Top 15 Castles in Wales

By Samantha Scott
October 18, 2018

There are over 600 castles in Wales, a country roughly the size of Massachusetts, making it the country with the most castles per square mile in the world. It’s clear to see why this green and lush land has been dubbed “the land of castles!”

The bucolic landscape of Wales is dotted with picturesque hedges, farmland, and sheep - as far as the eye can see. And every other moment, you will see a castle. Castles both large and small are interwoven throughout the green hills and the history of Wales is very much tied to their existence.

See the Top 10 Attractions in Wales 

A large portion of the castles in Wales were constructed during the reign of King Edward I of England. He had a tremendous desire to conquer and maintain control of the Welsh lands. Edwardian castles dot the coastline and provide uniquely valuable insight into how Wales grew into the country it is today.

When you travel to Wales, there is a very slim chance your itinerary won’t include a castle or two.

The castles in Wales provide context and depth to the country’s formation and relationship with England. Most are open to visitors, and often free tours are given throughout the day that help bring the ancient ruins to life.



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Need more convincing? Here are the top castles to visit in Wales:


1. Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle in Wales

Constructed during the reign of Edward I, Harlech is often called one of finest examples of 13th century medieval architecture in the world. The castle is relatively small, but be sure to plan plenty of time to explore the parapets and grounds.

One of the most interesting facts about Harlech is that the ocean came up to the very edge, such that the sheer walls seemed to grow right out of the water - making the castle extremely formidable. Today, however, the ocean’s edge sits roughly a mile away.

Insider’s Tip: There are some very instagram-worthy open windows looking out to the ocean!

2. Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle in Wales

Another Edward I era constructed castle, Conwy exhibits the kind of might and enormity one expects from a fortress castle.

Conwy is set far enough apart from the surrounding town that it appears much the same as it would have when it was built. The inner walls approach of Edward I’s other castles was not needed in the construction of Conwy; the surrounding rocky base provided enough protection.

The castle served as much as a fortress as a home for many generations - and walking through the many rooms, it’s clear to see how the castle fostered a community. Soldiers as well as families, servants and royals all lived in the castle at various times.

3. Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle in Wales

Situated in Northern Wales, Caernarfon looks like the picture perfect image of a traditional castle - with its grey stone walls and polygonal towers. This World Heritage Site was built during the reign of King Edward I, and the first “Prince of Wales” was born inside Caernarfon in 1284.

4. Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle in Wales

Birthplace of King Henry VII, thus ushering in the Tudor Age, Pembroke is a fascinating castle to visit. The castle began as a humble wood structure and over time was built upon and altered to grow into an indestructible fortress.

If you can, be sure to catch a guided walk through the castle, which will reveal many nuances and interesting facts about the castles many uses and residents.

Insider’s tip: Don’t miss Wogans Cavern, a subterranean cave under the castle. Accessed by a small and unassuming spiral staircase, the cave comes up around a corner completely unexpectedly for a delightful reveal.

5. Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle in Wales

Cardiff is a regular stop on Wales tours, as well as some wider England and Ireland tours. The city is a mishmash of old and new. Hang out at the pier, enjoy a pub lunch, shopping and museums, as well as the Cardiff Castle.

Perched atop an old Roman fortress, dating back to 50 AD, Cardiff Castle is well worth visiting for the Victorian gothic apartments you can stroll through. These ornate rooms are a beautiful example of Victorian architecture - be sure to plan enough time to take in all the details!

6. Raglan Castle

Raglan Castle in Wales

Surrounded by bright green fields, Raglan Castle has more of a homey look and feel than a castle intended as a fortress. And in fact it was originally constructed almost as a front - not with protection in mind. Perhaps this is why the castle was ultimately taken and today exists in partial ruins.

7. Laugharne Castle

Laugharne Castle in Wales

On the banks of the River Taf estuary, Laugharne Castle has a distinctly fairytale vibe. It’s known for having provided inspiration to such prolific writers as Dylan Thomas and Richard Hughes. The castle is home to some delightful Victorian gardens and is great for taking in views over the estuary.

Insider’s Tip: If you are feeling “castled out” by the time you visit Laugharne Castle on your tour of Wales, never fear. Skirt the outer walls and continue along a lovely path and you’ll come to an unassuming boat house once used by Dylan Thomas.

8. Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly castle in Wales

The largest castle in Britain, after Windsor, Caerphilly is quite a sight to behold. Located in the ancient region of Glamorgan in Southern Wales.Caerphilly was built during the reign of Henry III.

Today, the castle has been masterfully restored after centuries of battle and disrepair and several permanent exhibits exist that help detail what life was like for people living at Caerphilly.

9. Powis Castle

Powis Castle in Wales

Exhibiting a very different kind of look than most of the other castles on this list, Powis is not only an architectural wonder, it also has beautiful gardens you can explore.

Additionally, Powis houses the Clive Museum where visitors can find over 300 items from India and other Far East countries.

10. Cilgerran Castle

Cilgerran Castle in Wales

Among the oldest castles in Wales, Cilgerran dates back to the mid 12th century. Despite being over 800 years old, Cilgerran is in remarkably good shape. The two massive towers, still standing today, represent an unusual departure to the traditional construction of the day.

11. Kidwelly Castle

 Kidwelly Castle in Wales

When it comes to beautiful locals, you could hardly do worse than Kidwelly Castle - particularly in the early morning when the castle is shrouded in mist. If you’re lucky enough to view it with the sun filtering through, over the river, you will never forget the fairytale feel.

13. Beaumaris Castle

Beaumaris Castle in Wales

The final castle in the slew of fortresses built at the orders of Edward I, Beaumaris is thought to be the most technically “perfect” castle in Wales from an architectural point of view. Beautifully and pleasingly symmetrical, Beaumaris was actually left unfinished as the money and resources ran dry.

Seen from the air, one can really get a sense of the architectural genius behind Beaumaris. Featuring a “walls within walls” approach, the castle is designed as a remarkable stronghold.

14. Carew Castle

Carew Castle in Wales

Another castle where if you manage to catch it from across the river in the early morning mist, you’re in luck for spectacular photographs.

Carew Castle is located in Pembrokeshire National Park, in south eastern Wales. History buffs will love exploring the castles many rooms and the nearby tidal mill - the only restored tidal mill in Wales. And keep your eyes open for the Carew Castle ghosts!

15. Dolwyddelan Castle

Dolwyddelan castle in Wales

Located in Northern Wales, the main tower of Dolwyddelan Castle is a common image associated with Snowdonia National Park. More a tower than a full castle, Dolwyddelan makes the landscape seem even more mythical and mysterious.

The keep was meant as a strategic hold against King Edward I, and in fact was successful in this feat for a while. The castle eventually fell into disrepair before undergoing restoration during the Victorian era.

BONUS!

16. Dinefwr Castle

Dinefwr Castle in Wales

We know we said 15 castles, but couldn't resist including this gem, recently visited by our very own head editor!

If you are visiting Newton House - a very worthwhile attraction in southern Wales - be sure to also check out nearby Dinefwr Castle. Overlooking the Tywi Valley, there is actually not a lot known about the castle’s history. It is speculated, and most historians agree, that this was once an important post during the reign of Lord Rhys in the late 12th century.

Insiders tip: The walk up to Dinefwr Castle from Newton House is uphill and longer than it looks. Be sure to plan enough time!


 

Castles are the star of many a Wales tour, but there is so much more to see! 

Learn more in our Wales Travel Guide »

Find your next Wales tour »

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