If you’re fascinated with historic castles, one of the best places you could possibly visit is Wales. Not only is it stunningly beautiful, but it’s said to have more castles per square mile than any other country in all of Europe. History left the lush landscape dotted with Roman ruins, Iron Age hill forts and more than 600 castles. Those who plan to visit, won’t want to miss experiencing at least a few of these magnificent centuries-old options.
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Pembroke Castle is the birthplace of Henry VII, the first Tudor king and the father of infamous Henry VIII, known for his six marriages, including one to Anne Boleyn, whom he executed, marrying Jane Seymour just days later. The original castle was built in the late 11th century and rebuilt in stone a century later to become one of Wales most impressive examples of Norman stone castles. Just viewing it from the outside is worth a visit, but ideally, make time to explore the inside where you’ll get a fascinating look and feel for medieval times. Take a walk around the path that meanders by the adjacent swan-filled Mill Pond for beautiful views, with benches along the way for resting while enjoying the scenery.
Conwy Castle is a medieval fortification on the north coast of Wales, built by Edward the I in the 13th century during his conquest of the country. It still stands as one of medieval Europe’s grandest fortresses, with eight linebacker towers that sit atop a rocky outcropping overlooking the River Conwy. It was cleverly designed to welcome the English approaching by sea, and repel any angry Welsh that came to attack by land. It’s fun to explore, and from here you can also take in one of the best views of the town with its medieval walls considered some of the most impressive in the United Kingdom.
One of the most famous attractions in Wales, the massive Caernarfon is considered to be Europe’s best preserved medieval fortress. It towers over Caernarfon in the north-west and was built by Edward I following his defeat of the last native Welsh prince in the late 13th-century. It occupies the site of an even older Norman castle, dominating the waters of the River Seiont and the Menai Straight on one side, protected by a moat on the other. Some may recall it as the venue for Prince Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969. While you’re here, be sure to visit the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, housed within two of the castle’s towers.
Built between 1830 and 1840, this huge Tudor Gothic mansion was designed for Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot who aimed to create an impressive residence that would complement the rich history of Margam, making a statement that would emphasize his family’s rank and historical importance. Encouraged to let his imagination run free, the architect created a Victorian fantasy, complete with turrets, gables, towers and pinnacles, cupolas and battlements, focused around three courtyards. Today it’s popular for hosting events and conferences, while visitors like to come to stroll the park grounds, enjoy picnicking and watching the deer. It’s also a favorite with paranormal investigators, including shows like “Ghost Hunters International.” Ghost walks are available that reveal some of its purported hauntings.
Located in beautiful Pembrokeshire in the south-west, Picton is a medieval castle/fortified manor house built in the 13th century by Sir John Wogan and acquired by the Phillips in the late 1400s. They owned it up until 1987 when the last members of the family gave it to the National Trust. Some are still on the board today. Visitors can enjoy guided tours from spring to autumn, and enjoy stunning gardens open throughout the year. The grounds even include a “Secret Owl Garden” for close encounters with owls that come from across the globe.
Medieval Raglan Castle in southeast Wales dates back to 1430, commissioned by Sir William ap Thomas, the Blue Knight of Gwent. Made of sandstone, it wasn’t built for defensive purposes but to showcase wealth and powerful influence. Its polygonal structures make it unique among others in Wales and it also has a moat that circles the Yellow Tower of Gwent. From the tower, you can take in a practically endless view of the scenic surrounding countryside.
Cardiff Castle was built in the 11th century on the site of an older Roman fort constructed seven centuries before. Additions were added over the years, including a shell keep and defensive walls. In the mid-18th century, it was converted into a Georgian mansion and later redesigned in Gothic revival style with the opulent interior boasting beautiful stain glass elements, murals, marble and delicate wood carvings. Located in the city center, visitors can take a tour through some of its most impressive rooms.
The view from Caldicot Castle, an extensive stone medieval castle dating back to around 1100 AD, makes it worth the visit alone, surrounded by 55-acres of beautiful grounds with tranquil gardens in south-east Wales. Its history, however, is the kind of things legends are made of, from its Norman beginnings and conflicts in the Middle Ages to serving as a family home in the Victorian era.
Chirk Castle sits along the border of England and Wales as one of the most magnificent sights in the region. Its lavish staterooms blend elaborate plasterwork with a medieval tower, a dungeon and an 18th-century Servants’ Hall. Visitors can stroll through the garden, enjoy a terrace, pavilion and parkland that encloses this medieval treasure. Completed in 1310, it held a strategic position overlooking the entrance to Ceiriog Valley, and today, it’s the only castle from the time of King Edward I time that’s still inhabited.
Caerphilly Castle sits across 30 acres near Cardiff and was built as a defensive castle. Wales’ largest and Britain’s second largest castle behind Windsor, it was constructed in the mid-to-late 13th-century, complete with a fully-flooded moat. While it was frequently threatened it was somehow never taken, with the only sign of weakness its famous leaning tower, leaning even farther than Italy’s famous leaning Pisa tower.