Beaumaris Castle in southern Anglesey was the last of an ambitious series of fortifications built by Edward I across northern Wales in response to the Welsh rebellions of the late 13th century. The 1294 Madog ap Llewelyn rebellion probably triggered its construction – one that was never completed as funds ran low, and the greater threat was increasingly from the Scots. Effectively abandoned, the castle suffered only slight damage during the Civil War, leaving a fascinating insight into the development of medieval castle construction.
The castle is on flat ground by the sea edge, overlooking Snowdonia. The site allowed workers to construct Beaumaris, unusually, as a perfectly concentric square. Beaumaris Castle consists of an outer wall surrounded by a sea water moat, an inner defensive ward, then a higher inner wall that encloses the large central ward. The site is almost entirely heavy stone, but there is also a surprisingly light chapel chamber in the northern tower, which was a functioning part of the castle.
Its waterside location would have given Beaumaris continued access to supplies and strong defences. The southern gatehouse and barbican demonstrate the impressive defensive capacity of Beaumaris: in addition to the drawbridge and gates, the enormous potential for defensive arrow fire is evident. The inner walls are nearly five metres thick, and imposing even in their incomplete state. Classic medieval construction methods can be seen where fallen walls expose the thick outer stone ring walls filled with stone rubble.
While Beaumaris Castle does not boast the dramatic appearance of its neighbours in Conwy and Caernarfon, it offers an opportunity for visitors to see a rather unusual site: a castle ‘building site’ rather than a castle ruin.
Don’t miss: the latrines (really!). In a unique back-to-back design these would have channelled waste directly into the sea.
Beaumaris Castle, Beaumaris, Anglesey LL58 8AP
tel: 01248 810361