Caernarfon A Caernarfon Castle A Parish Church of St Mary A Hanging Tower G David Lloyd George B Museum of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers B Caernarfon Air World C Welsh Highland Railway C Segontium Roman Fort and Museum G Sir Hugh Owen J Lôn Las Menai Situated on the right bank of the River Seiont, near the southwest end of the Menai Strait, Caernarfon (the name means fort on the shore) is a town steeped in history as well as a bastion of the Welsh language and national pride. The history of Caernarfon goes back to Roman times. 

Segontium Roman Fort and Museum, half a mile from the town centre on the road towards Beddgelert, is the only place in Wales where it is possible to see something of the internal layout of an auxiliary station. Built to defend the Roman Empire against attack from rebellious tribes, the fort dates back to AD77, when the Roman conquest was finally completed following the capture of Anglesey. Certainly this was one of the most important garrisons on the edge of the Roman Empire and, during its life, it was not only a military, but also an administrative centre for northwest Wales. It is believed that Constantine the Great was born here. Excavations of the site have revealed coins, which show that the fort was garrisoned at least until AD394. 

Tis long occupation can be explained by its strategic position controlling the fertile lands and mineral rights of Anglesey and providing a defence against Irish pirates. The well-preserved site is managed by CADW and the museum, which is run by the National Museum and Galleries of Wales, displays many items, including coins, pottery and weapons that have been uncovered during excavation work.

However, it is another great construction and symbol of military power – the impressive Caernarfon Castle – that still dominates the town today. The most famous of the numerous great fortresses in Wales, the castle was begun in 1283 by Henry de Elreton, who was also building Beaumaris Castle, under the orders of Edward I. It took some 40 years to complete. 

Built not only as a defence but as a royal palace and a seat of government, the castle’s majestic appearance was no accident, as it was designed to be a dream castle and is based around two oval-shaped courts divided by a wall. The outer defences are strengthened at intervals by towers and are, in places, up to 15 feet thick! Many attempts were made by the Welsh, over the years, to destroy the castle but their failure is confirmed by the presence today of this magnificent building. It was here that, in 1284, Edward I crowned his son the first English Prince of Wales, and the castle was once again used for such an investiture when, in 1969, the Queen crowned Prince Charles Prince of Wales

. Many protests were planned about the investiture, but it passed off peacefully. However, two members of the Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (Welsh Defence Movement) were killed at Abergele the day before as they tried to plant a bomb on the line to stop the royal train (see also Abergele). Also at the castle, and housed in the Queen’s Tower, is the Museum of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, the country’s oldest regiment. The castle sits where the River Seiont meets the Menai Strait, the expanse of water that separates mainland Wales from the Isle of Anglesey.

 Close by, the old Slate Quay, from where slate was once shipped, is now the place from where fishing trips and pleasure cruises depart up the Strait to Beaumaris. Castle Square, on the landward side of the castle, holds markets and here, too, can be found statues of two famous Welshmen: the gesticulating, urging David Lloyd George, 

once a member of Parliament for the area, and Sir Hugh Owen, the founder of Further Education in Wales. The Anglesey Hotel and the Hanging Tower stand by the castle walls; they were a customs house until 1822. The last hanging to take place in the tower was in 1911 when an Irishman named Murphy was executed for murdering a maid. It is said that when he died the bell clapper in the Parish Church of St Mary fell off. The church itself was founded in 1307 and, though much of it has since been reconstructed, the arcades of the eastern and southern walls are part of the original 14thcentury building. Northgate Street is called, in Welsh, Stryd Pedwar a Chewch, meaning four and six street.

 Apparently it originates from the time when sailors flocked to this part of town looking for lodgings: four pence for a hammock and six pence for a bed! From the town, walkers can enjoy a scenic footpath, the Lôn Las Menai, which follows the coastline along the Menai Strait towards the village of Y Felinheli and from which there are views across the water to the Isle of Anglesey. Caernarfon is the terminus of the Welsh Highland Railway, which is owned and operated by the Ffestiniog Railway, the oldest independent railway company in the world. In 2008, the Welsh Highland was extended through the spectacular Aberglasyn Pass to Porthmadog and a link with the Ffestiniog Railway.

 To the southwest of Caernarfon, and overlooking Caernarfon Bay, is Caernarfon Air World, located on the site of an RAF station that was built in 1940 and, which is also the home of the first RAF mountain rescue team. As well as offering pleasure flights to visitors, there is the Aviation Museum, housed in one of the great hangars, which not only displays over 400 model aircraft, but also has various planes and helicopters on show and provides visitors with the opportunity to take the controls in a flight trainer.