Welsh Castles: Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle is located at Harlech, in Gwynedd, North Wales.

The mediaeval fortress was constructed by King Edward I towards the end of the thirteenth century, as part of his ‘Iron Ring’ of castles, built around North Wales to subdue and conquer the Welsh.

The castle was built on the top of a cliff, close to the Irish sea, and was virtually impregnable. The sea originally came much closer to Harlech than in modern times, and a water-gate and a long flight of steps leads down from the castle to the former shore, which allowed the castle to be resupplied by sea during sieges.

Along with Caernarfon Castle, Conwy Castle and Beaumaris Castle, this monument has been part of the Castles and Town Walls of Edward 1 World Heritage Site since 1986.

The castle ruins are now managed by Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, as a tourist attraction [Cadw is the Welsh verb ‘to protect’].


“Men of Harlech”, the Welsh nation’s unofficial anthem, loved by rugby fans and regimental bands alike, is said to describe the siege which took place here during the War of the Roses, wherein a handful of men held out against a besieging army of thousands.

[Turn up the sound for the best experience.]

There are many versions of “Men of Harlech”, and there is no single accepted English version. The version below was published in 1873.

Verse 1
Men of Harlech, march to glory,
Victory is hov’ring o’er ye,
Bright-eyed freedom stands before ye,
Hear ye not her call?
At your sloth she seems to wonder;
Rend the sluggish bonds asunder,
Let the war-cry’s deaf’ning thunder
Every foe appall.

Echoes loudly waking,
Hill and valley shaking;
‘Till the sound spreads wide around,
The Saxon’s courage breaking;
Your foes on every side assailing,
Forward press with heart unfailing,
‘Till invaders learn with quailing,
Cambria ne’er can yield!

Verse 2
Thou, who noble Cambria wrongest,
Know that freedom’s cause is strongest,
Freedom’s courage lasts the longest,
Ending but with death!
Freedom countless hosts can scatter,
Freedom stoutest mail can shatter,
Freedom thickest walls can batter,
Fate is in her breath.

See, they now are flying!
Dead are heap’d with dying!
Over might hath triumph’d right,
Our land to foes denying;
Upon their soil we never sought them,
Love of conquest hither brought them,
But this lesson we have taught them,
“Cambria ne’er can yield!”

“Men of Harlech” also had  a prominent role in the 1964 film “Zulu”, although the version of lyrics sung in it were written specially for the film. 

Men of Harlech, stop your dreaming,
Can’t you see their spearpoints gleaming,
See their warrior pennants streaming,
To this battle field!

Men of Harlech stand ye steady,
It can not be ever said ye,
For the battle were not ready,
Welshmen never yield!

From the hills rebounding,
Let this war cry sounding,
Summon all at Cambria’s call,
The mighty force surrounding!

Men of Harlech on to glory,
This will ever be your story,
Keep these burning words before ye,
Welshmen will not yield!

Links to other castles:

Welsh Castles: Caernarfon Castle

Christmas at Chirk Castle

Categories: Castles, North Wales, PhotographyTags: , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Splendid castle-landscape photography, Isabella. 🙂

  2. I love the castles in the UK, there is so much history.

  3. Your compositions are lovely with the flowers and gorgeous blue skies! What a beautiful castle!!

  4. Or like in German “Achtung”?

  5. Beautiful. I didn’t know about the song. Though I do remember the movie vividly… (I was a white boy in Africa. Does ring a bell) How do you pronounce ‘ch’ in Welsh? Is it like in Breton? (Like the Spanish J?)

  6. You always have a great choice of music for your posts. I remember that scene from Zulu.

  7. Some great views of that solid structure!

  8. A wonderful photo journey! Thank you so much. We never made it to Harlech Castle, so must come back and meet up with you at Harlech Castle!

  9. Remarkable images of Harlech Castle. Thank you for the link of Ms. Church’s song! The “Men of Harlech”, wow…

  10. That’s a great looking castle.

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