Imagine, if you will, that you are on the run from zombies. The world has gone to hell, you are with a group of survivors and you need to find a place to hole up. Somewhere defensible, somewhere safe from the clawing hands and the bared, blood covered teeth of the undead hordes. Then you come across a castle.
But not just any castle. Conwy Castle, with its intact walls and towers, and an accompanying town that has its own defensive walls - again, still intact - and one of the few places in Europe that hasn't lost them to the ravages of time.
Nestled in the Welsh hills, on the banks of the River Conwy, the castle and its walled town sits ready to welcome any and all survivors who can get there. Mentioned briefly in Max Brooks' blockbuster novel, World War Z, it's one of the key locations for my novel, Remember Me Dead. It should be an ideal location for a strong group, with military assistance, to begin the fightback against the undead. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with such a fantastic location like that?
I don't want to drop too many spoilers for anyone who hasn't read the book yet, but I will give you a little tour, and some of its history, because it's too awesome not to.
The History Bit
Conwy Castle was built between 1283 and 1289 by King Edward I as part of his campaign to subdue the rebellious Welsh princes. The King was himself besieged by the Welsh at the castle, but the garrison was easily re-supplied by river, the sea being only half a mile away, and the Welsh failed to take the castle. In later centuries the castle was neglected, as was often the case with these fortresses, with repairs and maintenance falling behind the structure's actual needs. In 1401, the castle was taken in a surprise attack by the Welsh, who tricked the night watchmen to let them in. There probably wasn't much of a garrison there, if at all. The invaders were themselves besieged and held out for three months before surrendering. By the 19th Century, the castle was an empty shell, with one of the towers having partially collapsed, and it was considered a romantic place by poets and painters.
The Post-Apocalyptic Bit
There are many reasons for this castle being an ideal place to fortify during a zombie apocalypse, but I did have to take liberties with reality. The castle, for instance, doesn't have a wooden gate, because it probably rotted away over the centuries and was never replaced. But in my story, it does, because it was easier to trying to explain an alternative. I mentioned two bridges across the river, whereas it actually has three: the road bridge, the rail bridge, and a pedestrian suspension bridge that was built by Thomas Telford, with fake towers to match the castle architecture.
The rail line does, however, run right by the castle walls, as detailed in the story.
The interior of the castle is more or less as described, and yes, most of the towers are hollow, their wooden floors now gone.
And the railway line does enter the town through a Victorian-era arch:
You can explore the whole site from the air in google maps (hopefully embedded below), and I'll throw in some more photos I took at the site. I've visited this site three times with my children, and walked all the walls. If I squint hard enough, I can just about picture the light falling at the end of day, and the sigh of the breeze being replaced by the groans of the undead as they make another nightly attempt to break down the gate.