The Ultimate Guide to Conwy Castle – Must Read!
Planning to visit Conwy Castle? Whether you’re looking to dive into centuries of history, capture the perfect photograph or entertain the kids, we’ve created the ultimate guide for things to do at Conwy Castle in North Wales.
Wales is peppered with more than 600 castles, ranging from beautifully restored Victorian fortresses to crumbling Norman strongholds. While each has its own unique charm, there’s no denying Conwy Castle steals the spotlight. Built by Edward I of England as a show of brute strength, the castle is set on a rocky outcrop and looms over the town centre.
With its soaring curtain walls and goliath towers, the castle unequivocally achieved its purpose of intimidating and oppressing the newly conquered Welsh. At the time it may have symbolised subjugation, however today it’s been embraced as an iconic Welsh landmark.
Those who have recently visited Conwy Castle have fond memories of a trip into the past. Stepping into the castle grounds, you’ll be transported to a medieval world of spiral staircases, hidden passageways and cavernous royal chambers. Don’t forget to pick up your audio guide, which really brings the Conwy Castle experience to life.
A quick intro to Conwy Castle
Perched high in North Wales, Conwy Castle Wales has been standing guard over the ancient market town since the 1200s. This magnificent medieval fortress was built by Edward I of England during his Welsh conquest, with the king spending an eye-watering £15,000 on the construction of the stronghold. While today that would barely amount to a down deposit on a tiny London flat, at the time it was an enormous sum equivalent to around £45 million.
The castle played an important role in many events of Welsh history and remained a symbol of English strength and oppression until the 17th century, when it fell into disrepair after the Civil War. Thanks to the tireless efforts of historians and preservationists over the centuries, Conwy Castle Wales has been restored to its former splendour and is now one of the most impressive strongholds in Europe.
The jewel of the UNESCO World Heritage Site
Alongside Beaumaris, Harlechand and Caernarfon, Conwy Castle is one of the most impressive examples of 13th and 14th century military architecture on the European continent.
Together, the quartet make up the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd UNESCO World Heritage Site. All have been incredibly well-preserved and offer a unique chance to step back in time to the reign of Edward I.
Top Tip: The CADW app is a fantastic resource for tech-savvy travellers. Download the app for access to a digital Conwy Castle Wales guide that offers more information on the fascinating history and heritage of the castle. Want to look up a snippet of history? CADW-powered Wi-Fi is available throughout the Conwy Castle site and makes it easy to fact check that Edward I trivia or Civil War date.
Admire the handiwork of James of St George
Even to the untrained eye, it’s impossible to miss the incredible handiwork of James of St George while touring Conwy Castle. The chief architect of King Edward I, James of St George is celebrated as one of the most accomplished military architects of all time.
Enlisting the finest architects in England, James of St George made the most of his £15,000 budget and created a masterpiece of soaring turrets, towers and battlements.
The entire castle was completed in just four years, making it one of the most impressive feats of architecture in the world.
Top Tip: As you’re circling the outer walls, look for small holes in the stone. These were once used to create medieval scaffolding for the castle builders, though today they’re been reclaimed by local pigeons.
Not to be missed Conwy Castle experiences
- Climb the restored spiral staircases up the tower to the battlements for 360-degree views over the castle grounds and surrounding countryside. From the top, you’ll enjoy stunning vistas of the Snowdonia mountains, Conwy River and postcard-perfect market town.
- Conwy Castle in Wales houses some of the best-preserved medieval royal apartments in Wales. Outclassing the apartments on show at the Tower of London, Conwy Castle offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life as a medieval monarch.
- Don’t miss the cavernous King’s Great Chamber, where monarchs like King Edward I and Richard II once slept.
- As you explore the castle, keep an eye out for the secret passageways that link the rooms. These were used by servants to navigate the castle and fly under the radar.
- Stepping into the shell of the chapel, you’ll notice a hidden ‘watching chamber’ where royal residents could take part in religious services without making a public appearance. Very different from the highly publicised royal appearances made by the royal family today.
- The castle grounds are dotted with wooden benches where you can relax and take the time to soak in the views and atmosphere. Why not pack lunch and a flask of hot tea and enjoy a casual picnic in the grounds of Conwy Castle?
Top Tip: Conwy Castle is incredibly atmospheric, though it can get busy in the summer. If you’re an avid photographer, consider visiting early to beat the crowds and capture the castle in the soft morning light. Visiting early also makes it easier to navigate the narrow battlements.
Circling the town walls
After touring the castle, lace up your boots and set off on a circumnavigation of the town walls. One of the most complete circuits in Europe, the walls stretch for more than three quarters of a mile and are studded with 21 towers and three fortified gateways.
Climbing up on to the top of the walls unlocks a bird’s eye view over the harbour and narrow streets of Conwy town. You’ll also get an incredible perspective of the striking Conwy Castle.
Events at Conwy Castle
As well as welcoming visitors throughout the year, Conwy Castle in North Wales hosts a fantastic line-up of events. From living history experiences to family friendly festivities, here’s a glimpse at some of the events held at Conwy Castle:
- Living history experiences offer a chance to dress up as Welsh rebels and attempt to capture Conwy Castle from wealthy nobles.
- Kids love dressing up as spooky characters, carving pumpkins and exploring Conwy Castle by candlelight during Halloween events.
- See the stronghold transformed into a festive wonderland with Christmas events held at Conwy Castle.
- If you have time, consider purchasing a combination ticket that gets you entry to Plas Mawr – a charming 16th-century townhouse a short stroll from the castle.
Top Tip: Much of the Conwy Castle experience unfolds outdoors. If you’re flexible with your days, it’s worth planning to visit when the sun is shining.
Not to worry if the weather’s not cooperating. Conwy Castle is still incredible in the rain and wild weather only adds to the drama. Just be sure to pack a rain jacket and umbrella so you don’t get soaked while prowling the battlements and wandering around the courtyards.
Conwy Castle tours vs independent exploring
It’s absolutely possible to tour Conwy Castle independently. Tickets are available to purchase from the information booth and include a fantastic audio guide. Another option is visiting Conwy Castle on a guided tour.
You’ll find plenty of local operators offering guided tours of Conwy Castle, many including multiple stops at nearby sights like pocket-sized Quay House, picturesque Bodnant Garden and postcard-perfect Conwy Mountain. They’ll be able to explain more of the history, highlighting important parts of the structure such as the outer ward and the great hall. More than this, they’ll delve into the history of architect master James of St George and the importance of royal apartments in Wales during the period.
Whether you should enjoy a self-guided tour of Conwy Castle or join a group excursion depends on your travel style and unique preferences. Either way, you’re guaranteed to fall under the spell of this magnificent medieval monument.
What are the best parts to visit with kids in Conwy Castle?
Conwy Castle is an incredible place to take kids to immerse them in medieval history. From preserved medieval royal apartments to the castle’s towers and high curtain wall – each step will feel like a passage back into the past.
There’s also a thrilling prison tower and chapel tower, an opulent inner ward and outer ward, as well as a great hall and eight lofty towers to explore. Taking your kids on a wall walk across the castle is a memory they are unlikely to forget.
Top Tip: It’s also worth noting that Conwy Castle has a series of interactive experiences for kids that explain why it is such a famous fortress. Follow the interactive display boards that tells some of the history called the ‘Castle Quest.’ These will take your family on a journey through the various town walls and great towers – educating as you go!
What is there to do in the town of Conwy?
Visiting Conwy Castle gives you the chance to explore the town of Conwy. Not far from where the castle’s lofty towers rise into the air, you’ll find a quaint town with some great things to do. Conwy town centre includes a wealth of historical locations and it is well known as one of Europe’s best preserved medieval towns.
You can experience some of the history of the town beside the magnificent medieval fortress including its narrow streets and countless historic buildings. There is a building known as ‘the smallest house in Great Britain,’ Plas Mawr (a preserved Elizabethan building) and the Conwy town walls which have been standing since the 13th century.
More than this, it’s also a great place to go for some food after your castle experience – or for a picturesque walk at the quay. If you also fancy a hike, Conwy Mountain is close by for more adventures out in the beautiful Welsh countryside.
Need to know information about Conwy Castle
How to visit Conwy Castle
With excellent road and rail transport options, getting to Conwy Castle is easy and the castle entrance is not hard to spot. There’s parking available directly outside the castle, as well as throughout the town centre of Conwy. However, parking can be limited, especially during peak seasons, so consider arriving early. You can’t miss it as Conwy Castle dominates the surrounding landscape!
Another option is riding the train to Conwy Station, a short five-minute stroll from the castle. The castle sits upon the river Conwy, also providing you access to some scenic walks and views of the Conwy estuary.
1 March – 30 June | Daily 9.30am – 5pm
1 July – 31 August | Daily 9.30am – 6pm
1 September – 31 October | Daily 9.30am – 5pm
1 November – 28 February | Daily 10am – 4pm
Last admission is 30 minutes before closing time all year round.
Cadw Members – Free Entry
Adults – £11.70
Family Ticket ( 2 adults and up to 3 children) – £37.70
Disabled person and companion – Free entry
Juniors (Ages 5-17)- £8.20
Students – £8.20
Seniors (Age 65+) – £11.10
All children under 5 get free entry
Admission to Conwy Castle
Most visitors pay a token admission fee to enter Conwy Castle, which you can find at the visitor centre. If you’re planning to visit several of the historic castles, forts and UNESCO World Heritage Sites dotted across Wales, consider becoming a member of CADW here.
This will get you free admission to Conwy Castle as well as other iconic landmarks and historical sites. This includes fellow UNESCO-listed castles, Beaumaris, Harlechand and Caernarfon.
Conwy Castle welcomes everyone! While the terrain might be challenging due to its historical construction – think cobbled paths and ancient stairways – there are accessible areas that everyone can enjoy. The great hall, for instance, is a must-see and is accessible for all. If you have specific accessibility needs, don’t hesitate to contact them by phone or email below for more detailed information
Telephone – 03000 252239
Email – ConwyCastle@ gov.wales
Visit Conwy Castle – one of the most magnificent medieval fortresses in Wales
Conwy Castle is well known as one of the most magnificent medieval fortresses we have. Beside other important Welsh castles like Caernarfon Castle, it played an important role in medieval Europe and stands today as a time capsule that will transport you back into the past.
With gorgeous views over Conwy valley and the town of Conwy, a wealth of preserved rooms like the inner ward, royal apartments and much more – Conwy castle offers you and your family the chance to connect with the history that made Wales what it is today!
Nick, your trusted guide to Wales travel and exploration, shares a deep passion for this enchanting land. With years of exploration, Nick offers expert insights into the best of Wales. Join him on a journey through its captivating history, culture, and hidden gems, as he inspires you to create unforgettable Wales travel experiences.