Wednesday Wander – Caernarfon Castle, Wales

I’ve been to Caernarfon, located on the picturesque North Wales coast, a few times. But my most memorable visit took place quite a few years ago, when a friend and I were travelling through Wales together. We managed to find, on our meagre budget, a guesthouse with a view of the famous castle, a genial host named Norm, and a very generous breakfast (we may even have taken some extra packets of cereal with us for later in the day – very small travelling budget, as mentioned).

I don’t know whether Norm’s Place, as we affectionately dubbed our guesthouse, is still there, but the castle undoubtedly is. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1986, Caernarfon Castle was built in 1283 by Edward I, on the site of an earlier Norman fortress. It was one of a series of castles built by Edward after his defeat of the Welsh, to impose English rule on the land. Edward and his queen visited the castle in 1294 when, it is said, Edward II was born, and was designated the first Prince of Wales. Since that time, the title has traditionally been held by the eldest son of the British monarch, with Prince Charles, the current Prince of Wales, receiving his investiture at Caernarfon Castle in 1969.

The castle, despite its auspicious beginnings, has had a turbulent history. Sacked and set aflame by Madog ap Llewellyn during the Welsh uprising in 1295, the castle was recaptured and rebuilt by the English a year later. In the early 1400s it was besieged by Owain Glydwr, with support from the French – later that century, the Welsh Tudors took over the British throne and tensions eased, but the castle, which had been damaged over the years, fell into disrepair.

Despite being a Royalist base during the Civil War, the castle escaped destruction, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that repairs began. In 1911, the first modern Prince of Wales was named there, when Prince Edward (later Edward VIII) was invested by his father, George V.

Image: Manfred Heyde, Wikimedia Commons

Nowadays the castle, dreaming by the water, looks like something from a fairytale, a fortress from a vanished time. It is a popular tourist attraction, with almost 200,000 visitors in 2015, and is also home to the Royal Welsh Fusilliers Museum. It’s well worth a visit due to its wonderful state of preservation and its huge scale – you can see, looking at the size of the people in the photographs, how large it is. It must have been quite imposing in its day. In fact, it still is.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!

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Wednesday Wander – The Brighton Pavilion

img_0137You may think that this week I’ve chosen to wander somewhere exotic, a Moroccan souk or Indian palace. Actually, I’m only an hour or so from where I live, in the lovely but much-less-exotic Brighton, on the south coast of England. This is the Brighton Pavilion.

img_0141The Pavilion actually started life as a much more modest farmhouse, which the Prince of Wales, later George IV, rented as a convenient place to see his longtime love, Maria Fitzherbert, whom he was forbidden to marry. In 1787 he decided he’d like grander accommodation, so incorporated the farmhouse into one wing of a larger building. Construction continued until 1822 and took several stages, with renowned architect John Nash overseeing the final phase, giving it the appearance it has today.

img_0132Brighton at the time was gaining in popularity as a seaside town, thanks to the Prince’s uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, who had held a residence there for several years. For many years the Pavilion was the summer home of the Royal Family, until Queen Victoria decided it was too ‘cramped’ and not private enough. She decided to move to the Isle Of Wight for her summer holidays instead, and so the Pavilion was sold to the town of Brighton in 1850, for the sum of £53,000, a fortune in those days (and not too bad today, either!)

img_0139The Pavilion is now open to the public, and features the most wonderfully opulent interiors. I didn’t go inside on my last visit but plan to do so next time, and of course I’ll share the photos when I do.

img_0135Even though the day I visited was bitterly cold, it was bright and clear, perfect for viewing fantasy minarets against an azure sky. In some ways it reminded me of Hearst Castle, another place built by a man to spend time with the woman he loved but couldn’t marry – a perfect folly.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!

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