Judging by its elevated position, affording a commanding view of the narrow coastal plain below, of the surrounding mountains and across the open sea to the Llyn Peninsula, Harlech Castle, built by Edward I in the late 13th century as part of his 'iron ring', should have done a pretty good job of defending the surrounding area and keeping the Welsh at bay. However, it did not stop Owain Glyndwr from taking the castle in 1404. The lengthy siege which ensued during the Wars of the Roses was the inspiration for the song 'Men of Harlech' ("Men of Harlech, march to glory//Victory is hov'ring o'er ye" is how the stirring, belligerent lyrics begin). The seaward side of the castle is mounted on a steep cliff which, in Harlech's heyday as a stronghold, would have had the sea much closer to hand than now, since the waters of Tremadog Bay have receded in the intervening centuries.
The small town adjoining the castle, rather than cowering under it as with many such towns, is similarly high up and includes a pleasant mix of shops, cafes and pubs set among its steep, winding streets. The town provided inspiration for the poet Robert Graves, who was a frequent visitor. Harlech also featured in the Welsh medieval work of literature Mabinogion, which tells the mythological story of Branwen, daughter of Llyr. The cultural hub is the Theatr Harlech, which lays on a range of concerts, plays, films etc. Golfers can visit the Royal St David's course with the ever-present castle watching over it.
Map of the area.
|Photo by Peter Humphreys, via Wikimedia Commons|