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Edward I’s decision, announced on 17 November 1276, to go against Llywelyn as a rebel and disturber of the peace, had, as not the least notable of its consequences, the inauguration in Wales of a programme of castle-building of the first magnitude.



Maître Jacques, castle builder from St. George,

Savoy, walked the crag’s perimeter

two hundred feet above the breaking sea

that would ensure supplies during sieges,

and advised the king in what was due course then –

a relay of messengers riding to

wherever the court was – to build at Harlech,

Welsh heartland, dominate that long coast,

be grander even than Caernafon or Conwy.


Carpenters, charcoal burners, diggers, dykers,

plumbers, masons, sawyers, smiths, woodmen,

quarriers and labourers – all from England –

together with Master James have ensured

the elegant, sturdy walls and towers

have lasted beyond Glyndwr’s uprising,

the Wars of the Roses and Cromwell,

though some of the limestone from Penmon

and most of the steel and iron from Chester

have been snaffled over time by locals.


Victorian tourists, informed by guide books

in the grand tour style about ruins,

could catch the Paddington train to Oswestry

then the stopping train to Barmouth, alight here,

take the pony and trap up the hairpin road

to the Castle Hotel facing the keep.


The hotel has been refurbished: on two floors

luxury apartments; on the ground floor

the visitors’ centre with time lines, a/v,

museum shop, and café where there is

Fair Trade coffee, speciality teas,

paninis, scones – and all day full Welsh breakfasts

very popular with local builders.




© Copyright David Selzer

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