Castles of Wales, Caerphilly Castle
Castles of Wales, Caerphilly Castle

Discover the Castles of Wales: A Journey Back In Time

Wales, a country rich in history and breathtaking landscapes, is often referred to as the “Land of Castles.” With over 600 castles dotting its verdant hills and rugged coastlines, Wales offers an enchanting journey back in time. For tourists, exploring these magnificent fortresses is like stepping into the pages of a medieval storybook, where every stone whispers tales of knights, battles, and royal intrigue. In this article we will touch on just a few castles – ones you should not miss on your travels throughout the country.

Caerphilly Castle

North of Cardiff, you’ll find Caerphilly Castle (pictured above) , one of the largest castles in Britain, second only in size to Windsor Castle, and covering 30 acres. Its build started in 1268 by Gilbert de Clare. Famous for its extensive water defenses and massive gatehouse, Caerphilly Castle is a marvel of medieval military architecture. The castle’s leaning tower, often compared to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, adds a unique charm to this imposing fortress. Wander through its expansive grounds, explore the dark, echoing halls, and let your imagination run wild with stories of sieges and secret passages.

This historic site is open year round and there is an admission fee. It is currently undergoing some repairs and updates, so it might be best to call ahead if there is a particular aspect you must see to make your visit to this castle complete. 

Castles of Wales, Cardiff castle

Cardiff Castle ~ the Norman Keep 

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff, the vibrant capital city, is home to the impressive Cardiff Castle. Situated in the heart of the city, this castle is a perfect blend of Roman fort, Norman stronghold, and Victorian Gothic fantasy. The lavish interiors, complete with opulent rooms and stunning murals, provide a glimpse into the life of the Marquess of Bute, who transformed the castle in the 19th century. Don’t miss the castle’s Clock Tower, which offers panoramic views of the city, the Roman remains and Chariot Corner, the Norman Keep (pictured above), the lavish Castle Apartments, and the Wartime Shelters. There is also a military museum.

This castle is open year round, 7 days a week excepting Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Years. There is an admission fee, and you can rent rooms in the castle for events or weddings. You can explore the castle on your own and there is an app available as an audio guide to your explorations. 

Castles of Wales, Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle

Heading north, you’ll find the crown jewels of Welsh castles in the region of Gwynedd, many of which are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Conwy Castle, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Conwy River, is a masterpiece of medieval engineering. Built by Edward I between 1283 and 1287 during his conquest of Wales, the castle boasts eight massive towers and a curtain wall that offers spectacular views of the surrounding town and countryside. Walking along its battlements, you can almost hear the clang of swords and the shouts of soldiers defending the fortress. This amazing castle/fortress is open year round with admission charged.

The town of Conwy itself is surrounded by a massive 1.3 km (.8 mile) long wall, part of the battlements built by Edward.

Castles of Wales, Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle

Not far from Conwy lies the majestic Caernarfon Castle, another of Edward I’s grand designs (along with Harlech, below and Conwy above). This castle is not just a fortress but a symbol of English power in Wales with the castle fortress, walled town, and stone quay. Its polygonal towers and color-banded masonry are unlike any other castle in Britain. History buffs will appreciate the castle’s role in the investiture of the Prince of Wales, a tradition that continues to this day. As you stroll through its mighty halls and climb its lofty towers, the grandeur and scale of Caernarfon Castle are truly awe-inspiring. This is another historical site open year round, admission charged.

Castles of Wales, Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle

For those who love off-the-beaten-path adventures, Wales has plenty of lesser-known castles that offer intimate and unique experiences. Harlech Castle, with its dramatic setting atop a cliff overlooking the Irish Sea, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a rich history and breathtaking views. The castle’s “floating” appearance, due to its strategic position, makes it one of the most picturesque in Wales. You can view the mountains of Snowdonia in the distance as well as the land stretching our far and wide below.

When beseiged, the castle was accessible by a precarious set of 108 steps up from the sea. Nowadays, there is a unique floating footbridge. As with all the others, this castle is open year round, admission varying with the seasons.

Castles of Wales, Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle

Further south, you’ll find Pembroke Castle, the birthplace of Henry VII, the first Tudor king of England. This massive fortress, with its labyrinth of tunnels and staircases, is a delight to explore. The castle’s location on the banks of the River Cleddau provides a serene backdrop for a picnic or a leisurely boat ride.

There is an admission fee but the guided tours of the castle are free.

Planning Your Trip

Spring and summer offer the best weather and the lushest landscapes, while autumn provides a stunning backdrop of changing leaves. It is Wales, so be prepared for some rainy days by bringing a waterproof jacket. And if you are wandering the castle grounds or battlements, wear sturdy supportive shoes. Modern lifts may help if you have mobility issues but you may not be able to visit all areas. We suggest inquiring before buying your ticket and/or making the journey, or have your travel advisor do so on your behalf. Entry prices to the castle sites may vary from low (winter) to high season (summer).

Many castles host medieval reenactments, festivals, and events, making a visit even more memorable. Visit the castle websites (linked) and you can plan your visit around the most interesting (to you) event(s).

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a family on an adventure, or a couple seeking a romantic getaway, the castles of Wales promise an unforgettable journey through history. All can be arranged with the help of your real travel expert.  So, lace up your walking boots, pack your camera/mobile phone, and get ready to explore the enchanting world of Welsh castles.

All images courtesy of Adobestock.