Edward I, who ruled England from 1272 to 1307, was quite an ambitious warmonger; he is perhaps best known for conquering the Welsh in the early years of his reign and later attempting, unsuccessfully, to do the same to the Scots (although he did manage to capture and execute the rabblerouser William Wallace of “Braveheart” fame). Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, self-proclaimed Prince of Wales, refused to pay homage to the English crown, which led to Edward I’s first campaign against the Welsh in 1276-77. Llywelyn was allowed to keep his title, although he was eventually put to death. His younger brother Dafydd started another rebellion in 1282, which was quickly quashed by Edward, who captured, tortured, and executed Dafydd the following year. To hammer his conquest into the hearts and minds of the Welsh people, Edward commenced construction of an “iron ring” of fortified castles across northern
Of all of Edward's fortresses, the massive
At the entrance to the castle we learned that our English Heritage visitor’s pass is ineligible for discounts in
After touring the castle we stopped in at the knight’s shop across the street, where you can buy reproduction swords and crossbows or research your family crest, then walked down the quay, past the smallest house in
Our next stop was
Beaumaris was never completed and has been significantly dismantled. It looks like someone chopped off the upper half of the towers with a sweep of a massive sledgehammer. The interior of the castle is completely empty save for a few stone foundations. But you can wander through the long, dark passages of the inner bailey and climb up on top a section of the walls, from which you can see back across the
We crossed back to the mainland via a chain suspension bridge designed by Thomas Telford in 1826 and headed southwest along the
Caernarfon is perhaps most famously known as the birthplace of Edward II, the first English Prince of Wales. Edward I promised to give the Welsh chieftains a ruler who spoke no English, and so it was to Caernarfon that he sent his wife, Eleanor of Castile, to give birth to a son “who spoke no English, had been born on Welsh soil, and whose first words would be spoken in Welsh.” Every generation thereafter, the eldest son of the English royal family has been invested as the Prince of Wales at this very castle, as Prince Charles was in 1969.
We entered the castle via the King’s Gate on the town side and spent the next hour or so exploring the labyrinth of walls and towers. We hiked up to the top of the King’s Tower with its three turrets, from which we had a magnificent view down into the castle (photo, above), the surrounding hills, and the tidal waters of the strait. We stopped to watch a 20-minute film about the history of Caernarfon and the rest of Edward’s castles and the role they played in the subjugation of the Welsh people. The film left us with haunting images of the mountains of Snowdonia, which served as the last stronghold of the Welsh fighters. John went into the museum of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers while I scrambled around the walls for a while longer. It was after 5:30 when we were ready to leave, only to find ourselves locked in; the man at the ticket window had to unlock the door in the massive gate to let us out.
We drove out along the road opposite the castle to get some pictures (photo, right)and then made our way back overland through the
We made it back to Tan-y-Foel just before 7:00, so we had to hurry to get ready for dinner. Our meal was not quite as spectacular as last night (although the ambience was a bit more lively with three other couples there). I had a slab of roasted “stripy” bacon with red cabbage and honey dressing, while John had the confit of mullet with spiced sweet corn relish and mango and lime dressing. We both had the halibut with runner beans, salmon potato cake, and a port wine cream sauce, accompanied by a nice Australian chardonnay. We had homemade pannatone bread pudding for dessert, which was positively delicious! After dinner we retired to the lounge again, where John tried another port and I had a very generous glass of Sauternes.
And so ends our brief forway into