Castles from the Air: Harlech and Caernarfon

It’s always good to soar the skies and take a look at some castles from the air, and it was my privilege to do that today. And what a fabulous flight it was…

Alli in Cessna

Boarding and ready to go flying!

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Taxying out to the runway

Being new to the skies around Gwynedd, I wasn’t prepared for just how beautiful both the castles and the mountains would look from the perspective of height. As we got airborne, the geography of the place took on a new meaning. I saw the vast expanse of sea and the little waves lapping at the sandy shoreline beside the airfield before we reached the height of the majestic mountains of Snowdonia.

On mound distance.jpg

Harlech Castle on it’s rocky mound, lording it over the local populace…

We flew south, admiring the superb views, and soon I was able to see Harlech Castle, sitting proudly on its prominent rocky seat looking out to sea. I’m always moved by the sight of a castle from the air, but this was something else. In such a special setting, it was pure joy to be able to catch some images from above and to appreciate its perspective within the landscape. It’s further back from the coastline nowadays, but the sea originally came up to the rocks on which it sits. Nevertheless, there’s no denying it’s still a very imposing castle. It’s easy to imagine the impact its presence would have had on the Welsh when it was built, with its huge white, lime-washed walls and the sea lapping at the rocks below.

Harlech front.JPG

The approach to the castle’s great gatehouse is across a fantastic ‘floating’ footbridge…

Back of gatehouse.JPG

The back of the substantial gatehouse and the inner ward

Distance from sea

Harlech now lies at a distance from the sea, so all this land in between was under water in the 13th Century

As we flew back, I couldn’t resist photographing the stunning mountains as Snowdon held court among her shrouded sisters. It was a humbling sight.

Snowdon.jpg

Snowdon looms high in the distance…

Snowdon no wings.jpg

The splendour of Snowdonia

Before we landed, we flew a little further up the coast, where I was able to photograph the full glory of Caernarfon. The pinnacle of Edward’s Welsh building project is no less impressive from the air, and you can clearly see the extent of the ‘bastide’ walls that encircled the English enclave in the 13th Century. It’s not often you get to see castles in this way, so I appreciated every minute looking down on these magnificent feats of medieval engineering.

Caernarfon .JPG

It had to be done… Caernarfon, the jewel in the crown

Caernarfon 2.jpg

The height of castle perfection…

Caernarfon town walls.JPG

The town walls clearly show the extent of the king’s grand ‘bastide’

Mouth of the Menai Straits.JPG

A look at the mouth of the Menai Straits on the way back to the airfield

Back on terra firma, I looked through my photographs, barely believing what I’d just experienced. This flight was one in a million, and the sights of the castles and the mountains from 2000ft up in the air mean this will be a day I’ll never forget.

So tomorrow, we’ll pick up the story from the aftermath of the 1294-5 Welsh uprising, and look towards the completion of my Quest on Saturday. But no tour of the ‘Iron Ring’ would be complete without a ground visit to the dramatic statement in stone that is Harlech…

 

35 thoughts on “Castles from the Air: Harlech and Caernarfon

  1. I always marvel that you fly – wow! And you got to see the castles from way up (a view no one that ever lived there got to see). They are still so big. And I can’t believe that whole area was covered in water! The mountains are so beautiful as well. Another great journey!

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    • I went to Caernarfon airfield. Lovely little place in a nice setting near the beach. I already knew about this place as I discovered it a few years ago when we were on holiday here, so I didn’t look into anywhere else. You do see a fair few light aircraft buzzing around North Wales though, so I guess there are several other places to fly from. It’s an amazing area to fly around though, and I can see why you’d miss Snowdon. 🙂

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    • I think was just natural geographical and climate changes. Its the same at all Edward’s castles to one degree or another. The sea/river used to come up to the walls but it doesn’t now. I bet it looked wonderful back in the day though. 🙂

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  2. I love your photos of castles from the air and how interesting to read that so much of the land was under water in the 13th century. I wonder if that is something to do with the medieval warm period I wrote about on my blog recently.

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