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Park High School

Park High School

Castles of Wales History Trip

This is the second time we have run the Castles of Wales History Trip for Y9 and Y10 students. This trip is meant to help students studying Castles: Form & Function in their GCSE History to get a better understanding of the range of different castle types.

The trip begins with the long journey from London to the ancient kingdom of Powys-Fadog in Wales. We arrived in the pretty town of Llangollen at about midday and climbed the steep slopes of Dinas Brân which had once been the fortress stronghold of its princes, built by Gruffydd ap Madoc in c.1260 and abandoned by his successor, Madoc II in 1277. The students learnt the story of the castle and why, despite its dramatic appearance, it was very ineffective when faced with a siege.  

The students took part in competition to draw the ruins and how we expected the castle to have looked when it was new. The competition was won by a team led by Zainab who received £10 to share.

After we had got back down the hill we travelled to the kingdom of Gwynedd and visited the Dolwyddelan castle. This castle was a fortress used by Llywelyn the Great, the overlord of all Wales in the late 12th and early 13th Century. The students noted the surviving residential features of the castle and its strategic  position controlling a mountain pass through Eryri (Snowdonia).

We stayed at the Oaklands Residential Centre close to the town of Llanrwst. The students enjoyed chatting to each other in the absence of reliable mobile phone reception or WiFi.

On Saturday we visited two castles which were built on the orders of King Edward I of England. These castles were much larger and more advanced than those native castles constructed by Welsh princes which we had seen on Friday. The students were particularly excited about Conwy and were invited to take part in a photography competition where there would be prizes for the best historic photo and the funniest photo. At lunchtime we all went to the seaside resort of Llandudno.

In the afternoon we travelled to Beaumaris Castle on the beautiful island of Môn (Anglesey). The weather was incredibly good and the Menai Straits were particularly beautiful. On the way back we drove across the Llanberis Pass and the picturesque Dyffryn Mymbyr. That evening we stayed again at Oaklands and the winners of the photographic competition were Alessia, for a good image of the ovens at Beaumaris Castle and Frotan for his amusing picture of Mr. Frankcom and Arash.

On the last day we drove back across the Milltir Cerig mountain pass and into the ancient realm of Powys-Wenwynwyn (Lower Powys) to visit Powis Castle – the seat of the princes and later earls of Powys, near Welshpool. This castle is still in use and is filled with beautiful furniture. The students found the connection between the present earls and Clive of India (famous for conquering Bengal and Bihar in 1745) quite fascinating.

We had lunch before visiting the fortified manor at Stokesay in Shropshire. This site has many features in common with other castles – such as walls, a moat, a keep and a gatehouse – but in appearance is very different to the castles we had seen before. The structure of the roof of the surviving Great Hall is of particular interest to those studying prestige features of castles.

More photos from the Trip can be found here.

Address Park High School, Thistlecroft Gardens, Stanmore, Middlesex HA7 1PL

Headteacher Mr Emlyn Lumley

Phone 0208 952 2803

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