Harlech is a very special place rich in culture and in the heartland of the Welsh language Spectacularly sited, Harlech is perched on its rocky outcrop, overlooking the spectacular sweep of the Cardigan Bay, with views over the Llyn Peninsula and to the majestic summit of Snowdon to the north. Edward 1 imposing castle still dominates the town and the surrounding area, bearing silent testimony to the struggles and battles of a bygone age. Harlech and its castle will forever be associated with the tales of the Mabinogi. Bendigeidfran, the son of Llyr and the king of Wales, had his court at Harlech. His lovely daughter, Branwen, was married off to Matholwch, the king of Ireland, with tragic results. It was a time of court intrigue and fables, with more contact across the sea to Ireland, than eastwards towards the marches.


The sweep of bay between the rugged Rhinog Mountains and the sea has its own little micro climate. Whilst the high peaks are often shrouded in mist we can be enjoying a lovely sunny day down on coast.


We are fortunate in having a small theatre, Theatr Harlech, which has a full programme of entertainment and films, and the occasional opera. The village halls and churches of the area will also have concerts, often featuring male voice choirs such as Cor Brythoniaid. But Harlech's main attraction, after the castle, is its beach. Three miles of golden sands. A stroll on the beach to take in the glorious sunsets will stay in your mind forever.


Harlech Swimming Pool

For those days when the weather is not so kind, there is a public swimming near the St David's Golf Club. The pool has been facing the axe for a number of years as the local council seemed intent on closure. However, the facility was too precious for the local community to let go easily and now the Friends of Harlech Swimming Pool have won a grant to secure its future. It is being completely refurbished and improved and will shortly feature a climbing wall. A really exciting attraction for all the family.


Edward I's Castles in Wales

Harlech Castle

Edward I of England spent a great deal of time - and money - ensuring that he held his new lands in Wales. He built major castles at Caernarfon, Cricieth, Harlech, Beaumaris, and Conwy in addition to the strongholds at Aberystwyth, Flint, Rhuddlan, and Builth he had constructed after the Treaty of Aberconwy.
In the process, he evolved a new style of military architecture known, not unnaturally, as "Edwardian castles". Edward's architects discarded the common keep design in favour of a concentric model which could be used as a base for offensive operations rather than as a purely defensive stronghold.

Concentric castles have no central strong point like a keep. Instead they rely on rings of walls, one inside the other, with towers along the length of the walls. Most Edwardian castles have three concentric rings of walls and towers. The central space was kept as an open courtyard around which were clustered separate domestic buildings. The outer wall was ringed by a moat with access over a draw bridge through a separate gatehouse or barbican.

The beauty of the Edwardian design is that the walls could be easily defended. The fortified towers built into the walls provided covering fire for each other. Defenders could provide cross-fire along the walls between neighbouring towers. Edward came up with a further innovation at Caernarfon and Conwy. Instead of a separate castle standing on a high point with the settlement spread out around it, the castle walls enclose the entire medieval town. So the castle walls are also the town walls.


Harlech CastleThe reason for the strong defensive walls becomes clear when you consider that Edward not only imported builders, he imported a whole population of English settlers! These new settlers were carefully protected from the local Welsh population by the castle and town walls. In a sense, Conwy, Caernarfon, and Beaumaris became outposts of England within hostile enemy territory.

The man most responsible for Edward's Welsh castles was the architect James of St. George. James was a Savoyard (from modern Italy), and he incorporated elements in his design from Europe and the Middle East.

Edward consciously chose to suppress elements of Welsh tradition and heritage. Conwy Castle was built over the traditional burial place of Llewelyn the Great, and the monastery at Aberconwy was destroyed and the monks moved to a new foundation at Maenan.

The expense of Edward's subjugation of Wales and his subsequent building projects was enormous. Edward was forced to borrow heavily from foreign bankers and to ask Parliament for frequent funds.

A man who needs money is not in a strong bargaining position; Edward was forced to grant concessions in exchange for the money he needed, and during his reign Parliament gained considerable power and influence.