Driving into the north Wales market town of Conwy is quite a surreal and unnerving experience, for the town is surrounded by a 1.3km unbroken ring of medieval stone walls, and to get into the town, I had to drive through a narrow gateway. It was an impressive and disorientating welcome to one of the finest medieval towns in Wales.

The Conwy estuary

Situated at the mouth of the Conwy River (above), Conwy is dominated by its exceptionally well-preserved town walls, complete with 21 towers, and the mighty fortress that soars above the town (below).

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle is a medieval masterpiece and one of King Edward I’s north Wales strongholds, built to consolidate his conquest of the principality in the late 13th century.

Designed by the king’s master architect, James of St George, the huge, rectangular fortress boasts eight imposing towers and some of the best examples of medieval royal rooms in the UK. What makes this feat of masonry all the more impressive is that it took only four years to build, between 1283 and 1287.

The inside of one of the towers at Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with Edward I’s other major north Wales fortresses, Beaumaris, Caernarfon and Harlech, and is today in the care of Cadw, the Welsh heritage agency.

The first thing that struck me on going inside was how big it was – it’s enormous – but it also has quite a majestic feel, like a castle that was fit for a king. I could imagine people living in Conwy Castle in a way I couldn’t in Beaumaris.

The outer ward at Conwy Castle

I began my visit looking around the massive outer ward (above), which had so many passages and staircases leading off from it, I wasn’t quite sure where to go next.

The remains of the Great Hall at Conwy Castle

I decided to veer off to the left to explore the great hall (above), home to an enormous arch, which I assumed once helped hold the roof together, and the chapel beyond it. From there, I took my time exploring the various passageways, rooms and towers leading off from the outer ward.

Inside the inner ward at Conwy Castle

I then made my way to the smaller inner ward. The inner ward is where the king’s apartments were situated and the old royal rooms are still in reasonably good shape (below).

The king's rooms at Conwy Castle

At the far end is the East Barbican, where I peeked over the walls to admire the splendid views over the nearby Conwy Suspension Bridge (below).

Conwy Suspension Bridge as seen from Conwy Castle

The inner ward is also home to two of the castle’s most notable towers – the chapel tower and the king’s tower. Having seen everything on the ground floor, I began touring the towers, admiring the views from the top and exploring all there was to see within them. I also took the opportunity to look around the castle ramparts as I moved between the towers (below).

The ramparts at Conwy Castle

King Edward I only stayed at Conwy Castle once, when it was still being built in 1284, and it’s amazing to think he never saw the finished structure.

The castle, nevertheless, has received a few royal visitors over the centuries. King Richard II was briefly holed up in the fortress during the civil war that marred the end of his days. While Edward I’s son Edward (later King Edward II) stayed at the castle for a few months in 1301, where he received homage as Prince of Wales from the local lords.

Chapel tower at Conwy Castle

Back in Edward I’s day the entire castle would have been white rather than the grey we see today (you can still see some remnants of the lime render on the castle walls). Given its enormity, its location and its ivory walls, the stronghold must have been an awe-inspiring sight in the Middle Ages.

The Welsh flag flies atop the bakehouse tower at Conwy Castle

I spent ages at Conwy Castle, exploring every nook and cranny (and there were quite a few!), climbing the towers, strolling along the ramparts, and visiting every passageway and room I came across. There’s so much to see, you need a good few hours to experience it all.

Conwy suspension bridge

Upon leaving the castle, I decided to take a look at the suspension bridge, having been intrigued by my glimpse from the fortress.

Side view of the Conwy Suspension Bridge

The bridge, which spans the Conwy River, was built in the 1820s by the Scottish engineer Thomas Telford and was one of the earliest suspension bridges in the world. The pedestrian-only bridge is free to walk across, but there’s a toll house (below) at the other end, which is run by the National Trust and for which there’s a small fee to enter.

Conwy Suspension Bridge Toll House

I’d arrived in Conwy late in the afternoon, having already been to Ynys Môn, Snowdonia National Park and Bodnant Garden earlier in the day, and by the time I’d explored Conwy Castle, the toll house was closed so I wasn’t able to go inside.

Entrance to the Conwy Suspension Bridge, with Conwy Castle in the background

I nevertheless spent ages photographing the photogenic bridge. It’s such a striking structure I was taking photos from every conceivable angle.

Conwy town walls

Before I left Conwy, I climbed onto the stretch of town walls beside the car park where I’d left my car and walked along them for as long as I could (above). It’s incredible to think that they’ve survived unbroken since the Middle Ages and are still in such good condition.

I loved my visit to Conwy and was saddened it was so brief, as there was lots I didn’t get to see in the few short hours I was there. I was bowled over by the magnificence of the castle and how well-preserved it was, and was awe-struck by the town walls and suspension bridge. I’d love to revisit Conwy and spend a full day there, as I felt I only scratched the surface of what this fascinating town has to offer.


Conwy Castle, Conwy LL32 8AY

Conwy Suspension Bridge, Conwy, LL32 8LD

Note: I visited Conwy pre-Covid in August 2019.

4 thoughts on “Conwy

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  1. A lovely armchair tour of Conwy Castle! When you’re next there, I’d recommend a walk up Conwy Mountain (its name is a bit of a misnomer, as it’s more of a large hill!) – the views across towards Deganwy and the Great Orme are beautiful, as is the view down the Sychnant Pass. It’s especially pretty in the spring with all the gorse on the hillside. I always had a lot of fun as a kid shouting at Echo Rock (on the descent towards The Fairy Glen pub, where the road curves) and hearing the sounds reverberate!

    Liked by 1 person

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