It would be hard to find any spot in Wales that is more truly Welsh than the Royal Town of Caernarfon. Located on the scenic Menai Straits in Gwynedd, North Wales, over looking the Straits and the Isle of Anglesey, Caernarfon has a long and dramatic history dating from around 80AD when the Romans first established a fort called Segontium.
The Romans held sway for more than 300 years; then, after a relatively brief occupation by the Normans, the English king Edward 1 conquered once again and built his fortress and castle just down the hill from the old Roman fort.
Since that time Caernarfon has evolved from conquered town to its present status as a major tourist centre and county seat of Gwynedd with a small but thriving harbour and marina, whose population includes the largest percentage of Welsh-speaking members anywhere in the country. It was granted the status of ‘royal town’ in 1974.
The town is dominated today, as it has been for more than seven centuries, by the great castle, (now a World Heritage site) which remains much as it was when construction was halted in the 13th century. Caernarfon Castle was never fully completed, but it stands as a fabulous landmark, with a compelling museum and enough historical substance to satisfy the most discriminating explorer. The castle (and the town) was brought into the world spotlight with the coronation of Charles, Prince of Wales, in 1969.
Caernarfon welcomes visitors with a wealth of different attractions and some of the most spectacular scenery in the U.K. The Snowdonia Mountains, just a few miles from the town, are perfect for walking or cycle tours, or they can be enjoyed via the newly restored narrow gauge Welsh Highland Railway. The National Watersports Centre is right on Menai Harbour, where diving, dinghy sailing and other exciting activities await, but you’ll need a wetsuit; the water is cold year round.
Accommodations for travellers are plentiful and top-notch, such as the Celtic Royal Hotel on Bangor Street, the Premier Inn at Victoria Dock and the Black Boy Inn, one of the oldest public houses in North Wales and only a stone’s throw from the Castle walls. A variety of great restaurants includes the Stones Bistro brasserie, Fu’s Cantonese with outstanding Chinese cuisine and Molly’s Restaurant, a favourite with both visitors and locals.
At the newly refurbished Victoria Dock, visitors can take a walking tour that encompasses centuries of history, then relax at one of the bistros, bars and cafés old and new that offer food, drink and hospitality. There is also a Blue Flag beach at the harbour, or for a rainy day, the Fun Centre on Bangor Street is the “biggest and best” indoor recreation centre in North Wales.
Segontium fort and Roman museum, the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum (right in Caernarfon Castle), the fully operational Inigo Slateworks and Gypsy Wood Park, with the largest ‘garden railway’ layout in the U.K. comprise only a tiny sampling of the many and varied attractions in the region.