout, a hallmark of the period's advanced defensive concepts. This design comprises a sturdy inner ward encircled by a formidable outer wall, creating multiple layers of defense. Its robust fortifications include massive gatehouses, towering battlements, and an ingenious water supply system facilitated by a well that descends deep into the bedrock.

Harlech's Strategic Importance

Harlech's strategic location was no accident. Perched on a promontory, the castle overlooks the Irish Sea and provides a commanding view of the surrounding territory. This vantage point allowed defenders to spot approaching enemies from a considerable distance. Furthermore, the sea access ensured that Harlech could be resupplied by ship, a critical advantage during sieges.

One of Harlech's most iconic features is its steep, zigzagging "way to the sea," a path that descends from the castle to the shore. This passageway, known as "the Way from the Sea," was essential for receiving supplies and reinforcements. During the Siege of Harlech, from 1461 to 1468, this access route enabled the garrison to hold out against Yorkist forces for seven long years, inspiring the famous song "Men of Harlech."

Tales of Siege and Surrender

Harlech Castle's storied past is replete with episodes of conflict and resilience. During the Welsh revolt of 1294-1295, led by Madog ap Llywelyn, Harlech was besieged but held firm under English control. The castle's most renowned siege occurred during the Wars of the Roses. The Lancastrian forces, loyal to Henry VI, used Harlech as a stronghold against the Yorkists. For seven years, the garrison withstood numerous attempts to capture the fortress, until hunger and dwindling supplies forced their surrender in 1468.

The enduring legacy of this siege is captured in the rousing anthem "Men of Harlech," which commemorates the bravery and tenacity of the defenders. The song has become an enduring symbol of Welsh national pride and military valor.

Harlech in Modern Times

In the centuries that followed its military zenith, Harlech Castle's role as a fortress waned, and it gradually fell into a state of romantic ruin. Yet, its historical significance and architectural grandeur continued to captivate visitors and historians alike. Today, Harlech Castle stands as a UNESCO World Heritage site, recognized for its outstanding universal value and as a part of the "Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd."

Efforts to preserve and restore Harlech have ensured that its stone walls, majestic towers, and panoramic views remain accessible to the public. The castle's visitor center provides insight into its construction, history, and the lives of those who once walked its battlements.


Harlech Castle remains a symbol of medieval military ingenuity, a witness to centuries of Welsh history, and a beacon of cultural pride. Its dramatic silhouette against the rugged Welsh landscape continues to inspire awe and admiration. As the sea winds whip through its ancient stones, the echoes of the past whisper tales of conquest, defiance, and enduring legacy, ensuring that Harlech Castle will forever be a sentinel of the sea and a monument to the indomitable spirit of Wales.

Cae Besi

Self Catering or  Guesthouse?

Staying in a self catering cottage, guesthouse or B&B in Harlech is a great way to experience the charm of this historic town. With its stunning views of the Welsh coastline and Snowdonia National Park, Harlech is a popular destination for visitors looking to explore the natural beauty of North Wales.

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