Wales is home to some of the most breath-taking castles in the world.
These majestic stone-work structures are a real, and lasting, testament to the country’s rich history and should definitely be at the top of the ‘days out bucket list’ for anyone interested in medieval architecture and history.
In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the best preserved castles in Wales that are open to visitors.
From the iconic Caernarfon Castle to the stunning Beaumaris Castle, each of these castles has its own unique story to tell and views that are rather magnificent, too.
So, let’s get stuck in
First up is the majestic Beaumaris Castle, located in the town of Beaumaris on the Isle of Anglesey.
This is a masterpiece of military architecture designed by James of St. George for Edward I and, like the other castles built in this area, it was part of the king’s plan to establish English dominance over Wales.
It was built from 1295 onwards, using the latest techniques and materials of the time, such as concentric walls and massive round towers.
Remarkably, Beaumaris Castle was never completed, but it still stands today as one of the finest examples of medieval military architecture in Europe.
The castle’s impressive design, with its symmetrical layout, inner and outer wards, and water-filled moat, is a real testament to the skill of its architects and builders at the time.
Each of the four sides of the castle is identical, with a gatehouse, two D-shaped towers, and a curtain wall connecting them. The castle also has a unique hexagonal inner ward, which was designed to provide additional protection for the king and his family (a real ‘must have’ back when battles could easily unseat a nobleman).
Today you can explore inside the castle, climb the towers, and walk along the battlements. The castle also features an impressive exhibition that tells the story of the castle’s construction and its place in Welsh history.
Next up is the magnificent Conwy Castle. Located on the coast of North Wales, Conwy Castle was built by King Edward I in the late 13th century. The castle was constructed as part of the king’s conquest of Wales and was strategically placed to guard the River Conwy and the sea approach to the town of the same name.
The castle is an impressive feat of medieval engineering, with its walls stretching over three-quarters of a mile and its eight imposing towers looming over the surrounding landscape.
One of the most unique features of Conwy Castle is its unusual construction. The castle was built in just four years using a new technique at the time, using a mixture of limestone and sand to create a type of concrete. This allowed for the rapid construction of the castle and also made it much more durable than traditional stone castles.
If you visit Conwy Castle you cannot avoid the stunning views from the battlements, which offer panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains (Snowdonia National Park) and sea.
Whilst at the castle, the town of Conwy is also worth exploring, with its picturesque harbour, quaint shops, and historic buildings.
Castell Coch, also known as the “Red Castle,” is a striking and beautifully preserved 19th-century Gothic Revival castle located on a hilltop just north of Cardiff.
This stunning castle was built in the late 19th century by the third Marquess of Bute, who had a passion for architecture and history. He employed William Burges, a brilliant and eccentric architect, to design and build the castle.
The result is a masterpiece of Victorian architecture, full of richly decorated interiors, stained glass, intricate wood carvings, and beautifully landscaped gardens.
You can explore the ornate rooms and marvel at the intricate detail in every aspect of the castle, from the grand banqueting hall to the beautiful spiral staircase.
One of the most impressive features of Castell Coch is the magnificent tower, which offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. You can also take a leisurely stroll through the lush gardens, which are filled with beautiful flowers and plants, and enjoy the very peaceful surroundings.
As the largest castle in Wales, Caerphilly Castle is a magnificent testament to medieval military architecture.
Built in the late 13th century by Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Lord of Glamorgan, Caerphilly Castle was designed to protect the Welsh frontier and assert Norman dominance over the area.
Located in the town of Caerphilly, about 7 miles north of Cardiff, the castle was built on the site of an earlier Norman fortification.
The castle features a series of concentric walls, towers, and gatehouses, surrounded by a water-filled moat. It also has a leaning tower, similar to that of Pisa, which tilts at a greater angle than its Italian counterpart.
One of the most interesting features of Caerphilly Castle is its remarkable defensive system, which includes a network of underground tunnels and a series of advanced water defences. The castle was also equipped with the latest military technology of the time, such as trebuchets and mangonels.
The castle also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including medieval reenactments, concerts, and festivals.
Located in the town of Chepstow in Monmouthshire, Chepstow Castle is one of the oldest surviving stone-built castles in Britain. Its location on the River Wye makes it a strategic site, with commanding views over the river and the surrounding countryside.
The castle was constructed in the late 11th century by William FitzOsbern, a Norman lord who was given control of the area by William the Conqueror. It was built on a steep limestone cliff, which provided a natural defence against attackers.
Over the centuries, the castle was expanded and modified by a number of different owners, including King Henry II, who added the Great Tower in the 12th century, and Roger Bigod, who built the Barbican in the 13th century.
Visitors to Chepstow Castle can explore the castle’s inner bailey, which contains the Great Hall, the ruins of the Chapel of St. Mary, and the remains of the castle’s kitchen and buttery. The outer bailey, which includes the castle’s walls and towers, offers stunning views of the River Wye and the surrounding countryside.
One of the castle’s most interesting features is its gatehouse, which was built in the early 13th century by William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. The gatehouse is a prime example of medieval military architecture, with its portcullis, murder holes, and arrow slits.
You can also climb to the top of the gatehouse for breath-taking views of the castle and the river.
The castle also hosts a number of events throughout the year, including medieval reenactments and outdoor theatre & live music performances.
Built in the early 14th century, Raglan Castle is located in the Monmouthshire countryside and is one of the last medieval castles to be built in Wales.
Its design is unique, blending elements of both fortification and domesticity. Visitors to Raglan Castle can expect to see many of the original features still intact, including the Great Tower and the moat which surrounds the castle.
The history of Raglan Castle is just as fascinating as its design.
It was the seat of the powerful Herbert family for over 200 years and was the site of one of the last sieges of the English Civil War, which saw the castle fall to Parliamentary forces.
Despite the damage caused during the siege, Raglan Castle still remains an impressive sight and an important piece of Welsh history.
You can explore the castle’s many rooms, including the imposing Great Hall, which once hosted lavish banquets and ceremonies. The castle’s inner courtyard, complete with a fountain and elegant arches, is another highlight. One can also climb the spiral staircase in the Great Tower to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
The castle grounds themselves are also pretty amazing, with manicured lawns, gardens, and a moat that surrounds the castle. It’s an ideal place for a picnic or a leisurely stroll.
Harlech Castle, situated in the small town of Harlech, Gwynedd, is one of the finest castles in Wales. The castle, built on a high rocky outcrop overlooking the Irish Sea, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986.
The castle was constructed by King Edward I in the late 13th century as part of his campaign to conquer Wales. The fortress was designed to be an impregnable stronghold with thick stone walls and high towers, and it played a key role in the wars between the English and the Welsh.
The castle also played a significant role in Welsh culture and history, and was famously the site of the Welsh rebellion led by Owain Glyndŵr in the early 15th century. The castle’s chapel also played a role in Welsh history, serving as a place of refuge for Welsh princes during the turbulent times of the Middle Ages.
Harlech Castle is one of the most visually striking castles in Wales, with its massive walls and towers standing majestically against the dramatic backdrop of Eryri / Snowdonia National Park. You can also climb to the top of the towers for stunning views of the surrounding countryside and coastline.
One of the most impressive features of Harlech Castle is its water gate, which allowed the castle to be resupplied by sea (when the castle was built the sea came right up the cliff but today that distance stretches to about 1km).
Most recently a new visitor centre, shop and café has been built adjacent to the castle, so you really do have everything on-site to make Harlech a cracking place to visit.
Nestled in the quaint little town of Laugharne lies one of Wales’ hidden treasures – Laugharne Castle. This picturesque castle overlooks the Taf Estuary and is steeped in rich history and legend.
The castle was constructed in the 13th century by a Norman knight, Sir Guy de Brian, on the site of an earlier timber fort. It was later owned by the de Coran family, who in the early 15th century rebuilt the castle in stone. The castle saw its fair share of battles and sieges, and was eventually abandoned in the 17th century.
One of the most notable owners of Laugharne Castle was Sir John Perrot, a former Lord Deputy of Ireland and a close friend of Queen Elizabeth I. Perrot made several improvements to the castle, including adding a formal garden and a bowling green.
Today, visitors can explore the castle ruins & garden, which offer stunning views of the estuary and surrounding countryside. Take a walk through the remains of the gatehouse, towers and curtain walls, and imagine what life would have been like for the medieval lords who once inhabited this castle.
Laugharne Castle is also famous for its association with the poet Dylan Thomas, who lived in the town for the last four years of his life. Thomas frequented the castle and it is said to have inspired many of his works, including the play Under Milk Wood. Visitors can see a statue of the poet in the castle grounds and visit his writing shed, which is located nearby.
Located on the northwest coast of Wales, Caernarfon Castle is one of the most impressive fortifications in the country.
Built by King Edward I in the 13th century, the castle played a crucial role in the English monarch’s conquest of Wales.
Today, Caernarfon Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular destination for tourists.
The castle’s unique polygonal shape is immediately striking and the castle’s impressive curtain walls, towers, and gatehouses were designed to withstand attacks from Welsh rebels and provide a formidable defence for the English garrison stationed there.
One of the castle’s most iconic features is the King’s Gate, a grand entranceway that leads visitors into the castle’s inner ward. The gatehouse is decorated with intricate carvings and is a testament to the grandeur of Edward I’s vision for the castle.
Today you can explore the castle’s many towers and ramparts, including the Eagle Tower, which offers stunning views of the town and the surrounding mountains.
The castle also houses the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, which tells the story of the regiment’s distinguished history, from its formation in 1689 to its role in conflicts around the world.
So, that’s our round up top castles to visit in Wales but with so many to explore across the country, we cannot possibly fit them all in one list.
Fear not… we’ve got tonnes more great castles that you can visit in Wales, and throughout the UK listed on Monty’s Guide. You can either click the link above or head to our ‘Explore’ page to refine your search down to an exact location, or filter by specific amenities.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article about the best castles to visit and it will inspire some amazing adventures in the future.
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