CONWY, wonderfully set on the Conwy Estuary, twenty miles east of Bangor, is backed by a forested fold of Snowdonia. The town has a fine castle and a complete, three-quarter-mile-long belt of 30ft-high town walls encircling a compact core of medieval and Victorian buildings. This makes it extremely easy to potter around, and though you’ll see everything you need to in a day, you may well find yourself wanting to stay longer.
Conwy Castle is the toughest-looking link in Edward I’s Iron Ring of fortresses around North Wales. With 1500 men, James of St George took just five years to construct eight massive towers in a rectangle around the two wards on a strategic knoll near the mouth of the river. The inner ward was separated from the outer by a drawbridge and portcullis, and further protected by turrets atop the four eastern towers, now the preserve of crows.
In 1401, on Good Friday, when the fifteen-strong castle guard were at church, two cousins of Owain Glyndŵr took the castle and razed the town for Glyndŵr’s cause. It was re-fortified for the Civil War then subsequently stripped of all its iron, wood and lead, and was left substantially as it is today.
The outer ward’s 130ft-long Great Hall and the King’s Apartments are both well preserved, but the only part of the castle to have kept its roof is the Chapel Tower, named for the small room built into the wall whose semicircular apse still shows some heavily worn carving.