Caerphilly Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly, Wales, United Kingdom

Caerphilly Castle is a vast 13th century stronghold built to defend against Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd.

Lily Johnson

30 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly Castle is a vast 13th century stronghold built to defend against Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. Today, managed by Cadw, it presents some of the most magnificent examples of medieval architecture, and provides a glimpse into Wales’ fraught history.

Caerphilly Castle history

Begun in around 1268 and mostly complete by 1271, Caerphilly Castle’s imposing medieval architecture and 30 acre span was intended to mark English authority in Wales, and is thought to have inspired some of Edward I‘s ‘iron ring’ of castles. Built by English nobleman Gilbert de Clare to maintain his hold on the historic county of Glamorgan, Caerphilly was the second largest castle in Britain after Windsor, and only heightened tensions between de Clare and the native Welsh population.

Llewelyn ap Gruffudd, the last Welsh Prince of Wales, twice tried to set the castle alight while still under construction, and in the following decades continued to fight English rule. When Llewelyn was killed in 1282 however, Caerphilly was transformed into the grand palatial home of the de Clare family.

In 1317 it came into the inheritance of Eleanor de Clare, who married villainous favourite of Edward II – Hugh Despenser. When Edward was overthrown by his wife Isabella of France, the King and Despenser fled to Caerphilly, before abandoning it to escape her incoming forces. William la Zouche then besieged the castle, where it fell in 1327.

It eventually passed through marriage to the Earls of Warwick, including the infamous ‘Kingmaker’, and then to Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke and uncle to Henry VII, before falling into disrepair.

As many of Britain’s great castles, Caerphilly was caught in the middle of conflict during the English Civil War, leaving its south-east tower leaning at a rather hazardous angle!

Caerphilly Castle today

Today, visitors can tour Caerphilly Castle and enjoy two on-site exhibits about its history. Its vast walls and many of its towers remain, including the north-west tower that now houses an exhibit on Welsh castles, as well as the south-east tower – still leaning at an alarming angle.

The Great Hall can be explored, hanging with the family crests of its past inhabitants, while restored parapets and siege engines at the site allow for a glimpse into the Castle’s fierce history of attack! With atmospheric ruins and surrounded by vast lakes, Caerphilly provides a picturesque visit steeped in over 700 years of history.

Getting to Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly Castle is located in Caerphilly in Wales on the B4600. It can be reached via the A468 from Newport, Junction 32 off the M4, or the A470 from Cardiff, and there is parking at the site. The nearest train station is 0.6 miles away at Caerphilly, while the NCN Route No.4 bus service stops 200m from the site.

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