Skip to comments.10 must see castles in Wales
Posted on 03/27/2014 4:45:12 PM PDT by Renfield
Although a small number of castles had been built in England in the 1050s, the Normans began to build motte and bailey and ringworks castles in large numbers to control their newly occupied territories in England and the Welsh Marches.
Caernarfon Castle (Welsh: Castell Caernarfon) is a medieval fortress in Caernarfon, Gwynedd, north-west Wales. There was a motte-and-bailey castle in the town of Caernarfon from the late 11th century until 1283 when King Edward I of England began replacing it with the current stone structure.
The Edwardian town and castle acted as the administrative centre of north Wales and as a result the defences were built on a grand scale. There was a deliberate link with Caernarfon’s Roman past nearby is the Roman fort of Segontium and the castle’s walls are reminiscent of the Walls of Constantinople.
Raglan Castle (Welsh: Castell Rhaglan) is a late medieval castle located just north of the village of Raglan in the county of Monmouthshire in south east Wales.
The modern castle dates from between the 15th and early 17th-centuries, when the successive ruling families of the Herberts and the Somersets created a luxurious, fortified castle, complete with a large hexagonal keep, known as the Great Tower or the Yellow Tower of Gwent.
Surrounded by parkland, water gardens and terraces, the castle was considered by contemporaries to be the equal of any other in England or Wales. During the English Civil War the castle was held on behalf of Charles I and was taken by Parliamentary forces in 1646. In the aftermath, the castle was slighted, or deliberately put beyond military use.
Caerphilly Castle (Welsh: Castell Caerffili) is a medieval fortification in Caerphilly in South Wales. The castle was constructed by Gilbert de Clare in the 13th century as part of his campaign to conquer Glamorgan, and saw extensive fighting between Gilbert and his descendants and the native Welsh rulers.
Surrounded by extensive artificial lakes considered by historian Allen Brown to be “the most elaborate water defences in all Britain” it occupies around 30 acres (120,000 m2) and is the second largest castle in Britain. It is famous for having introduced concentric castle defences to Britain and for its large gatehouses.
Gilbert began work on the castle in 1268 following his occupation of the north of Glamorgan, with the majority of the construction occurring over the next three years at a considerable cost. The project was opposed by Gilbert’s Welsh rival Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, leading to the site being burnt in 1270 and taken over by royal officials in 1271. Despite these interruptions, Gilbert successfully completed the castle and took control of the region.
The core of Caerphilly Castle, including the castle’s luxurious accommodation, was built on what became a central island, surrounding by several artificial lakes, a design Gilbert probably derived from that at Kenilworth. The dams for these lakes were further fortified, and an island to the west provided additional protection. The concentric rings of walls inspired Edward I’s castles in North Wales, and proved what historian Norman Pounds has termed “a turning point in the history of the castle in Britain”.
Laugharne Castle (Welsh: ‘Castell Talacharn’) is a castle in the town of Laugharne in southern Carmarthenshire,Wales. It is located on the estuary of the River Tâf.
The original castle was established by 1116 as the castle of Robert Courtemain, who is recorded to have entrusted its care to the Welshman Bleddyn ap Cedifor.
The castle also was the meeting place of Henry II of England with Rhys ap Gruffudd in 1171-1172, where they agreed a treaty of peace. When Henry II of England died in 1189 the castle along with St Clears and llansteffan were seized by Rhys ap Gruffudd of Deheubarth in 1189, Laugharne Castle may have been burnt down at this time.
During the Civil War, Laugharne was captured by Royalists in 1644, the Parliamentary forces of Major-General Rowland Laugharne attacked the castle in 1644. After a weeklong siege in which much of the castle was damaged by cannon fire, the Royalist garrison finally surrendered. The castle was slighted to prevent any further use. It was left as a romantic ruin during the 18th century, and around the start of the 19th century the outer ward was laid with formal gardens.
Conwy Castle (Welsh: Castell Conwy) is a medieval fortification in Conwy, on the north coast of Wales. It was built by Edward I, during his conquest of Wales, between 1283 and 1289.
Constructed as part of a wider project to create the walled town of Conwy, the combined defences cost around £15,000, a huge sum for the period. Over the next few centuries, the castle played an important part in several wars. It withstood the siege of Madog ap Llywelyn in the winter of 129495, acted as a temporary haven for Richard II in 1399 and was held for several months by forces loyal to Owain Glyndŵr in 1401.
UNESCO considers Conwy to be one of “the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe”, and it is classed as a World Heritage site. The rectangular castle is built from local and imported stone and occupies a coastal ridge, originally overlooking an important crossing point over the River Conwy. Divided into an Inner and an Outer Ward, it is defended by eight large towers and two barbicans, with a postern gate leading down to the river, allowing the castle to be resupplied from the sea. It retains the earliest surviving stonemachicolations in Britain and what historian Jeremy Ashbee has described as the “best preserved suite of medieval private royal chambers in England and Wales”.
Beaumaris Castle, located in the town of the same name on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales, was built as part of Edward I’s campaign to conquer the north of Wales after 1282.
Plans were probably first made to construct the castle in 1284, but this was delayed due to lack of funds and work only began in 1295 following the Madog ap Llywelynuprising. A substantial workforce was employed in the initial years under the direction of James of St. George. Edward’s invasion of Scotland soon diverted funding from the project, however, and work stopped, only recommencing after an invasion scare in 1306. When work finally ceased around 1330 a total of £15,000 had been spent, a huge sum for the period, but the castle remained incomplete.
Beaumaris Castle was taken by Welsh forces in 1403 during the Owain Glyndŵr rebellion, but recaptured by royal forces in 1405. Following the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, the castle was held by forces loyal to Charles I, holding out until 1646 when it surrendered to the Parliamentary armies. Despite forming part of a local royalist rebellion in 1648 the castle escaped slighting and was garrisoned by Parliament, but fell into ruin around 1660, eventually forming part of a local stately home and park in the 19th century.
Dolbadarn Castle is a fortification built by the Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great during the early 13th century, at the base of the Llanberis Pass, in North Wales. The castle was important both militarily and as a symbol of Llywelyn’s power and authority.
The castle features a large stone keep, which historian Richard Avent considers “the finest surviving example of a Welsh round tower”. In 1284 Dolbadarn was taken by Edward I, who removed some of its timbers to build his new castle at Caernarfon.
The castle was used as a manor house for some years, before falling into ruin. In the 18th and 19th century it was a popular destination for painters interested in Sublime and Picturesque landscapes.
Tretower (Welsh: Gastell Tretŵr) was founded as a motte and bailey castle. In the 12th century, a shell-keep was added to the motte. By c.1230 a tall cylindrical keep was added to the inside of the shell-keep and the space between was roofed over.
At this time the earlier bailey was walled in stone and provided with cylindrical corner towers. In the early 14th century residential buildings were constructed away from the original fortifications forming today’s Tretower Court. Over time the lords of Tretower favoured the more luxurious Court and the castle fell into disuse.
The castle is roughly triangular in plan, with the motte and keep assemblage occupying the western corner. The 12th century shell-keep is an irregular enclosure with a gate-tower on the line of approach from the bailey. In the centre of the shell stands the tall cylindrical 13th century keep. The keep is of three stories, with an original entrance at first floor level, above a strong, slanted batter or talus. The top of the talus is marked by a decorative string-course of stone. The keep is a rare example of a cylindrical keep in the British Isles.
Pembroke Castle (Welsh: Castell Penfro) is a medieval castle in Pembroke, West Wales. Standing beside the River Cleddau, it underwent major restoration work in the early 20th century. The castle was the original seat of the Earldom of Pembroke.
In 1093 Roger of Montgomery built the first castle at the site when he fortified the promontory during the Norman invasion of Wales. A century later this castle was given to William Marshal by Richard I. Marshall, who would become one of the most powerful men in 12th-Century Britain, rebuilt Pembroke in stone creating most of the structure that remains today.
Carew Castle is a castle in the civil parish of Carew in the Welsh county of Pembrokeshire. The famous Carew family take their name from the place, and still own the castle, although it is leased to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which administers the site.
The present castle, which replaced an earlier stone keep, is constructed almost entirely from the local Carboniferous limestone, except for some of the Tudor architectural features such as window frames, which are made from imported Cotswold stone. Although originally a Norman stronghold the castle maintains a mixture of architectural styles as modifications were made to the structure over successive centuries.
Entry to the inner ward is across a dry moat that had a barbican and gatehouse. The front of the castle had three D-shaped towers and crenelated walls. The rear of the castle has two large round towers. In the 16th century the northern defensive wall was converted into a Tudor range with ornate windows and long room.
In the Civil War, the castle was refortified by Royalists although south Pembrokeshire was strongly Parliamentarian. After changing hands three times, the south wall was pulled down to render the castle indefensible to Royalists.
I was at the bar the other night with my buddy having some beers. We had been there a while when two large girls came up to the bar and ordered some drinks. I noticed when they ordered they both had strong accents so I said Hi, are you two girls from Scotland? One of them spoke up, with an attitude and said its WALES you idiot!!!
So I immediately said Sorry, are you two Whales from Scotland?
It’s the last thing I remember.
Fantastic post. Thanks!
Looking at these pictures, one can hear the lyrics of Men of Harlech wafting through the air. Songs and castles, what could be more Welsh? or is it Welch? Jones, most probably.
We visited Wales many years ago, in the 1970s, and saw most of those castles. Also the countryside, which is absolutely beautiful—mountains, forests, lakes, meadows, beaches.
Back then, they had no guardrails or anything, and tourists were free to wander around the tops of the castles. We took our kids up with us, and everyone had a fine time. No one fell over the edges.
The way things are going, I kind of doubt that they would still let visitors wander about freely like that.
One of these days... one of these days, I’ll get over there.
Always wanted to live in one of those,guess it’s my love of history,and treasure hunting.
Has Obama picked out the sites for his castles yet? For sure, one in Chicago.
Nice castles, too bad I can’t pronounce anything Welsh
Yes. Where is Harlech on the list? Love the Welsh castles!
Been to Caernarvon, Conwy, Raglan and Beaumaris. All beautiful!
Always wished I had a great fortune to completely restore a castle to its original state.
Wonder how much money it would take.
A related fantasy is to magically restore great structures like the Coliseum.
Visited 6 of them in 1986
Thanks, just saw them. Saved me a groping by TSA, rip offs by the locals, saved lots of bucks and I am current on FR.
I just got a book of castles in England, Scotland,Ireland and Wales. I’ll bet these are in it, I’ll have to check.
I visited Blarney Castle in Ireland about 50 years ago and I just found an old picture of me kissing the Blarney Stone. I was skinny in those days.
Very interesting. Thanks for posting this.
Oddly, none of the ten above were on the The Royal Oak Foundation.
Thanks for the thread...#10 Carew Castle is my new background on my monitor.
Why do people park their boats on the beach in the first photo? What’s with the giant golden mushrooms in the second one?
Er was the last castle owned by Mr. T?
Pretty amazing really when you consider that Houston has already torn down the Astrodome.
Conwy Castle is my favorite, not just the castle, but the town of Conwy still has it’s medieval walls all intact that connect to the castle.
IIRC the only other similar one is in old Yugoslavia and was damaged in the civil war.
PS before the welsh names took over in the 70’s it was called Conway.
No mention of Harlech castle?
I made number 9, Pembroke. It was my first ship masters job and I made a point to go ashore and explore each port as if I may never go there again. We only went to Pembroke once.
Coincidently I had trained on a simulator for the port of Pembroke.
Tell the government you’re going to build solar panels in the castle.
On another note I will be there in July for a couple months.
One of the early quests was sending a party to defeat the "Chepstow worme", a dragon that was pillaging the countryside around Chepstow.
When my wife and I went to England to visit her relatives two years ago, we took a side-trip to Wales so that I could visit Chepstow Castle (simply as a fond memory of my wargaming days).
We visited several other castles in Wales and Scotland, as well as some Roman sites along Hadrian's Wall. But I was particularly pleased to have visited Chepstow.
and where the heck is Harlech on this list. Should have been eleven.
These are amazing photos. I love stonework; amazed at how well these have held up. The area I live in now was settled by Welsh. I’ve learned to correctly pronounce those names ;-). Even our little town was named after a small town in Wales. I’d love to visit there someday and see the original.
Thanks for the post, a pleasant way to start the day.
Tintern Abbey is not to be missed either!!
Always wanted to live in one of those,guess its my love of history,and treasure hunting
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Also, Lighthouses....always been fascinated with them and figured would be a great place to reside...
Hmmm... Me thinks that unemployment was not much of a problem in Wales in the 1200’s. :)
Henry the 13th?....lol, (I know who you meant) :)
Sounds like an interesting read. :-)
I’d love to know which book you chose.
Of the one’s in Wales I visited I liked Conway the most.
The book is Castles of Britain and Ireland by Rodney Castleden. I got it at Barnes and Nobels last week and I have only looked at pictures and checked the dates. But I plan to read it all. I am hoping I can remember the ones that I have visited but it was in 1963, that is a long time ago. I have been to England several times since then but ‘63 is when we did all 3 countries and saw so many castles.
None from Gloucestershire. :( Where a few of my roots begin...
I've wanted to do this to Castle Gloom (a.k.a. Castle Campbell).
Those boats aren’t “parked on the beach”. They were left in the water at high tide, and the picture was taken at low tide.
I can’t find any mushrooms in any of the pictures. What are you talking about? Had you, by chance, eaten a few mushrooms yourself before posting?
Of course, we should bear in mind that these magnificent structures were built so that Edward I could put Wales under military occupation and end its independence.
Same with lighthouses. They are just let to crumble.
LOL. High tide/low tide? You expect me to believe that the oceans going up and down like someone’s pulling the plug and then refilling it.
FReepmail me your address and Elvis and I will pick you up on our UFO. We’re heading out to see Nessie.
7 meters (23 ft) tide in Conwy today.
No wonder the boats are high and dry...:^)
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