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North Wales and many castles by michael ,  Aug 30, 2013

North Wales: Feisty and Poetic

From towering Mount Snowdon and evocative medieval castles to grand Victorian promenades, North Wales is a poem written in landscape. We'll climb a mountain aboard a steam train, learn some Welsh, follow a miner deep into a slate mine, herd sheep with a very clever dog, and work in a pop pilgrimage to the Beatles' Liverpool.

  • Read the script from the show.

Travel Details

Conwy Castle

Dramatically situated on a rock overlooking the sea with eight linebacker towers, this castle was built in just four years, with a water gate that allowed safe entry for English boats in a land of hostile Welsh. Guides wait inside to take you on a 60-minute tour; if the booth is empty, look for the group and join it (tel. 01492/592-358). Guides wait inside to take you on a 60-minute, £1 tour; if the booth is empty, look for the group and join it.

Plas Mawr

A rare Elizabethan house from 1580, this was built after the reign of Henry VIII. Billed as the oldest house in Wales, Plas Mawr offers a delightful look at 16th-century domestic life to anyone patient enough to spend an hour following the excellent included audioguide. Docents in each room are happy to point out what's original and chat about how the restoration was done (tel. 01492/580-167).

Ewe-Phoria Sheepdog Show

Despite the goofy name, this really is a fun and fascinating peek into the world of sheep farmers and their frantically loyal, well-trained dogs. First, you'll see the dogs rounding up the sheep (who seem to roll their eyes at this polished demonstration); then you'll head into the barn to see a sheep show and shearing (just off A5 midway between Betws-y-Coed and Llangollen in Llamgwm, tel. 01490/460-369).

Llechwedd Slate Mine

Slate mining played a blockbuster role in Welsh heritage, and this mine on the northern edge of Blaenau Ffestiniog does a fine job of explaining the mining culture of Victorian Wales. The exhibit has three parts: a tiny Victorian mining town (with a miners' pub and a view from "The Top of the Tip") and two tours, one focusing on working life and traditional mining techniques, and the other including a descent into the "deep mine" (tel. 01766/830-306).

Bodnant Garden

This sumptuous 80-acre display of floral color six miles south of Conwy is one of Britain's best gardens. It's famous for its magnolias, rhododendrons, camellias, and floral arch made of bright-yellow laburnum, which blooms mid-May through early June (best in spring, phone message tells what's blooming, tel. 01492/650-460).

Beaumaris was originally a Viking settlement known as Porth y Wygyr ("Port of the Vikings"), but the town itself began its development in 1295 when Edward I of England, having conquered Wales, commissioned the building of Beaumaris Castle as part of a chain of fortifications around the North Wales coast (others include Conwy, Caernarfon and Harlech).

The castle was built on a marsh and that is where it found its name: the French builders called it beaux marais which translates as "beautiful marshes".

The ancient village of Llanfaes, a mile to the north of Beaumaris, had been occupied by the Anglo Saxons in 818 but had been regained by Merfyn Frych, King of Gwynedd, and remained a vital strategic settlement. To counter further Welsh uprisings, and to ensure control of the Menai Strait, Edward I chose the flat coastal plain as the place to build Beaumaris Castle. The castle was designed by the Savoyard mason Master James of St. George and is considered the most perfect example of a concentric castle. The 'troublesome' residents of Llanfaes were removed en bloc to Rhosyr in the west of Anglesey, a new settlement King Edward entitled "Newborough". French and English masons were brought in to construct the castle itself and the walled town.

Beaumaris was awarded a Royal Charter by Edward I, which was drawn up on similar terms to the charters of his other castle towns in North Wales and intended to invest only the English and Norman-French residents with civic rights. Native Welsh residents of Beaumaris were largely disqualified from holding any civic office, carrying any weapon, and holding assemblies; and were not allowed to purchase houses or land within the Borough. The Charter also specifically prohibited Jews (who had been largely expelled from most English towns) from living in Beaumaris. A requirement that all trade in the immediate area be conducted at Beaumaris meant the town became the main commercial centre of Anglesey.

Beaumaris in 1610.

Beaumaris was the port of registration for all vessels in North West Wales, covering not only every harbour on Anglesey but also all the ports from Conwy to Pwllheli. Shipbuilding was a major industry in Beaumaris. This was centred on Gallows Point — a nearby spit of land extending into the Menai Strait about a mile west of the town. Gallows Point had originally been called "Osmund's Eyre" but was renamed when the town gallows was erected there — along with a "Dead House" for the corpses of criminals dispatched in public executions. Later, hangings were carried out at the town gaol and the bodies buried in a lime-pit within the curtilage of the gaol. One of the last prisoners to hang at Beaumaris issued a curse before he died - decreeing that if he was innocent the four faces of the church clock would never show the same time.

Beaumaris Castle

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 

Beaumaris Castle, located in the town of the same name on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales, was built as part of Edward I's campaign to conquer the north of Wales after 1282. Plans were probably first made to construct the castle in 1284, but this was delayed due to lack of funds and work only began in 1295 following the Madog ap Llywelyn uprising. A substantial workforce was employed in the initial years under the direction of James of St. George. Edward's invasion of Scotland soon diverted funding from the project, however, and work stopped, only recommencing after an invasion scare in 1306. When work finally ceased around 1330 a total of £15,000 had been spent, a huge sum for the period, but the castle remained incomplete.

Beaumaris Castle was taken by Welsh forces in 1403 during the Owain Glyndŵr rebellion, but recaptured by royal forces in 1405. Following the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, the castle was held by forces loyal to Charles I, holding out until 1646 when it surrendered to the Parliamentary armies. Despite forming part of a local royalist rebellion in 1648 the castle escaped slighting and was garrisoned by Parliament, but fell into ruin around 1660, eventually forming part of a local stately home and park in the 19th century. In the 21st century the ruined castle is managed by Cadw as a tourist attraction.

Historian Arnold Taylor has described Beaumaris Castle as Britain's "most perfect example of symmetrical concentric planning".[1] The fortification is built of local stone, with a moated outer ward guarded by twelve towers and two gatehouses, overlooked by an inner ward with two large, D-shaped gatehouses and six massive towers. The inner ward was designed to contain ranges of domestic buildings and accommodation able to support two major households. The south gate could be reached by ship, allowing the castle to be directly supplied by sea. UNESCO considers Beaumaris to be one of "the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe", and it is classed as a World Heritage site.[2]

Beaumaris Gaol

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to: navigation, search A section of the jail from inside the courtyard

Beaumaris Gaol is a disused jail located in Beaumaris, Anglesey, Wales. Although no longer in use it remains largely unaltered and is now a museum open to visitors, with around 30,000 visiting each year.

The jail was designed by Joseph Hansom, designer of the Hansom cab, and was built in 1829.[1] It was expanded in 1867 to accommodate approximately 30 inmates but was closed just 11 years later. The building then became a police station until the 1950s when it became, oddly, a children's clinic and lastly a museum in 1974. During the Second World War the town's air raid siren was located in the gaol and was kept in operation during the Cold War in case of nuclear attacks. The gaol's chapel is not original to the building, and the pews and pulpit were sourced from a chapel being renovated elsewhere on the island. It is possible to tell that the pews are not the original ones as the numbering sequence is out of order and they are not fixed to the floor.

The prison regime may appear brutal to a modern visitor, but in its day it was seen as humane improvement on earlier gaols. Even so, methods of keeping criminals in check included chains, whippings and isolation in a dark cell for up to three days. It has one of the last working treadmills in Britain. The treadmill at Beaumaris is unusual in that it pumped water to the top of the building for use in the cells, meaning that the prisoners were not forced to work for no reason.

Only two hangings took place at Beaumaris. The first was that of William Griffith, in 1830, for the attempted murder of his first wife. He reacted badly to the news that he was to hang and on the morning of his execution, barricaded himself inside the cell. The door was eventually forced open and he was half dragged and half carried to the gibbet. The second and final execution was that of Richard Rowlands in 1862, having been found guilty of murdering his father in law. He protested his innocence right up to the final moment and legend has is that he cursed the church clock from the gallows, saying that if he were innocent the four faces of the nearby church clock would never show the same time. Indeed for a while they did not, although this has been attributed to the wind buffeting the southern face. Both men were buried in within the walls of the gaol in a lime pit, but the exact location of their burial is unknown. The metal rivets which held the gibbet in place, along with the two doors which the condemned man passed through can still be seen from the street outside the Gaol walls.

Throughout its time as a gaol there was only one instance of a prisoner escaping. The prisoner, John Morris, escaped on 7 January 1859, using rope he had stolen whilst working with it. Although he broke his leg whilst escaping he did make it out of the town, before being recaptured.

The TV series Most Haunted visited the gaol for a show aired 17 January 2007 to investigate supposed hauntings.

Caernarfon Castle (Welsh: Castell Caernarfon) is a medieval building in Gwynedd, north-west Wales. There was a motte-and-bailey castle in the town of Caernarfon from the late 11th century until 1283 when King Edward I of England began replacing it with the current stone structure. The Edwardian town and castle acted as the administrative centre of north Wales and as a result the defences were built on a grand scale. There was a deliberate link with Caernarfon's Roman past – nearby is the Roman fort of Segontium – and the castle's walls are reminiscent of the Walls of Constantinople.

While the castle was under construction, town walls were built around Caernarfon. The work cost between £20,000 and £25,000 from the start until the end of work in 1330. Despite Caernarfon Castle's external appearance of being mostly complete, the interior buildings no longer survive and many of the building plans were never finished. The town and castle were sacked in 1294 when Madog ap Llywelyn led a rebellion against the English. Caernarfon was recaptured the following year. During the Glyndŵr Rising of 1400–1415, the castle was besieged. When the Tudor dynasty ascended to the English throne in 1485, tensions between the Welsh and English began to diminish and castles were considered less important. As a result, Caernarfon Castle was allowed to fall into a state of disrepair.

Despite its dilapidated condition, during the English Civil War Caernarfon Castle was held by Royalists, and was besieged three times by Parliamentarian forces. This was the last time the castle was used in war. Caernarfon Castle was neglected until the 19th century when the state funded repairs. In 1911, Caernarfon Castle was used for the investiture of the Prince of Wales, and again in 1969. It is part of the World Heritage Site "Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd".[1]

Conwy (formerly known in English as Conway) is a walledmarket town and community in Conwy County Borough on the north coast of Wales. The town, which faces Deganwy across the River Conwy, formerly lay in Gwynedd and prior to that in Caernarfonshire. The community, which includes Deganwy and Llandudno Junction, had a population of 14,208 at the 2001 census,[1] and is a popular tourist destination. The Welsh language can still be heard in widespread, casual and official usage.


Across the estuary is
Bodysgallen Hall, which incorporates a medieval watchtower that was later used as a signal place for Conwy Castle.Conwy Castle and the town walls were built, on the instruction of Edward I of England, between 1283 and 1289, as part of his conquest of the principality of Wales. Conwy was the original site of Aberconwy Abbey, founded by Llywelyn the Great. Edward and his troops took over the abbey site and moved the monks down the Conwy valley to a new site at Maenan, establishing Maenan Abbey. The parish church still retains some parts of the original abbey church in the east and west walls. English settlers were given incentives to move to the walled garrison town, which for decades the Welsh were forbidden from entering.

Conwy has other tourist attractions that help draw visitors to the town. Conwy Suspension Bridge, designed by Thomas Telford to replace the ferry, was completed in 1826 and spans the River Conwy next to the castle. Telford designed the bridge's supporting towers to match the castle's turrets. The bridge is now open to pedestrians only and, together with the toll-keeper's house, is in the care of the National Trust.

The Conwy Railway Bridge, a Tubular bridge, was built for the Chester and Holyhead Railway by Robert Stephenson in 1849. The bridge is still in use on the North Wales Coast Line, along with station, which is located within the town walls. In addition to a modern bridge serving the town, the A55 road passes under the river by a tunnel which was built between 1986 and 1991. The old mountain road to Dwygyfylchi and Penmaenmawr runs through the Sychnant Pass, at the foot of Conwy Mountain.

The National Trust also owns Aberconwy House, which is Conwy's only surviving 14th-century merchant's house, one of the first buildings built inside the walls of Conwy. Another fine house open to the public is Plas Mawr, an Elizabethan house built in 1576 by the Wynn family, which has been extensively refurbished to its original 16th-century appearance and is now in the care of Cadw.[2]

The church standing in Conwy, has been marked as the oldest building in Conwy and has stood in the walls of Conwy since the 14th century. However, the oldest structure is part of the town walls, at the southern end of the east side. Here one wall and the tower of Llewellyn the Great's Llys [court house] have been incorporated into the wall. Built on a rocky outcrop, with an aspidal tower, it is a classic, native, Welsh build and stands out from the rest of the town walls, due to the presence of 4 window openings. It dates from the early 13th century and is the most complete remnant of any of his Llys.


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