Harlech is a town and seaside resort in Gwynedd, within the historical boundaries of Merionethshire in northwest Wales. Lying on Tremadog Bay and within the Snowdonia National Park, it has a population of 1,952, of whom 59% speak Welsh. The town is located in the unitary authority of Gwynedd which was formed in 1996, from 1974 to 1996 it was in the Meirionydd District of the 1974 County of Gwynedd, and before 1974 it was in the historic county of Merionethshire.
The town is best known for the landmark Harlech Castle, begun in 1283 by Edward I of England, captured by Owain Glyndwr, and later the stronghold of Henry Tudor. The castle was originally built next to the sea, but geological processes have changed the shape of the coastline, and the castle now lies on a cliff face, about half a mile (800 m) inland. The town has since developed with housing estates on the flat low town area and hillside properties in the high town around the shopping street, church, and castle. The two areas are linked by a steep and winding road called "Twtil".
Harlech also plays a role in Medieval Welsh mythological literature. In the second branch of the Mabinogi "Branwen, Daughter of Llwr," Harlech is the seat of Bendigeidfran, Branwen's brother and king of the "Isle of the Mighty." Towards the ending of the tale, the seven survivors of the war between the Irish and the Welsh are requested by the wounded Bendigeidfran to have his head cut off and carried to Gwynfryn in London. As instructed the seven men first return to Harlech and feast for seven years, entertained by the three birds of Rhiannon, and later spend another eighty years at Gwales. The otherworldly feasting at Harlech and Gwales, with boundless supply of food and drink, heavenly music, and the absence of grief and sorrow, is known in the early Welsh tradition as "The Assembly of the Noble Head."
Local authority: Gwynedd Council
OS Grid Reference: SH583312
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