Harlech is a very attractive seaside town that boasts award winning beaches, many interesting shops and a vibrant arts and crafts scene but it is chiefly known for its castle. Harlech Castle is the towering medieval fortification which rises from the cliff face and affords visitors breath taking views over the sea and Snowdonia.
During the War of the Roses the castle was held for the Lancastrians until it was taken for the Yorkists by Lord Herbert of Raglan. It was this long siege which gave rise to the popular Welsh air 'Men of Harlech'
Harlech Castle was built in 1283 by Edward I and is widely recognised as one the very best examples of medieval defence architecture, a status acknowledged by its designation as a Unesco World Heritage site.
The castle was originally built as part of the 'iron ring' of castles intended to restrict the welsh people to their Snowdownian stronghold but ironically it was later taken by Owain Glyndwr (the last Welshman to claim the title of 'Prince of Wales') and played host to his coronation and subsequent parliament. It is due to the quality of the original architecture, which is tremendously well preserved, that the castle was able to play such a pivotal role in British history.
The castle and the town also feature prominently in the Mabinogi (a collection of Welsh myth and folklore) where it is remembered for its association with the legend of Princess Branwen.
The Mabinogi paints Harlech as a place of 'otherwordly feasting' at which grief and sorrow are always absent and today the town strives to live up to its mythic hospitality with an impressive choice of restaurants and regular music and arts festivals.
Another major attraction is the Royal St. David's Golf Club which is one of the finest 18 hole courses in Britain. Harlech also provided Mari Strachan with the setting for her 2009 novel The Earth Hums in B Flat, whilst the Men of Harlech has gained international fame due to its starring role in the 1964 film Zulu and by its popularity with Welsh rugby fans.
Harlech has a railway station on the Cambrian Coast line from Machynlleth to Pwllheli.