No medieval or fantasy campaign is complete without a good castle. I find that the more you let the real thing inspire you, the more does your world feel like a real place. No need to follow the plans to the letter, but taking cues from the maps doesn’t hurt. Mimic the thickness of the walls, use the walls for cupboards and storage, add a cistern of holy water. Small details make things seem bigger and more real. Today we’ve dug up some info on Harlech Castle in Wales for you. Works great for a castle to infiltrate, besiege, defend or perhaps… perhaps it is haunted in a modern day setting? Do what you want with this info. Most of the sites linked to in this article have extra content, so be sure to pay each a visit.
Harlech was begun during King Edward I’s second campaign in north Wales. It was part of an “iron ring” of castles surrounding the coastal fringes of Snowdonia, eventually stretching from Flint around to Aberystwyth; a ring intended to prevent the region from ever again becoming a focal point of insurrection and a last bastion of resistance. Following the fall of the Welsh stronghold of Castell y Bere, King Edward’s forces arrived at Harlech in April, 1283, and building work began almost immediately. Over the next six years an army of masons, quarriers, laborers and other craftsmen were busily engaged in construction. In 1286, with the work at its height, nearly 950 men were employed under the superintendence of Master James. The final result was a perfectly concentric castle, where one line of defenses is enclosed by another. Unfortunately, the outer wall is ruinous today and fails to convey the true 13th-century effect.The natural strength of the castle rock and cliff face meant that only the east face was open to possible attack. Here the gatehouse still offers an insolent display of power. The gate-passage itself was protected by a succession of no less than seven obstacles, including three portcullises. On either side of the passage were guardrooms, and the upper floors of the gatehouse provided the main private accommodation at Harlech. The first floor must have been for the constable, or governor, who from 1290-93 was none other than Master James himself. The comfortable rooms on the top floor probably served as a suite for visiting dignitaries, including the king.
Shawn Brown have worked on some beautiful maps in his time and both for Paizo and other famous roleplaying publishers. His map of Harlech castle is one of my favourites though. Go to his site here for all four floor plans. For a complete map, you can also visit our friend Randwulf.
The above would be a great handout!
For more info and pictures of the castle, check out The Castle Wales website.