Ruined Castles - Wales

Conwy Castle and its walled town, Gwynedd


One of the finest examples of C13/14th military architecture in Europe.


Conwy is one of the few walled towns still with a complete circuit of walls, with their defending towers. These were built at the same time as the castle to protect a planned town.

Conwy Castle

Conwy CAstle

Donít miss the twelve latrines built along the outside of the walls to the west of Mill Gate.  These were built for use by Edward Iís logistic corps (the equivalent of todayís civil service) whose building was outside the castle on the site of the car park.

Conwy Castle

The castle built at the south east corner of the walls stands on a rocky promontory overlooking the mouth of the river Conwy. Taking four years to build at a cost of £15000, it was state of the art. Massive walls and towers provided lethal fields of fire.

Conwy Castle

Originally covered by white harling, it must have been an awe inspiring structure to put the fear of God (and Edward I) into the hearts of the Welsh. Power and domination hardly begin to describe it.

The castle was built after the defeat of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, last of the Princes of Wales, by Edward I. It was a temporary haven for Richard II in 1399 and was held for several months by forces loyal to Owain Glyndŵr in 1401.

Following the outbreak of the English Civil War the castle was held by forces loyal to Charles I before surrendering to the Parliamentary armies. In the aftermath the castle was partially slighted by Parliament to prevent it being used in any further revolt, and was finally left in ruins when its remaining iron and lead was stripped and sold off.

The original entrance would have been by a steep ramp, across a footbridge, under the portcullis and through two sets of wooden gates with murder holes above. 

Two massive round towers guard the entrance into the outer ward. This feels quite congested as it contained the kitchen and stables (now foundations only) as well as the great hall. Although now roofless, it still stands to its original height, giving an impression of how impressive the castle must have been when built.

 Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle

Below the great hall were the cellars with living accommodation above. At the far end was the garrison chapel. Behind it is the prison chapel. At the far end is the well, 91í deep.

A stone wall separates the outer from the much smaller inner ward and would have had two wooden doors as well as a drawbridge. This contains the royal chambers and presence room. They were designed as a small palace. Not only did this provide privacy, it could also be sealed off from the rest of the castle and supplied indefinitely from the sea by the eastern gate. In fact, they were rarely used by the royal family.

Conwy Castle and walled town

At the far end is the east barbican with steps down to the water gate and a small dock. These are now masked by the later bridges.

The chapel tower could be accessed from the inner ward or from the wall walk. The chapel on the first floor was just used by the royal family. The three lancet windows now contain attractive modern stained glass. On either side are two smaller rooms with a squint giving views of the altar. Down a side passageway is a latrine. 

Conwy Castle and walled town

Spiral staircases inside the towers give access to the wall walk around the top of the towers.

Conwy Castle and walled town

Not only does this give good views down into the castle, it also gives good views of the town walls, town and quayside.

Conwy Castle and walled town

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