Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Castles in Wales

Beaumaris Castle

Due to its perfect symmetry and classic proportions, Beaumaris Castle is often described as one of Britain’s most technically perfect castles. Construction started in 1295, during King Edward I’s campaign to conquer north Wales. The design was that of James of St George, one of the finest architects of medieval Europe, although work on the building halted after 35 years due to the king’s financial troubles – leaving it forever unfinished. It now forms part of the ‘Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd’ UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cardiff Castle

Located in the centre of the city, Cardiff Castle is a medieval fortress later transformed into a lavish Victorian fantasy of the Middle Ages. A Roman fort originally stood here before Norman invaders adopted the location for their castle, from which they sought to dominate the Lordship of Glamorgan. The castle repeatedly saw bloodshed amid medieval clashes between Welsh and English and later between Parliamentarians and Royalists. In the 19th century, the architect William Burges oversaw substantial renovations in the Neo-Gothic style.

Chepstow Castle

Situated on a narrow cliff-top overlooking the Wye River, Chepstow Castle is Britain’s oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification. Building began in about 1067 AD under the Norman Earl William FitzOsbern, after which it helped facilitate the Norman conquest of Gwent. Among its medieval features are the oldest known castle doors in Europe. Construction continued until the 17th century, when the castle was again on the front line in the English Civil War. Chepstow is the southern-most castle in a string of castles built along the Anglo-Welsh border.

Dolforwyn Castle

A typically Welsh castle with spectacular views over the Severn Valley, Dolforwyn Castle has been heavily reconstructed following two decades of archaeological excavations. Construction on the fortification began in 1273 by Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Prince of Gwynedd, in an attempt to assert his claim to be the most important of the Welsh princes. Shortly following the castle’s completion, English forces under the Marcher lord Roger Mortimer successfully besieged it. After being abandoned in the 14th century, Dolforwyn fell into a state of ruin.

Flint Castle

Construction on Flint Castle began in 1277 AD, making this the earliest castle to be built by King Edward I during his campaign to conquer Wales. Using architectural features that are more commonly found in French castles, the layout of Flint Castle is unique in the British Isles. One of its most noted features is the presence of a great tower or donjon in the south-east corner. Royalists held the castle during the English Civil War, after which it was slighted by the victorious Parliamentarians to prevent Royalist re-use.

Grosmont Castle

The now ruined 13th-century Grosmont Castle is thought to have replaced a wooden motte and bailey fortification established shortly after the Norman conquest of England. Grosmont was one of the so-called ‘Three Castles’ that the Normans used to quell resistance in this area of the Anglo-Welsh borders. In the latter decades of the 13th century, Prince Edmund – the son of King Henry III – made alterations to create one of his key residences, while in 1405, Welsh forces besieged the castle amid the Glyndŵr Rising.

Harlech Castle

Built for King Edward I during his conquest of Wales, Harlech Castle was designed by James of St George, one of the finest architects of the Middle Ages. The castle was positioned and constructed to be impregnable from every angle and is noted for its massive gatehouse. A secret stairway led from the castle to the base of the cliff, where a canal connected the castle to the sea. Harlech Castle is now part of the ‘Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd’ UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ogmore Castle

Standing alongside the River Ewenny, the ruined Ogmore Castle was erected by William de Londres, a Norman mercenary, in the early 12th century. Probably designed to defend Glamorgan from the threat of indigenous Welsh attacks, it was initially a timber and earth motte-and-bailey structure; some of the earthworks from this phase probably survive. As the medieval period proceeded, a more defensible stone fortification was built. The keep is the castle’s tallest surviving structure, and one of the oldest buildings in South Wales.

Skenfrith Castle

Located on the banks of the River Monnow, Skenfrith Castle was one of the ‘Three Castles’ established by the Normans to help secure their dominance in this part of Wales. The original Norman structure, built by William FitzOsbern in the early 12th century, was later replaced by a larger fort, constructed by Hubert de Burgh between 1219 and 1232. What remains of Skenfrith Castle today are the ruins of what was once a circular keep that surrounded a rectangular ward, with a round tower at each corner.

Tretower Court and Castle

Cadw manage two adjacent sites at Tretower, the court and the castle. The castle arose at the end of the 11th century, initially as a Norman motte and bailey structure. A stone fortification replaced it in the mid-12th century, its prominent tower giving the local area its distinctive name. Built nearby, Tretower Court is a late medieval defended house, largely erected in the 14th century but with later additions. The court is now fully furnished to give an impression of its 15th-century heyday.