Wales – the Country of 500 Castles
No trip to Wales would be complete without visiting at least one of its many famed castles. From imposing coastal fortresses and moated structures to romantic ruins and architectural landmarks, they tell a story of Wales’ turbulent past and the shifting powers in the region. If you are not struck by history then the sheer beauty and size of some of these castles will get you. Here’s a list to visit while on your holiday:
A World Heritage Site, Caernarfon Castle is a dramatic structure overlooking the Menai Strait off north-west Wales. Built by Edward I on the site of an old Roman fort, the massive building is famous for its polygonal towers and affords stunning views out to sea. In 1969 Prince Charles’s investiture as the Prince of Wales took place here.
One of Europe’s great castles, the imposing Caerphilly Castle is Wales’ biggest castle and is second only in size in Britain to Windsor Castle. When it was built under the stewardship of Gilbert de Clare in the 13th century is was ahead of its time for its concentric design and its use of water defences. Visitors come to walk around the huge fortifications including its famous leaning tower as well as take in the re-enactment performances that take place here during the tourist season.
Built in the 13th century and overlooking the Taf estuary, Laugharne is famous for inspiring celebrated Welsh poet Dylan Thomas who wrote several poems among its ruins. Thomas lived in Laugharne and a signed path running past the castle takes you up to his nearby clifftop writing shed and down to the boathouse where he lived. The castle has an interesting history and at one time was owned by Sir John Parrott, said to have been the illegitimate son of Henry VIII.
Widely regarded as Edward I’s finest castle, Conwy was built as part of his drive to invade and control Wales. With rounded towers and huge defensive walls the castle is situated on top of a rock with commanding views over the River Conway. With Snowdonia National Park as an imposing backdrop, the castle guards the walled town of Conwy whose defences stretch in a circuit measuring more than three quarters of a mile and contain an impressive 22 towers.
Perched high on a rocky promontory surrounded by woods above the River Teifi, the 13th century Cilgerran Castle is famed for its romantic setting. Now mostly in ruins save for its two imposing round towers, the castle is a National Trust property that holidaymakers should visit as part of their trip to Pembrokeshire. Cilgerran’s beauty has inspired many artists including Turner who famously produced an oil painting of the dramatic fortification at the turn of the 19th century.
Originally built for defence in the 12th century, Powis has been constantly updated over the centuries and now resembles a stately home as much as a fortress. Influenced by French and Italian styles, the castle features statues and an orangery. Today Powis, which is looked after by the National Trust, attracts visitors wanting to see its famous gardens and its wonderful collection of treasures from India is displayed in the Clive Museum inside the castle.