Beaumaris Castle Through The Ages
Welcome to Wales – a destination where the stories are as wild as the landscapes and the past is never really the past, especially when it comes to the castles.
Speaking of castles, let’s chat about one of the most notorious haunted locations among Welsh castles, Beaumaris Castle. Perched on the Isle of Anglesey, the castle is a marvel of medieval architecture… with a dark storied past.
The early days
Beaumaris Castle’s story starts in a coastal village, which was once a vital port bustling with sailors and raiders. Back in the day, Vikings made this place their home, dubbing it Portho y Wygyr. However, when the 1070s rolled around, the Vikings made their exit, leaving the land to be fought over by the English and the Welsh.
A Cold War and king’s intervention
The tension in the area was tangible, a silent stand-off lasting two centuries until Edward I, the King of England, decided to step in. He brought a massive army to north Wales, which didn’t bode well for the locals.
Edward I, feeling pretty good about his win, decided to put down roots and started building Beaumaris Castle to keep any rebellious Welsh in check.
The birth of Beaumaris Castle
Edward I took full advantage of a blank canvas on the Isle of Anglesey: the ‘beaux-marais’ or ‘fair marsh’ – built as part of Edward I’s ‘Iron Ring’ of North Wales castles.
Even though Beaumaris Castle was meant to be a statement of power, it was never actually finished. In 1298, funds ran out, skirmishes in Gascony and Scotland took priority, and the castle was left as an impressive, yet incomplete, fortress. The castle’s south gatehouse and six towers in the inner ward never reached their full height.
Wales fights back
Now, the Welsh weren’t just going to sit back and let King Edward have his way. Leaders like Madog ap Llywelyn and Owain Glyndwr stirred the pot, leading revolts and laying siege to the castle.
Madog’s rebellion saw a lot of bloodshed, but ultimately, the castle’s defences were strengthened. Owain’s rebellion, on the other hand, was a very drawn-out siege, lasting three years. Eventually, the castle fell into Welsh hands.
The Civil War
Yup, Beaumaris Castle’s history of conflict and bloodshed continues! When the Civil War hit, Beaumaris Castle once again found itself in the thick of it. This time, the castle was essential for the Royal forces. It helped control routes between Ireland and England until 1648 when the war finally came to a close.
Beaumaris Castle today
Finally, the war drums have stopped. Today, the Castle is celebrated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Grade I-listed building.
But even though the battles and revolts seem like distant memories, the castle still has ghostly echoes of its past…
The Ghosts and Haunted Happenings
- The Chapel – The chapel tower at Beaumaris Castle might seem like a quiet little corner, but don’t let that fool you. Visitors have reported hearing the sounds of monks praying and chanting. It comes out of nowhere and then suddenly disappears, like a quick whisper.
Some lucky ghost hunters have even managed to catch these mysterious sounds on tape. And if that’s not enough, visitors have also reported a bone-chilling cold that quickly sweeps through the chapel.
- The Ghostly Garrison – Moving to the castle walls, some say the spirits of ancient soldiers and knights still roam. These spectral figures, clad in medieval armour, have been spotted doing their rounds, keeping an eye on the castle just like in the early days. It seems like some habits really do die hard.
- Unexplained Noises – As you wander through the Castle, don’t be surprised if you hear footsteps trailing behind you, or the soft knocking on the castle’s stone walls. These unexplained sounds have baffled both visitors and staff, with many speculating that the past is still around.
- Phantom Prisoners – Finally, we make our way to the dungeons. Given all the battles and sieges Beaumaris Castle has seen, it’s no surprise that there are tales of prisoners’ spirits lingering in the dungeons. Some visitors have reported shadowy figures in the dark corners of the castle’s lower levels.
The Hauntingly Beautiful Architecture of the Castle
Perched on Castle Street, Beaumaris Castle is a stunning sight, despite being an unfinished medieval castle. It’s kind of like a snapshot from medieval times, showing us just how grand it could have been.
Constructed with stones found nearby, the castle has a moated outer ward protected by 12 towers and two gatehouses. The inner ward is especially striking in its size, covering about 3/4 of an acre and surrounded by six towers and two grand gatehouses. Plans for lavish living spaces were clear, much like those at Harlech Castle.
A unique feature of Beaumaris is its south gate, which is right by the water. This made it possible to supply the castle directly by sea. Today, you can still see about two-thirds of the original castle moat. The north gate was intended to look similar, but work on it was far less advanced.
For an attacker to even reach the heart of the castle, they would have to face 11 challenges, including what has been described as “murder holes”, three portcullises, and several sets of doors. It would have been a daunting journey, with attackers caught between the inner and outer walls with little chance of survival.
Today, the castle is celebrated as part of the Castles and Town Walls of Edward I.
A Haunted Neighbour: Beaumaris Gaol
Located just a stone’s throw away from Beaumaris Castle lies the imposing Beaumaris Gaol – a grim, stout-walled jail that holds a reputation as one of the UK’s most notorious and haunted prisons.
Built back in the 19th century for those convicted of serious crimes, stories started to spread about hauntings and ghostly encounters over time.
Many prisoners claimed that after the lights went out, they could hear the anguished screams and cries of those subjected to harsh punishments. By day, visitors have reported sightings of guards pacing through the prison.
Of course, every haunted place has its star ghost – for Beaumaris Gaol, it’s “The Executioner.” Eyewitnesses at the time swear that the Executioner’s spirit continues to linger, unable to find peace.
Can I explore Beaumaris Castle?
Yes, you can! From the outside, you might only catch a glimpse of its grandeur, but once you step inside, a world of medieval wonder awaits. You can meander through the old passages, spend time in the inner keep, and even ascend the gatehouse tower.
Can I explore Beaumaris Gaol?
Absolutely! It’s open to the public, and there are even ghost tours for those who want the chance to experience the prison’s eerie atmosphere and possibly encounter some of its spectral residents.
Where can I go ghost-hunting in the North East?
There are numerous ghost-hunting sports in the North East, there’s Chillingham Castle, Newcastle Castle, Preston Hall and Durham Castle.
Where can I go ghost-hunting in Wales?
There are many ghost-hunting spots in Wales, there’s Skirrid Mountain Inn, Craig-y-nos Castle, Llancaiach Fawr Manor, Ruthin Gaol.
It’s hard not to be drawn by the ghostly stories and haunted medieval castles of Wales, and Beaumaris Castle stands as an intriguing example. The castle’s incomplete yet impressive structure, alongside its chilling tales of lingering spirits, makes it a must-visit for curious (and brave) souls.