Beaumaris Castle was built to be the titan of castles: four rings of fortress-style defence walls and a moat so vast it needed its own dock.
Yet more intriguing still is that it has been unfinished ever since the 1320s.
Built in response to the Welsh uprising under Madog ap Llywelyn, work on the castle finally began in 1295, after a decade plagued with funding, delays and labour issues.
Despite its tragic history, the castle still upholds its reputation as one of the most intimidating fortresses in British history. Beau maris literally translates to beautiful marsh in French, an apt name for the spectacular beauty of the Isle of Anglesey.
Read on to find out more about the unfinished Welsh masterpiece that is Beaumaris Castle.
Where is Beaumaris Castle?
Beaumaris Castle is located in the picturesque seaside town of Beaumaris, nestled right in the heart of the Anglesey coastline. Mere metres away from the sea, Beaumaris was in a prime location for Edward I when it was built.
The Island of Anglesey is an island off the Northwest coast of Wales, and forms part of the Isle of Anglesey, which is home to Holy Island, as well as several much smaller islets. The island is the second most populated British island after the Isle of Man, and the seventh largest.
The History of Beaumaris Castle
Beaumaris Castle was built on a hugely strategic site, holding the Welsh coastline. Architect Master James of St George designed and oversaw construction of the site, and was also responsible for many other of Edward I’s castles, including Conwy, Harlech and Caernarfon Castles. Together these four castles are deemed World Heritage Sites.
Beaumaris Castle was meant to be Edward I’s crowning glory in his strategic defences against the Welsh.
Construction was originally meant to begin in 1282, along with the other three castles, however the build was plagued with issues, from labour to funding problems. After the Welsh rebellion led many of Edward I’s castles to be captured, the project gained new traction and urgency in 1295.
When Edward’s ambitions turned north to the invasion of Scotland, funding was further diverted from the project and construction eventually stopped in the 1320s. Over almost 30 years of construction, a huge amount of money for the time was invested – around £16,000 had been spent on the project.
Although the final walls and towers were never built, the castle remained an imposing presence on the Anglesey coastline. The southernmost gatehouse was accessible by ship, and the innermost part of the castle was designed to support two large families, with plenty of room for lodging and domestic necessities.
After nearly one hundred years of English control, it was finally captured by the Welsh in 1403 under the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr, and was eventually brought back under English control two years later.
The tragic origins of the castle came to the fore again in the 1590s, where the Welsh Catholic Priest William Davies was brutally hung, drawn and quartered under the reign of Elizabeth I.
Davies was a Catholic Welsh missionary who published the first Welsh book, ‘Y Drych Cristianogawl’. Catholicism was prohibited under the reign of Elizabeth I, and the execution of Davies was intended as a warning to underground Catholicism in Wales at the time.
Beaumaris, like Harlech Castle, was also home to Charles I loyalists during the English Civil War. They held out for four years, eventually falling to Parliament in 1646.
When Charles II returned to power in 1660, the castle was looted of its lead roofs and remaining useful items. The castle remained in a state of disrepair until Lord Thomas Bulkeley bought it in 1807, before the family partially returned it to the crown for renovations in 1950.
Beaumaris Castle Today
Today, Beaumaris Castle is owned by the Welsh historical service, Cadw, and is a World Heritage Site. It is a tourist attraction open to the public and no one resides in the property.
- March – June – 10 am – 5pm
- July – August – 10 am – 6pm
- September – October – 10am – 5pm
- November – February – 10am – 4pm
- Closed: 24th – 26th December, 1st January
- Adults – less than £9
- Families – less than £30
- Students, kids and veterans – less than £6
- Seniors – less than £8
- Under 5s – free
- Disability and companions – free
Things to do at Beaumaris Castle
Beaumaris Castle has several family friendly activities available, including castle-building, gargoyle-face making and regular information boards for those that want to find out more.
There are also several stunning views available from the ramparts. The ramparts look out over the Welsh Menai Straits and the stunning Anglesey coastline.
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