I was absolutely adamant that Illumination needed a sequence set in a castle, one of the staples of classic children’s adventure fiction, and I was spoilt for choice in North Wales. As I wrote the chase through Bangor and realised the protagonists were heading for the apparent dead end of Bangor Pier, it became clear that the obvious one to use was Beaumaris Castle (click to visit its page on the Cadw website).
King Edward I built an ‘iron ring’ of fortresses to subdue the Welsh people during the thirteenth century, including Harlech, Conwy and Caernarfon. Beaumaris was the last, with building work starting right at the end of that century, but famously it was not finished, as Edward focused his spending on his Scottish campaigns. Nevertheless it is one of the best surviving examples of a symmetrical concentric castle and has some magnificent features that make it an excellent location for story-telling, especially its moat. The chapel, also, was particularly interesting, as one of the themes of the book is religion, old and new.
I wrote the chase through the castle partly from memory and partly from the guide book, aided by information on the internet. Before I published the book, though, I visited the castle and walked the route, and made some tweaks. I was pleased how well the chase sequence written at home held up, but there were some vital changes I needed to make; in one location a permanent art structure had been added making access to an arrowslit in the story impossible! It means, though, that anyone should be able to take the book to the castle, if they wished, and trace the route the children and their pursuers take through the ruins. Accuracy should be secondary to story-telling, I guess, but it’s even better if you can have both!