Bringing history to life at Caernarfon Castle

Thursday 02 July 2015

A partnership project in Caernarfon aimed at maximising the economic benefits of heritage tourism by building on the town’s internationally important natural, cultural and heritage assets continues to progress, with works at Caernarfon Castle recently completed.

Picture of the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Ken Skates at Caernarfon Castle

Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Ken Skates at Caernarfon Castle

A £780,000 project to transform the presentation, interpretation and facilities at the castle in the care of the Welsh Government, which is one of Wales’s top tourist attractions and forms part of a World Heritage Site, will offer visitors the opportunity to explore the incredible monument’s history in exciting new ways.

Improvements include a new, transparent entrance, designed to welcome visitors whilst carefully respecting the castle’s historic features, and improved interpretation throughout the site. Four new installations have been introduced, educating visitors on the different aspects of the castle’s history in a creative and engaging way:

• The ‘Games of Crowns’ exhibition is a ‘life-size chess board’, with sculptures of the main protagonists competing to control Wales from 1066 to 1282. The exhibition explains the origins of the Welsh princes, from the pillar of Eliseg through to the latter day princes of Wales, as well as the seat and kneeler used in the 1969 investiture.

• The ‘Life of Eleanor of Castile’ exhibition showcases the eight phases of Edward I’s wife’s life through a ‘Victorian’ style carousel. Although each phase looks like the romantic ideal of a medieval noblewoman’s life, the written elements reveal the sometimes harsh experiences that a woman of power had to endure.

• The ‘Legends’ exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to look ‘inside’ Edward I’s head and discover his appropriation of Welsh myths and legends to underpin his claim to be the ruler of Wales. It also explains the symbolism behind Edward’s choice to build at Caernarfon, and why the castle was built in this way.

• A new audio visual presentation has also been installed, showing an eight minute film detailing the history of Caernarfon. The film was created by world renowned digital projection artist Ross Ashton.

The project has also seen new interpretation panels explaining significant features around the castle, new signage for the Museum of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the creation of a new family activity trail to help families explore the castle.

The work at Caernarfon Castle has been funded through the £19 million Heritage Tourism Project (HTP), which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

The improvements to the castle are part of a wider, innovative, heritage led regeneration programme that aims to unlock some of the key areas of decline on Caernarfon’s waterfront.

The programme was established in 2012 and is led by a strong partnership which consists of a number of organisations including the Welsh Government, Gwynedd Council, Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway, Caernarfon Harbour Trust, Antur Waunfawr, Galeri Cyf, GISDA, Caernarfon Town Council, Arts Council for Wales and others. The current programme of activity has also seen a three year £1m Welsh Government investment through the Vibrant and Viable Places Tackling Poverty Grant.

Through such funding the programme aims to safeguard the heritage of the area and return its buildings to productive and sustainable use, whilst engaging local people in apprenticeship, training, learning and volunteering activities, leading to new and sustainable jobs.

The heritage sector and heritage tourism is known to be a significant economic driver in Gwynedd. A recent study has outlined that in 2014 the heritage economy in Gwynedd employed over 8,000 people, representing 15% of all employment in the county, and generated a £515m turnover and £180m in GVA, representing 6.2% of the Gwynedd GVA total.

Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism said: “The improvements to the facilities at Caernarfon Castle will make a real impact to the visitor experience, and I’m delighted to see the powerful stories of this important place told in new and creative ways.

“Caernarfon has a rich and remarkable history, and as a result heritage tourism makes a significant contribution to the town’s economy. The Caernarfon Waterfront Programme is an excellent example of the Welsh Government and key local and national partners working together to achieve a common objective in terms of improving and enhancing the heritage tourism offer, to maximise the opportunities heritage can offer to strengthen our economy.”

Welcoming the recent investment at Caernarfon Castle, Councillor Mandy Williams-Davies, Gwynedd Council’s Cabinet Member for the Economy, said: “This investment in such an iconic landmark, which is of course part of a World Heritage Site of local and international significance, will help enhance the visitor experience at Caernarfon Castle and improve the interpretation of our rich heritage, including the story of the Welsh Princes.

“Gwynedd Council has worked closely with Cadw and other partners over a number of years to improve Caernarfon as a visitor destination and is already developing exciting proposals for the future.

“This project is another step towards our aim of building on our unique cultural and environmental assets to develop world class destinations, which will benefit local communities and businesses as well as visitors to the area.”