welsh castles list

Fortresses of Wales: A Comprehensive Guide to Historic Welsh Castles

Wales is home to some of the most iconic and historic castles in the world. These fortresses are not just a testament to Welsh architecture and engineering but also to the country’s rich history and culture. The Welsh castles list includes a variety of castle types from medieval fortresses to hilltop strongholds, each with its unique story to tell. In this article, we provide a comprehensive guide to the historic castles in Wales, exploring their history, architecture, and cultural significance.

Key Takeaways

Exploring Welsh History through Castles

Wales is known for its rich history, and one of the most significant ways this history is preserved is through the many castles scattered throughout the country. Welsh castles are not just ancient fortifications; they are symbols of power, resilience, and the enduring nature of Welsh identity.

These castles were built at different times in history, starting from the medieval period to the present day. Many of them have played a pivotal role in Welsh history, housing royalty, guarding borders, and serving as military strongholds.

Castles in Wales are notable features of the landscape and have played a significant role in shaping Welsh history. They were built to protect the country from invaders, and many of them remain in good condition today, serving as popular tourist attractions.

Wales has a unique history that is closely intertwined with its castles. These fortresses stand as a testament to the country’s turbulent past and its capacity for resilience and resistance. They are an enduring reminder of the role played by Welsh people in shaping the world as we know it today.

Medieval Castles: Guardians of the Past

Medieval castles are an integral part of Welsh history, preserving a rich heritage that spans hundreds of years. These imposing fortresses were designed to protect against invasion and were built to withstand the tests of time.

Welsh medieval castles were typically constructed in a square or rectangular shape, with walls several feet thick and towers at each corner. The interiors were designed for practicality rather than comfort, with a focus on storage areas, armories, and living quarters for soldiers. The architecture of these structures is a testament to the skill of medieval builders and engineers.

Today, many of these castles have been preserved as heritage sites in Wales, serving as a reminder of the country’s proud history. Some of the most notable examples include Caernarfon Castle, Conwy Castle, and Harlech Castle, which have all been designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Visitors to these castles can explore the past by walking through halls where kings and knights once roamed, admiring intricate stone carvings and learning more about the history of Wales. These sites are an essential destination for anyone interested in medieval history or Welsh culture.

Royal Residences: Castles Fit for Kings and Queens

Wales has been home to numerous royal castles over the centuries. These castles served as the residences of Welsh royalty and played a significant role in shaping Welsh history. Today, many of these castles remain popular tourist destinations, providing visitors with a glimpse into Wales’ royal past.

Castle Name Location Notable Features
Conwy Castle Conwy, North Wales Built by Edward I as part of his conquest of Wales. One of the best-preserved medieval castles in Europe. UNESCO World Heritage site.
Caernarfon Castle Caernarfon, North Wales Built by Edward I as a royal palace and military stronghold. Birthplace of Prince Edward, the first English Prince of Wales. UNESCO World Heritage site.
Pembroke Castle Pembroke, South Wales Birthplace of Henry VII, the first Tudor king. Iconic round keep and extensive fortifications.

These Welsh royal residences were not just home to royalty but were also the sites of significant historical events, such as the Investiture of Prince Charles as the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in 1969.

Today, visitors can explore the grand halls and chambers of these castles and get a feel for what life was like for Welsh royalty in medieval times.

Tip: Be sure to check the schedules of these royal castles for any special events or exhibits, as they often host events throughout the year.

Fortresses Along the Coast: Coastal Defense Castles

As Wales is surrounded by sea, it comes as no surprise that there are numerous coastal defense castles located around its seaboard. These castles served to protect the Welsh coastline from intruders, especially during the medieval times.

One of the most iconic coastal defense castles is Harlech Castle, situated on the west coast of North Wales. Its location on a rocky outcrop provided an excellent vantage point for its defenders to watch over the sea and give warning of any potential attacks. It was also the site of a long siege during the 15th century War of the Roses.

Another famous coastal defense castle is Beaumaris Castle, located on Anglesey Island. Designed by the famous architect James of St. George, it has a unique concentric design that allowed its defenders to cover each other from multiple angles. However, it was never fully completed due to funding issues.

Fortresses Along the Coast: Coastal Defense Castles – Table of Contents

Castle Location Notable Features
Harlech Castle North Wales coast Rocky outcrop, long siege during the War of the Roses
Beaumaris Castle Isle of Anglesey Concentric design, unfinished due to funding issues

Other notable coastal defense castles include Conwy Castle, situated on the east coast of North Wales, and Caernarfon Castle, located in the town of Caernarfon in Gwynedd.

Exploring these coastal defense castles is a great way to experience Welsh history and the country’s beautiful coastline. The fortifications’ strategic locations and architectural features make them fascinating places to visit, and you can easily spend hours learning about their history and significance.

Castles of the Marches: Borderland Fortifications

Wales has a long and complex history of conflict and conquest, much of which centering around its borders with England. The castles of the Marches, situated along this borderland, played an important role in Welsh defense, withstanding numerous invasions over the centuries. These Welsh border castles were built by the English and Welsh alike, with many changing hands multiple times during periods of battle.

The architecture of these castles varies greatly depending on who built them, with some showcasing classic Welsh features and others adopting more traditional English designs. Chepstow Castle, one of the earliest stone castles in Britain, sits near the Bristol Channel and served as a stronghold for both the English and Welsh. Powis Castle, located in Welshpool, is a rare example of a castle built entirely by Welsh craftsmen, incorporating the distinctive triangular motifs found in Welsh architecture.

For those interested in the history of the Welsh borderlands, exploring these castles provides insight into the struggles and conflicts faced by the people who lived in this region. Visiting these castles is also an opportunity to see some of the most striking examples of medieval fortress architecture in Britain. In addition to Chepstow Castle and Powis Castle, other noteworthy examples include Chirk Castle and Caerphilly Castle, the latter boasting a unique concentric design.

Beautiful Ruins: Abandoned Welsh Castles

While exploring the castles in Wales, you’ll undoubtedly come across some ruins. These abandoned castles may no longer be inhabited, but they still possess a captivating allure, evoking feelings of melancholic romance. These historical ruins play a vital role in preserving Welsh architectural heritage, and visiting them provides an opportunity to ponder the lives of those who built and lived in them.

One of the most impressive ruins is Dolwyddelan Castle. This fortress, located in the Conwy Valley, dates back to the 13th century and was built by Llywelyn the Great as a stronghold for the Princes of Gwynedd. Today, visitors can explore the dilapidated remains of the fortress, including the tower and walls, while taking in the stunning views of the valley below.

Another must-see ruin is Carreg Cennen Castle. Perched high on a hill in Carmarthenshire, this fortress has a rich and fascinating history. It was once a strategic stronghold for the Welsh princes and was later occupied by English forces during the Norman Conquest. In the 15th century, it became a site of conflict during the Wars of the Roses. The castle fell into ruin after being destroyed in the 17th century, and today visitors can explore its remains, including the gatehouse, tower, and battlements.

Exploring these abandoned castles is a chance to step back in time and connect with the past. As you wander through the crumbling walls and towers, it’s easy to imagine the lives of those who once inhabited these fortresses. These beautiful ruins are a testament to Welsh history and a must-see for any history enthusiast.

Hidden Gems: Lesser-Known Welsh Castles

While the big-name castles in Wales are undoubtedly impressive, the lesser-known ones are no less deserving of attention. From hidden ruins to little-known hilltop fortresses, these castles offer a glimpse into Wales’ rich history and architectural heritage.

One such hidden gem is Criccieth Castle, located on the Llŷn Peninsula. This 13th-century fortress, often overshadowed by its grander neighbors, boasts stunning views of the sea and the surrounding landscape.

Another lesser-known castle worth exploring is Castell y Bere, situated in the remote Dysynni Valley. This ruined fortress served as a stronghold for Welsh princes in the 13th century and is now a fascinating historical site.

Further south, the intriguing Laugharne Castle awaits discovery. This picturesque castle, immortalized by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, sits on a bluff overlooking the Taf Estuary.

For those seeking a truly off-the-beaten-path experience, consider visiting Castell Dinas Brân. This hilltop castle in the Dee Valley requires a steep climb but rewards visitors with breathtaking views and a sense of solitude.

“These hidden castles may not be as well-known, but they offer a unique perspective on Welsh history and are well worth a visit for those seeking to truly immerse themselves in the country’s culture and heritage.”

Castles with a View: Hilltop Strongholds

While many Welsh castles were built for strategic purposes, others were constructed on hilltops for their breathtaking views. These hilltop castles, known as Welsh hill fortresses, offer a unique perspective on Wales’ natural beauty, as well as a glimpse into the country’s history.

One of the most famous hilltop castles in Wales is Caerphilly Castle. Built in the 13th century, this castle boasts stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Its impressive defenses, including moats and towers, make it one of the most impressive castles in Wales.

Raglan Castle is another hilltop stronghold that offers visitors stunning views. Built in the 15th century, this castle was once one of the grandest residences in Wales. Today, visitors can explore its impressive ruins and take in the panoramic views from its elevated location.

Other notable Welsh hill fortresses include Castell y Bere, one of the most remote and evocative castles in Wales, and Dinefwr Castle, located in the heart of the Welsh countryside.

Exploring Welsh hill fortresses is a unique way to experience Wales’ natural beauty, as well as its rich history. These castles offer a glimpse into the country’s past while also providing unforgettable views that are sure to leave visitors in awe.

Castles in Pop Culture: Film and Literature

Welsh castles have been a source of inspiration for many filmmakers and writers, and their timeless appeal continues to attract audiences from around the world. From epic battles to romantic tales, Welsh castles have been featured in countless films and literature. Let’s take a closer look at Welsh castles in popular culture.

Welsh Castles in Film

Many well-known movies have been shot in Welsh castles, including those in the Harry Potter series and Robin Hood. Harry Potter fans will recognize Caerphilly Castle in the second movie, where it was used as the stand-in for the exterior of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The castle has also been featured as a backdrop in several other films, such as Doctor Who and Merlin. Other famous castles include Beaumaris Castle, which was the location for the 2018 Netflix original film Apostle, and Caernarfon Castle, which has appeared in many movies, including King Arthur.

Castles in Literature

Welsh castles have also played a significant role in literature, inspiring many famous works. Castles like Caernarfon and Conwy have been mentioned in countless books and poems, including works by William Wordsworth and Dylan Thomas. The most famous literary work to feature a Welsh castle is probably the Arthurian legend, which often references Caerleon Castle and other Welsh castles as the settings for various tales of knights and chivalry.

Castle Portrayals in Media

The romance and mystery of Welsh castles have also been portrayed in various media. They have appeared in many TV shows, including the popular BBC series Merlin. Welsh castles have also been featured in video games, such as Assassin’s Creed II and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. These portrayals have helped to further popularize Welsh castles and bring attention to their historical significance.


Welsh castles are an integral part of the country’s rich history, and exploring them can provide a fascinating journey through time. From medieval fortresses to coastal defense castles, royal residences to abandoned ruins, the Welsh castles list offers a wide range of options for history enthusiasts.

Through the centuries, these historic castles in Wales served as symbols of power, defense, and heritage. They have witnessed wars, conquests, and the rise and fall of empires. Exploring Welsh history through castles is a unique and rewarding experience that can provide a deeper understanding of the country’s past.

Whether you’re interested in the architecture, the stories, or the breathtaking views, the Welsh castles list has something for everyone. These historic castles in Wales continue to inspire and enchant visitors from all over the world, and they remain a testament to Wales’ enduring cultural legacy.

So why not embark on your own journey through Wales’ rich past by exploring its historic castles?

Discover the hidden gems and lesser-known castles, witness the captivating ruins, and explore the hilltop strongholds. Welsh castles in film, TV shows, and literature have also left an indelible mark on pop culture, attracting even more visitors to these iconic landmarks.

With so much to see and explore, the Welsh castles list is a must-visit for any history enthusiast. So, start planning your trip today and immerse yourself in the rich history of Wales through its historic castles.

In conclusion, Welsh castles are a testament to the country’s enduring cultural legacy, and exploring them is a unique and rewarding experience. We hope this comprehensive guide to Welsh castles, including the Welsh castles list, has inspired you to embark on your own journey through Wales’ rich past. Happy exploring!


Q: What is the purpose of this article?

A: The purpose of this article is to provide a comprehensive guide to historic Welsh castles and explore their significance in Welsh history.

Q: How many sections are there in this article?

A: There are 11 sections in this article, each focusing on a different aspect of Welsh castles.

Q: Are all the castles mentioned in the article open to the public?

A: Most of the castles mentioned in the article are open to the public, but it is always recommended to check their individual websites for opening hours and visiting guidelines.

Q: Are there any Welsh castles that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

A: Yes, several Welsh castles, such as Caernarfon Castle and Beaumaris Castle, are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Q: Are there any castles in Wales that offer accommodation?

A: Yes, there are some castles in Wales that have been converted into hotels or offer accommodation options. Examples include Ruthin Castle and Château Rhianfa.

Q: Can I visit all the castles in one trip?

A: It may not be feasible to visit all the castles in one trip, as Wales has a rich number of castles scattered across the country. It is recommended to plan your itinerary based on your interests and the regions you would like to explore.

Q: Are there any guided tours available for Welsh castles?

A: Yes, many Welsh castles offer guided tours either included in the admission fee or as an additional option. These tours can provide valuable insights into the history and architecture of the castles.

Q: Are there any special events or festivals held at Welsh castles?

A: Yes, many Welsh castles host special events, reenactments, and festivals throughout the year. These events offer a unique opportunity to experience the castles in a different setting and immerse yourself in Welsh history.