Wales' best castles FEATURE

Wales is home to over 400 castles, and many of these are among the most remarkable examples of Medieval Castles throughout Europe. If you plan to visit the finest castles in Wales, use this list as a guide to which castles to visit, and what to expect from each site.

Wales' best castles

Referred to as 'the castle capital of the world', Wales has been home to around four hundred castles, of which more than one hundred are still standing. Having played an important role in both military and economic aspects in Britain since they were first introduced after the Norman Conquest in 1066, castles steadily improved their sophistication and military might until the 15th century.

Today, castles are primarily used as tourist attractions, and play an important part of British national heritage. The following are the top ten castles that you would not want to miss during your trip to Wales.

1. Cardiff Castle

With over 2,000 years of history, this famous castle is located at the central portion of Wales' capital city. The Roman army first constructed this medieval structure in A.D 55, and it was rebuilt by the Normans rebuilt in 1091. During the Victorian era, the castle was redesigned and became known as one of the fantasy castles in the 19th century. This popular tourist attraction features the Interpretation Centre, where tourists can learn about the interesting history of the Cardiff Castle.

2. Caernarfon Castle

Located at the Southern portion of Menai Strait, the Caernarfon Castle is notable for its extraordinary architecture and rich history. King Edward I planned and initiated the construction of this medieval fortress, with the hopes of encompassing the kingdom of Gwynedd located in North Wales. Edward's inspiration for the structural design was the immense beauty of the Constantinople castles, with high walls and rectangular towers. Considered as Edward's most expensive castle, the entire fortress was almost fifty years in the making.

3. Penrhyn Castle

This massive and modern structure is considered as a fantasy castle, which houses fascinating pieces of furniture and elegant interiors. Thomas Hopper designed and led the construction of this castle during 1820, which was intended for the affluent Pennant family. This Neo-Norman architecture contains an extensive collection of lavish furniture, 17th Century Dutch and Spanish paintings. A walk inside the castle would amaze tourists because of the elaborate plasterwork and carvings, as well as the grand rooms and picturesque views outside the building.

4. Powis Castle

Well-known as one of Wales' distinctive landmarks, this red gritstone architecture towers over the fascinating Severn Valley. According to history, the Welsh princes began the construction of the entire castle in the 12th century. The majestic structure was set on a hill and made of red grit stone, which dominated the beautiful landscape of the town. There were restoration projects for the castle during the late 1600's due to the damage caused by the Civil War. In the early 1900's, the interiors were renovated and redesigned before the castle was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1952. Powis Castle is open to tourists who wish to learn about the structure's history, and witness the exquisite textiles, furniture, terraces, lawns and lead statues.

5. Conwy Castle

Considered as one of the best medieval fortresses in Europe, Cowny Castle deserves to be in any tourist's itinerary. James of St. George designed this majestic castle, upon the request of King Edward I. The architecture has high walls and eight enormous towers, which are far more impressive than the ones at Harlech. Edward decided to build the castle to defend his monarchy from the rebellious natives who were opposed to English occupation at Conwy. This breathtaking structure appears to rise from the hills because of its towering height. Much of the building is in perfect condition, including the age-old suspension bridge, which serves as the main entrance of the castle.

6. Chirk Castle

This is the last of the Welsh castles built during the reign of King Edward I, and completed in 1310. Edward intended to have the castle built near the River Ceirog, in North Wales. The easy access to the sea facilitated the transportation of building materials and equipment during the construction of the site. The favorable location also contributed to the success of the English inhabitants in this Welsh town. The famous architecture features impressive sights including the dungeons, medieval tower, 18th century apartments, lush gardens, and servants' hall.

7. Beaumaris Castle

The Island of Anglesey boasts of this exquisite castle built during the reign of King Edward I. While it was an unfinished structure, it remained as a remarkable masterpiece. James of St. George led the construction of the Beaumaris Castle in 1295. Due to insufficient supplies and finances, the fortress was not able to reach its intended height. Most architects consider the castle as a perfect structure because of the accurate symmetrical walls with concentric design. Many interesting features of the castle include the murder holes, arrow-slits, and 14 obstacles that intruders would need to overcome.

8. Harlech Castle

The Harlech Castle stands proudly at a steep location, where it overlooks the vast Snowdonia. When King Edward I built this famous architecture, his main purpose was to create a stronghold for his monarchy. However, the Welsh took over the fortress in 1404, and Owain Glyn Dwr held a parliament in this majestic Edwardian castle. At present, the structure remains as remarkable as it was several centuries ago. Many tourists appreciate the majestic towers, sturdy inner walls, and panoramic views from the battlements of this great fortress.

9. Caerphilly Castle

Henry III intended to have a castle built to secure his parliament and prevent the notorious Welsh leader, Llywelyn the last, from conquering lowland South Wales. The king ordered Gilbert de Clare to begin the construction of the castle in 1268. Two years after, the structure was razed to the ground by Llwelyn's army. Henry III defeated the rebellious Welsh leader, and this led to the restoration of the castle in 1271. The architecture was one of the earliest and most remarkable examples of a regular concentric fortress in the entire British Isles. Caerphilly is the second largest castle in the United Kingdom, and it covers about 30 acres of land.

10. Coch Castle

This 19th century modern castle was built on the ruins of an authentic 13th century fortress. It features a medieval aura, with a genuine drawbridge, portcullis, and interiors that seem to rival those of the other Welsh castles. William Burges designed the interiors, and he aimed to give the castle a High Victorian appeal. This fairy-tale castle remains as one of the finest structures throughout Wales, and it continues to awe millions of tourists from many parts of the world.

Wales offers a wide selection of sights and attractions that will make your trip a memorable one. If you wish to learn about the country's rich history and impressive architectures, be sure to include these top 10 castles in your list of must-see places in Wales.

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