The town of Harlech on Tremadog Bay is, like so many other fortress-towns, dominated by its imposing castle. It is sited to make the most of the high ground. It was built on a massive rocky spur, and its massive walls, towers and gatehouse rise some 200ft over everything else around it.
Another of Edward I's fortresses built to suppress Wales, Harlech Castle remains largely intact, with the sea to one side and a wide moat to the other. The castle is a most spectacular sight visible for miles about on all sides. It was built by the military architect James St George between 1283-89 on the site of an early Celtic fortress. Its proximity to the sea was critical during the Castle's siege by the Welsh army of Madog ap Llewelyn in 1294, when supplies shipped in from Ireland enabled the 37 man garrison to hold out. Troops were expensive to keep, and under the feudal system, generally served for 40 days a year. Because of the expense, Castles, despite thier enormous sizes, kept garrisons of no more than 30 or 40 men at any one time, only bolstered by extra troops at times of grave need.
However, when canon was introduced in the 14th century, Such castles as Harlech became vulnerable, enabling Owain Glyndwr, the formidable Welsh nationalist, to capture it in 1404 with the use of such weapons, during the last great Welsh rebellion. Glyndwr held the castle for 5 years whilst using it as his capital, before being defeated by to Henry V.
The song 'Men of Harlech' commemorates the bravery of the Lancastrian forces, who held the castle for seven years during the Wars of the Roses. When Harlech finally fell to the Yorkists in 1468, it was the last fortress to fall in North Wales. Similarly, during the British Civil War of the 17th century, Harlech Castle proved difficult to conquer and was again the last castle to fall in Wales, this time to the Parliamentarians.
Nearby, is Morfa Harlech, a beautiful nature reserve of some 991 acres, with woodland trails that wind through the Rhinog Mountains, where wild goats roam freely.
For further information see - http://www.star-attractions.co.uk/attractions/cadw/harlech/harlech.htm