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Coordinates: 53°08′N 4°16′W / 53.14°N 4.27°W / 53.14; -4.27

The town of Caernarfon from Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon is located in Wales2

 Caernarfon shown within Wales
Population 9,611 
OS grid reference SH485625
    - 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 Caernarfon
List of places: UK • Wales • Gwynedd

Caernarfon (the original Welsh spelling is now almost always used in preference to the anglicised forms, "Caernarvon" or "Carnarvon") is a royal town in Gwynedd, northwest Wales.

The name comes from Welsh Caer yn Arfon = "castle in Arfon", referring to the Roman fort named Segontium. Arfon means "[region] opposite Anglesey". In Welsh it is pronounced [kaɨrˈnarvɔn], but it tends to be /kərˈnɑrvən/ in English.



Caernarfon is the traditional county town of the historic county of Caernarfonshire. The town is best known for its great stone castle, built by Edward I of England and consequently sometimes seen as a symbol of English domination. Edward's architect, James of St. George, may well have modelled the castle on the walls of Constantinople, possibly being aware of the alternative Welsh name Caer Gystennin; in addition, Edward was a supporter of the Crusader cause. On higher ground on the outskirts of the town are the remains of an earlier occupation, the Segontium Roman Fort.

Caernarfon was constituted a borough in 1284 by charter of Edward I. The charter, which was confirmed on a number of occasions, appointed the mayor of the borough Constable of the Castle ex officio.[1] The former municipal borough was designated a royal borough in 1963. 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.[2]


Caernarfon in 1610.

In the year 1221 a charter granted to the canons of Penmon priory, in Anglesey, by Llywelyn the Great, refers to Kaerinarfon [2], and Brut y Tywysogion uses the forms Kaerenarvon and Caerenarvon. [3] An early alternative name was Caer Seiont. It is called Caer Aber Sei(o)n(t) ("the fort on the estuary of the river Seiont") in the medieval Welsh tale Breuddwyd Macsen ("Macsen's Dream"), and was also known as Caer Gystennin ("The Castle of Constantin") [4]


Demographically the population of Caernarfon is the most Welsh-speaking community in all of Wales. 86.1% of the population could speak the Welsh language in the United Kingdom Census 2001, 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. Its population, with nearby Y Felinheli and Penygroes is about 14,000.

Caernarfon residents are known colloquially as "Cofis" (sg. /ˈkɒvi/). 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.


In 1911, David Lloyd George, then Member of Parliament for Caernarfon boroughs, which included various towns from Llŷn to Conwy, agreed to the Royal Family's idea of holding the investiture of the new 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.

On 1 July 1969 the investiture ceremony was again held at Caernarfon Castle, the recipient on this occasion being Charles, Prince of Wales. The ceremony itself went ahead without incident despite nationalist threats and protests which culminated in the death of two members of Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (Welsh Defence Movement), Alwyn Jones and George Taylor, who were killed when their bomb - intended for the railway line at Abergele in order to stop the British Royal Train - exploded prematurely. The bomb campaign (one in Abergele, two in Caernarfon and finally one on Llandudno Pier was organised by the leader of Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru John Jenkins. He was later arrested after a tip off and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

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


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 most often.

The old court buildings, replaced in 2009 by a new complex designed by HOK on Llanberis Road, are situated inside the castle walls, next door to the Anglesey Arms Hotel and to the Gwynedd County Council Buildings in Pendeitch. They are very grand buildings, especially the outside of the Magistrate Court as it has adopted a gothic architecture style of decoration. The old buildings were adjoining what used to be Caernarfon gaol, which has closed since about the early 1900s, and now been turned into further Council Offices.

There are many old public houses serving the town, including The Four Alls, The Anglesey Arms Hotel, The Castle Hotel, The Crown, Morgan Lloyd, Pen Deitch and The Twthill Vaults. The oldest public house in Caernarfon is the 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 the walls of Caernarfon castle since the 1500s, and many ghosts have been sighted within the building.

Present day

Caernarfon has a small harbour, and a Blue Flag beach at Victoria Harbour. The location of the town creates a lovely view across the Afon Menai towards the south of Anglesey.

Focal point Y Maes or 'Castle Square' in English was refurbished in 2009, causing much controversy when a historical feature of the town was taken down; namely a very old oak tree, situated outside the HSBC bank. Re-opened in July 2009 by the local politician and Heritage Minister of Wales, Alun Ffred Jones AM, the use of beautiful local slate is very prominent in the new Maes.

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

Gwynedd County 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.

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.[5]

The town is twinned with Landerneau in Britanny.



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 educates between 900 and 1000 pupils from ages 11 to 18. There is also a school for children with special needs in the town, Ysgol Pendalar, which serves all of Arfon.


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

Caernarvon railway station served the town from 1852 to 1970; it is now the site of the 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 Welsh Highland Railway.

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


Caernarfon Town F.C. is a football team, who play at The Oval, in the Cymru Alliance. Their home ground is The Oval.

There is a very successful rugby union club, Clwb Rygbi Caernarfon, who play in the Division One North League. Their 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.

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. Cardiff therefore became Wales' first official capital city.

See also


  1. ^ The Town Charter, Caernarfon Royal Town Council, accessed October 21, 2007
  2. ^ [1] The Town's Armorial Bearings & Royal Status (Caernarfon Online)
  3. ^ Thomas Jones (ed.) Brut y Tywysogion[:] Peniarth MS. 20 (Cardiff, 1941). It should however be noted that medieval orthography in every language varies considerably and variant spellings of a name or word often occur in the same manuscript text. Kaerinarfon, Kaerenarvon and Caerenarvon correspond to Caer-yn-Arfon in modern Welsh orthography. The letter "y" would naturally be lost in the spoken language, thus giving the standard Welsh name Caernarfon ("Caer 'n Arfon").
  4. ^ See Sir Ifor Williams' notes in his edition of Breuddwyd Maxen (Bangor, 1920). The name appears for the first time in the work of Nennius. Pre-conquest medieval Welsh poets such as Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd sometimes use the name Caer Gystennin.
  5. ^

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Caernarfon castle
Caernarfon castle

Caernarfon is a Royal town in Gwynedd, North-West Wales.

Caernarfon is famous for its breathtaking castle and as a stronghold of the Welsh language. It is one of the best places in the world to hear a living Celtic language, with over 80% of the local population speaking Welsh.

Caernarfon provides an good base for visiting other places of interest in North Wales. A few miles’ drive from Caernarfon is Snowdonia National Park which plays host to the highest mountain in Wales, and Anglesey, home of Beaumaris Castle, the last and largest of the castles to be built by King Edward I in Wales.

Other nearby places worth visiting include: Conwy, Llandudno, the Isle of Anglesey, Bangor, and the castle at Harlech.

Opposite the castle, the Caernarfon Tourist Information Centre, Oriel Pendeitsh, Castle St, 01286 672232 ().  edit, makes a great port of call, offering free local advice for getting the most out of a visit to Caernarfon and its surrounding areas.

Get in

The historic town of Caernarfon is easily accessible by car, air, rail, bus and sea.

By car

The roads are good, with Bangor and the A55 expressway around 15 minutes away. Liverpool and Manchester airports are around 2 hours, Dublin about 3 hours (including fast ferry) and Cardiff around 4 and a half hours.

From London allow 5 hours for your journey. Exit the M6/J20 onto M56. Follow signs for Queensferry / North Wales onto A55. Exit A55/J9 onto A487 then follow signs for Caernarfon onto the A487 for 7 miles.

Note: All day parking is available behind the castle at a reasonable price, with other car parks more ideally suited to short-term parking.

By air

Anglesey Airport is only 24 miles away via the A55 and provides weekday links by Highland Airways to Cardiff, South Wales (twice daily). Caernarfon Airport is less than 6 miles away and has a terminal open for private aircraft. Liverpool John Lennon airport is just 90 miles away via the M56, A55 and A487. Manchester airport is 98 miles away via the M56, A55 and A487, approximately one and three-quarter hours' drive.

By rail

The nearest train station is Bangor, with trains from Chester, Crewe, Manchester, London Euston, Cardiff, and Holyhead (connecting to Dublin ferry). From London Euston (Virgin Trains) takes about 3 hours.

By sea

Caernarfon is easily reached from Ireland via the port of Holyhead, and an excellent road network. Take the A55 leaving J9 (first exit after crossing Britannia Bridge) onto A487 then follow signs for Caernarfon onto the A487 for 7 miles. Foot passengers, onward travel is available from Holyhead to Bangor by train and takes 30 minutes, and then Bangor to Caernarfon by bus 20 minutes.

By bus

From London (via Chester) or Cardiff, National Express operates a daily service to Caernarfon, with numerous pick up points along the way.

The town is also served by local bus routes, mainly from other North Wales towns. There are buses every 15 minutes from Bangor (nearest train station) - just check out Arriva Bus route 5. The route takes about 30 minutes, so getting to Caernarfon by public transport is definitely an option.

Local bus companies include Express Motors, Silver Star, KMP Llanberis, Arriva Cymru and Sherpa Buses (for Snowdonia).

Caernarfon's central bus station is called Penllyn.

  • Caernarfon Castle [1], admission £4.90, concessions £4.50, family £15, opens 0930 (except Su in winter 1100), closes 1600 winter, 1700 spring / autumn, 1800 summer, last admission half an hour before closing, closed 24-26 Dec, 1 Jan - an impressive work began in 1283 by England's King Edward I as his planned seat of power in his attempt to subjugate Wales. Like Beaumaris, this castle was quite functional, although never 100% completed.
  • Black Boy Inn [2] - Thought to date back to 1522, it's one of the oldest inns in North Wales. Located in Northgate Street - or 'Stryd Pedwar a Chewch' in Welsh, it is within the medieval town walls, with low-slung black beamed ceilings and walls of up to one and a half metres thick. The Inn is steeped in history, with four Inn signs each showing a 'black buoy' on one side and a 'black boy' on the other.
  • Galeri & Doc Victoria [3][4] - Set alongside the beautiful harbour of Caernarfon, it includes a creative arts centre, a minute or two by foot from the town walls. It has a bar, cafe and restaurant, art exhibition, hosts concerts, films and events and is packed with small arty companies.
  • Segontium [5] - Site of a historic Roman fort.
  • Welsh Language - Caernarfon is probably the best place to see, hear and speak the Welsh language. Over 80% of the population speak Welsh, so it is an ideal place to practice a few sentences or just to soak up the authentic Celtic heritage.
  • Welsh Highland Railway [6] - Caernarfon's the starting point for the Welsh Highland Railway, offering a journey on one of the world's most powerful 2' gauge steam locomotives through the fabulous scenery of the Snowdonia National Park.
  • Walk around the mainly traffic-free streets of the walled town and along the Menai Straits. Guided tours are also available throughout the year by the North Wales Tour Guide Association.
  • Visit Caernarfon Castle
  • Visit Galeri Arts Centre
  • Cycle along the traffic-free routes along the Menai and South almost to Cricieth. Bikes can be hired in Caernarfon from Beics Menai.
  • Gypsy Wood Park [7] - An outdoor attraction well worth a visit on a sunny day. Its a relaxing attraction, with the UK's largest miniature G Scale garden railway and a great family day out for children who love animals.
  • Indoor Karting [8]- If the weather isn't up to much you could always visit the Redline Indoor Karting centre at Cibyn Industrial Estate.
  • Learn Welsh on a residential course at the Nant Gwrtheyrn Language and Heritage Centre, situated in a spectacular coastal location around half an hour's drive from Caernarfon.
  • Caernarfon Golf Club [9] - great place if you fancy a few rounds, with very reasonable green fees.


Caernarfon has some nice independent shops in the pleasant streets of the walled town. Palas Print sells books, music and coffee, with a good Welsh language selection.

There is also a nice small clothes and accessories shop. Na Nog on the square is an option for presents with a local flavour, like childrens clothing with a Welsh theme. For a larger choice of shops, head to Bangor, Llandudno or perhaps Conwy.


There's a decent amount of places to eat within and around the old town walls, in particular the small streets nestled along the western town wall. There are also a few places on the town square.Serving hours can be odd, and without good planning you could end up hungry. However there are still places which serve food allday, including the Black Boy Inn and Anglesey Arms.

  • Black Boy Inn - Popular with both locals and tourists. It has a great locally sourced menu, and won awards for its real ales.
  • Anglesey Arms - Great setting on sunny day, with good hearty food and stunning views of the Menai straights.

Cafes in Caernarfon include:

  • Crempogau-Just Pancakes - friendly service, offering the best pancakes in town!

Takeaways in Caernarfon include:

  • Bella Pizza Offering good, resonably priced pizzas just down the road from the Celtic Royal. Vaguely friendly service.
  • Capital' One of the best Chinese takeaways in Caernarfon.


Drinking is a popular option for nights in Caernarfon. There is a decent selection of small pubs in and around the walls.

  • Black Boy Inn, Northgate Street (LL55 1RW), 01286 673604 (), [10].  edit. Situated within the medieval town walls, very close to the Castle. It is one of oldest Inns in North Wales and has recently been restored to a very high standard. The Inn is well worth a visit, if only to experience its unique character and atmosphere. Bedrooms are of a high quality, each with an en-suite bathroom. The locals' favourite, so it can get very busy. Reservations are strongly recommended.
  • Celtic Royal, Caernarfon, 01286 674477 (), [11].  edit A large hotel in Caernarfon's city centre, it's also one of the more expensive establishments. This fills up in the summer months, so make sure you have reservations beforehand, although you may get lucky. This hotel is also a few blocks outside of the old town walls and a short jaunt away from the castle.

Get Out

A number of World Heritage Sites and stunning castle towns lie less than a few miles drive away from Caernarfon, making it a great base for exploring North Wales:

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


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