The Sieges of Harlech Castle
There have been quite a few sieges of medieval castles. Some sieges were successful and others were not. This is a look at one of the more famous castle sieges. And Harlech Castle itself has a history of being sieged. Some of these sieges were successful and others were not.
This castle still stands today and it is located on the west coast of North Wales which is now part of Great Britain.
The castle took roughly seven years to build and construction began in 1283. The picture below shows it as it currently stands.
Location and Build of the Castle
Harlech has a lot of the traditional and noteworthy design components that make up a great medieval castle. It is a good example of castle building at its peak. The first notable thing about it is the location. It is located on the top of a rocky summit that is about 200 feet high. This makes it a very easily defended castle.
On the west and north sides there were steep rocky cliffs at the bottom of which were marshland and the sea. This location near the sea gave it the ability to receive provisions by boat. A very big factor that made it difficult to siege this castle. The water came very close to the castle during those early centuries but in modern times the water has receded quite a ways away (several miles!)
"The way from the sea" Harlech castle had something called the way from the sea which was how it could be resupplied by boat. It was a fortified and protected walkway that runs about 200 feet down from the castle to where the water used to be.
For the south and east sides a moat was dug around the castle and filled with water. This moat was between 30 and 60 feet wide.
I have a floor plan of this castle where you can see all of the major designs including the outerwalls, water gate and more. Harlech Castle Floor Plan
The drawing below is a wonderful depiction of the castle and it's grounds in 1610.
Sieges of Harloch:
1294 - It was sieged by Madoc ap Llywelyn but the siege was unsuccessful and lifted in the following spring.
1404 - Sieged by Owain Glyndwr - Starvation was the primary weapon of this siege and the garrison was reduced to just twenty one men.
1409 - The castle was sieged again by Prince Henry and taken back from Owain Glyndwr.
1468 - The Castle fell in the War of the Roses, This was after a seven year siege. This was one of the final battles in the series of battles called the war of the roses which was a battle between two noble english families. One family was the House of Lancaster and its emblem was the red rose; the other family was the House of York and its emblem was the white rose. The castle was able to survive this long siege because it was provisioned by the sea. This seven year siege is the longest siege in the history of the British Isles.
1647 - The Castle was sieged and surrended during the English Civil War.
Visiting Harlech Castle:
- 1 April thru 31 October 9am to 5pm Open Daily
- 1 November thru 31 March 9:30 am to 4pm Monday thru Saturday and Sunday 11am to 4pm
- Closed: Dec 24 thru 26, and Jan 1