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Caernarfon from Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon is located in Gwynedd
 Caernarfon shown within Gwynedd
Population 9,615 
OS grid reference
   – London  247.1mi 
Community Caernarfon
Principal area Gwynedd
Ceremonial county Gwynedd
Country Wales
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district LL55
Dialling code 01286
Police North Wales
Fire North Wales
Ambulance Welsh
EU Parliament Wales
UK Parliament Arfon
Welsh Assembly Arfon
List of places

Caernarfon (; Welsh: ) is a royal town, community and port in Gwynedd, Wales, with a population of 9,615; this figure does not include nearby Bontnewydd or Caethro as they are in separate communities. It lies along the A487 road, on the eastern shore of the Menai Straits, opposite the Isle of Anglesey. The city of Bangor is 8.6 miles (13.8 km) to the north-east, while Snowdonia fringes Caernarfon to the east and south-east. Carnarvon and Caernarvon are Anglicised spellings that were superseded in 1926 and 1974 respectively.

Abundant natural resources in and around the Menai Straits enabled human habitation in the area during prehistory. The Ordovices, a Celtic tribe, lived in the region during classical antiquity. The Roman fort Segontium was established around AD 80 to subjugate the Ordovices during the Roman conquest of Britain. The Romans and occupied the region until their departure in the 5th century, after which Caernarfon became part of the Kingdom of Gwynedd. In the late 11th century, William the Conqueror ordered the construction of a motte at Caernarfon, as part of an attempt at conquering the region.[1] He was unsuccessful and most of Wales remained independent until around 1283.

In the 13th century, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, ruler of Gwynedd, refused to pay homage to Edward I prompting the English conquest of Gwynedd. This was followed by the construction of Caernarfon Castle, one of the largest and most imposing fortifications built by the English in Wales. In 1284, the English-style county of Caernarfonshire was established by the Statute of Rhuddlan; the same year, Caernarfon was made a borough, a county and market town, and the seat of English government in North Wales.[2]

The ascent of the Tudor dynasty to the throne of England eased hostilities between the English and resulted in Caernarfon Castle falling into a state of disrepair. The city has flourished, leading to its status as a major tourist centre and seat of Gwynedd Council, with a thriving harbour and marina. Caernarfon has expanded beyond its medieval walls and experienced heavy suburbanisation. Its population includes the largest percentage of Welsh-speaking citizens anywhere in Wales. The status of Royal Borough was granted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1963 and emended to Royal Town in 1974.[3]


The present city of Caernarfon grew up around and owes its name to its Norman and Edwardian fortifications.[4] The earlier British and Roman settlement at Segontium was named for the nearby River Seiont. After the Roman withdrawal from Britain around AD 410, the settlement continued to be known as Cair Segeint ("Fort Seiont") and as Cair Custoient ("Fort Constantius or Constantine"),[8] both of which names appear among the 28 cities of Britain in the History of the Britons traditionally ascribed to Nennius.[6] The work stated that the inscribed tomb of "Constantius the Emperor" (presumably Constantius Chlorus, father of Constantine the Great) was still present in the 9th century.[7] (Constantius actually died at York; Ford credited the monument to a different Constantine, the supposed son of Saint Elen and Magnus Maximus, who was said to have ruled northern Wales before being removed by the Irish.[9]) The medieval romance about Maximus and Elen, Macsen's Dream, calls her home Caer Aber Sein ("Fort Seointmouth" or "the caer at the mouth of the Seoint") and other pre-conquest poets such as Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd also used the name Caer Gystennin.[10]

Caernarfon in 1610

The Norman motte was erected apart from the existing settlement and came to be known as y walls of Constantinople, possibly being aware of the town's legendary associations. In addition, Edward was a supporter of the Crusader cause.

Caernarfon was constituted a borough in 1284 by charter of Edward I.[14] The charter, which was confirmed on a number of occasions, appointed the mayor of the borough Constable of the Castle ex officio.[15] The former municipal borough was designated a royal borough in 1963.[14] The borough was abolished by the Local Government Act 1972 in 1974, and the status of "royal town" was granted to the community which succeeded it.[14]

In 1911, Member of Parliament for Caernarfon boroughs, which included various towns from Llŷn to Conwy, agreed to the British Royal family's idea of holding the investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle. The ceremony took place on 13 July, with the royal family paying a rare visit to Wales, and the future King Edward VIII was duly invested.

In 1955 Caernarfon was in the running for the title of Capital of Wales on historical grounds but the town's campaign was heavily defeated in a ballot of Welsh local authorities, with 11 votes compared to Cardiff's 136.[16] Cardiff therefore became the Welsh capital.

On 1 July 1969 the investiture ceremony for Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru, John Jenkins. He was later arrested after a tip-off and was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment.[17]

The history of Caernarfon as an example where the rise and fall of different civilizations can be seen from one hilltop, are discussed in John Michael Greer's book 'The Long Descent'. He writes the Welsh town of Caernarfon. Spread out below us in an unexpected glory of sunlight was the whole recorded history of that little corner of the world. The ground beneath us still rippled with earthworks from the Celtic hill fort that guarded the Menai Strait more than two and a half millennia ago. The Roman fort that replaced it was now the dim brown mark of an old archeological site on low hills off to the left. Edward I’s great gray castle rose up in the middle foreground, and the high contrails of RAF jets on a training exercise out over the Irish Sea showed that the town’s current overlords still maintained the old watch. Houses and shops from more than half a dozen centuries spread eastward as they rose through the waters of time, from the cramped medieval buildings of the old castle town straight ahead to the gaudy sign and sprawling parking lot of the supermarket back behind us.


Caernarfon is situated on the eastern bank of the Menai Strait facing the Isle of Anglesey. It is situated 8.6 miles (13.8 km) south-west of Bangor, 19.4 miles (31.2 km) north of Porthmadog and approximately 8.0 miles (12.9 km) east of Llanberis and Snowdonia National Park.[18] The mouth of the River Seiont is in the town, creating a natural harbour where it flows into the Menai Strait. Caernarfon Castle stands at the mouth of the river.[19] The A487 passes directly through Caernarfon, with Bangor to the north and Porthmadog to the south. Llanberis at the foot of Snowdon can be reached via the A4086, which heads east out of the town to Capel Curig. Heading north out of the town is the Lôn Las Menai cycle path to nearby Y Felinheli. Heading south out of the town is the Lôn Eifion cycle path, which leads to Bryncir, near Criccieth. The route provides views into the Snowdonia mountains, down along the Llŷn Peninsula and across to the Isle of Anglesey.[20] The Welsh Highland Railway or Rheilffordd Eryri, a narrow gauge heritage railway, was restored in 2011 and runs from Caernarfon to Porthmadog where it connects with the Festiniog Railway.[21]


Caernarfon's historical prominence and landmarks have made it a major tourist centre.[22] As a result many of the local businesses cater for the tourist trade. Caernarfon is home to numerous guest houses, inns and pubs, hotels, restaurants and shops. The majority of shops in the town are located either in the centre of town around Pool Street and Castle Square (Maes), or on Doc Fictoria. A number of shops are also located within the Town Walls.

The majority of the retail and residential section of Doc Fictoria (Victoria Dock) was opened in 2008. The retail and residential section of Doc Fictoria is built directly beside a Blue Flag beach marina. It contains numerous homes, bars and bistros, cafés and restaurants, an award- winning arts centre, a maritime museum and a range of shops and stores.[23]

Pool Street and Castle Square (Maes) contain a number of large, national retail shops and smaller independent stores. Pool Street is a pedestrianised street[24] and, as such, serves as the town's main shopping street. Castle Square, commonly referred to as the 'Maes' by both Welsh and English speakers, is the market square of the town. A market is held every Saturday throughout the year and also on Mondays in the Summer.[25] The square was revamped at a cost of £2.4 million in 2009. However, since its revamp the square has caused controversy due to traffic and parking difficulties. During the revamp, it was decided to remove barriers between traffic and pedestrians creating a 'shared space', to try and force road users to be more considerate of pedestrians and other vehicles. This is the first use of this kind of arrangement in Wales, but it has been described by councillor Bob Anderson as being 'too ambiguous' for road users.[26] Another controversy caused by the revamp of the Maes was that a historic feature of the town was taken down, namely a very old oak tree, situated outside the HSBC bank. When the Maes was re-opened in July 2009 by the local politician and Heritage Minister of Wales, Alun Ffred Jones AM, he said, "the use of beautiful local slate is very prominent in the new Maes."

There are many old Black Boy Inn, which remained in the same family for over 40 years until sold in 2003 to a local independent family business. The pub has stood inside Caernarfon's Town Walls since the 16th century, and many ghosts have been sighted within the building.[27]

In and around the Town Walls are numerous restaurants, public houses and inns, and guest houses and hostels.[28]

Local government

Gwynedd Council's head offices are situated in the town. The local court serves the town and the rest of north-west Wales, and in 2009 moved to a multi-million pound court complex on Llanberis Road. The Caernarfon UK Parliament constituency was a former electoral area centred on Caernarfon. Caernarfon is now part of the Arfon constituency for both the UK Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. The town is twinned with Landerneau in Brittany.[29]


Demographically Gwynedd has the highest proportion of people in Wales who can speak Welsh. The highest proportion of these Welsh speakers are to be found in and around Caernarfon.[30] According to the 2001 Census, 86.1% of the population could speak the Welsh language, with the largest majority of Welsh speakers in the 10-14 age group, where 97.7% could speak it fluently. The town is nowadays a rallying-point for the Welsh nationalist cause.

The population of Caernarfon Community Parish in 2001 was 9,611.[31]

Caernarfon residents are known colloquially as "Cofis". The word "Cofi" is also used locally in Caernarfon to describe the local Welsh dialect, notable for a number of words not in use elsewhere.


One of the oldest buildings in the town is The Market Hall, which is situated on Hole In The Wall street, or Stryd Twll Yn Wal as it is referred to by Welsh speakers.

The old court buildings, replaced in 2009 by a new complex designed by HOK on the former Segontium School site in Llanberis Road,[32] are situated inside the castle walls, next door to the Anglesey Arms Hotel and to the Gwynedd County Council buildings in Pendeitch. They are grand buildings, especially the exterior of the former magistrates' court, which features a gothic architecture style of decoration. The old buildings adjoin what used to be Caernarfon gaol, which has been closed since about the early 20th century and has now been converted into further council offices.

Caernarfon is also home to the regimental museum of the Royal Welch Fusiliers (archaic English spelling of the word Welsh).

The location of the town creates a lovely view across the Afon Menai towards the south of Anglesey.

There is a small hospital in the town, 'Ysbyty Eryri'. The nearest large regional hospital is Ysbyty Gwynedd, in Bangor.

Previously, Caernarfon had been chosen as the location of a new prison. HMP Caernarfon would have held up to 800 adult males when constructed, and would have taken prisoners from all over the North Wales area. However, in September 2009 the UK Government withdrew plans to construct the prison.[33]


Caernarfon was at one time an important port, exporting slate from the Dyffryn Nantlle quarries.

Caernarvon railway station served the town from 1852 to 1970 and was one of the last passenger services to be closed under the Beeching Axe; it is now the site of a Morrisons supermarket. The site served as the terminus of the Bangor and Carnarvon Railway, and an end-on junction with the Carnarvonshire Railway and the Carnarvon and Llanberis Railway. All three companies were operated by and absorbed into the London and North Western Railway by 1871.

The route of the line southwards passed through a tunnel under central Caernarfon that was converted in 1995 for road traffic. The new Caernarfon railway station in St. Helen's Road is the northern terminus of the narrow gauge Rheilffordd Eryri / Welsh Highland Railway.

Bus services in the town are provided by Arriva Buses Wales, GHA Coaches, Express Motors and Padarn Bus.

Caernarfon Airport is 4.5 miles (7.2 km) to the south west, and offers pleasure flights and an aviation museum.[34]


There are four primary schools in Caernarfon, Ysgol yr Hendre being the largest. The others are Ysgol y Gelli, Ysgol Santes Helen and Ysgol Maesincla.

The single secondary school serving Caernarfon and the surrounding areas – Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen – currently has between 900 and 1000 pupils from ages 11 to 18.

Ysgol Pendalar, a school for children with special needs, serves all of Arfon.

Coleg Menai is a further education college for adult learners.

Notable people

See Category:People from Caernarfon


Caernarfon Town F.C. is a football team that plays at The Oval, in Division One of the Welsh Alliance League. Caernarfon Wanderers play in Division Two of the Welsh Alliance.

There is a rugby union club, Clwb Rygbi Caernarfon, which plays in Division One North of the Swalec League. The club's home ground is Y Morfa.


Caernarfon hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1862, 1894, 1906, 1921, 1935, 1959 and 1979. Unofficial National Eisteddfod events were also held there in 1877 and 1880. Caernarfon also hosted the 30th annual Celtic Media Festival in March 2009.

Cultural destinations include Galeri, Bocs and Oriel Pendeitsh.

Galeri is a creative enterprise centre that houses a gallery, a concert hall, cinema, a number of companies, and a range of other creative and cultural spaces.

Bocs is a young artists' co-operative and an arts centre that holds exhibitions and a range of cultural and creative events.

Oriel Pendeitsh is a ground-floor exhibition space adjoining the Tourist Information Centre opposite Caernarfon Castle. The gallery has a varied and changing programme of exhibitions throughout the year.

See also


  1. ^ "Caernarfon Castle". Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  2. ^ Gareth Edwards. "Caernarfon Tourist Information". Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  3. ^ "BBC News - How does a town get a 'royal' title?". 2011-03-17. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  4. ^ Allen, Grant. , Vol. XLV, pp. 419 ff.The Cornhill Magazine"Casters and Chesters" in Smith, Elder, & Co. (London), 1882.
  5. ^ P. 20.
  6. ^ a b Nennius (attrib.). Theodor Mommsen (ed.). .Historia Brittonum Composed after AD 830. (Latin) Hosted at Latin Wikisource.
  7. ^ a b Newman, John Henry & al. , Ch. X: "Britain in 429, A. D.", p. 92.Lives of the English Saints: St. German, Bishop of Auxerre James Toovey (London), 1844.
  8. ^ Stevenson's 1838 edition[5] of the History of the Britons,[6] cited by Bishop Ussher in Newman's life of St German[7]
  9. ^ Ford, David Nash. "The 28 Cities of Britain" at Britannia. 2000.
  10. ^ William, Ifor. Breuddwyd Maxen. (Bangor), 1920.
  11. ^ Taylor 1997, p. 4
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Jones, Thomas (ed.). Brut y Tywysogion[:] Peniarth MS. 20. (Cardiff), 1941.
  14. ^ a b c Davies, M. Lloyd (19 January 2009). "Caernarfon; Caernarvon". Coflein. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  15. ^ "Cyngor Tref Frenhinol Caernarfon Royal Town Council". Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  16. ^ "INVESTING IN CAERNARFON". Property Investors Wales. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  17. ^ "Parade to commemorate the Abergele Martyrs". Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  18. ^ "Google Maps". 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  19. ^ "Caernarfon Castle". Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  20. ^ "List Page". Discover Gwynedd. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  21. ^ "Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways". Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  22. ^ Gareth Edwards. "Caernarfon Tourist Information". Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  23. ^ "Doc Fictoria Victoria Dock Caernarfon". Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  24. ^ Your name: (2011-02-14). "View a photo in the Photomap » Rising bollards, Pool St, Caernarfon (photo #28490)". CycleStreets. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  25. ^ "Caernarfon Market, a Market in Caernarfon, North Wales. Search for North Wales Markets". 2005-10-16. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  26. ^ "Controversy over y Maes in Caernarfon". Caernarfon Herald. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  27. ^ "History :: Black Boy Inn | Caernarfon Hotels | Accommodation North Wales". Black Boy Inn. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  28. ^ Things to Do. "Things to Do". Caernarfon Hotels. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  29. ^ Alun, Wena (2012-01-20). "BBC News - Town twinning links remain strong in Wales". Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  30. ^ "Focus on Gwynedd - Gwynedd County Council". Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  31. ^ Neighbourhood Statistics. "Check Browser Settings". Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  32. ^ "New Courts at Caernarfon". 13 July 2006. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  33. ^ "Plans for town prison are dropped". BBC News. 2009-09-22. Retrieved 2010-04-28. 
  34. ^ "index". Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  • Taylor, Arnold (1997) [1953]. Caernarfon Castle and Town Walls (4th ed.). Cardiff: Cadw – Welsh Historic Monuments.  

External links

  • Official Website
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica Caernarfon
  • Visit to Caernarfon
  • Doc Fictoria Caernarfon
  • Bocs Arts Centre
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