10 of the Best Castles In Wales | History Hit

10 of the Best Castles In Wales

Adam Dalrymple

27 Sep 2019

The Welsh countryside is dotted with over 600 castles, meaning Wales has more castles per square mile than any other country in the world.

Here are 10 of the best castles in Wales.

1. Conwy Castle

During his conquest of Wales from 1283 to 1289, Edward I embarked upon a building campaign with James of Saint George, his genius architect, to stamp his authority onto the Welsh landscape with a series of castles. Conwy Castle was the result.

Along with the stunning walls that still ring around the town of Conwy, UNESCO has described the castle as “one of the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe.”

2. Harlech Castle

Image Credit: Mike Cartmell / Commons

Another castle built by Edward I following his invasion of Wales, Harlech Castle stands 200 ft high, on a jut of rock overlooking the Irish Sea.

Its imposing concentric walls and palatial royal apartments earned it recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside Edward I’s other castles in Gwynedd.

Harlech was the site of Owain Glyndwr’s first Parliament following his revolt against King Henry IV in 1400.

It has proved to be one of the most stubbornly resilient castles in the British Isles. It was the last castle to fall in the suppression of Owain’s revolt, the War of the Roses and the Civil War.

Dan is on the road again, this time to explore his ancestral home, North Wales. He delves into the history behind its imposing castles, labyrinthine caves, quirky coastal towns and even pays a very personal visit to his great-great-grandfather David Lloyd George's humble beginnings.
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3. Powis Castle

Image Credit: Alexander Forst-Rakoczy / Commons

Powis Castle was built by the Welsh prince, Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, in the 13th century. It is awash with treasures from India brought back by Robert Clive, known as Clive of India.

The highlight of the collection is a small solid-gold tiger, adorned with diamonds, rubies and emeralds. It was taken from the throne of Indian ruler Tipu Sultan.

4. Caerphilly Castle

Image Credit: Archangel12 / Commons

Covering 30 acres of imposing walls and artificial lakes, Caerphilly Castle is the second largest castle in Britain. It was built by the Anglo-Norman lord Gilbert de Clare as part of his campaign to conquer Glamorgan.

Cromwell’s failed attempt to break through the fortifications in 1648 left the Southeast tower leaning out at a 10 degree angle – a more dramatic slant than The Leaning Tower of Pisa.

5. Dolwyddelan Castle

Nestled in the mountains of the Snowdonia, Dolwyddelan Castle stands alone among some spectacular Welsh scenery.

It was constructed by Llywelyn the Great, the man who ruled almost all of Wales in the early 13th century.

6. Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle was built during William the Conqueror’s invasion of Wales, shortly after the Norman Conquest of England. Today it seems a world away from the violence of its past, as its battlements are reflected on the tranquil pond that surrounds the castle.

Below the castle lies Wogan Cavern, a vast prehistoric cave, which has remained inhabited for the last 12,000 years.

7. Caenarfon Castle

Image Credit: Nilfanion / Commons

Edward I’s colossal Caernarfon Castle incorporated elements of Roman architecture to create associations with the Roman fort of Segontium nearby.

The towers of Caernarfon were octagons rather than D-shaped like the other Welsh castles built, which echoed the design of other Roman buildings in Britain.

8. Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle tells the story of 2,000 years of Welsh history. The site has Roman walls, a Norman keep and a Victorian palace.

The palace is an extraordinarily lavish Gothic fantasy conceived by the 3rd Marquess of Bute, then the richest man in the world.

In this episode Dan visits Lincoln Castle to learn more about this fortification's fascinating history and its central role in Britain's national story.
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9. Carreg Cennen

Image Credit: Mik Peach / Commons.

Carreg Cennen is spectacularly situated 300 ft above the River Cennen, on a limestone cliff-face. It is deep within the Brecon Beacons National Park and is one of the most romantic ruins in all of Britain.

10. Beaumaris Castle

Beaumaris was the last of Edward I’s Welsh castles to be built, and the largest of them all. It was built on the island of Anglesey, the epicentre of Madog ap Llwelyn’s revolt against English rule in 1294.

Although £15,000 was spent on the castle – an incredible sum for the 13th century – it remained unfinished as Edward cut funding for its construction when he was gearing up for war with Robert the Bruce.

Despite this, Arnold Taylor has described Beaumaris Castle as the “most perfect example of symmetrical concentric planning” in Britain.

Featured Image: Pembroke Castle. JKMMX / Commons.

Adam Dalrymple