By Amanda Little
Those dreaming of knights in shining armor, powerful battlements, massive towers, and the strength of a king, look no further than these 15 amazing castles spread throughout Wales.
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Reminiscent of the Walls of Constantinople and built with a beautiful combination of Edwardian and Roman themes, Caernarfon Castle stands in Caernarfon, Gwynedd as a magnificent reminder of what a true highland king’s castle looks like. Designed by James of St. George, Caernarfon Castle boasts a huge outer wall that encircles the settlement, as well as series of towers and gates along the inner wall, making for a spectacular sight.
This late medieval castle is perched on the edge of the village of Raglan, and has served as luxurious lodgings for the Herbert and Somerset ruling families and was even held on behalf of Charles I during the English Civil War. Easily a classic due to its recognizable towers, Raglan castle is a visual treasure, surrounded by water gardens, terraces, parkland, and finished off with a hexagonal keep. Climb to the top of the Yellow Tower of Gwent to see views of the moat below, delve into the cellars meant to hold hundred of casks of wine, and pay a visit to one of the last medieval castles in Wales.
The towering fortress of a castle complex surrounded by extensive artificial lakes makes up the second largest castle in all of Britain, and its name Caerphilly Castle. This castle is famous for introducing concentric castle defences and large gatehouses, as well as seeing plenty of fighting on and around its grounds as Gilbert de Clare attempted to conquer Glamorgan. Even though the castle was taken apart at one point to build houses in the region, it was eventually restored in the Victorian Era by a coal baron.
Occupying an ideal spot right on the River Taf, the Laugharne Castle brings with it a melancholy sense of peace, and not just from the rolling fields surrounding it. It was here that Henry II of England and Rhys ap Gruffudd agreed upon a peace treaty. Unfortunately, Henry II died, and the castle was burnt down, damaged by cannon fire, and sustained a week-long siege until the Royalists surrendered. Now the castle remains a ruin, with formal gardens laid around the outside.
The massive Conwy Castle stands as a medieval fortification that withstood years of wars, conquests, and changing ownership several times, from Edward I in 1289 to Owain Glyndwr in 1401. Classified as a World Heritage site, overlooking River Conwy, surviving several wars as well as a siege, and set against Snowdonia, Conwy Castle has been regarded as one of the finest works done by architect James f St. George, and an must-see on any tour through Wales.
Beaumaris Castle took nearly 20 years to complete due to lack of funds, then lack of labor, then an uprising, then a rebellion, all holding the castle back from being completed. Luckily, this beautiful castle was finally finished in 1330, then it was promptly captured by Welsh forces in 1403. Royal forces reclaimed it two years later, and it served well until it fell into ruin around 1660. Sitting on the Isle Anglesey in Gweynedd, this beautifully designed castle boasts round towers, staggered entrances, a moat leading to the sea, and parts of the inner castle are still incomplete until this day.
This fortified, tower-like castle was built by Prince Llywelyn the Great in the early 13th century, and it became an important symbol for the Welsh Prince’s power, military, and authority. It has been regarded as the best surviving example of the Welsh round tower, and was used as a manor house before falling into ruin. Now, it it a popular destination because of the tower, but also because of the amazing views surrounding it.
This castle was first built in 1093 as a fortification against the Norman invasion of Wales, and held strong until it was rebuilt from the same stone in the 12th century, which remains to this day. It is the largest privately owned castle in Wales, as well as the oldest and best preserved, with a restoration completed in the early 20th century. Pembroke is still open to the public though, where visitors can see staged tableaux depicting the history of the castle, as well as falconry displays and battle re-enactments.
The Carew family still owns the Carew Castle, which is where they got their name, but allow the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park to lease it from them. Built almost entirely from local Carboniferous limestone, this Norman stronghold also boasts a dry moat, a gatehouse, three D-shaped towers, two round towers, and a powerful defensive wall that was built during the 16th century. It has since been converted into a long room with ornate windows, offering beautiful views of the surrounding landscape.
For those looking to step into a medieval-themed postcard, don your period gear and make way for Caldicot Castle. With 55 acres of land, amazing Victorian, Middle Ages, and Norman re-enactments, and a lovely tearoom to unwind in, Caldicot Castle is a beautiful reminder of times long past.
There are few sights as beautiful as the sight of the Welsh-English border from the stoic Chirk Castle. Boasting elegant staterooms decorated in full luxury, elaborate plasterwork throughout the powerful medieval tower, an 18th century servant’s hall providing historic insight into the times, and even an ancient dungeon to bring the castle feel home, Chirk Castle is a sight to any who have the pleasure to visit. With a beautiful pavilion, well-maintained garden, and lovely terrace to stroll through, this castle is not one to be missed while traveling through Wales.
Looking out over Tremaddog Bay from the vantage point of a tall hill, Criccieth Castle presents itself as a beautiful and practical example of the find work done during King Edward I’s reign. The design of the castle includes arrow slits facing out, murder holes build into passageways, and of course the tell-tale towers that adorn many castles built during the time. The castle was burned after changing hands during the Great Welsh Rebellion, but visitors are still welcome to learn about its history through exhibits and visiting the ruins themselves.
Once destroyed during the not-so-romantic War of Roses, the ruins of the Garreg Cennen in Carmartenshire, Wales are worth a visit. The castle sits atop a rugged limestone hill and surveys the town of Llandelio below. Offering insight to 12th century history and rebuilt on behalf of Edward I in the 13th century, those willing to trek to the top of the hill are rewarded with a royal taste of castle life and beautiful sweeping views of the greenery spread out below.
With its roots buried deep in Britain's Roman occupation, Cardiff Castle has never been out of style, evolving from a Norman keep to a medieval fortress to a Gothic residence as time goes on and the rulers of Wales changed. Today, the castle sports the fabulous Gothic Revival style and operates as a tourist attraction in Cardiff, along the banks of Taff River. With both the interior and exterior available for exploration, the beautifully landscaped castle grounds and luxurious apartments make for a wonderful tour.
Easily one of the most popular castles in Wales, this castle has been marred by time and battle, serving time both as a home for royalty in 1283 and a fortress until the 1600s. The castle is perched on a 200 foot high hill and has spectacular sweeping views of Cardigan Bay as well as the Llyn Peninsula. Roam the castle ruins listening for the ghost echoes of boisterous dining halls and the din of battle.