Harlech Castle in northern Wales will soon be receiving new interpretation, presentation and visitor facilities, following the acquisition of the town’s Castle Hotel and car park by Cadw, the Welsh Assembly Government’s historic environment service. The move was made to maintain access to the castle and to provide the castle with a much needed new visitor centre and improved visitor facilities. It will deliver a vastly improved sense of arrival befitting a World Heritage site. Both the hotel and car park are adjacent to the entrance of Harlech Castle.
The ground floor of the former hotel will become a visitor centre while the first and second floors of the building will continue to provide accommodation for visitors and provide a regular income stream towards the future upkeep of the facilities.
The purchase of the hotel and car park has been supported by the Welsh Assembly Government’s £19m Heritage Tourism Project (HTP), backed by £8.5m from the European Regional Development Fund. The EU funding will be used specifically to secure the ground floor section of the building as a new visitor centre and Cadw’s ownership of the car park. The HTP seeks to maximise the economic value of heritage through increasing the volume, length and value of visits to Welsh landmarks. The project at Harlech will also provide funding for presentation improvements within the World Heritage site itself.
Marilyn Lewis, Director of Cadw, said, ‘Harlech Castle welcomes more than 90,000 visitors per year and is a World Heritage site of international significance. The acquisition of the hotel now provides Cadw with a suitable structure within which visitors can be properly welcomed to the castle.
‘The Heritage Tourism Project at Harlech will vastly improve the ways we can introduce visitors to the key stories about the history of Harlech and its environs. It also provides an integrated package on which to develop Harlech as a very special heritage destination. This is the first phase of a larger project that will see improvements being made to the facilities within the Castle itself.’
Heritage Minister, Alun Ffred Jones, said: ‘I am pleased that Cadw, through the Heritage Tourism Project, has been able to secure a long term solution for visitor access and interpretation improvements at Harlech Castle and give the town a welcome boost. The Heritage Tourism Project is a vitally important tool as a way of generating imaginative and creative solutions to Wales’s tourism needs.’
Harlech Castle was built by Edward I during his conquest of Welsh territory in the 1280s. It was the site of several sieges, and served as the defacto capital of an independent Wales between 1404 and 1409 when it was held by Owain Glyndwr.