Wales, part of the British Isles famed for its rugged coastline, mountains, National Parks, and a fair amount of built heritage as well. There are over 600 castles dotted across Wales, and although some may be in varying states of disrepair or ruin, they all attract the interest of visitors.
The Welsh Government has its own dedicated ‘Historic Environment Service’ called Cadw, named after the Welsh word for ‘to keep, or protect’. This arm of the government exists as an active body working towards the conservation and preservation of Welsh built heritage. They also aim to educate local people and visitors about Welsh history and architecture, and of course help maintain the character of Wales through its built heritage. Among Cadw’s functions is the responsibility for providing conservation grants for historic buildings and historic monuments, and they also fund community heritage projects and provide advice to planning authorities to help maintain good conservation practice. Cadw also manages over a hundred properties throughout Wales, which includes a large number of castles. There are the remains of Old Beaupre Castle in the South, which dates from the medieval period, Llawhaden Castle, East of Haverford West, which was the home of the Bishops of St Davids, and Newport Castle on the banks of the River Usk, built in the early 14th century.
Wherever you go in Wales you’ll see castles representing different building periods and styles of architecture. The castles could be fortified, and built in key strategic positions in times of battle, or they could be the remains of once elegant manor houses. You may find properties dating from the Medieval, Tudor, or Norman periods, some of which may have been built on the sites of former Iron-Age or Roman Forts. If castles are on your list of must-see attractions while you’re in Wales, but you’re having trouble choosing which to visit, then Visit Wales have a few suggestions: Cardiff Castle, built in 1106 is top of the list, with Caerphilly Castle not far behind. Caerphilly medieval fortress and grounds is great for families, and as an exciting annual events programme. You can also find out about the ghostly goings-on at the haunted Bodelwyddan Castle in Denbighshire, and explore the indulgent Castell Coch near Cardiff, once owned by the extremely rich 3rd Marquess of Bute. Walkers haven’t been forgotten either, and can choose from a hike up to Carreg Cennen Castle in Carmarthenshire, or a more sedate walk around the mature gardens at Powis Castle. Each castle has its own story to tell of mystery, intrigue, hauntings, building styles, and the lives of some very interesting characters that lived in or visited each place.
The castles will be a mix of free admission or priced entry, and you can find out more about them, the events on offer, and accommodation available nearby, from local tourist information offices or the Visit Wales website. The website named visiting castles as one of their top suggestions for things to do in Wales, and when you consider the sheer number and variety of them, it’s easy to see why.