Steeped in mystic history stretching back to the days of King Arthur, Wales is truly a magnificent destination. Named ‘Cymru’ in Welsh, this small country attached to the hip of England is often disregarded when speaking of the great sights in Britain. The royal town of Caernarfon lies along the northern coast with deep roots into Welsh history.
A Brief History
The town’s origins can be traced to Roman times, where a fort named Segontium was established around AD 77 to guard against Irish raiders. However, Caernarfon’s prominence truly began with the construction of its iconic castle.
Caernarfon Castle, built by Edward I in the late 13th century, played a pivotal role in the subjugation of Wales. The castle’s imposing walls and towers, along with its strategic location, exemplify Edward’s desire to assert English dominance over the Welsh. In 1284, the town was designated a royal borough and became a center of administration for North Wales.
Throughout the centuries, Caernarfon remained a focal point for conflicts and political changes. The town played a role in the Wars of the Roses, and during the English Civil War in the 17th century, it faced sieges and destruction. Despite these challenges, Caernarfon continued to be a symbol of Welsh heritage, with its medieval town walls and historic buildings contributing to its unique character.
In the 20th century, Caernarfon became a center for Welsh nationalism and cultural preservation. The investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in Caernarfon Castle in 1969 symbolized a significant event in Welsh history. Today, Caernarfon is celebrated for its well-preserved medieval architecture, including the castle and town walls, as well as its vibrant Welsh culture. The town’s rich history, reflected in its landmarks and traditions, attracts visitors keen on exploring Wales’ storied past.
Climbing Mt Snowdon
The dramatic and rugged terrain dotted with tiny charming villages in Snowdonia National Park is like something out of a storybook. There are many ways to enjoy this spectacular terrain, but the true rite of passage is of course climbing to the top of Mt. Snowdon. The trick is finding the right weather to not only make the climb but also enjoy the views once at the top.
Recognized around the world as one of the greatest buildings of the Middle Ages, Caernarfon has always been vestige of Welsh culture and it was here that one of the last Princes of Wales defied the English King, Edward I, which led to his execution and the building of Caernarfon Castle. The mighty castle sits along the coast, offering great views of the town, the sea, and surrounding landscape.
The small market town of Conwy just a few miles from Caernarfon is another gem worth visiting. Enjoy the beautiful coastal landscape while admiring yet another giant castle and walled city. Another of Edward I’s attempts to quell the unruly Welsh, Conwy Castle isn’t quite as grand and well preserved as the one at Caernarfon but it’s still just as imposing.
Isle of Anglesey
Desolate lighthouses, coastal cities like Holyhead, wide beaches, more castles, and five thousand year old stone circles are all part of the experience around the Isle of Anglesey. And the Isle of Anglesey is also home to one of the longest place names anywhere in the world – ‘Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch’ which is a train station in the village of ‘Llanfairpwllgwyngyll’
The Welsh cuisine is quite similar to that of England and wider Britain, with some notable differences. The most popular typical Welsh dish is called ‘rarebit’, a traditional Welsh dish made with a savoury sauce of melted cheese and various other ingredients and served hot, after being poured over slices of toasted bread or served in a chafing dish like a fondue.
A local favorite…
The Black Boy Inn is a hotel restaurant that serves some of the best Welsh dishes in the area, and serves as a popular meeting place for locals.
ake a leisurely stroll along Caernarfon’s well-preserved town walls. The walls offer not only a unique perspective of the town but also a glimpse into its medieval past. Don’t forget to bring your camera for stunning views of the harbor and Snowdonia mountains.
Caernarfon is nestled near the stunning Snowdonia National Park. Consider taking a hike or scenic drive to appreciate the natural beauty, with opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, and birdwatching.
Be prepared for Wales’ often unpredictable weather. Pack layers, waterproofs, and comfortable walking shoes, especially if you plan to explore the outdoors or take on hiking trails in the nearby national park.
The Country of Wales
Snowdonia National Park
The Country of Wales
The sound of Wales
Jack’s Favorite Moment
The Land of Dragons
Spending nearly two years living and studying in Wales left an indelible impression on me. I just can’t say enough good things about this enchanting land. Called ‘Cymru’ in Welsh, this small country attached to the hip of England is often disregarded when considering the popular destinations in Britain.
Steeped in mystic history stretching back before even antiquity, Wales has some unique attributes; more castles per square mile than any country in the world, more sheep per person than anywhere in the world, and home to the real life Stairway to Heaven. That last part might surprise you but it’s true. Led Zepplin wrote their famous song ‘Stairway to Heaven’ while staying in Snowdonia National Park. Looking out onto the dramatic Mt. Snowdon covered in fog and mist, you can imagine their inspiration to write a song leading to the heavens.
It’s difficult to decide where to begin as I had so many adventures in Wales, but I think the most interesting for you would be focusing on the north country. This is where the greatest fortresses lay, the most dramatic scenery, and the strongest outpost of official Welsh speakers. I was here in 2019 meeting up with my Dad fresh from leading a tour group in Italy. We hit some of our favorite spots in England, saw some new things, and then headed over to spend a few days exploring North Wales.
We based ourselves in Caernarfon on the northwest coast which is a perfect base to discover the wider region and the legendary Snowdonia. Putting ourselves here had a double bonus in addition to its stunning medieval castle and quaint town; Caernarfon has the highest percentage of local Welsh speakers than any city in Wales. The royal town of Caernarfon has deep roots in Welsh history, stretching back to pre-history and upwards of 90% of the city’s population count Welsh as their first language. This was none more apparent than in the hotel/restaurant we were staying.
‘The Black Boy Inn’ (not making this up) is THE place to stay in Caernarfon for its charming historic character and epicenter of local Welsh nightlife. Everywhere we turned people were hanging out in little nooks, drinking pints at the bar, and sitting next to a fireplace chatting in Welsh. If you haven’t heard Welsh spoken before I HIGHLY recommend taking a moment after reading this story to hear it for yourself. Just type in ‘Welsh speakers’ in Youtube and a few videos will popup. It’s one of the most ancient languages in the entire world going back, in one form or another, more than 5,000 years.
Our first stop was exploring the absolutely gigantic and picturesque Caernarfon Castle. Caernarfon Castle is recognized around the world as one of the greatest buildings of the Middle Ages. Full stop. I’ve been here twice now and the second time was even more exhilarating than the first. The north of Wales was always a vestige of Welsh culture and it was here that one of the last Princes of Wales defied the English King, Edward I, which led to his execution and the building of Caernarfon Castle.
The mighty castle sits right along the coast, which offers great views of the town, the sea, and surrounding landscape. Nearly the entire castle is open to wander and explore. I walked, strolled, and strutted around that entire castle and it was glorious. You can climb just about every tower and most of the interior is still in tact which gives you a real feeling of what life would have been like in its heyday. Another fun side note; this is the place where Prince Charles, and all prior future Princes of Wales, officially received their title.
The small market town of Conwy just a few miles from Caernarfon on the northern Welsh coast is another gem worth seeing. We went here to enjoy the beautiful coastal landscape while admiring yet another giant castle and walled city. Another of Edward I’s attempts to quell the unruly Welsh, Conwy Castle isn’t quite as grand and well preserved as the one at Caernarfon but it’s still just as imposing. We took in the castle, flew our drones around, walked the town walls, and then got a pint and bite to eat at the waterfront pub ‘The George and Dragon.’ This is Wales.
Next, we headed over to the Isle of Anglesey. A place of unparalleled beauty and amazing adventures, Anglesey is a place that inspires and appeals to all the senses. We discovered a rich history, vast sweeping landscapes, tasty local foods, and a fun cultural heritage. This was some of the best drone flying we did during the trip and it really allowed us to get a unique perspective of the area. Desolate lighthouses, coastal cities like Holyhead, wide beaches, more castles, and five thousand year old stone circles were all part of the experience. The Isle of Anglesey is also home to one of the longest place names anywhere in the world – ‘Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch’ which is a train station in the village of ‘Llanfairpwllgwyngyll’…try pronouncing that name!
Last, but certainly not least, is the mythical Snowdonia National Park. In northern Wales lies the large tract of protected land that has inspired poets and song writers for centuries. The dramatic and rugged terrain dotted with tiny charming villages is like something out of a storybook. There are many ways to enjoy this spectacular terrain, but the true rite of passage is of course climbing to the top of Mt. Snowdon.
If you’re not feeling up to the challenge you may take the local steam train most of the way, but if you’re physically able don’t cheat yourself of the climb up. The trick is finding the right weather to not only make the climb but also enjoy the views once at the top. We took one of the more difficult paths up, Miners Way, and luckily had mostly clear weather all the way until we reached the summit. Unfortunately, once we reached the summit the views were clouded over by a thick layer of fog. It was still worth the climb, and we were able to stand on the highest peak in both England and Wales. Beautiful.
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Explore the streets around the castle
Discover Conwy Castle
Wander around the town of Conwy
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