The most expensive castle in Wales
Conwy Castle is another of the awe-inspiring fortresses of Gwynedd built by master engineer James of St George on the orders of Edward I. Around £15,000 was spent on construction of the walled town of Conwy, including its castle – a huge amount for the time.
Begun in 1283, work on the castle was completed in 1287 – a mere four years! It is difficult for us to imagine how the castle would have looked at this time. For one thing, in line with many of the castles of its age, the exterior stonework would have been plastered all over with a white lime render, and must have presented a spectacular sight whether approached by land or sea.
The castle itself was built upon an outcrop of grey limestone jutting into the Irish Sea. It had originally been the site of Aberconwy Abbey, a Cistercian monastery much revered by the Princes of Gwynedd. In placing his castle on such a prestigious and holy site, Edward was sending a powerful message to the people of Gwynedd – I am in charge now!
However, a mere seven years later Madog ap Llywelyn assumed control of a national revolt against the English and laid siege to Conwy. The fortress withstood the siege and was eventually relieved by Edward’s forces. More revolts were to follow, the most famous being that led by Owain Glyndŵr, during which both the castle and the town walls were captured by the rebels.
In 1986 Conwy and its castle were awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Today the castle is operated by Cadw.