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Top 10 Welsh castles in Wales to visit

Updated on September 10, 2015

Wales and castles go hand in hand

Wales and castles go together as much as Scotland and its highlands, although the Welsh mountains are equally impressive in many ways. The castles of Wales are a very big part of the country's history, its folklore and its appeal.

Visitors to Wales today want to see its historic castles and they are spoilt for choice because these magnificent buildings can be seen all over the country. One of my personal favourites is Castle Coch (Castell Coch) which means "Red Castle" in Welsh.

Although this magnificent building looks like and is called a castle in reality it is an example of a folly but that doesn't spoil the attraction it holds. Castle Coch has everything the traditional fairytale castle should have.

Welsh castles

Castle Coch
Castle Coch
Caerphilly Castle
Caerphilly Castle

The Castles of South Wales

Castle Coch is situated in woodland just above the village of Tongwynlais on the outskirts of Cardiff and looks down over the river valley below. Its location adds to its medieval fairytale image but in reality it is a a 19th-century Gothic Revival castle built on the remains of a genuine 13th-century fortification by William Burges for John Crichton-Stuart, the third Marquess of Bute.

Knowing that it is technically a folly doesn't spoil its appeal though because seeing it and being in it lets your imagination come into its own. Not surprisingly Castle Coch has attracted the attention of film and TV drama directors and the castle has been included in films such as The Black Knight starring Alan Ladd in 1954. More recently it has been the setting for television episodes of The Worst Witch , Robin Hood and Dr Who .

Cardiff Castle is another example of a historic building that was part of the Victorian Gothic Revival. Based around a Norman keep that was already there in the early 19th century the castle was made much bigger and refashioned for John Crichton-Stuart, the 2nd Marquess of Bute by Henry Holland. Then in 1868, John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute commissioned William Burges, who also worked on Castle Coch as already explained, to turn the castle into a medieval palace.

So like Castle Coch, Cardiff Castle is mostly the work of Burges and a work of fantasy commissioned by a very wealthy landowner. That doesn't spoil its charm though and Cardiff Castle, surrounded as it is by Bute Park on the bank of the River Taf, is definitely a focal point and a big tourist attraction in the heart of the capital of Wales.

Another very popular castle in South Wales is Caerphilly Castle, which was built between 1268 and 1271. This real medieval castle, which is the largest castle in Wales, has a moat and drawbridge and looks very picturesque.

Caerphilly is just a few miles north of Cardiff and is a Welsh Valleys town. The castle is right in the centre of Caerphilly and cannot be missed.

Popular with tourists it has also attracted the attention of television and film producers and directors. Caerphilly Castle was used as the setting for some scenes in the films Rebecca's Daughters and Restoration .

Castle Coch the Red Castle

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle
Pembroke Castle

Castles of West Wales

West Wales has a great selection of castles amongst its places to visit. Pembroke Castle, or Castell Penfro to give it its Welsh name, is another real medieval castle and is situated in Pembroke near Pembroke River.

It was first built in 1093 during the Norman invasion of Wales but was later improved on by William Marshal who had got possession of it in 1189.

Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps became the owner in 1928 and his family jointly manages the castle today in partnership with Pembroke Town Council. Although it is the largest privately owned castle in Wales it is open to the public.

Like many other Welsh castles, Pembroke Castle has been used as a setting for TV and film, and in1989, the BBC used it as the set of King Miraz's castle in its adaptation of Prince Caspian , one of C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia .

Manorbier is another Norman castle and is situated in the village of Manorbier some five miles from the seaside resort of Tenby. It is open to the public and has a dovecote, gardens and a mill.

The film I Capture the Castle was shot entirely on location at Manorbier Castle and the BBC also have used it as the location of Cair Paravel in their television production of The Chronicles of Narnia .

Cilgerran Castle is another castle in West Wales that has proved popular because of its picturesque quality. It is a 13th-century ruined castle and stands guard overlooking the Teifi Gorge, near Cardigan in Pembrokeshire. Castell Cilgerran, as it is known in Welsh, has inspired many artists, including Turner.

Dinefwr Castle has its own park and is situated in Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire in West Wales where it overlooks the Tywi Valley. A herd of White Park Cattle graze in the park as do over 100 Fallow Deer. Dinefwr Park and Castle are managed by the National Trust.

Powis Castle

Powis Castle photo by Alexander Forst-Rakoczy
Powis Castle photo by Alexander Forst-Rakoczy

Castles of Mid-Wales

Powis Castle is a medieval castle and fortress that is situated near Welshpool in the county of Powys in Mid Wales. Powis Castle, or Castell Powis as it is called in Welsh, has been where the Earl of Powis resides.

Castle Powis, like Castell Coch is another "Red Castle" and is also known by this name in Welsh. Castle Powis has extensive formal gardens with terraces, parkland, a deerpark and its own landscaped estate. Castle Powis is managed by the National Trust, who operate it under the name "Powis Castle and Garden".

Robin Williamson, who came to fame as an Incredible String Band founder member now turned Celtic Bard, has a song entitled Verses At Powis on which he accompanies himself on the harp. I wonder if he was inspired by a visit to Powis Castle?

Verses at Powis by Robin Williamson

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle by Herbert Ortner
Caernarfon Castle by Herbert Ortner

Castles of North Wales

Penrhyn Castle is actually another folly because it is a country house in the form of a Norman castle. Situated in Llandegai, Bangor, Gwynedd, in North Wales, Penrhyn Castle began its history as a medieval fortified manor that had been founded by Ednyfed Fychan. In 1438, Ioan ap Gruffudd obtained a licence to crenellate and he created the stone castle as well as adding a tower house. Samuel Wyatt went on to reconstruct the building in the 1780s.

Managed by the National Trust today, Wikipedia informs us: "Penrhyn's attractions include a formal walled garden, extensive informal gardens, a dolls museum, an industrial railway museum, a model railway museum and an adventure playground. It has views over the Snowdonia mountains. In 2008/09 it was the National Trust's thirteenth most visited paid-entry property, with 156,575 visitors."

Last, but certainly not least, in this look at a selection of the best Welsh castles, is Caernarfon Castle, which has been described as "possibly the most famous of Wales's many castles". Situated in Gwynedd in North Wales, Caernarfon Castle, or Castell Caernarfon as it is known in Welsh, has a long history from its early beginnings as a motte-and-bailey castle in the town of Caernarfon from the late 11th century. Then in 1283 King Edward I of England began replacing what had been its structure with the current stonework and castle walls.

In 1969, Caernarfon Castle made the news as the setting for the investiture of Charles, Prince of Wales. In 1986, UNESCO added Caernarfon Castle to its World Heritage Sites.

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    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      14 months ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, livetech! Yes, I am happy for you to link to this and very glad you discovered my hub!

    • livetech profile image

      Paul Levy 

      14 months ago from United Kingdom

      This is a fantastic hub, so informative! I have linked to your hub in my most recent hub about 'Wales Year of Legends 2017'. Hope that is ok with you!

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for posting!

    • TravelinJack profile image

      Jack Baumann 

      5 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Conwy is at the top of my list!

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for your comment!

    • Ausemade profile image

      Ausemade 

      6 years ago from Australia

      There is something romantic about Wales, whether it is the country side, the choir, the lilt of the language... It was only a few months ago when I was writing a section on attractions in Wales for my website, that I learnt about how many castles there are in Wales. Your select of castles are great and one day I hope to visit.

    • profile image

      Marissa 

      6 years ago

      The old country is beautiful and more interesting than where I live.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I am glad you have enjoyed it! Thank YOU!

    • profile image

      StonePost 

      6 years ago

      I would love to visit and take in all of the folklore!! Staying in a castle for a night is on my "bucket list". Thank you for this hub, I really appreciate it.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you very much, Web Cottages!

    • Web Cottages profile image

      Web Cottages 

      6 years ago from Chester, UK

      What a wonderfully informative hub! I've just posted a link to you over on my new hub. https://hubpages.com/travel/Wales-a-wonderful-plac...

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for posting and being interested in Wales!

    • SUSIE405 profile image

      SUSIE405 

      7 years ago from Delray Beach, Florida

      I think I need to add these to my list of places I want to visit.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, The Jet! Glad you liked it!

    • The Jet profile image

      The Jet 

      7 years ago from The Bay

      This was epic. Thanks!

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, NoBSSEO and Gypsy Willow!

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 

      7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Coming from Wales, I love this hub. It truly is the fairest country on the planet!

    • NoBSSEO profile image

      NoBSSEO 

      8 years ago from Sydney Australia

      Loved this article. I've been to Wales on holidays twice and I am looking to make it 3 real soon. I'm printing off your article as my official Castle Guide.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      You are welcome!

    • equealla profile image

      equealla 

      8 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      Castles do have the tendency to stimulate the mind with great stories to tell. I have never been to one of these magnificent buildings, and I apreciate it every time when someone share them with me. Thank you Bard!

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, Eiddwen!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      8 years ago from Wales

      Thank you for sharing this. Myself and my partner love exploring castles, some with not an awful lot left to them but they all have a wonderful history. Brilliant hub!! I am going to vote this one up and bookmark it.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for posting, Lex!

    • lex123 profile image

      lex123 

      8 years ago

      I had been to North Wales this year and have written a hub about Cafernarfon castle. https://hubpages.com/hub/North-Wales-Caernarfon-Ca... Planning to visit Wales again next year.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for your comments, Nellieanna, and happy exploring!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      My George's ancestors were Welsh and Scottish. What a treat. Except for one thing! Now I want one! - I'll take Castle Coch the Red Castle. I could really love being there!! So pleased to have this hub handy and want to explore more of the links!!

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, De Greek, nextstopjupiter and SentMe!

    • SentMe profile image

      SentMe 

      8 years ago from A galaxy far, far away...

      Ahh, the beauty of history! Another find place to visit, indeed! Great hub!

    • nextstopjupiter profile image

      nextstopjupiter 

      8 years ago from here, there and everywhere

      Your hub brought back some memories of my trip to Wales in 1991, thanks!

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      Now THIS is what I call an interesting hub ;-)

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for posting, Killrats, and gald you enjoyed Wales!

    • killrats profile image

      killrats 

      8 years ago from Cape town South Africa

      Have just spent a few days in Wales and did the Cardiff Castle. Just loved it, More history in that one Castle than in my entire country. We have been around about 360 here on the dark side.

      Will be following

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you too, CM! I left some out because I wanted to stick to 10!

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 

      8 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Great Hub on Welsh Castles, Bard of Ely, I think I need to go on a tour of Wales to visit them all

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, Lilly!

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 

      8 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      My Maternal Great-Grandparents came from Wales, I have always wanted to go and see their land. Thank you for giving me a guide to do so. Tweeted, Facebooked! Great Hub!

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