Criccieth Castle, Gwynedd

February serves as the break between the Winter and Summer semester in Vienna, which means a whole month holiday. So, at the first opportunity,  I promptly fled Austria and returned to the UK in order to enjoy a month of delicious home cooked food.

However this break wasn’t simply so I could go on a 30 day food gorging session, I also wanted to visit my friends up in Bangor, and that meant returning to Snowdonia!

After spending so long in Vienna, I had really come to appreciate my little home university and, as I drove up through Snowdonia, I could feel my heart skip as those familiar mountains once again came into view.

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten all about the weather. Afraid to say, that for the most part, I was stuck inside my friend’s house, watching TV and staring at the pouring rain outside, which was fine because what made me truly happy was being among my old friends again.

However the weather did lessen one afternoon and, determine not to waste it, I sped off to explore someplace new with my friend Lizzy.

Our journey took us to the town of Criccieth, situated in an area which I call the Armpit of Wales (I’m not being mean, its just because it’s situated below the Llyn Peninsula which stretches out like an arm). Above the town and sea rises Criccieth Castle, which was what we’d come to see.

Criccieth Castle
The Gatehouse
The castle layout, in Edward II’s era, this courtyard would have been filled with timber halls

With no cost required, we headed up to admire the towering monolith of stone. Criccieth is unusual among North Welsh castles as, while Edward I’s castles are the most recognised and extensive castles, Criccieth is actually an entirely Welsh fortress, having been built by Llywelyn Fawr at the beginning of the 13th century. But while most native Welsh castles are typically small and consist of a single keep, see Dolbadarn, Circcieth is an impressive structure, consisting of a massive gatehouse protected by two twin D-shaped towers. There is no keep within and instead rooms were situated within the gatehouse and towers. It is likely the design was copied from English castles such as that at Beeston.

Remains of the Montgomery Tower
Criccieth Castle lies wedge between the Irish Sea and the town of Criccieth
Gloomy water to reflect the gloomy clouds
Days like today, Criccieth can appear a dower place, perhaps suitable considering the castle’s original use as a prison


The design was so impressive, that when the castle finally fell to the English in 1283, during the fall of Gwynedd, it was not destroyed but rather was upgraded with additional towers and the gatehouse was enlarged so that it could accommodate stone-throwers on its battlements. This makes the gatehouse perhaps the best example of Welsh-consturcted defences and testament to the fact that Gwynedd was once it’s own affluent kingdom. Today, while most of the castle remains in ruins (as a result of Glyndwr Rebellion in the 15th century), the gatehouse still stands intact, where it serves to loom up before visitors.

I did go a bit panorama crazy
The modern town was formed around two hilly outcrops, which hug the sea, one of which served as the base for the castle

Following our exploration of the castle, where Lizzy showed me how to make panoramas on my iPhone , we headed down to Criccieth’s stony beach in time to witness a beautiful cloudy sunset.

Criccieth seafront
Fortunately, the low cloud did nothing to dampen the sun

After that lovely afternoon and an even lovelier evening meal with my friends, it was soon time to say goodbye to my friends and start the long journey back to Sussex. One of the hardest things about going to Vienna was getting to miss the final third year with my friends, who had stayed with me throughout my first two years at Bangor. As a consequence, I will be returning to Bangor alone this year, but I’m happy that I was, at the very least, able to spend this brief time with them, and I will always be grateful for the time that I get to spend with them. There won’t be any more countless late evenings, huddled in our house, watching junk TV, or visiting waterfalls and beaches while crammed in my car. Those days have past, but maybe we’ll be able to visit each other again and make some more fun memories together.

Lizzy’s sunset

Don’t forget to check out my Instagram for more photos of my adventures.

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