Regular readers of my blog will know that I unashamedly love a good castle, and for the longest time, I’ve been dying to tick off north Wales’s big four: Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy and Harlech.
I visited Caernarfon years ago (great fun), have driven past Harlech and Conwy, but the one I was most keen to see was Beaumaris, located on Ynys Môn (the Isle of Anglesey). So when I was planning my north Wales road trip, it goes without saying that a trip to Beaumaris was top of my wish list…
Founded in the late 13th century when King Edward I decided it would make the perfect spot for the last of his magnificent series of Welsh fortresses, Beaumaris was so named because of its beautiful marshes or beaux marais.
Beaumaris was to be the jewel in Edward’s castle-tastic crown – the largest, most impressive and as close to perfectly symmetrical as possible. The only snag? The project ran out of money and the spectacular stronghold was left unfinished.
Beaumaris Castle is situated on the edge of the Menai Strait, the narrow stretch of water that separates Ynys Môn from the Welsh mainland, and a small namesake, market town has built up around it. Nowadays, the castle is maintained by Cadw, the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The huge fortress, designed by Edward I’s master architect James of St George (above), is a concentric castle, which basically means it’s a castle within a castle. For a castle-geek such as myself, this is hugely exciting as it’s like having a bonus castle to explore.
On going inside the castle, I passed through the imposing gate (above) and found myself in a huge grassy moat that stretched all the way around the inside of the stronghold in a rectangular loop, separating the inner and outer parts of the fortress. The ‘inner’ castle being the bigger, more impressive of the two massive structures.
Unsure which way to go, I decided to do a loop of the fortress between the two sets of castle walls, popping inside any nooks and crannies I came across in the ‘outer’ part and scaling any towers I found. I then tackled the main body of the castle, which included lots of passages, staircases, rooms, latrines and even a small chapel (below).
You can go up onto the castle walls in numerous places and walk around them (below), which I really enjoyed. On a clear day, you can see the breathtaking peaks of Snowdonia National Park on the mainland, but sadly the Welsh weather let me down the day of my visit and all I could see were some rather ominous-looking grey clouds.
After my visit to the castle, I spent some time looking around Beaumaris itself. The town has a number of boutiques and cafés, as well as a courthouse and gaol that’s open to visitors. Beaumaris is small, so it didn’t take long to see the sights, but it was a pleasant place to stop and have a wander for an hour or so.
I loved my visit to Beaumaris Castle – it didn’t disappoint. I’d been surprised to learn the castle was incomplete as I was blissfully unaware of this fact before my trip, but it didn’t take anything away from the castle. If anything, it only added to its fabled charms – if the castle is as magnificent as it is incomplete, imagine how truly spectacular it would have been when finished.
Beaumaris Castle, Beaumaris LL58 8AP
Note: I visited Beaumaris pre-Covid in August 2019.