Beaumaris Castle is a striking medieval castle on the Isle of Anglesey, built in the late 13th century by King Edward I. Intended to be the crowning glory of his Welsh castles, Beaumaris has been called ‘the greatest castle never built’ due to its incomplete status. In spite of this, its sheer size and beautifully symmetrical design remains awe-inspiring to the modern day, with over 700 years of history to explore.
Beaumaris Castle history
Begun in 1295, Beaumaris Castle was the last in the ‘iron ring’ of imposing castles built by Edward I – also known as Longshanks – designed to to affirm his conquest of Wales. Intended to be the largest and most magnificent of the group, by the 1320s construction on the eminent site had ceased. Lack of funding and trouble in Scotland had diverted attention away from Beaumaris, sealing its fate as an unfinished masterpiece.
Despite this, Beaumaris Castle would play a key military role in the conflicts of the coming centuries. In 1403 it was besieged and captured by Prince of Wales Owain Glyndwr in a rebellion against English rule, before 2 years later being retaken by the English in 1405.
During the English Civil War, Beaumaris was held by forces loyal to Charles I as a key strategic base with easy access to both England and Ireland. In 1646 Royalist forces were forced to relinquish it to the Parliamentarian army however, and while it was briefly recaptured in a 1648 revolt, it would soon return into the hands of the Roundheads.
Unlike many other Royalist castles taken by the Parliamentarians, Beaumaris escaped the strategic practice of slighting, in which high-status buildings were damaged to prevent further use by enemy forces. The Parliamentarians instead garrisoned the castle, saving it from substantial destruction, yet following the Restoration of 1660 it was left to fall into ruin.
Beaumaris Castle today
Today, the picturesque ruins of Beaumaris Castle are managed by Cadw and remain one of the most magnificent examples of medieval architecture in the country. A vast moat surrounds half of the castle’s outer wall comprising of 12 towers and 2 gatehouses, while the inner ward is made up of a further 6 large towers and 2 D-shaped gatehouses.
Visitors are invited to explore the castle’s impressive symmetrical structure and climb its towers and battlements, which despite its unfinished nature fail to disappoint. Together with three of Edward I’s other Welsh strongholds – Conwy, Harlech, and Caernarfon – Beaumaris Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site, reflecting its significant place in the history of the United Kingdom.
Getting to Beaumaris Castle
Beaumaris Castle is located in Anglesey in Wales, and can be accessed via the A545 along the isle’s east coast. The nearest train station is Bangor, 9 miles away, while a number of bus services run to the nearby area. The closest stop is the Bakery stop in Beaumaris, a 5-minute walk away.