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Set with the peaks of the Snowdonia National Park as its backdrop, Harlech Castle offers an unforgettable day out. With sweeping views of the Welsh countryside and an enchanting ‘floating footbridge,’ there is no doubt that the castle offers adventures for all.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know before you visit.

Getting to Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle is located in the little village of Harlech, North Wales and overlooks Bae Ceredigion.  

By Car: To reach Harlech Castle from Barmouth follow the A496 and to reach it from Porthmadog follow the A487/A496.

By Public Transport: You can also reach the castle via public transport links. The railway station is 200 metres from the castle and you can get there on the Shrewsbury-Machynlleth/Pwllheli route. Alternatively, the bus stops 150 metres from the castle. You will need route No. 38 + 39 (No. 2 on a Sunday), Barmouth-Hearlech/Porthmadog.

Is There Parking at Harlech Castle?

Yes, there is pay and display parking at Harlech Castle as well as bike storage.


History of Harlech Castle

Built by Edward I during his invasion of Wales in the 13th century, Harlech Castle has a fascinating history. Some sources suggest that the castle sits on the site of an even older fortification nevertheless, it took just seven years for the master architect James of St George to build the castle we see today1 (source: CADW).

After its completion in October 1284, Hugh Longslow was granted custodianship of the castle and the king agreed to pay him £100 for the privilege. His responsibilities would have included ensuring there was a continuous garrison guarding the castle – this was made up of 30 men. These men included crossbowmen, a chaplain, an artiller, a smith, a carpenter and a mason2 (source: C. Peers, Harlech Castle, 2016).

The castle was involved in the War of the Roses (1455-1487). During this period the castle remained loyal to the Lancastrians. Because of this, the Yorkist forces surrounded the castle and demanded its surrender. When the garrison within the walls of Harlech refused, the castle was declared under siege3 (source: A.R. Brondarbit, Medieval Warfare, Vol. 8, No. 5, pp. 36-41, 2018).

The castle faced more conflict during the English Civil War (1642-161). During this time the castle was held on behalf of the Royalists (those loyal to the crown) by a man named Colonel William Owen. Again, during this period the castle came under siege. But this time from the Parliamentarians. The garrison was forced to surrender when it was reduced to just 16 men.

After the 17th century, the castle slowly fell into disrepair. Throughout this period, however, the castle remained influential. Its ruins inspired a handful of artists including J.M.W Turner (1775-1851). In the 20th-century major restoration work began to restore the castle to its former glory. Since 1986 the castle, along with a number of the other castles built by Edward I, has been listed as a World Heritage site4 (source: UNESCO).


Visiting Harlech Castle 

Entrance Fees

Here are the current entry fees for Harlech Castle:

Ticket TypeCost
Adult£8.50
Family – 2 adults and up to 3 children.£27.40
Disabled person and companionFree
Juniors (Aged 5-17) / NUS / Armed Forces and Veterans£5.80
Seniors (Aged 65+)£7.70
Under 5Free

Do You Need to Book to Visit Harlech Castle?

Yes, you need to book in advance to visit Harlech Castle and you must arrive within your allotted time.

Is Harlech Castle Free?

No, Harlech Castle is not free, it’s a paid attraction. However, it is free to visit the castle for those under 5 or those with a CADW membership. If you are a member of English Heritage and Historic Scotland (the equivalent of CADW in the respective countries), then you are entitled to a 50% reduced entry price.


Opening Hours

The opening hours for the castle vary slightly depending on the time of year, please see our table below. Note that last admission is half an hour before closing.

DatesOpening Times
1st March – 30th JuneDaily 9.30am – 5pm
1st July – 31st AugustDaily 9.30am – 6pm
1st September – 31st OctoberDaily 9.30am – 5pm
1st November – 28th February*Daily 10am – 4pm

*The castle is closed 24th, 25th, 26th December and 1st January. The castle may also close certain areas at short notice because of extreme weather conditions. Keep up to date with the castle on its social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) prior to your visit to ensure that this is not the case. 


Accessibility

Whilst there is a ramp into the caste, the actual rooms and walls are not accessible via wheelchair. Accessible toilets are available at this castle for visitors use as well as a portable induction loop for those with hearing impairments. 


Things To Do at Harlech Castle

1. Walk along the ‘floating’ footbridge. 

Andrew Chrisholm/Shutterstock

Gain a different perspective of this breathtaking castle and venture across the footbridge that appears to float between the castle and the village. 

2. Scale one of the castle’s turrets

If the floating bridge does not provide enough adrenaline, then you can scale the castle’s turrets and walk along the castle walls to experience breathtaking views across the Welsh countryside stretching all the way to the Snowdonia National Park and right across Bae Ceredigion.

3. Visit the on-site exhibition

Whilst the castle itself is a ruin, the monument contains an exhibition that helps you understand exactly what the castle was like in its heyday. Learn about the inner ward where there would have been a chapel, kitchen, granary, bakehouse and the Great Hall, all of which would have been furnished to a high standard.


Facts About Harlech Castle

The castle is famous for the longest siege in British history.

Harlech Castle was loyal to the Lancastrians during the War of the Roses in the mid to late 15th century. Those within the castle were ordered to surrender by Parliament but they refused. Because of this, the Yorkist army surrounded the castle.

This is a military tactic known as a siege and it was the longest siege in British history from 1461-68. Eventually, the Yorkist army grew big enough to attack the castle and surrounding areas and win5 (source: A.R. Brondarbit, Medieval Warfare, Vol. 8, No. 5, pp. 36-41, 2018).

The castle is part of the Iron Ring of Castles.

The Iron Ring is a collection of castles which were built by Edward I in the 13th century in order to assert dominance over his rival, the kingdom of Gwynedd. Edward was assisted in the construction of these castles by his master architect James of St George. Because of this many of the castles either look similar or share the same design features6 (source: J. Davis, Castles of Wales, 2022).

The castle used to be much closer to the shoreline than it appears today.

Since the castle was first built the sea has receded. Because of this the castle now stands out on its rocky hill as if waiting for the tide to turn. There was once a stairway to the sea which meant supplies could be brought into the castle in the event of a siege. There was also a moat which you could sail a boat up to via the channel that connected the sea and the castle. 


Where To Stay When Visiting Harlech Castle

There are lots of outstanding places to stay in the village of Harlech and the surrounding area.

  • Castle Cottage Inn – this first-class B&B is located just 130 metres from the castle. This family-run B&B provides a cosy and relaxing environment alongside an excellent dining experience. 
  • Hotel Portmeirion – if you are looking to explore the wider area this may be a good option for you. Set in the picturesque town of Portmeirion, this 4-star luxury hotel provides stunning views of the sandy beaches of the Dwyryd Estuary and is only a 20-minute drive from the castle.
  • Ty Mawr Hotel – this family-run hotel, pub and restaurant located just 10 minutes drive from the castle provides another picturesque option. Originally a 16th-century farmhouse, this hotel provides real charm and tranquillity. 
Angus Reid/Shutterstock
Look out for Dewi, Dwynwen, Dylan, and Cariad, four dragons that tour the castles of Wales.

Related Questions

Is Harlech Castle dog-friendly?

Yes, Harlech Castle is dog-friendly. Dogs on leads are welcome to access ground floor levels of the site.

What is Harlech Castle famous for?

Harlech Castle is most famous for is its involvement in a seven-year siege which inspired the Welsh song ‘Men of Harlech.’

What was filmed at Harlech Castle?

The castle has featured in a number of documentaries and was the location for the film adaptation of Macbeth (1971).

How long does it take to go round Harlech Castle?

It takes about 1-2 hours to fully experience Harlech Castle because it’s not that big.

Is Harlech Castle still intact?

No, Harlech Castle is a ruin although the basic structure is still intact so it’s easy to imagine what it was like during its glory days.

Why is Harlech Castle so far from the sea?

Harlech Castle appears far from the sea because the sea has receded since it was first built.

Molly is Wales Guidebook's expert on castles. She has a master's degree in history and studied at Swansea University where she learnt about Welsh history and it's many castles. Molly loves to get out and explore historical buildings in person, with Oystermouth, Cardiff, and Caerphilly Castles among her favourites. When not geeking out on castles, Molly likes to spend her time reading, exploring the countryside or in the gym.