Criccieth Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameCriccieth Castle
Alternative NamesCricieth
Historic CountryCaernarfonshire
Modern AuthorityGwynedd
1974 AuthorityGwynedd

The castle was first built as a centre for Eifionydd commote by Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, probably in the 1230s. Llywelyn ab Gruffudd is thought to have enlarged the castle in the later thirteenth century. It was captured by the forces of Edward I in 1283 and a large sum of money was spent on building work before the castle was besieged in the troubles of 1294-5. Further works were carried out in the earlier part of the fourteenth century. The castle was taken and destroyed in 1403-4 and was never rebuilt. The castle occupies the summit of an isolated crag washed by the sea on the south. The borough, chartered in 1284, probably occupied the dingle separating the castle crag from the rock of Dinas to the north-west (see NPRN 33014). There is some controversy about the sequence of building and the following follows the most recent interpretation. The original castle is a polygonal walled court about 35m north-south by 30m. At the north end is a great twin towered, three storey gatehouse, on which is a large rectangular tower on the south-east side. By the end of the century there was a great hall in the court. Llywelyn ab Gruffudd added walled courts on the north and south-west, each with a large rectangular tower. The entrance was in the south-west court, reached by a track winding around the castle rock. A long narrow passage connected the outer courts. This plan of separate courts each with their own great tower is reminiscent of the contemporary Ewloe Castle (NPRN 94447). The late thirteenth-earlier fourteenth century work is thought to have involved raising or rebuilding the towers. This can be seen in the fabric of the great gatehouse. Lower down the castle rock there is a rock cut ditch on the north and north-east, and an outer rampart skirts its base. These works are undated. (Coflein–John Wiles, RCAHMW, July 2007)

Criccieth Castle was founded as a royal residence by the princes of Gwynedd

It was taken by Edward I in 1283 during his second war with Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, and repaired and remodelled. Further work was carried out under Edward II. The castle was slighted by Owain Glyndwr in 1403, and was never reoccupied. In 1858, its ruins were sold to W. Ormsby Gore, M.P., but only minor repairs were carried out before the castle was placed in the care of the State in 1933. Although interpretations of the sequence of construction at Criccieth, and the extent of Welsh and English work have varied, it is now accepted that the castle’s form is substantially Welsh, with the inner ward probably built by Llywelyn ab Iorwerth in c1230 (the first reference to a castle in Criccieth is in 1239), and the outer ward by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, c1260-70. Under Edward I, the inner gatehouse was raised in height, the SE and SW towers refaced and rebuilt, the N tower remodelled and the outer gatehouse reconstructed. Under Edward II, further rebuilding was undertaken, although the only work of this period that can be identified with certainty is the further raising of the gatehouse. The inner ward represents the earliest phase of construction. It consists of a gatehouse to the N and a SE tower, and is enclosed by a curtain wall. The curtain walls survive to considerable height retaining well-preserved stretches of the original wall-walk. Internal buildings which have not survived were probably built against the inner face of the W and SW lengths of wall. The paired D-shaped towers of the inner gatehouse (incorporating a latrine tower to the W) survive to a height of 3 storeys, and were defended by arrow slits at ground floor level and a portcullis in the passage. The battlements were rebuilt under Edward I, and again under Edward II. The arched entrance with high set relieving arch is a modern rebuild (but predates 1933). The original SE tower was completely encases under Edward I. Only the lower walls survive, with a small section standing to first floor height. The outer defences form the second phase of construction and comprise an irregularly shaped ward, with a curtain wall enclosing an area to the N and S of the inner ward, and forming a narrow passage (originally roofed over) along the W of the inner defences. Towers were built to the N and SW, and a gatehouse to the SE, on the seaward side of the site. Under Edward I, this gatehouse was extended with a barbican. The SW and N towers were also enlarged, the latter to take a siege engine. Although the line of the curtain wall remains, nowhere does it survive to its original height, and only the lower storey of the N tower, and fragmentary remains of the SW tower and outer gatehouse remain. (Listed Building Report)

Perched in an imposing position, the castle is still dominated by the twin-towered gatehouse built by Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth ('the Great'). Extended by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd ('the Last'), and later remodelled by Edward I and Edward II. An irregular masonry castle, consisting of two towered wards, the inner having the monumental gatehouse. Recorded as destroyed, c.1450. Work probably began c1230 and was remodelled in c1283 when the castle was taken by Edward I. Abandoned c1403. Inner ward consists of NE gatehouse and SW tower, enclosed by curtain wall which retains large sections of the wall-walk. No surviving internal buildings. The twin D-shaped towers to the inner gatehouse survive to 3-storeys. Irregularly shaped outer ward with towers to the N and SW and a gatehouse to SE, although only fragments of these remain. (CADW)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic Wales CADW listed database record number
The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSH499377
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Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photo by Andrew Herrett All Rights Reserved
Photo by Andrew Herrett All Rights Reserved
Photo by Andrew Herrett All Rights Reserved
Photo by Andrew Herrett All Rights Reserved
Photo by Andrew Herrett All Rights Reserved
Photo by Andrew Herrett All Rights Reserved
Photo by Andrew Herrett All Rights Reserved

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  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 44, 221
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 27-29
  • Butler, L., 2009, 'The Castles of the Princes of Gwynedd' in Willams, D. and Kenyon, J. (eds), The Impact of the Edwardian Castles in Wales (Oxbow) p. 27-36
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Late Medieval Siege: 1200-1500 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 43, 84
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 67-9
  • Davis, Paul R., 2007, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Y Lolfa) p. 45-7
  • Gravett, Christopher, 2007, The Castles of Edward I in Wales 1277-1307 (Osprey Fortress series 64)
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses Vol. 2 (Cambridge) p. 688
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 30-2
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 70-2
  • Davis, Paul R., 1988, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Swansea) p. 36-7
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles of North Wales (Malvern)
  • Taylor, A.J., 1986, The Welsh Castles of Edward I (Hambledon Press) p. 73-5
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 33
  • Avent, Richard, 1983, Castles of the Princes of Gwynedd (Cardiff) p. 17-25, 31
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 344-5
  • Gresham, C.A., 1973, Eifionydd (Cardiff) p. 169-71
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works, Vol. 1: the Middle Ages (London) p. 365-7
  • RCAHMW, 1960, A Survey and Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Caernarvonshire Vol. 2: Central (HMSO) p. 59-62 no. 872 online copy
  • Neaverson, E., 1947, Mediaeval Castles in North Wales: A study of Sites, Water Supply, and Building Stones (London) p. 38-9
  • Lloyd, J.E., 1931, Owen Glendower (Oxford University Press) p. 78, 157
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 216
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 373


  • Neil Guy, 2015-16, 'The Portcullis - design and development' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 29 p. 132-201
  • Richard Nevell, 2014-15, 'Castles as prisons' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 28 p. 203-224
  • Swallow, Rachel, 2014, 'Gateways to Power: The Castles of Ranulf III of Chester and Llywelyn the Great of Gwynedd' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 171 p. 289-311
  • Coldstream, N., 2003 'Architects, Advisers and Design at Edward I’s Castles in Wales' Architectural History Vol. 46 p. 19-36
  • Butler, Lawrence, 1998, 'Masons' Marks in castles: a key to building practices' Château Gaillard Vol. 18 p. 23-26
  • Avent, Richard, 1994, 'Castles of the Welsh Princes' Château Gaillard Vol. 16 p. 11-17
  • Tumbull, D., 1979, ‘Some problems about the origin of Criccieth Castle’ Fort Vol. 7 p. 52-68
  • Gresham, C.A., 1973, 'The Development of Criccieth Castle' Transactions of the Caernarvonshire Historical Society Vol. 34 p. 14-22 (discussion of dating)
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1967, 'Masonry castles in Wales and the Marches: a list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 116 p. 71-132
  • O'Neil, B.H.St J., 1944, 'Criccieth Castle, Caernarvonshire' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 98 p. 1-51
  • Hemp, W.J., 1926, Y Cymmrodor p. 64-120
  • Hughes, Harold, 1905, 'Criccieth Castle' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 60 p. 200-10 online copy
  • Chapman, F.G.W., 1878, 'Notes on the castles of Harlech and Criccieth' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 34 p. 159-67 online copy

Guide Books

  • Avent, Richard, Suggett, Richard and Longley, David, 2011, Cricieth Castle, Pennarth Fawr medieval hall-house, St Cybi’s Well (Cardiff: CADW) {also available in welsh}
  • Avent, Richard, 1989, Cricieth Castle, Pennarth Fawr medieval hall-house, St Cybi’s Well (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Avent, Richard, 1987, Criccieth Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Johns, C.N., 1984. 2edn. Criccieth Castle/Castell Cricieth, Gwynedd (Cardiff: HMSO)
  • Johns, C.N., 1970, Criccieth Castle (HMSO)
  • O'Neil, B.H.St J., 1947 (rev edn), Criccieth Castle (HMSO)
  • O'Neil, B.H.St J., 1934, Criccieth Castle (HMSO)
  • Hemp, Criccieth Castle (HMSO)

Primary Sources

  • Brut y Tywysogion 1239 (as prison) (Several transcriptions and translations exist the best being Jones, T., 1952, Brut Y Twysogion (University of Wales, History and Law series 11)–based on the Peniarth MS 20 version. There is a flawed translation Williams ab Ithel, John, 1860, Brut Y Twysogion or The Chronicle of the Princes (Rolls Series) online copy)
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 111-3
  • B.M. Add. Roll 7198 (survey 14 Edw II) (British Library reference)


  • Ryder, Charles, 2011, The spiral stair or vice: Its origins, role and meaning in medieval stone castles (PhD Thesis University of Liverpool) p. 181-85 Download via