Wales and Castles
Published: Friday 29th Aug 2014
Written by: Ginnie James
My first interesting fact about Wales for you – Wales has more castles per head than anywhere else in the world! Now I have a thing for castles and have done since I was a little girl. I just love the way you can feel the history all around you, tread in the footsteps of Queens, warriors and the lowliest of servants. Even when at first glance all you can see is a pile of stones, castle sites always have a feel of permanence and invariably great views over the landscapes they were built to defend. One sunny day, many summers ago on a visit to my grandparents, I decided I wanted to see a castle.
However, when you are 5 and have a very romanticised view of what a castle should be, albeit fascinating historical sites but without big gates and turrets are just not going to cut it! My wonderful Grandad drove the whole family along the North Wales Coast until we came upon the magnificent medieval fortress of Conwy castle. You can really let your imagination run riot and I spent happy hours that day being a princess in a tower, a knight on the battlements and involving anyone who would indulge me in my games!
With so many different castles to choose from I am not sure that any Top 5 list would meet with everyone’s approval, and I have cheated a bit with some multiple entries, but here is mine…
1. Castles and Town Walls of King Edward I in Gwynedd – designated a world heritage site including Conwy, Caernarfon, Beaumaris and Harlech castles. This group of castles is indeed a supreme example of the military architecture of the turbulent medieval period but they are also simply great fun to visit!
2. Dolforwyn Castle and Montgomery Castle – these two Mid Wales castles, just a few miles from each other, are more ruins than rooms but I love the feel of history behind them. Llewelyn Ap Gryffudd, Prince of Gwynedd, began construction of Dolforwyn in 1273 in response to the increased military presence of the English forces of Edward 1 at Montgomery. Also, being open sites you can go, whenever you want!
3. Llansteffan Castle – another open site, this is a castle dear to me having spent many hours here savouring the stunning view of the Tywi estuary from the ruins and then wandering down to the fabulous sandy beach.
4. Chirk – with continuous occupation since 1310, this fortress has a fascinating history, wonderful grounds and a programme of activities and events throughout the year that make a trip here a great day out for the family.
5. Carreg Cennen Castle – overlooking the Black Mountains on the western edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, the ruins appear to grow out of the cliff and have truly awe-inspiring views.
So, what do you think? What is your best memory of a visit to a castle in Wales? I’d love to hear from you!