Castle of the Week 94 - Criccieth Castle
There isn’t much of Criccieth castle left now, but what
there is shows you that it must have been a magnificent
stronghold in its heyday. It’s on top of a rocky
promontory which juts out into Tremadog Bay in North Wales
and is a mixture of Welsh and English architecture.
Surprisingly, no signs of an Iron Age or timber castle have
been found and it is believed that the first castle on the
site was started at the beginning of the 13th century by
Llewellyn the Great; certainly in 1239 his son, Gruffydd,
was imprisoned there by his half-brother Dafydd.
It was a time of unrest between the English and Welsh and the
castle changed hands several times in its early years. In
1241, Dafydd was defeated by Henry III and the prisoners
handed over to the English King. Five years later Dafydd
died, by which time he had lost virtually all his power and
lands. His nephew, Llewellyn, was left to regain the house of
Gwynedd’s prestige. His efforts led to him being made
Prince of Wales in 1267 and for the next few years his court
frequently visited Criccieth.
The castle towers over the village below and is approached by
a short steep path to the dominating twin-towered gatehouse,
although only the shell of the semi-circular towers now
remains. The gatehouse fully covered the landward approach to
the castle and would have deterred many invaders with
arrow-slits and battlements, a portcullis and murder holes.
It was probably part of the original Welsh castle, together
with the inner ward, south-east tower, inner curtain wall and
Llewellyn was killed in battle in 1282 and the castle was
captured by Edward I in 1283 and extensively rebuilt over the
next 9 years. The north tower was adapted to bear a catapult
while the south gate became the gateway between the inner and
new outer baileys. All the walls, towers and the gatehouse
were probably heightened at that time.
In 1294 it was besieged by the Welsh. There was a garrison of
29 men under Sir William Leyburn together with 41 townspeople
seeking refuge. They held out through the winter and, when
Spring came, supplies came by sea from Ireland breaking the
siege. In 1296 it became a prison again, holding prisoners
from Edward’s war in Scotland. In the first part of the
14th century, Edward II repaired the castle and built some
At the beginning of the 15th century, Owain Glyndwr managed
to take back control of most of Wales and, in 1404, he
besieged Criccieth. The garrison under the constable
consisted of 6 men-at-arms and 50 archers. However, Glyndwr
was supported by the French fleet which blocked sea access so
the garrison surrendered and the castle was burnt down, since
when it has not been rebuilt.
It remained Crown property until 1858 when the ruins were
sold to an MP. In 1933 the castle was given to the State
and is now maintained by Cadw (Welsh Historic Monuments).
Now as an extra treat, here are two exclusive screenshots from
Stronghold 2 featuring Criccieth Castle (with thanks to FireFly).
Click on the images to bring up the full-sized version:
Write-up provided by
GillB*. Pictures courtesy of Castle
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