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Harlech as viewed from the beach area, the Castle is located centre-left
|Harlech shown within Gwynedd|
|Population||1,447 (2011 Census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
Harlech (Welsh pronunciation: [ˈharlɛx]) is a town and seaside resort in Gwynedd, within the historic boundaries of Merionethshire in northwest Wales. Lying on Tremadog Bay in the centremost part of Gwynedd and within the Snowdonia National Park, it has a population of 1,447, of whom 51 per cent speak Welsh. The town is 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 Glyndŵr, and later the stronghold of Henry Tudor. The castle was 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".
The exact derivation of the name "Harlech" is unclear. Some mostly older sources claim that it derives from Arddlech, i.e. ardd (high) + llech (rock), referring to the prominent crag on which the castle stands. More recent sources tend to go for 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".
The town's railway station is served by the Cambrian Coast Line. It also contains Ffordd Pen Llech, a street which descends the rock spur to the north of the castle, and has the steepest signed gradient on a public road in the United Kingdom.
The town is also the home of Wales's only long-term adult residential college, Coleg Harlech, also known as the "college of second chance".
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 famous 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.
A World War II-era fighter aircraft was found on Harlech beach in 2007. The discovery of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning has been described as "one of the most important WWII finds in recent history". The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) is not divulging the precise location of the U.S. Army Air Forces plane, known as the Maid of Harlech, but hope eventually to salvage the wreck.
In traditional and popular culture
- In the second branch of the Mabinogi ("Branwen, Daughter of Llŷr"), Harlech is the seat of Bendigeidfran, Branwen's brother and king of the Isle of the Mighty.
- The song Men of Harlech is traditionally said to describe events during the seven-year siege of the castle in 1461–68.
- Mari Strachan's 2009 novel The Earth Hums in B Flat is set in Harlech in the 1950s.
- ITV Wales & West (formerly known as HTV/Harlech Television)
- Owain Glyndŵr (c. 1359 – c. 1415) – Welsh Rebellion leader and the last Welshman to claim the title Prince of Wales
- Ellis Wynne (1671–1734) – Welsh-language author
- George Davison (1854–1930) – photographer
- Elinor Lyon (1921–2008) – children's writer
- Alfred Perceval Graves (1846–1931) – poet, bard and songwriter. He and a large family, including his son the poet Robert Graves, spent summers at a large house, "Erinfa", north-east of Harlech.
- "Town population and welsh speakers". Retrieved 2015-05-16.
- Memoirs of Owen Glendower, (Owain Glyndwr): with a sketch of the history of the ancient Britons, from the conquest of Wales by Edward the First, to the present time, illustrated with various notes, genealogical & topographical at Google Books
- Planet geography, p. 207, at Google Books
- Probably from the English 'Toothill', meaning "look-out hill".
- Notices Illustrative of Cambrian History and Antiquities, The New Monthly Magazine, Volume 10 - Page 307, 1818.
- The Celtic Review: Volumes 9–10, Donald MacKinnon, E. C. Carmichael Watson, 1975.
- Anthony David Mills: Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names (Oxford: OUP, 1991).
- The History of the Princes, the Lords Marcher, and the Ancient Nobility of Powys Fadog, and the Ancient Lords of Arwystli, Cedewen, and Meirionydd :Volume 6, Jacob Youde William Lloyd, 1887.
- The Poetical Works of Lewis Glyn Cothi: A celebrated bard, p. 21, Lewis Glyn Cothi, 1837.
- Thomas Jones: Brut y Tywysogion/Chronicle of the Princes, Red Book of Hergest (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1955).
- "Ward population 2011". Retrieved 16 May 2015.
- Charity hopes to lift World War II fighter plane from sea at walesonline.co.uk
- Patrick K. Ford, The Mabinogi and other Medieval Welsh Tales (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), pp. 57–72.
- The Oxford Companion to British History (Oxford: OUP, 1997) p. 454; Matthew Bennett: Dictionary of Ancient & Medieval Warfare (2001).
- "What the blogs say about The Earth Hums in B Flat" at maristrachan.info
- R. P. Graves: Robert Graves: The assault heroic, Biography 1895–1926, p. 67.
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|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Harlech.|