The Castles of Wales

I was in an old bookstore looking for books on medieval subjects. Come to find out one of the employees had spent a significant amount of time in the UK. So I talked to her.

She told me that if I were to travel to the UK looking for castles I should go to Wales. "That is where the most and the best castles are".

Well, I haven't taken the trip yet but I have written out this webpage for you. And I will take the trip :)

I have carefully selected ten of the best castles for you here and for various reasons. Each one has something unique about it whether it be a pristine example of a fortress or that is has some remarkable and different feature. And I have even chosen one that all the experts agree is a beautiful representation of what you would call a "fantasy castle".

First let's take at what Wales is and where in the UK it is located.

Map of Wales

Here I have plotted out some of the castles located in Wales. This gives you a sense of how many castles there are. And this is just some of them. (There are almost 100 here on this map)

Map of some of the Castles in Wales

 

About Wales and it's Castles-

It is a country in the South West of the United Kingdom and the Capital city of it is Cardiff. And in Wales there are about 100 castles of various types and in various conditions ranging from perfect shape to ruins. And of course that city has a castle! It is Cardiff castle. Here I will tell you a little bit about some of the more prominent castles in Wales. And if you are interested in learning more, or in visiting Wales below I have selected some books for you and I have some links so you can learn more.

And if you visit any of these castles be sure to let me know about it! I would love to get some pictures for the website.

Will has chosen his top ten castles in Wales to visit right here. He has also created a map of Wales with these ten castles if you would like to get a look at their locations: Top Ten Castles of Wales Map

 

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff CastleWe already learned that Cardiff is the Capital city of Wales and of course it has a castle called "Cardiff Castle". And just like many castles that still stand it is the end product of a long history. It started out as a Roman Fort in the third century. Then on top of that site was built a Motte and Bailey in the eleventh century. In the twelfth century the stone structure that now stands was begun. And in the centuries since it has been overhauled, rebuilt and renovated many times. The interior now is in the Gothic Revival style. And it is now a tourist attraction and open to the public. And it is well worth the trip. If you are in Wales and want to visit a castle this is the one to visit. You can walk the battlements, visit the museum, the clock tower and the trebuchet.

I have more about this castle right here.

(Picture credit) Amybobs, Autumnal Cardiff Castle, CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon CastleIf you like imposing and impressive castles then Caernarfon Castle is a good choice. It is a Medieval Fortress structure that is very imposing. It started as a Motte and Bailey Castle structure in the eleventh century. As a fortress it was never fully completed and it has seen many changes over the centuries including abandonment. Today it is in excellent shape and it is one of the best tourist castles in Wales. It is located in the north of Wales in the city of Caernarfon.

(Picture Credit) Herbert Ortner, Caernarfon Castle 1994, CC BY 3.0

 

Harlech Castle

Harlech CastleThis castle is an amazing medieval fortress that is perched on the top of a rock outcropping which makes for a very effective natural defense.

This fortress is a great example of how the terrain and landscape was important in the placement of a castle.

It was built in the thirteenth century by Edward I as part of the Iron Ring of Castles and UNESCO considers it to be unmissable and one of the finest examples of late 13th century, early 14th century architecture. ( This castle has an interesting floor plan. I have a drawing of it right here)

Picture Credit: Cadw, Harlech Castle - Cadw photograph,

 

Pembroke Castle - It is a privately owned castle but open to the public. It of course also has a long history. It was first built in the eleventh century and was rebuilt as a fortress in the thirteenth century. It is an excellent example of a Norman style enclosure castle with a great keep. The Great Keep itself is quite imposing and the stone walls of it are nineteen feet thick at the base and rise to seventy five feet in height.

Castle Coch (A Fantasy Castle) - Also known as the Red Castle. This is not a medieval fortress. It is quite a bit different than the other castles we have looked at so far. It is a Victorian era castle built in th 1870's in a Gothic Revival style and it is often referred to as a fantasy castle or a fairy tale castle. It sure looks the part.

Beaumaris Castle - This is an excellent example of a stronghold and it was built in the late thirteenth century. It has some of the standard characteristics of a stronghold including concentric walls and a moat going partially around it. If you are looking for excellence in castle design and construction this one is considered by many to be the best example of technical excellence in castle design although it was never finished to one hundred percent. I have more about this castle here

Carreg Cennen Castle -(Also has caves) This is a thirteenth century castle ruins with much of the stone structure still standing. But it has two very unique characteristics. First off it is located on the top of a promontory with an imposing limestone cliff on one side. The view of this castle from a distance are quite remarkable and dramatic. Secondly this castle has a cave (Ogof Cave) and tunnel underneath it that is noteworthy and open to the public. They are cut from te limestone. This castle ruins is well worth the visit for being quite unique. It is located in the south east of Wales north of Swansea.

Conwy Castle - This is an imposing military fortress in the north of Wales. It was built in the late thirteenth century and is still in excellent shape today. But one of the really remarkable things about this castle, that makes it unique and different is that it is part of a walled in city. The walls of the castle extend out to enclose much of the city of Conwy. these were built in the late thirteenth century at great expense and they remain mostly intact today. Well worth a look for both the military fortress aspect and the walled in city aspect. I have more about this castle here

Caerphilly Castle - Located in the south of Wales not far from both Cardiff and Newport. This is a thirteenth century fortress this is a ruins but still in good condition. It is a rectangular keep style castle and the unique thing about this castle is it's a good example of water used as a fortification in design. This castle sits right inside a body of water. It is open to the public and you need to walk over a short bridge to get to it.

Chepstow Castle (The oldest)- This castle, while last on my list is not the least of them all. I have chosen this one because it is the oldest remaining post roman fortification in Wales and this structure as it stands dates back to the eleventh century. It sits on a cliff right on the bank of the river Wye. And another unique thing about this castle is that it isn't just another rectangular keep. it is quite different in it's floor plan. It is long and narrow as it hugs along the river. This is partially due to the requirements of the landscape, the fact that it was expanded over time and partially due to the fact that castle building technology still had a ways to go over the following centuries. It is open to the public and is a very popular tourist destination. I have a drawing of the floor plan of this castle right here.

Books and More Resources


 

Castles of Wales

Wales, a small country, is littered with the relics of war - Iron Age forts, Roman ruins, medieval castles and the coastal forts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The biggest construction of fortifications in Wales took place during the reign of Edward I. They were not only built to deter an invader, but to control the frequent Welsh uprisings. The next wave of constructions occurred during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when a number of forts and gun emplacements were built, mostly in South Wales, to deter a sea born invasion.

The twentieth century introduced a new mode of defense, especially during the two world wars, in the form of pill boxes, tank traps and gun emplacements. The various airfields constructed were the most visible form of defense and could be regarded as the castles of the period. During the period known as the Cold War era, a new type of structure appeared throughout Wales. These were the reinforced concrete bunkers built to protect military and governmental departments and withstand a nuclear blast .

 

Castles in Wales - A Traveler's Guide

Wales is some country. Beautiful, historic and with a tradition all of its own. A big part of that history and tradition are the many magnificent castles which can be found throughout Wales attracting visitors from all over the world. No visit is complete unless the traveller sees some of these castles. I am no exception – I love Wales and have personally visited many of the castles there. So I have put together this book to give you an introduction to twenty of my favourite Welsh castles. Download your copy to your PC, Mac, Smartphone, Tablet or Kindle device today.

All the top Welsh castles are included – a few are listed below though twenty are included in my book. Whether you are planning on a visit to Wales or have an interest in Welsh history then you should enjoy Castles in Wales – a Travellers’ Guide.

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