One of the coolest things to do in the United Kingdom is explore castles; and really, truly explore them. Forget the audioguides and interpreters- sometimes the best experience comes from walking around with no real direction, and seeing what one discovers. My brother and I embraced this approach when we were at Conwy Castle in north Wales in May 2011, and it resulted in an amazing time in what is surely one of the most impressive castles in all of Wales.
Castell Conwy (as it’s known in Wales) proudly flies the Welsh flag on its major towers
I’m used to seeing bilingual signs in Canada- our official languages are English and French- but here, the signs were all in English and Welsh!
Conwy Castle is a very imposing structure. It’s built on a sort of rocky outcropping right beside the River Conwy, and as we approached it from below it looked as if the castle walls were an extension of the rock itself. Edward I, who built the castle in the late 1200s to support his conquest of Wales, certainly chose an appropriate location!
The castle must have been a very formidable sight to the various forces that besieged it over the course of its history!
Conwy Castle affords wonderful views of the river and harbour…
…and of the inland hills, which are dotted with sheep. It is Wales, after all
As soon as we were inside the castle walls, my brother and I abandoned our parents and decided to go round the castle by ourselves. The castle was so well-preserved and so impressive that we just wanted to get lost in it! We picked one tower in particular that we wanted to reach, and then we made our way to it as best we could without the help of any castle map. We were also without the help of my sense of direction, since I essentially don’t have one!
Conwy has multiple towers; and as I remember, most of them were accessible to visitors
I don’t remember a great deal of Conwy’s interior, except that it was beautifully constructed and fairly well-preserved, as this photo shows
One of the many constricted and treacherous circular staircases of Conwy; worn down by 700 years of footsteps
At a few points, we did feel slightly lost- Conwy is not an insubstantial fortification! But that added to the fun of the exploration, and we reached our chosen tower while our parents were still touring the ground level! We were quite proud, and enjoyed a few moments of jubilation as the wind whipped around and the Welsh flag flew above our heads.
At the top of that tower, I suddenly felt very aware and proud of my Welsh background
The glorious view from the top!
A view of the entire castle, seen from the wall which attaches to the castle and surrounds the medieval town of Conwy
Exploring Conwy Castle was so fun- even though I had no idea where I was most of the time or what purpose a given room had, I have better memories of Conwy than I do of other castles where I paid attention and carried a guidebook! Of course, I would love to return and take time to learn more about the history of the castle. But based on experience alone, this couldn’t be beat!