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15 Magnificent Welsh castles to take you back through time

15 Magnificent Welsh castles to take you back through time

These Welsh castles are brimming over with history and legend. From ghostly Gothic architecture to Arthurian ruins, step into the past at these fortresses

Castles are tangible relics of legendary kings and queens, myths and folklore, and the longevity of our nations.

Wales is particularly fortunate, as it has more castles per square mile than any other European country—over 600, in fact.

This has given Wales nicknames like “Castle Capital of the World” and “Land of Castles”. Discover a fabulous few here.

Castell Coch

Turrets and red wooden bridge at Castle Coch Welsh castleCastle Coch's distinctive red timber has earned it its nickname, the "Red Castle"

Dracula-style castles are usually found in Romania, but nestled in an ancient beech woodland, just outside Cardiff, is Wales’s very own Gothic revival building.

Castell Coch, or “Red Castle”, was re-built from 1875 by William Burges and the third Marquess of Bute as a summer house.

Its conical roofs, banqueting hall, vaulted drawing room and gatehouse all feel just like a blood-sucking monster’s home.

Cardiff Castle

Stained glass window in Cardiff CastleCardiff Castle is famed for its illustrious stained glass windows

In Wales’s capital is Cardiff Castle, a place once occupied by Roman soldiers, noble knights, parliamentary forces—and the Bute family, who added Victorian splendour like stained glass windows and opulent murals.

"The castle’s tunnels were a place of refuge during Second World War air raids"

Recent developments have opened the wartime shelters—a recreation of the castle’s tunnels that were a place of refuge during Second World War air raids.

Laugharne Castle

Laugharne Castle is situated in the “strangest town in Wales”, dubbed thus by poet Dylan Thomas. He featured the stronghold in his poetry, describing it as “brown as owls”.

Centuries before, Laugharne was a Norman fortress, and by the 16th century was a Tudor manor. Today, it’s one of the UK’s finest Elizabethan mansions, with an exquisite 19th-century ornamental garden.

Carreg Cennen Castle

Perched 300ft above the River Cennen, on the edge of a limestone cliff, is Carreg Cennen—Wales’s most romantic ruin. It’s been immortalised by many artists and has links to Wales’s famous rulers, the Princes of Deheubarth.

There are remnants of its role as a Lancastrian garrison during the Wars of the Roses, and there’s even a legend of a prince sleeping in its caves. You can visit these, but make sure to duck.

Dinefwr Castle

Ruins of Welsh castle Dinesfwr in the middle of misty forested hillsCredit: Daniel Phillips, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Close to Dinefwr Castle is Newton House, which is said to be haunted by the Lady in White, a woman who was murdered by her suitor

Dinefwr Castle was once the principal court of Lord Rhys, a prince of Deheubarth. Today, it’s run by the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, Cadw.

On the same property is Newton House, owned by Lord Rhys’s descendants and is the National Trust’s most haunted property. There’s also an 18th-century deer park, a national nature reserve, and famous white cows linked to the mythical Lady of the Lake.

Dryslwyn Castle

From the battlements of Dinefwr Castle, you can see the isolated mound on which Dryslwyn Castle sits.

This is another Deheubarth fortress, used as a military base in 1287, and is considered the finest masonry castle built by Welsh lords. You can explore the remains of makeshift terraces, a gatehouse, and three-metre-thick walls.

Kidwelly Castle

If Kidwelly looks familiar, it’s because it was used in the first scene of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

"It’s also the site where Wales’s only warrior princess, Gwenllian, led an army against the English"

It’s also the site where Wales’s only warrior princess, Gwenllian, led an army against the English, and a statue commemorating her stands tall outside the gatehouse.

The murder holes are a fascinating insight into the castle’s turbulent past.

Carew Castle

With 2,000 years of history, Carew Castle was occupied first by Normans, then Elizabethans, who made it a lavish country house.

Carew retains sections of Elizabethan style, like opulent windows, and has preserved coats of arms honouring Henry VII, Prince Arthur, and Queen Catherine of Aragon.

Watch out for the ghosts haunting the corridors, including a Celtic warrior.

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle overlooking lake on sunny dayThe ghost of a Celtic warrior is said to haunt Pembroke Castle's undercroft

Pembroke is built above a natural cave and is known as the birthplace of Henry Tudor in 1457.

Its fortifications include a 23-metre-tall and six-metre-thick keep and the “Henry VII Tower”. In the latter, there’s an exhibition with statues, detailing Henry’s birth and his uncle, Jasper Tudor’s, life.

Roch Castle

This is an 800-year-old castle located near St David’s City—Britain’s smallest city.

The 12th-century fortification sits on top of a rocky outcrop and is a five-star accommodation which can be booked as a B&B or hired for exclusive use, complete with a private chef, staff, and contemporary interiors.

Day visitors can view the property from the grand entrance.

Raglan Castle

Raglan is “the grandest castle ever built by Welshmen,” and its multi-angular towers and Tudor-style interiors are certainly impressive.

It was Henry Tudor’s home (prison) for years: he was held here by the Herbert family, who wanted to keep him away from Lancastrian supporters during the Wars of the Roses.

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle overlooking bridge and river full of boats on sunny dayConwy Castle's lime-rendered walls once gleamed a snowy white 

Conwy was built by King Edward I in the late 13th century, and has many intact, medieval royal apartments, even more than the Tower of London.

Make sure to climb the stately towers for views of Snowdonia and look out for traces of lime render on the walls, hinting that the castle was originally white.

Caerphilly Castle

Ironically, it was the fear of a Welsh prince that caused the Marcher lord, Gilbert de Clare, to build Caerphilly Castle.

"It’s the largest castle in Wales and second-biggest in Britain"

It’s the largest castle in Wales and second-biggest in Britain—second only to Windsor—spanning 30 acres on an island surrounded by an artificial lake. Its leaning tower, even more askew than Pisa, is a must-see.

Harlech Castle

Harlech is a formidable coastal castle overlooking a wave of sand dunes. It’s this World Heritage Site, built by Edward I, where Wales’s alternative national anthem, “Men of Harlech”, was devised.

Its “floating” footbridge and defences made from walls within walls are its most impressive features, but they didn’t prevent enemy sieges.

Powis Castle

Classical statue in gardens of Powis Castle in WalesPowis Castle is known for its world-famous ornate Italian and French-inspired gardens 

This 13th-century fortress is a homely place with intimate interiors and decadent galleries.

Powis is renowned for its Italian and French-inspired gardens, festooned with Italianate terraces, herbaceous borders, an 18th-century orangery, an Edwardian kitchen garden, 30-feet clipped yew trees, and more. There’s also a medieval deer park.

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