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Top Five Castles of Wales

Updated on November 24, 2010

Wales, the land of castles

Wales is renowned for its castles; a turbulent history has left this small country on the western edge of Europe with more castles built within its borders than any other. There are the faint echoes of Iron Age forts, symmetrical Roman barracks, Welsh rebel lords and invading English kings, they all left their mark on the Welsh landscape.

The figure stands at over 600 fortified structures throughout the land many are no more than bumps in the scenery, lots are the ruined remnants of engineering genius and a few are beautifully restored monuments but all have formed an important part in Wales’ history.

Tourists travelling around Wales will be struck by the sheer number of castles there are available. You cannot journey five minutes without seeing a CADW signpost advertising the next attraction. So, where are the most interesting ones? 

Castle Coch
Castle Coch

Castle Coch, Near Cardiff

Castle Coch, the Red Castle is a wonderfully magical sight, as it rises out from the trees above the village of Tongwynlais, just north of Cardiff. It was the dream of the 3rd Marquis of Bute, who owned much of the city. He had the idea of recreating a replica from the 13th century foundations that were part of his land.

The resultant castle build by 1881 is a typical Gothic Victorian masterpiece, its fluted roofed towers totally out of sync with anything known in Britain and the interior masterfully decorated with stencilling and heavy drapes. From the windows and battlements you get a beautiful view across the Cardiff, towards the Severn estuary and Somerset.

Caerphilly Castle and Moat
Caerphilly Castle and Moat

Caerphilly Castle, Caerphilly

The massive complex of Caerphilly Castle is 8 miles north of Cardiff and is an impressive 1.2 hectare site housing the impressive remains of one of Europe’s largest Norman fortresses.

Built in the 13th century by Gilbert de Clare on completely virgin territory Caerphilly Castle is unique in that it was not influenced by any previous design or alterations made in the landscape. Its double concentric ring defences remain pretty much unaltered from their original design, something rare in medieval castles.

The extensive parkland that now houses the castle has the large lake and dam defence system still in place and along with a collection of siege engines, exhibition centre is the old baronial hall that serves as a function rooms for events and weddings.

Carreg Cennen Castle
Carreg Cennen Castle

Carreg Cennen Castle, Llandeilo

South of Llandeilo in West Wales site the magnificent sceptical of Castle Carreg Cennen, perched on top of a limestone outcrop. This provides the perfect defensive site, with its steep hill slope on one side and a sheer 300’ cliff on the other.  Once you reach the top you are rewarded with some of the most breathtaking views of the area.

The castle with its bewildering design of drawbridges, earthworks and murder holes was built on the site of an earlier Welsh fortress by John Giffard and like many castles in Wales it experienced a period of constant sieges, battles and capture. The War of the Roses saw its final action and afterwards the defences were slighted to prevent its use ever again.

Now from Castle Farm at the base of the hill, you can enjoy refreshments and a meal before attempting the arduous climb to the top and an exciting time exploring the ruinous remains of this gorgeous example of medieval defence work. 

Tidal mill pool view of Carew Castle
Tidal mill pool view of Carew Castle

Carew Castle, Near Tenby

Despite its ruinous state the remains of the castle at Carew in Pembrokeshire attests to its fine state when it was in full use. The naturally defensive site alongside the river that flows into the Milford estuary has been a home to people for 2,000 years. The site now contains the remains of the original Norman fortifications, an 11th century Celtic cross, the remains of what would have been a wonderful Elizabethan country house, a medieval bridge and the only restored Tidal Mill in Wales.

Situated north of the fishing town of Tenby in the village of Carew the castle provides a lovely spot to visit. Along with the tour of the castle itself there are extensive walks and trails along the river, mill pond and village. There are also regular events, exhibitions and demonstrations, from scavenger hunts to archery exhibitions that make the area worth a visit.

Caernarfon Castle, North Wales

Caernarfon is architecturally one of the most impressive castles throughout Wales, andvery much different from the other castles locally. Caernarfon was constructed as the seat of power in North Wales and where Edward I had his son crowned Prince of Wales. The design was meant to echo the walls of Constantinople, banded with hexagonal towers that give it a distinctive look.

The dominating presence of the castle still casts a spell over the town and from its perfect position you get lovely views across the Menai Straits and the surrounding countryside. It is all of this that has led to Caernarfon castle being classified as a World Heritage site and draws many visitors to Wales to see its walls. 

Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle

Other Welsh Hubs

Brecon & Monmouthshire Canal - Peaceful trip through history

Welsh Holiday Destinations - Sights to see when holidaying in Wales

Meanings of Welsh Place names - Simple lesson in the Welsh Language

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    • knell63 profile image
      Author

      knell63 5 years ago from Umbria, Italy

      Thanks 2Pats, I've visited them all so can heartily reccommend catching the two missing ones from the set. You won't be disappointed no matter which castles they are.

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      This is a good list. Pat has visited 3 of the castles - now on to the other 2. Tricia can start next year.

    • Naim Hasan profile image

      Naim H 6 years ago from Dhaka

      i was hoping for more pics, lol...nice hub anyway, thanks!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      A great hub and I enjoyed reading about these beautiful catles. Thank you.

    • knell63 profile image
      Author

      knell63 7 years ago from Umbria, Italy

      Cheers Scarytaff, we do have a lot to be thankful for in Wales, always somewhere interesting on our doorstep. Pleased you liked the piece.

    • scarytaff profile image

      Derek James 7 years ago from South Wales

      Well done,knell63. We are blessed with beauty in Wales.It deserves to be promoted, so go for it. Thanks for this hub.

    • knell63 profile image
      Author

      knell63 7 years ago from Umbria, Italy

      lol, thanks Amanda, with over 600 I could make it a lifetimes work of it. I love Castle Coch, I used to pass it every day on the way to work. Its such a beautiful building. Caernarfon of course for its majesty and grandeur but Carreg Cennen in West Wales is another gorgeous one, and wonderful exercise to reach.

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

      Hi Neal, I've only visited Castle Coch and Caernarfon, but I thought both were wonderful. Castle Coch is perfect. It's almost like a Disney fantasy castle. Caernarfon is impressive in a different way. It's imposing and atmospheric, and of course has continuing historical connections to the British royal family.

      Now you've done these 5 will you keep going? There's scope for quite a few more hubs on this topic.