With more historic fortresses per square mile than any other country in Europe, it is little wonder that Wales is known as the “Land of Castles”. In fact, the mountains, borders and coastlines of this small but varied nation were once home to more than 400 forts; whilst many are vanished remaining only as ruins or earthworks, today there still exists more than 100 historic monuments, fortresses and manor houses. And for the modern traveller they make for a trove of historic treasures just waiting to be discovered. Here are our top ten Castles of Wales!
10. Carreg Cennen Castle
A site dating back to 1300, Carreg Cennen Castle makes for an impressive sight towering some 900ft on a limestone precipice overlooking the Preseli Hills on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park in mid-Wales.
9. Raglan Castle
Unlike many of the Wales’ other medieval Castles, this Norman fort has a unique design, styled to appear like an elegant French chateau. But don’t be fooled, it still offered fierce defences with its hill-top position and moat tower.
8. Powis Castle
Dating back to circa 1200, this castle in mid Wales evolved over the following four centuries and today is home to exquisite interiors and antique collections to include paintings, sculpture, furniture and tapestries. And all surrounded by stunning grounds of classic Italian and French-inspired manicured gardens.
7. Chepstow Castle
Chepstow Castle is an imposing border fort overlooking the scenic estuary of the River Wye in South East Wales; the town where JK Rowling grew up, it is possible to see how the fortress may have influenced her works of fantasy and potentially inspired parts of Hogwarts Castle.
6. Castle Coch
Commissioned by the 19th century coal baron, the Marquess of Bute, Castell Coch is far more recent than many of Wales’ forts and offers a stunning Victorian gothic-revival, fairy-tale castle of spires and turrets scenically set amidst thick woodlands on the outskirts of Cardiff.
5. Harlech Castle
A UNESCO World Heritage Fortress, Harlech Castle perches on a hill-top on the North Wales coast overlooking the Irish Sea and offers a unique history; originally constructed to oppress the Welsh the Castle later fell to Welsh ruler Owain Glyndwr who held a parliament here in the early 1400’s.
4. Caerphilly Castle
Second in size only to Windsor Castle in Britain, Caerphilly Castle near Cardiff covers a site of 30 acres and demonstrates sophisticated 13th century military design with concentric ringed walls and extensive water defences.
3. Caernarfon Castle
One of Edward I’s “ring of steel” around North Wales and with unique polygonal towers, Caernarfon is a beautiful and well-preserved 13th century fortress which received more recent notoriety as the venue of Prince Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969.
2. Conwy Castle
“One of the greatest fortresses of Medieval Europe” Conwy Castle today holds UNESCO World Heritage status. Impressive and imposing, the fort remains linked to the Conwy town walls which almost completely encircle this beautiful medieval market town to this day.
1. Cardiff Castle
An utterly unique castle located in the heart of Wales’ bustling capital city of Cardiff and overlooking acres of open parkland, Cardiff Castle combines Roman history, a Norman Motte and a glorious mock gothic Victorian manor complete with clock tower and opulent living quarters.
To explore the beautiful landscapes, cities, coasts and castles of Wales why not do so on the Wales Explorer self-drive itinerary as featured on our website here. You can add the CADW Wales explorer pass which offers free admission to dozens of castles and historic sites across Wales.