This article was written by leading food and travel journalist, Angela Youngman.
A surge in visitors has resulted following the conclusion of a £6m project to refurbish Harlech Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Visitor numbers have risen by 35%, causing income to the site to rise by 69%. Sales at the refurbished shop have experienced a massive increase of 439%. Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure revealed the extent of the success story when opening a new Education Resource Centre.
The renovation of Harlech Castle was undertaken by Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, with funding from the Heritage Tourism Project (HTP). The Heritage Tourism Project aims to enhance and improve visitor experiences so as to attract more visitors to Welsh heritage site. At Harlech, the key problem had been access to the castle itself. A key feature of the improvements was the creation of a ‘floating footbridge’ allowing visitors to enter via the original thirteenth century main entrance. This is the first time that visitors have been able to do so for over 600 years.
Another major feature of the project was the refurbishment of the former Harlech Castle Hotel which faced the castle across the car park. The ground floor of the hotel was transformed into a visitor centre, shop, café, toilets and interpretation area. The rooms above were turned into high quality luxury holiday accommodation managed by Menai Holiday Cottages. The apartments enjoy magnificent views of the Castle, Cardigan Bay and Snowdonia. Every booking made for the apartments receives a CADW Explorer Pass giving access to the castles of North Wales.
Mr Skates says;
“The aim of this project was to better present the castle’s history and improve its visitor offer to create a first-class heritage attraction to reflect its World Heritage Site status. The redevelopment has established Harlech as a year-round, all-weather destination.”