Guides to Caernarfon Castle


The first official H.M. Office of Works guide to Caernarfon Castle was prepared by Sir Charles Peers, Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments, in 1929. This was based on his article on the castle in The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1915/16).

My 1933 edition cost 6d, and there are three main sections: Introduction (pp. 5-7), History of the Castle (pp. 8-15), and Description (pp. 16-39). There is a foldout plan inside the back cover (with north to the bottom).


This was replaced in 1953 by a Ministry of Works new guide by A.J. Taylor, Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Wales. The cost was 1s 6d. Although the front cover clearly states Caernarvon Castle, the title page expands to Caernarvon Castle and Town Wall.

The structure is much changed from Peers’ edition. It starts with ‘History and periods of building’ (pp. 3-18), followed by a description (pp. 19-35) in the parts, ‘Siting and Plan’, ‘The Castle’, and ‘The Town Wall’. There is a short glossary (pp. 36-37). There is a foldout map of the town inside the back cover, and a plan of the castle inside the guide (with north to the top).

There is advice on getting to Caernarfon: ‘Caernarvon station is on a branch line from Bangor; during the summer season there are through carriages from London (Euston), via Rugby, Crewe and Chester. There are also direct rail services from Liverpool and Manchester.’

Entry to the castle was 6d for adults, and 3d for children (under 14).


Taylor’s 1953 guide was reprinted as a ‘blue’ Ministry of Works guide in 1960. The price is 2s. Note that the cover has been changed to include the ‘Town Walls’ (and the plural is now used). The text is essentially the same as the 1953 edition, and there is a foldout map of the town inside the cover.

Entry to the castle is now 1s for adults, and 6d for children (under 14).

Caernarvon Castle

A souvenir guide by Alan Phillips was produced in 1961. The initial edition has a brown cover, but two years later it was changed to red.


Taylor’s 1953 guide continued to appear as a Cadw guide (1986, rev. 1989). The cover uses the Welsh form of Caernarfon, but has dropped the ‘town walls’ (though these appear on the title page). The essential structure remained the same with ‘A history of Caernarfon Castle’ (pp. 2-23), and ‘Tour of the Castle and Town Walls’ (pp. 26-45). A foldout plan of the castle appears inside the back cover.


A large format Cadw guide by Taylor appeared in 2004. The ‘Town Walls’ are mentioned on the title page. Taylor’s structure continues, though there are two distinct tours, one for the castle, and the second for the town walls.

Taylor’s scholarship has passed through 6 editions:

1st: 1953; Cadw: 1986, rev. 1993; 4th: 1997; 5th: 2001; 6th: 2004, rev. 2008.

Taylor’s opening words of 1953 continue in the 1953 edition:

Caernarfon [Caernarvon] is one of the historic centres of Wales, [.] its [Its] remoter past [was] already enshrined in legend when, nearly [just over] seven hundred years ago, an English king chose it to be the seat of a new administration and gave it new fame as the cradle of a line of English princes.

This in itself raises the issue of the cultural identity of this military structure. But it is remarkable that a guidebook has a life of over half a century.

Author: David Gill

David Gill is Honorary Professor in the Centre for Heritage at the University of Kent, and Honorary Research Fellow in the School of History and an Academic Associate in SISJAC at UEA; Professor of Archaeological Heritage.

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