In 1282, Edward I, after his victorious second campaign against Llywelyn, took control of the Conwy valley and it was at that time he set about planning the construction of both a castle and a town which would take its name from the nearby Cistercian abbey of Aberconwy. The present parish church of St Mary, in the centre of Conwy, marks the site of the abbey of Aberconwy. The site chosen by Edward for the castle was on the high rocky promontory on the western bank of the Conwy estuary overlooking the river. The proposed location for his stockade was, at the time, occupied by the abbey of the Cistercian monks. In September 1283 the Cistercian order of monks agreed to move eight miles up river to Maenan, which lay on the eastern bank of the river Conwy. King Edward’s master mason, James of St George, was dispatched to Maenan to build the new abbey for the monks and within a year all was completed.
The construction of the castle itself began in 1263 and was managed by James of St George. Approximately 1500 workers were employed in the construction of the castle and the town walls, all of which took six years to complete and cost about £9 million in today’s money.
The views out across the river towards the sea from the battlements and the towers are breathtaking. Looking downwards from the battlements at the roofless shell of the large Great Hall gives one an idea of how life must have been seven hundred years ago.
The chance to walk the circuit of the town walls is ever popular with visitors. The walls which are nine metres high and have a thickness of more than one and a half metres stretch for over three quarter of a mile and are guarded by twenty one towers some of which rise fifteen metres high. In front of the walls on the north and west sides was a ditch. There are three double-towered gates which penetrate the fortification.