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Best Castles in Wales to Visit

Wales is a country, part of the United Kingdom, and steeped in history, Celtic heritage and Welsh culture. Wales is famous for its castles with stories, legends and history dating back thousands of years.

How many castles in Wales? Did you know? Wales has the most castles per square capital in Europe so there are plenty to choose from. There are around 427 castles in Wales which is a vast amount for such a small country.

CADW is the Welsh government’s historic environment service that cares for many of the famous castles in Wales and surrounding sites and they have lots of information on their website here.

Cardiff, Wales a large model red dragon sits on the walls of the  Cardiff Castle - best Castles in Wales

Many of these castles are must-visits on Wales trips with interesting facts, history of monarchs and wars, and one has been used for an ITV reality TV show!

Best Castles in Wales to visit

As much of Wales is on the coast there are lots of castles stationed along the coast and used as a defence mechanism to stronghold the land. Today, visitors can walk the Wales Coastal Path to learn about the history of the best castles in Wales from the many billboards and information boards.

Best Castles in Wales to Visit

South Wales Castles

South Wales is home to the capital city of Cardiff and counties such as Vale of Glamorgan, Swansea and Gwent. There are many castles to visit, some are ruins and others are still huge forts that hold interesting stories seeped in the still-in-tact rooms you can explore on guided tours. You will also find some simply superb Roman ruins in Caerleon which is located very close to Newport in South Wales.

Powis Castle

Powis Castle was built in the mid-13th century by a Welsh prince – Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn – wanting to establish his independence from his traditional enemies, the aggressive princes of Gwynedd (North Wales). By the late 13th century, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd of Gwynedd had established himself as Prince of Wales, and in 1274 he destroyed Powis Castle, forcing Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn into exile.

Best Castles in Wales to Visit

George Herbert inherited the title of 4th Earl of Powis (3rd creation) along with the castle and estate back in 1891. Together he and his wife, Violet, focused on remodelling the castle and garden. In 1902 George began modernising the castle, introducing electric lighting and a state-of-the-art hot-water central heating system. At the same time, he worked with the architect G.F.Bodley to reinstate 17th Century style décor in many of the staterooms, which he thought was more in keeping with the medieval castle.

Tragedy struck the family when in 1916 his elder son, Percy, was fatally wounded on the Somme; in 1929 and Violet died after a car accident and then in1942, his younger son, Mervyn was killed in an aeroplane crash during active service. With no direct heir to the castle, on his deathbed in 1952, George bequeathed Powis to the nation, in the care of the National Trust.

Address: Powys, Welshpool SY21 8RF,

Cardiff Castle

The best castle to visit in Wales if you are touring Cardiff. Cardiff has been the capital city of Wales since the 1950s yet has always served as a powerhouse for the world trade of Coal, been home to dynasties and Earls and Cardiff Castle has been the target of attacks and occupation.

Cardiff Castle and the surrounding park were given to the people of Cardiff by the fifth, and last, Marquess of Bute and serve as a tourist attraction today. You can buy tickets to enter the grounds or purchase a guided tour for information on the rooms, forts, moat and gardens.

The castle can be found in the heart of the city centre, just a 5-minute walk from the central train and bus stations.

Address: Castle Street, Cardiff, CF10 3RB

Best Castles in Wales to Visit

Caerphilly Castle

Neighbouring Cardiff is the town of Caerphilly, home to a great mountain and medieval castle and a gateway to the South Wales Valleys. Caerphilly Castle is the largest castle in Wales and the second largest in the United Kingdom, after the royal residence of Windsor Castle!

The site covers 30 acres containing towers (including the leaning tower of Wales), bridges and walls. The main fortress is surrounded by water, built purposefully for defences in the 13th century. Visits to the castle today can be explored independently or guided. Watch out for the Green Lady, a scorned woman who haunts the grounds of Caerphilly Castle.

Follow this guide to visiting Caerphilly Castle and climbing Caerphilly Mountain for all the information needed to find and explore the Caerphilly attractions.

Address: Castle Street, Caerphilly, CF83 1JD

Caerphilly castle in Snowdonia, Wales

Castell Coch

The same Marquess of Bute who gifted Cardiff Castle to the city had a ‘retreat’ type of castle which was used to entertain friends and escape the city centre. This castle was built for the purpose of leisure and looks like something from a fairytale or Harry Potter.

It’s definitely worth a visit to Castell Coch which translates as the Red Castle because of its grandeur and beauty. It’s a half-hour drive from the city centre and can be seen emerging from the mountains on the drive. Castell Coch is surrounded by Forest Fawr, a popular, circular walk to take on the trip.

Castell Coch can be found best by car following the A470 or public transport from Cardiff Central to Tongwynlais train station.

Address: Castell Coch, Tongwynlais, Cardiff CF15 7JS

Best Castles in Wales to Visit

Chepstow Castle

What is the oldest castle in Wales? Chepstow Castle in Monmouthshire is over 1000 years old and is the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in the UK. It was built in the 11th century and is one of the oldest surviving stone castles in all of the UK. It really is one of the best castles in Wales if you love history. 

Best Castles in Wales to Visit

For more than six centuries Chepstow was home to some of the wealthiest and most powerful men of the medieval and Tudor ages. The building was started in 1067 by Earl William Fitz Osbern, a close friend of William the Conqueror, making it one of the first Norman strongholds in Wales.

The oldest surviving wooden castle doors in Europe are to be found in the ruins of Chepstow Castle, Wales

Chepstow Castle is one of the best-known and best-preserved castles in Wales. Its uniqueness is also evidenced by one of the oldest stone keeps in the UK. What’s more, the castle has an fantastic monument in excellent condition – oak, studded with nails and sheets of metal, the wooden gate of the main gatehouse from the end of the 12th century. It is considered the oldest preserved castle door in Europe.

 Chepstow Castle, Bridge Street, Monmouthshire

Raglan Castle

Raglan Castle’s striking round towers make this fortress a singular classic, and there’s every chance you’ll be enraptured from the moment you see the astonishing gatehouse which once denied Oliver Cromwell at the end of the Civil War. Surrounded by fields, the romantic ruins even make space for a bowling green.

Best Castles in Wales to Visit

Much of what remains at Raglan dates from the 15th century, the period of the Wars of the Roses and the rise of the Tudor dynasty, though there is believed to have been an earlier, Norman motte-and-bailey castle on the site.

The hexagonal Great Tower is the most impressive of the buildings from this period, dominating the two courtyards of the castle.

Storm clouds and sunshine over Raglan Castle, Monmouthshire, Wales, UK

Raglan Castle is located just north of the village of Raglan in the county of Monmouthshire, off the A40 between Monmouth and Abergavenny.

Castles in West Wales

Moving to West Wales, castles found here were the home of monarchs, inspiration for literature and filming location for British comedy goldies.

Pembroke Castle

In the town of Pembroke, in the county of Pembrokeshire, is the medieval Pembroke Castle, rising over the town and the Pembroke River and featuring Norman motte-and-bailey, fighting platforms, huge walls, arrow slits and gateways.

The most famous fact about Pembroke Castle is that it was the birthplace of Henry VII, the only Welsh-born King of England and father to the infamous King Henry VIII.

Tip: Pembroke Castle is one of the best castles to photograph from Northgate Street Bridge!

Address: Pembroke Castle, Pembrokeshire, SA71 4LA

Pembroke, Wales, United Kingdom - September 22, 2016: Panoramic view of Pembroke Castle in South Wales at night

Laugharne Castle

Firstly, Laugharne is pronounced ‘Larne’ and can be found in Carmarthenshire county but reasonably close to get to from South Wales if you’re on a Wales road trip.

Laugharne is a small town with a gorgeous coastline and was the home of famous Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas who said that Laugharne was his favourite place. He lived next door to Laugharne Castle and used it as a base for his writing. Visit the castle along with Dylan Thomas’s boathouse and writing shed.

Address: King Street, Laugharne, Carmarthen, SA33 4SF

Best Castles in Wales to Visit

Kidwelly Castle

Also found in Carmarthenshire is Kidwelly Castle with views over the River Gwendraeth. Kidwelly Castle is a unique castle to visit given its interesting architecture in the interior. Kidwelly Castle is best known for being in the opening scene of ​​Monty Python and the Holy Grail film series.

Visit Wales describes the defences of Kidwelly Castle as a killing zone that has changed rulers over the centuries but is now safely looked after by Cadw and available for tourists to explore.

Address: Castle Road, Kidwelly, SA17 5BQ

Best Castles in Wales to Visit

North Wales Castles

North Wales is home to UNESCO World Heritage sites, stories of King Arthur, many British TV shows and films were made here. The first four castles on this list of castles in North Wales all make up one UNESCO World Heritage Site, named Castles and Town Walls of Edward I World Heritage Site, built by King Edward I and his architect Master James of St George in the 13th century as fortresses in North Wales.

Conwy Castle

A castle that is intrinsic to the make-up of a place is one that towers over the town and can be seen on arrival, from anywhere within the town, and upon departure. That’s Conwy Castle and it’s a striking castle to witness considering it was built over 700 years ago.

Conwy is a great place to visit in North Wales to visit the smallest house in Britain, enjoy some seafood and see the castle.

Address: Rose Hill Street, Conwy, LL32 8AY

Best Castles in Wales to Visit

Beaumaris Castle

Heading to the Isle of Anglesey, one of the first towns to visit is Beaumaris to see the gorgeous pier and impressive castle. Although the castle was never finished, it is still remarkable to photograph with its layered walls and watered moat.

Address: Castle Street, Beaumaris, LL58 8AP

Best Castles in Wales to Visit

Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle was a military stronghold that can be seen from miles away with its high location and is another striking castle of Edward I’s to gaze at especially with Snowdon, Wales’s highest peak, in the distance. Take the floating footbridge to explore in detail.

Harlech Castle is also featured on Michael Ball’s Wonderful Wales TV series.

Address: Harlech, LL46 2YH

Harlech, Wales, United Kingdom - September 20, 2016: View of Harlech Castle in North Wales at sunrise

Caernarfon Castle

Last, but not least, the castle to make up the four castles of the UNESCO World Heritage Site is Caernarfon Castle and has certainly made an impact on British history.

Who lived in Caernarfon Castle? Caernarfon Castle came into the possession of the Welsh princes. From contemporary documents written at the castle, it is known that Llywelyn the Great and later Llywelyn ap Gruffudd occasionally stayed at Caernarfon.

Best Castles in Wales to Visit

The two investitures of the Prince of Wales of the 20th century occurred here including that of Prince Charles. An investiture ceremony is when someone has been rewarded an honour and receives it from the Queen or a Member of the Royal Family. In 1969 a ceremony was held to acknowledge the new Prince of Wales, Prince Charles in the manner of a coronation.

Note: The English for this castle is sometimes known as Carnarvon Castle.

Address: Castle Ditch, Caernarfon, LL55 2AY

Best Castles in Wales to Visit

Gwrych Castle

In the county of Conwy in the very North of Wales is Gwyrch Castle overlooking the Irish Sea built in the 19th century as a country house. The castle has been used over the years as a place of refuge for Jewish people during WWII, and today to the celebrities who can’t make it to Australia.

For 2020 and 2021, ITV’s I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! Used Gwrych Castle as the home for the show that pushes celebrities to the limits for the entertainment of the British public.

There’s Welsh folklore around Gwrych Castle about monsters and screams heard from the road which has caused superstitions among locals who avoid this road completely. There’s also a possibility that the Vikings raided this area due to its proximity to Dublin and access via the Irish Sea.

Address: Llanddulas Road, Abergele, LL22 8ET

Best Castles in Wales to Visit
©Gwrych Castle

FAQS on the Castles of Wales

Wherever you travel in Wales, you’ll be comforted to know that there is always a castle around the corner just waiting to impress you, educate you or scare you. These are 12 must see castles in Wales to visit out of a total of 427 of them.

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Best Castles in Wales to Visit

Author

  • Faith was born in Ireland raised in Canada and has lived in over 10 countries in Europe including England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain, Northern Ireland, Wales, along with Mexico, Antigua, the US and has slow travelled to over 40 countries around the world. Graduating with a degree in Anthropology and Women's Studies Faith is a student of history, culture, community and food and has written about these topics for over 40 years.

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