UK Travel Guide


Criccieth Castle

Description: Criccieth Castle is a combination of Welsh and English remains. It is thought that Criccieth's castle was built at the beginning of the 13th century, which is rather late for initiating a castle at a particular site in Wales. The earliest mention of any type of stronghold on the craggy rock is to be found in the Welsh chronicles, the Brut y Tywysogyon, in the year 1239, when Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (son of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, or "the Great") was imprisoned in the castle by his half-brother, Dafydd. Most likely, Llywelyn the Great began the stone fortress just a few years before his sons' quarrel. The second building phase at Criccieth Castle was undertaken by Llywelyn's grandson, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (also known as "the Last") probably in the 1260's. Llywelyn the Last's contribution was a curtain wall, which encompassed the entire promontory and formed the outer ward. It had a simple gateway on the south face and a large rectangular tower at the southwest corner, now known as the Montfort Tower. The third building period at Criccieth took place from about 1283 to 1292. Llywelyn the Last lost control of the castle early in 1283, a victim of King Edward I's second Welsh campaign. Edward carried out extensive renovation of the fortress adding another tower to the wall of the inner ward (the Leyburn Tower), heighten the two gatehouse towers, and strengthen the Engine Tower. This tower housed the siege engine, a catapult which made medieval warfare much more deadly. Criccieth Castle had a brief lifespan, suffering from repeated assaults by the Welsh. Just two years after its completion in 1292, the English stronghold withstood its first siege, from Welsh rebels led by Madog ap Llywelyn. The garrison held out for several months, aided by supplies brought in by sea from Ireland. By the late 1340's the English appointed Sir Hywel ap Gruffydd (also known as Howel of the Battleaxe) as constable of their castle in Criccieth. This was a great honour for a Welshman and for a time quieted the Welsh rebellion. He died in 1381. Twenty three years later, Criccieth Castle was brought down and was never again used as a stronghold. Owain Glyndwr led the last major Welsh rebellion against the English. Glyndwr had the support of the French navy and they prevented provisions being brought by sea from Ireland. The garrison at Criccieth had no alternative but to surrender. Glyndwr's men tore down the stone walls and burned the castle.
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Notes: The castle is now owned by CADW and is open from 1 April to 26 May: 10.00 - 17.00 daily, 27 May to 24 September: 10.00 - 18.00 daily The site is open at all other times. Contact (02920) 826185/826186 for further information.