Harlech from the beach area; the castle is seen centre-left
|Population||1,447 (2011 Census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament|
Harlech (Welsh pronunciation: [ˈharlɛχ]) is a seaside resort and community in the North Wales county of Gwynedd and formerly in the historic county of Merionethshire. It lies on Tremadog Bay in the Snowdonia National Park. Before 1966, it belonged to the Meirionydd District of the 1974 County of Gwynedd. Its landmark Harlech Castle was begun in 1283 by Edward I of England, captured by Owain Glyndŵr, and in the 1480s, a stronghold of Henry Tudor. Once on a seaside cliff face, it is now half a mile (800 m) inland. New housing has appeared in the low town and in the high town around the shopping street, church and castle. The two are linked by a steep road called "Twtil". Of its 1,447 inhabitants, 51 per cent habitually speak Welsh. The built-up area with Llanfair had a population of 1,762 in the 2001 census, over half of whom lacked Welsh identity, and the electoral ward which includes Talsarnau 1,997 in the 2011 census. The estimate in 2019 was 1,881.
The exact derivation of the name "Harlech" is unclear. Some, mostly older sources derive it from Arddlech, i. e. ardd (high) + llech (rock), referring to the prominent crag on which the castle stands. Recent sources prefer a simpler derivation from the two Welsh words hardd (fair/fine) and llech (slate/rock).
As late as the 19th century some texts referred to "Harddlech" and "Harddlech Castle". This name appears in the mid-19th century translation of the Mabinogion: "And one afternoon he was at Harddlech in Ardudwy, at a court of his. And they were seated upon the rock of Harddlech overlooking the sea." Contemporary documents from the time of the Mabinogion do not mention Harlech, referring only to Llywelyn building his castle "at Ardudwy".
An electoral ward in the same name includes Talsarnau community. The ward population at the 2011 census was 1,997.
Harlech railway station is served by the Cambrian Coast Line. The town contains Ffordd Pen Llech, a street down the rock spur to the north of the castle. It is the steepest signed, public paved road in the United Kingdom and possibly the steepest in the world, but see the section below.
Ysgol Ardudwy is the county secondary school for children aged 11–16. Ysgol Tanycastell is the town's primary school for children aged 3–11. The town was until 2017 the home of Wales's only long-term adult residential college, Coleg Harlech, also known as the "college of second chance". The premises remain in use as part of Adult Learning Wales – Addysg Oedolion Cymru.
Theatr Harlech (formerly Theatr Ardudwy) is located on the Coleg Harlech campus and stages a varied selection of plays, music, and films throughout the year.
Other attractions in Harlech include its beach backed with sand dunes and the Royal Saint David's Golf Club, which hosted its fifth British Ladies Amateur in 2009. The Rhinogydd (or Rhinogs) range of mountains rises to the east.
In 2007, a Lockheed P-38 Lightning (a World War II-era fighter aircraft) was rediscovered on Harlech beach. It has been described as "one of the most important WWII finds in recent history". The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) expressed an interest in salvaging the wreck of the U.S. Army Air Forces plane, known as the Maid of Harlech. However in August 2019, Cadw, the Welsh government's historic environment service, gave the remains scheduled status, making it the first legally designated military aircraft crash site in the UK to be protected for its historic and archaeological interest. The site is also controlled under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. The aircraft came down in September 1942 when it was on a gunnery practice mission. The pilot was Second Lt Robert F Elliott, 24, of Rich Square, North Carolina, who survived the crash, only to be reported missing in action a few months later.
Harlech has a Scout hut, which acts as a base for outdoor recreational activities.
In birth order: