Harlech Castle, Snowdonia, Wales

   

Harlech occupies a strategically defensible site  Looking towards the sea, Harlech's battlements rise from  a nearly  vertical cliff face, while any landward attackers would first have to deal with a massive twin-towered gatehouse. It is believed that the castle was originally actually on the sea, for ease of re-supply, but that the sea has now receeded. Yet somehow the builders managed to combine the necessity of stout defence, with the beauty of the setting, a true sensse of harmony


The fortress's massive inner walls and towers still stand almost to their full height. The views from its walls are panoramic, and stretch from the seascape in front to the mountains of Snowdonia behind

Master James of St. George, familiar as the military architect of most of Edwards castles, managed to blend.the natural elements of the site to the defensive requirements of a fortress. The result is a building of rare beauty and grace

Edward I's army arrived at Harlech in 1283, and almost straight away work started on the castle It was a key castle in Edward's ring of castles in North Wales. A monor army of workmen constructed the castle over the next six yearsOver the next six years

The final result was a perfectly concentric castle, where one line of defenses is enclosed by another. The natural strength of the castle rock on the landward side,  and cliff face on the seaward side, meant that only the east face was vulnerable to attack.It is therefore on the east side that a massive gatehouse was constructed with a series of heavy doors, narrow passages and  three portcullises. Master James himself, was the Governor of the castle frrom 1290 to 1293

The castle could be supplied by sea, so on the seaward side there is a gated and fortified stairway plunging almost 200 ft down to the foot of the castle rock.Supplies could be raised to the castle up this stairway. In fact during a siege in Madog ap Llywelyn's uprising of 1294-95, the garrison, which was supplied by ships from Ireland.

Ironically, in 1404 it was taken by Welsh leader Owain Glyn Dwr. He made it his home and headquarters, he proceeded to hold a parliament here. And it was only after a further long siege in 1408 that Harlech was retaken by English forces under Harry of Monmouth, later Henry V.

A long siege here during the Wars of the Roses, some 60 years after this,   inspired the stirring song 'Men of Harlech'.
The castle was held for the Lancastrians until taken by Lord Herbert of Raglan for the Yorkists.

Harlech is now classed aWorld Heritage site.

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