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.
THE HISTORY OF THE KING’S WORKS, HMSO, 1963
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.