Rhuddlan is at a key crossing point of the River Clwyd. It was the power base of the Welsh kings who carried out raids across the border into England. The Normans stamped their authority on the area by building a motte and bailey castle, Twt Hill, to the south east of the present castle. Edward I replaced this with a stone built castle during his suppression of Wales at the end of the 13thC.
Begun in 1277 this was the first of the concentric castles to be designed by James of St George, with massive gatehouse and walls. The river was straightened and dredged forming a three mile long deep water channel from the sea at Rhyl. This allowed ships to sail up to the base of the castle, allowing the castle to be provisioned even if besieged.
Edward I used the castle as his base. His eighth daughter was born here and his wife, Queen Eleanor, laid out lawns in the central area with a small fishpond.
Rhuddlan Castle occupies an important place in the history of Wales as the Statute of Rhuddlan was signed here in 1284, following the defeat of Llewellyn the Last. It ceded all the lands of the former Welsh Princes to the English Crown and introduced English common law.
In 1294 the castle was attacked during the Welsh rising of Madog ap Llywelyn but was not taken. It was attacked again by forces of Owain Glynd?r in 1400. This time the town was badly damaged but the castle held out. In the latter 15th and early 16th centuries the castle's condition deteriorated as its strategic and administrative importance waned.
Rhuddlan Castle was again garrisoned by Royalist troops during the English Civil War. It was taken by Parliamentary forces after a siege in 1646. The Parliamentarians partially demolished the castle to prevent any further military use.
Although in ruins, Rhuddlan Castle is still a splendid site, set above the river at the edge of the present town. It is a diamond shape castle, not a circle. An outer wall round a dry ditch protects the inner walls of the castle. The ashlar was removed from the base of the towers by Cromwell’s troops to weaken the walls. Entry is through the massive double towered gatehouse into the inner ward. This has a well in the centre and the remains of the foundations of buildings inside the walls. Opposite the main gatehouse is a small gateway with two towers and portcullis grooves which leads to the outside of he castle. From here you can walk round the castle to the now dry dock used to unload ships, protected by the small square Gillot’s tower.
Spiral staircases with modern handrails give access to the base of the towers and also up onto the wall walk.
In some ways, there isn’t a lot to see inside the castle. it is more impressive from the outside. It is a lovely spot to drop out in the sunshine. The only downside is the traffic noise from the A55.
There is a small car park by the ticket office which has a small shop and also sells hot drinks. There was no herbal tea, so I produced a tea bag and asked for a cup of hot water. I was charged £1 as the custodian ‘had to account for the cups used’.
There is disabled parking by the ticket office which is accessible. Disabled visitors and carers are admitted free. There is good disabled access into the castle and around the outside, although towers are inaccessible. (You don’t miss much not being able to do this.) There is a disabled toilet. Dogs are allowed.