FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Conwy Castle, Plaw Mawr and the Conwy Suspension Bridge

Posted in Conwy, Wales by folkestonejack on March 27, 2016

The last day of our short break in North Wales brought us to Conwy, primarily to see Edward I’s grand castle of 1287 but also to lap up the many other historic sights in the town – a 14th-century merchant’s house, a remarkable Elizabethan townhouse and Telford’s suspension bridge.

Conwy Castle is an impressive sight from every angle, sitting on a rocky outcrop that overlooks the river and the surrounding countryside. It is all the more remarkable to consider that it took just four years to complete construction. Work started in the immediate aftermath of Edward I’s victory over the Welsh forces at Aberconwy in 1283 – quite a contrast to the protracted building works at Caernarfon.

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle

You can better appreciate the way that Conwy Castle dominates the landscape from the vantage point of the town wall walk and from across the river, though the best views are apparently to be found from Benarth Hill. The weather was a little too unpredictable for us to contemplate this, starting with torrential rain but progressing through to brilliant blue skies by early afternoon. As we headed back to Bangor the clouds rolled back in, delivering thunder, lightning and hail in abundance!

The castle probably feels more brutal to modern eyes, stripped of its lavish interiors and with just the bare walls to give you a feel for its layout, but in its time it was fit for kings – both Edward I and Edward II spent time at the castle. After this, conditions deterioriated to such an extent that it was said that no castle in North Wales was fit for Edward III to stay.

It has to be said that Conwy Castle was not exactly a destination of choice. Edward I only spent a miserable Christmas here when he was cut off from his army by flooding and Richard II’s stay here ended in his capture and eventual abdication (it was in the royal chapel, which survives to this day, that Richard II was assured of Bolingbroke’s good intentions by a treacherously sworn oath from the Earl of Northumberland).

Plas Mawr

Plas Mawr

Although the castle was the big draw, we found the other sights in town to be much more satisfying. Plas Mawr, an Elizabethan townhouse, was a particular delight with its abundance of bold design, beautiful plasterwork and remarkable furniture. A short walk away is Aberconwy House, a medieval merchant’s house and sometime temperance hotel, which is worth a look if you have National Trust membership.

Another delight in Conwy was Thomas Telford’s impressive chain suspension bridge (1826) which formed an essential link in the highway between Chester and Holyhead until it closed in November 1958. We made a short visit to the castellated tollhouse at one end and wondered how the tollkeepers, David and Maria Williams, ever managed to bring up four children in this tiny space!

The Toll House

The Toll House

Our day out in Conwy served up plenty of history in a concentrated space, a tasty meal at The Castle Hotel and plenty of variation in the weather! The visit also completed our short weekend break in North Wales and left us with a quiet evening in Bangor before a half-day journey home.

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