Cardigan Castle

The Lord Rhys (Rhys ap Gruffydd, 1132-1197) built the first stone castle at Cardigan and, to celebrate its completion in 1176, held a gathering of musicians and poets. This was the first National Eisteddfod, a tradition that continues to this day. The castle and the Georgian house within its grounds fell into disrepair until a £12m restoration project secured its future as a heritage attraction, restaurant, accommodation and events venue.

Aerial view of Beaumaris Castle
An external view of a large castle against the backdrop of a forest
castle ruins
Aerial view of Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey, North Wales; Castell Coch, South Wales; and Dinas Brân Castle, Denbighshire

Dinefwr Castle

Dinefwr was the power-base of the Kingdom of Deheubarth, which ruled over South West Wales for almost 300 years in the 10th to 12th centuries. It was the main seat of Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good) who first codified native Welsh law. The castle’s ruins sit in a wooded nature reserve on a bluff overlooking the River Tywi. Nearby, the ‘new’ castle, built in the 1600s, is run by the National Trust. Both are easily reached on a circular walk from Llandeilo.

Castell y Bere

Built by Llywelyn the Great in the 1220s, Castell y Bere was a remote outpost on Llywelyn’s southern frontier. It guarded his cattle range, protected the homeland of Gwynedd, and dominated the neighbouring lordship of Meirionydd. The castle was captured by the Normans in 1283 and abandoned; its ruins sit in a quietly beautiful valley in southern Eryri (Snowdonia).

castle ruins and countryside
Castell y Bere, Eryri (Snowdonia), North Wales

Carew Castle

Carew Castle sits on an inlet alongside an old tidal mill in Pembrokeshire. These were the ancestral lands of Princess Nest, a famous 11th-century beauty from the Deheubarth dynasty who controlled south west Wales from 920 to 1197. Nest bore at least nine children to five different noblemen. Even today, several illustrious families can trace their lineage back to her: she was an ancestor of George Washington, JFK and Princess Diana.

Powis Castle

The original Powis Castle was built by Welsh prince Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn in the 1280s, but the present magnificent fortress-with-gardens owes its splendour to the Clive family. In 1784 Lord Powis’ daughter married Edward Clive, who later inherited both the family title and the considerable wealth of his own father: Major-General Robert Clive, also known as Clive of India. The castle’s Clive Museum has the UK's largest private collection of Indian and Far Eastern antiquities.

People walking in the garden, Powis Castle
Aerial view of Powis Castle
Powis Castle, Mid Wales

Laugharne Castle

Built to guard the Tâf estuary, Laugharne Castle is one of the most fought-over in Wales. The original Norman castle was captured and destroyed by Rhys ap Gruffudd of Deheubarth in 1189; a rebuilt castle was seized by Llywelyn the Great in 1215. It changed hands twice during the Civil War before being captured and partially destroyed by Royalist forces. The artist JMW Turner painted the ruins, and the poet Dylan Thomas spent time writing in its Victorian garden.

people walking near Laugharne Castle
Laugharne Castle walls looking up to the sky
Laugharne Castle, Carmarthenshire, West Wales

Cardiff Castle

In the middle of our capital city, Cardiff Castle has Roman walls, an 11th century Norman keep, military museum, and a sumptuous Victorian mansion that was decorated by the 3rd Marquess of Bute (1847-1900), then the richest man in the world. Bute also transformed Castell Coch, a few miles north, into a lavish fairytale castle.

The Banqueting Hall, Cardiff Castle
Cardiff Castle motte and bailey
Close up of Cardiff Castle clock tower
Cardiff Castle, South Wales - banqueting hall, motte and bailey and the clock tower

Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly Castle is the second-biggest castle in Britain, with the most elaborate water defences. It was built by Anglo-Norman lord Gilbert de Clare in the 13th century to help wrest control of Glamorgan from the native Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. Modern attractions include working siege engines, the Gilbert’s Maze adventure, and animatronic Dragons’ Lair.

looking down into castle with dragon sculptures and in the background a man looking over the wall
Caerphilly Castle, female walking on bridge
Overview from inner ward tower Medieval Christmas Fayre, Caerphilly Castle
Caerphilly Castle, South Wales - dragon's lair, entrance and medieval Christmas fayre

Chepstow Castle

Chepstow is the oldest post-Roman stone fortress in Britain, and its 800-year-old castle doors are also the oldest in Europe. Work began on the castle in 1067 – just a year after the Norman invasion – and the castle gradually extended along its narrow clifftop ridge, guarding a major crossing of the River Wye.

Marten's Tower and the Gatehouse Chepstow Castle
Chepstow Castle, Monmouthshire

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle is unusually well-preserved for a 13th-century castle, with its original town walls largely intact. It was built by Master James of St George, the finest military architect of his age. Together with the castles at Harlech, Caernarfon and Beaumaris, these Edward I fortresses form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

People taking selfies on tower Conwy Castle
people walking along wall, Conwy Castle
Conwy Castle, North Wales

Caernarfon Castle

Overlooking the Menai Strait, Caernarfon has always been a key strategic site. The Romans knew it as Segontium, and built a fort here around AD77. The present castle was built by Edward I in the 1280s, and has unusual polygonal towers and colour-banded stonework. The first Prince of Wales (later Edward II) was born at Caernarfon Castle in 1284; Prince Charles was invested with the same title here in 1969.

Eagle Tower Caernarfon Castle 
people walking into Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd, North Wales

Harlech Castle

Dominating the shores of Cardigan Bay, Harlech Castle played a key role in the national uprising led by Owain Glyndŵr. It fell to his forces in 1404 and became Glyndŵr's residence and headquarters. It also withstood a seven-year siege, the longest in British history, during the 15th-century Wars of the Roses. The defenders’ heroics are remembered in of one of Wales’ most famous songs, Men of Harlech.

General view from the east looking out over coast Harlech Castle
father and son playing on castle wall, Harlech Castle
castle walls, Harlech Castle
Harlech Castle,  Gwynedd, North Wales
1 / 3
An external view of a large castle on top of a green hill, next to a beach

You'll find Criccieth crowning its own rocky headland between two beaches it commands astonishing views over the town and across the wide sweep of Cardigan Bay. No wonder Turner found it such an inspiration.

2 / 3
External view of a large old castle

Beautiful Castell Biwmares - found on the island of Anglesey, this is probably one of the greatest castles in the world that was never fully built. It was the last of the royal strongholds created by Edward I in Wales, but a lack of money and trouble brewing in Scotland meant building work had stopped by the 1320s. The south gatehouse and the six great towers in the inner ward never reached their intended height. The Llanfaes gate was barely started before being abandoned.

No visit to Anglesey is complete without a visit to Beaumaris, which is managed by Cadw. Beaumaris Castle - Cadw website

3 / 3
view across to Castell Coch, with Welsh flag in the foreground.

Castell Coch / Castle Coch. Actually an Edwardian folly rather than a full blown castle, you can find Castell Coch to the north of the city of Cardiff.

Related stories

A scenic lake surrounded by large green mountains

The protected green spaces of Wales

Did you know Wales is home to three national parks and five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty? Here’s an overview of our protected green spaces.