Every Saturday (plus Mon May-Sept), a market is held in Castle Square, where there's a statue of David Lloyd George, prime minister of Great Britain between 1916 and 1922, who is generally credited, along with King George V, for leading the United Kingdom through the rigors of World War I. He's also credited with introducing what's defined today as Britain's national healthcare system. Born in Manchester, he was reared on the nearby Lleyn Peninsula and was later instrumental in preserving the remnants of the town's famous castle.
The nearest thing Wales ever had to a royal palace is Caernarfon Castle, described by Dr. Samuel Johnson after a visit in 1774 as "an edifice of stupendous majesty and strength." Legend has it that after the birth, in 1301, of the son of Edward I in this castle, he showed the infant boy to the Welsh, calling him "the native-born prince who can speak no English." Since that time, the title "Prince of Wales" has belonged to every male heir-apparent to the English throne. The eyes of the world were on Caernarfon in 1969, when it was the scene of the investiture of Charles as prince of Wales.
The castle is open to visitors. Although in some places only the shell of the wall remains, some rooms and stone and wooden steps remain so that you can climb up into it. Eagle Tower has an exhibition on the ground floor showing the history of the fortress and of the town around it. In the northeast are exhibits on the princes of Wales. You can also visit the Regimental Museum of the Royal Welch Fusiliers (the regiment retains the Old English spelling of the word Welsh), which occupies all three floors of Queen's Tower and contains many items of interest relating to the regiment and its military history. In 2000, millions of pounds were spent on the renovation and enlargement of this historic castle, with additional exhibition space for the museum set up within the Chamberlain Tower. It is the castle as a whole that's of interest -- not one special exhibition or hall. Allow 1 1/2 hours.
Between April and October, the castle is open daily from 9am to 5pm. From November to March, it's open Monday to Saturday 9:30am to 4pm and Sunday 11am to 4pm. Admission costs £4.90 for adults and £4.50 for students and children 15 and younger. For more information, call tel. 01286/677617.
Today the town's quays are less animated than they were during the heyday of the region's slate mining, when boats lined up to haul roofing tiles off to points as far away as London, the United States, the mainland of Europe, and India. In the mid-1990s, a full-service marina, with about 60 slips, was built to accommodate the increasing numbers of yachts and pleasure craft that moor here when not in use.
The Romans recognized the strategic importance of northwest Wales and maintained a fort at Segontium for some 3 centuries. Excavations on the outskirts of Caernarfon on the A4085 have disclosed foundations of barracks, bathhouses, and other structural remains. Finds from the excavations are displayed in the museum (tel. 01286/675625; www.segontium.org.uk) on the site, open year-round Tuesday to Sunday 12:30 to 4:30pm. Admission is free. Some archaeologists and historians think that native Britons may have been displaced from the site, which was one of their strongholds at the time of the Roman invasion. There are no outstanding relics here; allow about 30 minutes to walk about.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.