Top castles in Wales

Posted by Kate AK on 29th February 2020

Carew Castle
Carew Castle, Pembrokeshire

 

Wales’ history is studded with battles, invasions and valiant defence in times of war. Echoes of its fascinating past resonate through the centuries-old walls of its castles, with over 600 Welsh castles still dominating the landscape today. While some of these fortresses are simply crumbling mounds on remote hilltops, around 100 of them are beautifully preserved fortifications which stand proudly for all to admire.

From romantic ruins to mighty strongholds, follow our castle trail from north to south and take in the top 10 castles in Wales. Indulge your inner childhood imagination of kings, knights and ferocious battles, and marvel at the ingenious feats of engineering. If you need somewhere to stay along your journey, just click the button below to browse our full collection of holiday cottages in Wales.

Top castles in North Wales

Conwy Castle, Conwy

Conwy Castle

A foreboding fortification, Conwy Castle exudes grandeur and power in equal measure. It sits atop a rock overlooking the Conwy Estuary and Snowdonia, and while its dramatic exterior is bound to take your breath away, its impressive interior transports you back in time to the days of Edward I for whom it was built.

Considered to be one of the finest works by architect James of St. George, this is one of the most enchanting castles in North Wales and one of the finest surviving medieval fortifications in Britain. Learn more about this Welsh castle’s rich history and explore its great halls, private chapels, royal chambers and enormous towers during a one-hour informative tour led by knowledgeable guides.

  • Price: adults £10.40, family £29.50, children (5-17) £6.30, seniors £8.40, under 5’s free
  • Facilities: shop, toilets, baby changing, assistance dogs only
  • Cottage nearby: Signalman's Cottage, sleeps 4

If you’d like more inspiration for things to do in Snowdonia, read our guide. 

Caernarfon Castle, Vale of Usk

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle’s intimidating size is enough to strike fear into the hearts of any potential invader. Built for Edward I as part of his Iron Ring of Castles, the medieval fortress occupies a strategic location on the Menai Strait and was also used as a seat of power and palace. One of the largest castles in Wales, its mighty polygonal towers and imposingly high walls were certainly designed to impress.

This brute of a 13th-century fortress is among the most famous coastal castles in Wales and is more than deserving of its World Heritage status. As you climb its spiral staircases, peer through its arrow loops and murder holes, and wander through its mammoth battlements, you can’t fail to be struck by its formidable scale.

  • Price: adults £10.40, family £29.50, children (5-17) £ 6.30, seniors £8.40, under 5’s free
  • Facilities: shop, museum, toilets, assistance dogs only
  • Cottage nearby: Bryn Afon, sleeps 4

We’ve found more top things to see and do in North Wales in our handy guide. 

Powis Castle and Garden, Powys

Powis Castle

This well-preserved medieval castle has seen many alterations over the years, and as such boasts modifications from several different periods. One of the most beautiful castles in Wales, Powis Castle’s extraordinary French and Italian-style gardens set it apart from its other Welsh counterparts, which tumble down verdant slopes from its striking red stone walls.

Inside, there is a treasure trove of art, statues, and exquisite furniture and textiles from Europe, India and the Orient. And outside, the famous gardens are adorned with scented flowers, dancing statues, a beautiful orangery and a medieval deer park.

  • Price: adults £14.20, children £7.10, family £35.50
  • Facilities: two catering outlets, shop, toilets, baby changing, children’s quiz/trail, giant games on the lawn, assistance dogs only
  • Cottage nearby: Offa's Dyke View, sleeps 5 + 1 dog

Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey

Beaumaris Castle

The perfectly symmetrical, moated masterpiece of Beaumaris Castle on the Isle of Anglesey is regarded by many as one of the best castles in Wales to see when travelling across the northern coastline. Though it was never completed, this towering 13th-century concentric fortress is one of the finest examples of medieval castle architecture, with its four successive lines of fortifications.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this North Wales castle is another beautifully designed structure by architect James of St. George during King Edward I’s reign and features a moat connected to the sea, round drum towers on every corner, vast grounds, and a wealth of atmospheric passages within the walls to explore.

  • Price: adults £7.70, family £21.60, children (5-17) £4.60, seniors £6.10, under 5’s free
  • Facilities: shop, picnic tables, toilets, dogs welcome (check website for any restrictions)
  • Cottage nearby: Spyglass House, sleeps 16

Explore more historical sites with our guide to National Trust places in North Wales.

Top castles in West Wales

Dinefwr Park and Castle, Carmarthenshire

Dinefwr Castle

Cared for by the National Trust, the Dinefwr parkland encompasses a castle, deer park, nature reserve, and Newton House where you’ll find hands-on exhibitions. The ivy-clad ruins of Dinefwr Castle offer spectacular views out over the 800-acre park, and a range of walks allow you to explore and take in sights such as the deer rutting and some of the estate’s most spectacular wildlife.

Once among the most formidable of Wales castles, Dinefwr was the power base of the Kingdom of Deheubarth, which ruled for almost 300 years in the 10th to 12th centuries. Today, this Grade I-listed, scheduled monument is perfect to while away some peaceful hours, marvelling at its round tower, circular keep, and chamber block.

  • Price: free admission to the castle, although there is a car parking fee for non-members of Cadw. Additional prices for entry to Newton House.
  • Facilities: no facilities in the castle but in the NT Dinefwr Estate there is a tearoom, shop and toilets, and dogs are welcome (check website for any restrictions)
  • Cottage nearby: Severn Cottage, sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Pembroke Castle, Pembrokeshire

Pembroke Castle

Standing alongside the Pembroke river, the oval shape of Pembroke Castle is a spectacular sight and encompasses within it a circular keep with impressive circular rooms. A new addition to the centre of the castle is a 1,000-metre square painting of Wales, which gives visitors a novel way to discover the location of some of the country’s most significant landmarks.

This giant fortress is one of the top castles in Wales and was the birthplace of Henry VII, the first Tudor king. Originally built at the end of the 11th century and rebuilt in stone a century later, it is also one of the finest Norman castles in Wales, with an endless labyrinth of passages, tunnels and stairways to explore. Free guided tours of the castle delve further into its tumultuous history and gripping stories, and there are fun family events scheduled throughout the year, including battle re-enactments, falconry displays, dragon days, storytelling, and even rock concerts.

  • Price: adults £7.00, children (3-15) £5.50, seniors £6.00, under 3’s free
  • Facilities: shop, café, toilets, dogs welcome (except for the café and shop)
  • Cottage nearby: Green Gables Lodge, sleeps 4

Carew Castle, Pembrokeshire

Carew Castle

Of all the Welsh castles, this one is certainly one of the most atmospheric. Sitting on an inlet alongside a 23-acre old tidal millpond and 18th-century mill in Pembrokeshire, Carew Castle was once a powerful Norman stronghold, before transforming into a grand Elizabethan mansion. High walls, huge mullioned windows and a splendid 11th-century Celtic cross are just some of its most prominent features.

Displays of medieval battle are staged here regularly, as well as jousting, swordsmanship, archery and falconry, so there’s always something new to see. The French tidal mill is also well worth a visit while you’re here.

  • Price: varies - please check the website
  • Facilities: tearoom, toilets, picnic areas, dogs welcome (except for the tearoom)
  • Cottage nearby: Nash Lodge, sleeps 6 + 1 dog

Check out our guide to Pembrokeshire for more great days out. 

Top castles in South Wales

Raglan Castle, Vale of Usk

Raglan Castle

A magnificent statement of a castle, Raglan’s majestic towers draw you in on approach to the gatehouse. Inside, the romantic ruins transport you back to the past, with tales of important dates throughout history including the failed destruction by Oliver Cromwell’s armies. This late medieval fortress is one of the most dramatic castles in South Wales and has been used as a filming location for an episode of BBC’s Merlin.

A climb up the spiral staircases to the top of the Great Tower offers incredible views of the moat below and the surrounding Brecon Beacons countryside. Admire the grand six-sided gatehouse, the mysterious gargoyles, the Closet Tower and Kitchen Tower, before delving into the dark cellars underground which were originally built to hold hundreds of casks of wine.

  • Price: adults £7.70, children (5-17) £4.60, family £21.60, seniors £6.10, under 5’s free
  • Facilities: shop, refreshments, picnic tables, toilets, baby changing, dogs welcome (check website for any restrictions)
  • Cottage nearby: Little Otter Cottage, sleeps 4 + 1 dog

For more wonderful places to visit in South Wales, have a read of our guide, packed with ideas.

Caerphilly Castle, Caerphilly

Caerphilly Castle

The biggest castle in Wales and second largest in Britain, Caerphilly is impressive both in terms of size and its moat which lends it an almost fairy-tale appearance. An informative exhibition in one of the towers tells of the castle’s intriguing history and an audio-visual tour helps to set the scene as you wander around the extensive interior.

Often cited as one of the best castles to visit in Wales, there are few sights quite as magnificent as Caerphilly Castle. The first truly concentric castle built in Wales, it was constructed in the 13th century on the site of an ancient Roman fort by Earl Gilbert de Clare as part of a campaign to conquer Glamorgan, and was then used as a model for Edward I’s castles in North Wales. A highlight is its iconic leaning tower that leans even more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

  • Price: adults £9.40, children (5-17) £5.60, family 26.20, seniors £7.50, under 5’s free
  • Facilities: shop, refreshments, toilets, baby changing, dogs welcome (check website for any restrictions)
  • Cottage nearby: Flower Mill Bunkhouse, sleeps 6 + 1 dog

Chepstow Castle, Chepstow

Chepstow Castle

High above the banks of the River Wye, Chepstow is one of Wales’ most historically important castles and boasts the oldest castle doors in Europe! Over the years it has grown along the top of the cliff and now offers great views to its modern visitors. With towers to climb and lots of nooks to explore, the ruins of Chepstow Castle provide plenty to see, best discovered on a sunny day.

Constructed by William the Conqueror in 1067, this is the oldest castle in Wales at nearly 1,000 years old and has had a long and varied history being used as a castle, prison, and military garrison. From the upper barbican, there are some great photo opportunities, and there’s a regular programme of special events, plays and concerts throughout the year to provide entertainment for all ages.

  • Price: adults £7.70, children (5-17) £4.60, seniors £6.10, family £21.60, under 5’s free
  • Facilities: shop, toilets, dogs welcome (check website for any restrictions)
  • Cottage nearby: The Coach House At Wirewoods Green, sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Discover more history in South Wales with our guide to National Trust places.

 

Step back in time with a visit to one of these top castles in Wales. Whether you’re a couple looking to explore some romantic ruins together or a family with budding young knights and princesses, we’ve got lots of holiday cottages in Wales dotted amongst these mighty fortresses. Just click the button below to browse our full collection.

 

When you fancy taking a break from all of Wales’ castles, then our guide to the Top 10 things to do in Wales offers heaps of great ideas for days out.

 

*Please note, prices and facilities are correct at the time of publishing but are subject to change so please check before your visit.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.