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World heritage in Wales

Caernarfon Castle

A World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical significance. There are three such sites in Wales:

  • The Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd,
  • The Blaenavon Industrial Landscape and
  • The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal.

Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd

The Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd are set apart as the finest examples of medieval military architecture in Europe.  In the late 13th Century Edward I King of England (Edward Longshanks) led the conquest of the then Principality of Wales and ordered the construction of an iron ring of castles and fortifications to maintain law and order. Included were the awe-inspiring castles of Beaumaris and Harlech, masterminded by the King's chief architect James of St George who created a double-wall structure unique at the time. The Castles and fortified towns of Conwy, Caernarfon are also in extraordinary condition, which pays homage to the skills of the original masons.

These great Welsh Castles can be viewed along with some 600 other castles and many other historical sites protected by the Welsh Government's historic environment service CADW. If you have the opportunity to visit, work or live in Wales, we would strongly advise taking a stroll on one of Wales many scenic Heritage Walks. 

Blaenavon Industrial Landscape

Big Pit National Coal MuseumThe Blaenavon Industrial Landscape in South Wales is the best preserved industrial landscape in the UK, Wales was heavily involved in the industrial revolution, as our resources were used to power and build Great Britain’s transition to machine led manufacturing processes. Our Coal mines and Iron production sites were spread out across much of Wales and there is no better example than this world heritage site which features quarries, a railway, workers homes and the mines themselves. Visit the Big Pit National Coal Museum in Blaenavon or the Blaenavon Ironworks and have a great day out for all the family. 

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and CanalThis is the most recently designated World Heritage Site in Wales.  It is situated in North East Wales. Following the industrial revolution, advancements in technology led to canals becoming one of the quickest ways to transport machinery and raw materials. Constructed by civil engineers Thomas Telford and William Jessop, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal is a fantastic example of innovation at the time and it remains the tallest aqueduct in the UK.

Forest Fawr, in the Brecon Beacons has also been classified as a UNESCO Geopark since 2005. The Park is an ancient landscape which is now being preserved in a sustainable way and is safeguarded to ensure tourism in the area does not affect the natural landscape and rich industrial history. Covering an area of some 763 kms² and containing some of the most outstanding scenery in southern Britain the area has 31 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and 166 Sites of Interest for Nature Conservation.


If you would like to test how much you know about our Wales and Welsh traditions why not have a go at our Welsh Culture & Heritage Quiz.