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Beaumaris Castle

Beaumaris, Anglesey, Wales

Featured Location Guide

"A part of the World Heritage Site Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd"

Regarded by some to be the most architecturally perfect castle in Britain, this castle is often cited as the best example of a concentrically designed  castle.

  Beaumaris Castle

Begun in 1295, originally under the name Beau Mareys, this unfinished castle is the last and largest of King Edward I's Welsh fortifications. Designed by the King's mason-architect, Master James of St George, it is a perfect example of a concentrically planned castle. Formidable defences survive, surrounded by a partly restored moat.

Beaumaris Castle is located on Anglesey and was positioned to face Garth Celyn (home of the Welsh Princes) on the opposite shore of the Menai Strait and was intended, along with Conwy Castle and Caernarfon Castle at either end of the Menai Strait, to overshadow the Welsh Royal home and centre of resistance to the English forces. This is also located at the traditional crossing place to Anglesey over the Lafan Sands. The Roman road from Chester, linking the forts of Conovium and Segontium, crossed the river at this point. Today all that remains of Garth Celyn is a medieval tower that is a part of the manor house Pen-y-Bryn that is adjacent to the A55, five miles east of Bangor, and was formed from the remains of the Royal long house. See more on Garth Celyn on Wikipedia , also explaining what became of its occupants, which in part explains why the castle at Beaumaris was never completed. Garrth Celyn is also covered on the Castles of Wales website

The history of the development in Wales that brought about the need for this and the other castles is covered in the article Wales - a potted history 

Beaumaris Castle (beau mareys - fair marsh) was the last of Edward I's fortresses in North Wales. Work started in 1295 and continued for 35 years, with over 3,500 workmen employed at the peak of construction. Finances and material ran out when King Edward turned his attentions towards Scotland, and the castle was not completed.

The King's architect, Master James of St. George, brought all his experience to bear in designing Beaumaris, it was the last of the great castles that he built for the King in north Wales. The inner ward is completely surrounded by the outer ward. The castle has a tidal dock allowing it to be supplied directly by sea and is surrounded by an 18 foot wide water-filled moat. The defences include numerous ingeniously sited arrow slits, and the entrances are protected by murder holes from which substances such as hot oil could be poured over enemy forces. Attackers of Beaumaris Castle would have met 14 separate obstacles and four lines of fortification resulting from the 'walls within walls' design. At the southern end was a tidal dock for shipping, where vessels of 40 tons laden weight could sail right up to the main gate. The dock was protected by the shooting deck on Gunner's Walk.

Across the moat is the low curtain wall of the outer ward, its circuit punctuated by 16 towers and two gates. The gate next to the sea, on the other hand, preserves evidence of its stout wooden doors and gruesome "murder holes" above. Once through, an attacker would still have to face 11 further obstacles before entering the heart of the castle. These included the barbican, further "murder holes", three portcullises and several sets of doors. If the daunting prospect of the gate-passage proved too much, the would-be attacker caught hesitating between the inner and outer walls could not have survived for long. A rain of heavy crossfire would have poured down from all directions.

Julie Delvaux

  Inside Beaumaris

  by Melanie Girouard

The plan of the castle is nearly square, sharing much in common with Caerphilly and Harlech. The inner ward is rectangular with a round tower at each corner. On the north and south sides are massive gatehouses following the typical pattern of two D-shaped towers flanking the gate passage, while two more D-shaped towers defend the east and west walls. The great hall and other domestic buildings would have been constructed within this inner ward.

Surrounding the inner bailey (in accordance with the concentric ideal) is an outer wall defended by towers and its own two gatehouses. These are not aligned with the inner gatehouses and would have denied attackers the advantage of a straight path through the gates. The dock wall extends from the south wall near the gatehouse so also serves as a defensive firing platform. Unlike the simple outer walls at Caerphilly and Harlech, the walls here are very thick and have internal passages to allow defenders access to protected arrow slits. Neither the towers of the inner ward nor the great gatehouses were built to full height and many buildings of the inner ward were left unfinished when large scale work ceased in 1298. Small-scale work was carried out in the early 14th century. However, the outer walls were crenulated, and unlike many other castles Beaumaris did not suffer slighting (damaging to stop use as a defending position) during the Civil War. The castle is very well-preserved.

Interior passageways are found inside the walls of the inner ward. Beaumaris and Caernarfon are practically the only two Welsh castles that give visitors an opportunity to explore significant sections of inner wall passageways. For many years the wall walks were closed at Beaumaris, but since 2006 these have been open with new safety fencing making it accessible to all, although not terribly photogenic when taking the walks, however it does give good views of other parts of the castle and the exterior, and scenery beyond.

  by Jelle Drok

It may be difficult to see the size of this castle, but you get an idea when you know that the inner bailey alone covers an area of 3/4 of an acre, and has six towers and the two great gatehouses. The lavish accommodation was designed to provide the necessary apartments for the King and, if he should marry again, his Queen plus his son, the Prince of Wales was fast approaching marriageable age, and allowance was made for both households, staff, and followers, plus the need to accommodate royal officers, the constable, and the sheriff of Anglesey.

The little chapel situated in the tower of that name has a vaulted ceiling and pointed windows making it one of the highlights of the castle. Also in this tower there is an exhibition on the "Castles of Edward I in Wales, and this provides much background to the building of Beaumaris itself.

Beside the castle remains, moat with swans and other wildlife and the Menai Strait to the Snowdonia Mountains beyond, there are good views nearby, including across to the Isle of Man on a good day.

This castle does not have the visitor numbers of the other major castles, so you are likely to enjoy the experience here more.

   Details see here


Further information Grid

 

Location:

Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey Wales

Ceremonial County: Anglesey

Grid Reference:

SH607763

Map Link:

Multimap

Aerial photo: Multimap

Route(s):

 

Best Times to Visit:

 

E-mail:

 

Website:

CADW

Other useful websites:

Wiki

Castles of Wales

Beaumaris.com

Castle Xplorer

Castle UK

ecastles

Nearby Locations:

Conwy Castle   Conwy Castle

Harlech Castle   Harlech Castle

Caernarfon Castle    Caernarfon Castle

Beaumaris Courthouse       Beaumaris Gaol

Anglesey Coastal Path

Other Relevant pages:

Castles of Wales

How to photograph a castle

World Heritage Sites     

World Heritage Sites - Further Information

World Heritage Sites in the UK

 

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Planning Grid

Location:

Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey Wales

Grid Reference:

SH607763

Getting there:

 

Access:

 

Parking:

Pay-and-display parking nearby

Facilities:

toilets, guidebook available, on-site exhibition, wide selection of gifts and souvenirs available

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

castle remains, moat with swans and other wildlife, scenery, views.

What to take:

 

Nature highlights:

coastal location with wildlife plus swans and ducks on moat

Address:

Beaumaris Castle

Beaurmaris

Anglesey

Postcode:

LL58 8AP

Telephone:

01245 810361

Opening times:

01.11.08-31.03.09: Mon-Sat 9.30-16.00, Sun 11.00-16.00

01.04.09-31.10.09: Mon-Sun 9.00-17.00

01.11.09-31.03.10: Mon-Sat 9.30-16.00, Sun 11.00-16.00

Closed:- 24th, 25th, 26th December, 1st January

Last admission 30 minutes before closing

Charges:

CADW and English Heritage members (1YR plus) free, English Heritage members fist year 50%.

Entry is FREE for Welsh residents aged 60 and over or 16 and under who have a valid pass.

Adult 3.60, Concession 3.20, Family 10.40

also included in world heritage pass ticket

Photo Restrictions:

None known

Other Restrictions: None known
Special Needs Access: Ground floor accessible as is access to exterior views, routes up towers and along walls may be unsuitable for some.
Special Needs Facilities: Nothing specified but a town location so other facilities would be available locally.
Children Facilities: Not known
Dogs Allowed: From April 2009, dogs on leads will be also welcome at Cadw monuments. please see information for dog owners

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Classification from the Grids above. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.

 


By: Keith Park Section: Castles Key:
Page Ref: Beaumaris_Castle Topic: Castles Last Updated: 03/2009

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