Flint is a small, industrial town, nestling on the Dee estuary. Only about ten minutes drive into Wales, many hundreds of tourists pass straight through Flint as they travel the “coast road” route into North Wales. The main road through Flint gives no clues that Flint is anything other than functional.
The traveller might notice the attractive Town Hall building in the centre, and perhaps the railway station behind. Who would ever think this town has an ancient ruined castle? Or that it was once so important to King Edward the 1st. It is well worth taking a detour to the far side of the railway line. Flint castle lies right on the mudflats of the River Dee. When the castle was built, the tidal waters would surround the castle at high tide, filling the moat. Today, the estuary is slowly silting up, but on high tides, the waters still occasionally reach the castle, recreating scenes from some 800 years ago.
Construction of the Castle began in 1277 by Richard L’Engenour of Gascony, with the help of some 1800 masons and labourers. The castle is constructed of local sandstone. Visitors to the castle today can clearly see many details of it’s construction. Particularly noticeable is the large, round tower right next to the main entrance. The correct name for the tower is a “donjon”. The tower formed the Keep of the castle as well as being one of the corner towers. Completely separate from the main castle building, the donjon was accessed by a drawbridge across the moat. This donjon is a unique feature of castles in the UK, being based on a design found in France. Chateau de Dourdan in Départment of Essonne and the strikingly similar Château de Neslesis in Picardie are both great examples of French castles constructed with a donjon.
Flint Castle was the first of a chain of castles built by Edward the 1st which would later become known as Edward’s Iron Ring. The fortresses were designed to encircle North Wales and oppress the Welsh. The location of the castle was key to Flint Castle being the most important part of the whole chain. When the Flint Castle was originally built, the Dee Estuary was quite different to how it is today. At low tide, it was possible to walk across to the Wirral. Access could also be gained easily to Chester along the River Dee and to the open seas. Chester was also only an one day march away by land.
Through the years, Flint Castle certainly saw action, being besieged and attacked several times, right through to it’s capture during the English Civil War. In 1647, Oliver Cromwell gave instructions that Flint Castle was to be destroyed such that it would never be able to be used in the Civil War again. The remains that we see today are little changed since the castle’s destruction. Sufficient remains though, to keep the biggest of kids enthralled for an hour or so exploring the towers. Most of the towers remains fairly intact, with staircases and passageways to be discovered.
It’s certainly possible to capture the scale of the original buildings and the information boards give concise accounts of the Castle’s story and original layout.
Flint Castle is often at first unfamiliar to most people. However, the castle does feature in important works of literature and art. The castle is mentioned in William Shakespeare’s play “King Richard the Second”. In 1399, Richard was held at Flint Castle before being returned to England by Henry Bolingbroke.
The English landscape artist, Joseph Mallord William Turner featured Flint Castle in his 1838 watercolour which now hangs in the Tate Britain. Turner is often known as “The painter of light” and we can see why in his sunrise depiction of Flint Castle. If you follow round the castle, towards the tree covered hillock, you will find the view very similar to the original.
A pleasant place to enjoy a picnic, but don’t expect to find golden sands. The castle is now in the care of CADW and best of all, entry is free of charge during daylight hours, every day of the year. The Wales Coastal Path passes right next to Flint Castle. Sat Nav postcode to put you by the main car park (Free when we visited) is CH6 5PE
I got high at Flint Castle! A new viewing platform has been installed in one of the towers. Read all about it here….