Where is Conwy Castle?
Conwy Castle or Conway Castle as it is also known is a spectacular example of a medieval fortress; it is located in Conwy in North Wales, overlooking the Conwy river forming the Iron Ring of Castles. King Edward I or Edward Longshanks as he was otherwise known, was an English king who reigned from 1272 to 1307.
Who was King Edward I?
King Edward I was the son of Henry III, he was born in 1239 at Westminster and was named after the last Anglo Saxon king Edward the Confessor. Edward was married to Eleanor of Castile at age 15 when she was only nine years old. He would marry for a second time and fathered as many as 16 children. When Edward became king, he spent a whopping £80,000 building a network of castles to ensure his bid to take control over Wales.
What is the iron ring of Castles?
The iron ring of castles was a string of Castles that Edward I built in North Wales. He built the iron ring of castles in order to keep control over North Wales. The total cost of building the iron ring was around £80,000. The Castles that form part of the iron ring are:
- Harlech Castle
- Caernarfon Castle
- Conwy Castle
- Beaumaris Castle
How old is Conwy Castle?
This beautiful castle is over 700 years old! They certainly did build things to last, didn’t they?
When was Conwy Castle built?
The construction of Conwy started in 1283 and was finished in 1287 taking roughly four years to complete, which when you think about it is extraordinary considering the materials and the tools that would have been available to them at the time.
Who built Conwy Castle?
Conwy Castle was built by an architect by the name of James of St George, who was King Edward I’s master mason. James built many of the king’s castles, including the famous Caernarfon and Harlech. Edward I spent a whopping £15,000 building Conwy, but he apparently only ever stayed there once, and that was because he became trapped there by the Welsh rebellion of 1284. It was said to be a miserable Christmas having only one barrel of wine to drown his sorrows with.
Conwy Castle history
Conwy is steeped in over 700 years of history going right back to the 12th century. While walking around the castle, it is easy to slip back into thoughts of the past, fantasising about what it would have been like living in the town of Conwy back in the days of old.
Edward I invaded North Wales in 1282 after defeating the Welsh princes, it was decided that he wanted to make this a permanent conquest and for that to happen, he would need to build himself a castle or two. Conwy is chosen as the location; it is perfect sitting just above the Conwy estuary.
- 1283 – Construction starts on the Castle, and a wall is built protecting the town
- 1284 and 1286 – The exterior walls are finished, and they start to erect buildings inside the walls
- 1287 – The castle is completed costing around £15,000 for both the castle and the town walls
- 1294 – Madog ap Llywelyn rebels against English rule, between December and January. Edward I is besieged at Conwy, and in February he is rescued
- 1321 – A survey is carried out, it is reported to be poorly equipped, with limited stores, leaking roofs and rotten timbers throughout
- 1343 – Edward, the Black Prince, takes over the castle in carrying out repairs and after his death, Conwy is neglected once again
- 1401 – Rhys ap Tudur and Gwilym, carry out a surprise attack on Conwy Castle pretending to be there to carry out repairs, they gained entry, killed two guards and took control of the castle
- 1520’s and 1530’s – The castle was being used as a prison, a depot and residences, some restoration work is carried out
- 1627 – Charles I sells the Castle to Edward Conway for £100
- 1631 – Edward’s son inherits the castle
- 1642 – English Civil War breaks out, and the Archbishop of York takes control of the Castle repairing and garrisoning it at his own expense.
- 1655 – The Council of State orders the castle be taken out of action as a defensive castle, and the Bakehouse tower is partially pulled down
- 1826 – A bridge is installed
- 1848 – A railway bridge is added
- 1865 – Restoration work begins again
- 1958 – A road bridge in added
- 1986 – It is declared a world heritage site
Today lots of restoration work has been carried out, a visitor centre has been added, and it is visited by the public and enjoyed year on year.
Who owns Conwy Castle now?
Conwy Castle is listed as a world heritage site and is a popular tourist destination. Cadw manages it as a tourist destination.
Is Conwy Castle part of the National Trust?
No, the castle is not part of the national trust Cadw manages the castle itself. However, the suspension bridge at Conwy Castle is part of the national trust.
Conwy suspension bridge
In 1822 Thomas Telford was employed to build a bridge, not just any old bridge but a suspension bridge 326 ft long. The bridge is to be built over the river next to Conwy Castle and is completed by 1826. The total cost of building the Conwy suspension bridge was £51,000.
Changes were made to the bridge in the late nineteenth century switching the wooden deck for an iron roadway. In 1903 the bridge was strengthened by adding wire cables above the original iron chains, and in 1904 a six-foot-wide walkway was added to allow pedestrians to cross.
The bridge was made redundant when a new road bridge was built alongside it, and it was closed to traffic on 13/12/1958. The bridge is now owned by the national trust who charge a small fee to use it.
Can you go inside Conwy Castle?
Yes, you can go inside Conwy Castle. Taking a self-guided tour, you can;
- Experience the king’s chambers
- Climb the eight towers
- See the great hall
- Explore the cellars
- Walk the walls and passages
- View the royal apartments
What is Conwy Castle used for today?
Conwy is a popular tourist attraction these days and is visited by thousands of people every year. It has also held other events like:
- Living History
- Re enactments
- Son et Lumiere
Does Conwy Castle have dungeons?
Yes, it has one dungeon which was located in the prison tower.
Is Conwy Castle a concentric castle?
No, although most of the castles that were built by Edward I were concentric. Concentric castles are designed with a two skin method, a castle within a Castle, and while Conwy does have a two skin design, the second skin does not surround just the castle, it surrounds the entire town. Concentric castles usually have moats and bailey wall’s too, but as Conwy was essentially built on a huge rock, there wasn’t much room to put any of these features.
Which castle is better, Conwy or Caernarfon?
I think the answer to this is quite subjective and down to personal taste, both have so much history hidden behind the walls waiting to be discovered. Why not visit them both and tell us which one you think is best?
Was Conwy Castle attacked?
Yes, Conwy castle was attacked in 1294 unhappy with the excessive taxation levied by the English Madog ap Llywelyn started a rebellion, the sheer scale of the revolt meant Edward I had to cancel a planned continental campaign leading his army into North Wales instead.
Madog’s forces ambushed the king, and he was forced to flee to Conwy. Edward I is besieged at Conwy from December until January, and It isn’t until February of 1295 that he is rescued.
A second rebellion broke out in 1400 when Rhys ap Tudur and Gwilym, carried out a surprise attack on Conwy Castle. They pretended to be there to carry out repairs on the castle, but once they gained entry, they killed two guards and took control of the castle. They held out for three months before being forced to negotiate a peaceful surrender.
Does Conwy Castle have a moat?
No, but it does have a river. Conwy Castle is built overlooking the Conwy river.
Why is Conwy Castle famous?
Back in the day, Conwy was most famous for being one of the castles that formed the iron ring, a string of castles built by Edward I to keep control over North Wales.
How much does it cost to go to Conwy Castle?
From August – March 2021
All children under five is free
Disabled and companion is free
Cadw member, it is free
Adult – £8.80
Family based on 2 adults and up to 3 children – £25.10
Juniors (Aged 5-17) / NUS / Armed Forces and Veterans – £5.40
Seniors aged 65 and over – £7.10
When is the best time to visit Conwy Castle?
It is best to visit Conwy on a dry day. It is a ruin, and if you are like me you really dislike the rain, you are going to be pretty miserable visiting on a rainy day as it is all outside. On a dry day, you can take your time, enjoy walking around and even sit in the grounds with a picnic if you like.