Flint Castle – Welsh Fortress of The Dee Estuary

It was time to take a road trip of some remarkable Welsh castles of Edward I that are located throughout North Wales. A fantastic journey of history, sights and learning.

There was no better place to start than one of the first Edward I built in Wales, Flint Castle. Not too far from the English border and a fortress that helped the medieval King on his way to encircling the rebellious Welsh of the time.

When you see it, even as a ruin it is plainly a unique design for an English castle. When you step foot here you step where history and even Shakespeare plays have been influenced.

Cadw flint castle tower

Flint Castle - A Fortress of The Dee Estuary 1

Why Was It Built?

For the Normans, after the conquests of the 11th Century, the Welsh were definitely a hard nut to crack for the English rulers.

Things came to head when Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last King of Wales, well actually the first ruler of a full Wales, did not want to conform with Edward I of England.

So the English King, Edward I, began the Welsh Conquests and started building a ring of castles in Wales with Flint being one of the first.

Situated only a day’s march from Chester, with access from sea plus by foot from over the estuary on a good tide, Flint made a perfect spot to start. Work began on the castle in 1277.

Flint castle tower

Work was finished in 1286. Nearly 2000 English labourers had been used in the construction and at a cost that would relate to at least 5 million pounds today. It shows how much the castle meant to them at the time.

This castle was a very important step for Edward I on his way to building many more throughout North Wales, The Iron Ring as it was called, to keep the locals quiet, protect England and as a springboard into Wales.

Design

The design of the castle is unique in Britain. Square with towers on each corner with a great isolated keep (Donjon) protecting the gatehouse.

Don’t be fooled by the low unassuming ruins in the low marshes, far from looking like others by Edward I eg Caernarfon and Harlech castles.

flint castle and towers seafront on the marsh

From the car park to the castle ruins you are not just walking over a grassy field, this is actually where the outer bailey once stood.

This outer bailey has only just reappeared to be seen in recent times. For many years it was hidden. From 1785 to 1880 this is where the County Jail stood. Then until 1969 it was the Headquarters of the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

We also have to remember that throughout the nearly 1000 years since the castle was built that the geography has changed here. The tidal waters from the estuary would have come up and encircled most of the castle and even the road that leads up to the castle would have been a tidal moat.

castle walls and outer bailey

The design and effect would have been so different to how we would imagine today.

Historic Moments

Flint Castle has had its share of moments in history, not just in sieges and battles.

Abdication of Richard II

In 1399, Richard II was King, but not for long. He had been abducted at Conwy Castle by his competitor to the throne, and cousin in exile, Henry Bolingbroke.

Richard was brought to Flint Castle to have negotiations with Henry and thus Richard abdicated, before being sent to London, then Pontefract Castle to die (more likely starved to death).

Shakespeare Play

These events are used in the Shakespeare play The Tragedy of King Richard II. Take a look at Act 3, scene 3 and that fateful meeting between Richard and Henry, at Flint Castle, is told through the playwrights eyes.

Civil War

During the Civil War it was a Royalist stronghold for the most part of the war. The Parliamentarians laid siege to it and captured it in 1647.

This was the time it really became a ruin. Cromwell decided it should be destroyed. We are lucky to have what we have to see today.

flint ruins

Walks from the castle

From the castle you can take the coastal path along the side of the Dee Estuary.

Looking back at the castle you can see how it dominates the area, plus you get remarkable views across the Dee Estuary to the English side.

The Wirral just across the tidal sands of the estuary. The Wirral is another lovely area to walk.

looking across the Dee Estuary to the wirrall
looking across the estuary to England

Conclusion

If you are spending time in the Chester or North Wales area there is no excuse not to visit, discover, enjoy and learn here!

castle ruins and the estuary

I often now stop by here when going into North Wales. As far as historic attractions go I find Flint Castle to be very quiet, very accessible and lovely for a walk.

welsh flag flying at flint castle

Oh and another great bonus. Everything is free. There is no admission fee to explore Flint Castle. Plenty of free parking too in a dedicated car park.

Further Reading:

Beaumaris Castle – The Unfinished Masterpiece of Anglesey

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