Wales, a country full of myths, legends, dragons and castles. In fact, there are over 600 castles in Wales in various states of repair. There are Iron Age hill forts, Roman ruins and Medieval castles built by Welsh princes and English kings. With so many castles to choose from, how do you pick the best castles in Wales to visit? I asked some of my fellow bloggers to recommend their favourite castles and included a few of my own.
Many of the castles in Wales are looked after by Cadw who take care of many of the historic buildings in Wales. If you are a Cadw member, English Heritage Member, Historic Scotland Member, CSSC member, Monument Pass holder, Local Residents’ Pass holders, Senior Pass holders, you will receive reduced or free entry on production of your proof of membership.
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Let’s have a look at some of the best Welsh Castles to visit:
Table of Contents
The Best Castles in Wales to Visit
Castell Carreg Cennen
Contributed by Fly Drive Explore
Towards the western edge of the Brecon Beacons (now known by its Welsh name Bannau Brycheiniog), you can find the imposing ruins of Carreg Cennen. This once mighty castle sits on a great limestone crag 300 feet above the River Cennen giving it commanding views over the Carmarthenshire countryside.
The Welsh Princes of Deheubarth built the first castle on the site although the first stone castle dates from the early 13th century built during the conquest of Wales by King Edward I.
Like many castles in Wales, it has a turbulent history. It was taken by the Welsh in 1282 before being recaptured by the English the following year.
In 1283, Edward I granted the castle to John Gifford, the commander of the English troops and Giffard was responsible for the remodelled castle we see it today.
Owain Glyndwr unsuccessfully tried to take the castle during the Welsh revolt against the English in the early 1400s.
In 1461, during the Wars of the Roses, Carreg Cennen became a Lancastrian stronghold. Yorkist forces subsequently captured and slighted the castle to prevent further military use.
The only aggressive castle residents who remain are the local sheep.
The impressive barbican flanked by twin towers still remain. You can also explore the vaulted passage which leads down to a natural cave hidden in the limestone rock below the castle, just don’t forget your torch.
Today, Carreg Cennen is a beautifully rugged and peaceful location. It was actually voted “The most romantic ruin in Wales” by the readers of Countryfile magazine.
The castle is open every day except Christmas Day and the current admission prices are £6.50 for adults, £6.00 for over 65s and a family ticket is £20.00.
There is a car park which is approximately a 10-minute walk from the castle.
Contributed by Larch from The Silver Nomad
One of the most beautiful castles in Wales is the 15th Century Raglan Castle. In 1435 the moated Great Tower and defensive walls were constructed possibly under the instructions of Sir William ap Thomas (the “Blue Knight of Gwent”).
Later around 1460, his son Sir William Herbert created the impressive gatehouse and wings. Sir William had been a loyal supporter of Edward IV during the War of the Roses and was rewarded with the title of Earl of Pembroke and enough funds to fortify Raglan.
The next additions to Raglan Castle came from William Somerset, the 3rd Earl of Worcester, in the 16th century altered the castle into a country residence, with beautiful gardens on the castle grounds, an elegant long gallery and opulent furnishings.
However, the fifth Earl of Worchester was a Royalist and supported King Charles I during the English Civil War. Raglan Castle was a target for Parliamentarian forces who besieged the castle in June 1646. It took until late August before the final surrender took place.
The castle was then ransacked and rendered useless as a defensive castle. Raglan was abandoned and left to decay, until Cadw started conservation work.
On display at the visitor centre at Raglan is a piece of Tudor wooden panelling. Rescued in the 1950s from a cow shed it takes pride of place.
The castle is open all year around except 24, 25, 26 December and 1 January. Opening times vary during the year, check the Cadw site for details. The current admission prices are £8.70 for adults, £8.10 for over 65s and a family ticket is £28.20.
Carew Castle, Pembrokeshire
Contributed by Bella Falk from Passport & Pixels
Carew Castle may not be as magnificent as some other castles in Wales, but what it lacks in grandeur, it more than makes up for in eerie, historic atmosphere. Not for Carew the neatly-restored walls and lavish rooms of Picton or Powis Castles – here you’ll find crumbling, moss-covered stones, collapsed roofs open to the sky, and a colony of bats in one of the towers. It’s a magical, tumbledown place that’s one of the best things to see in Pembrokeshire.
Carew Castle was originally built as an earth and wood construction by Gerald of Windsor, a Norman knight, in the early 12th century. Perched on the bank of the Carew River, it was strategically positioned to control the river crossing and protect the surrounding area. In the late 13th century it was rebuilt in stone by Sir Nicholas de Carew, and the majority of the stonework you see today is his handiwork.
In the 16th century, the castle was converted into a Tudor mansion by Sir Rhys ap Thomas, a prominent Welsh nobleman. The mansion was built within the confines of the existing castle walls and included more comfortable living quarters. Today Carew Castle’s long history can be seen in its curious mix of architecture, including Norman, Tudor, and Elizabethan styles.
Entry to Carew Castle costs £7 for an adult, and also includes entry to the nearby Tidal Mill, a 16th-century water-powered flour mill that sits across the river from the Castle. The Mill now houses a museum, where you can admire the historic mill wheels (one dates back to 1801) and learn about the machinery that once ground wheat into flour. The circular walk from Carew Castle to the Tidal Mill and back around the edge of the millpond is about a mile long and offers breathtaking views back towards Carew Castle.
Ogmore Castle, South Wales
Contributed by Lowri from Many Other Roads
When it comes to historical sites, Wales has an impressive history and many castles you can stop by on a vacation here. One of the best castles to visit in Wales is Ogmore by Sea Castle in Bridgend South Wales. This castle’s history dates back as far as the 12th century, making it one of the oldest surviving medieval castles in Britain!
The great thing about visiting this castle is that it’s free to get in. There are lots of things to explore inside the castle, such as the ancient ruins and architecture, panoramic views of the sea, and a vast expansive landscape. If you want to make your trip here even more special, make sure you pack a picnic.
Apart from exploring the castle grounds, one thing you can do at Ogmore by Sea Castle is walk across its ancient stepping stones – just be careful as they can be slippery. The castle’s location means you are close to Ogmore Beach which is a great place to go after visiting the Castle for an hour or two.
Just be aware before your visit, that the castle sits over the Ogmore River, so make sure to check the weather before visiting – on rainy days, the car park can flood easily.
Pembroke Castle, Pembrokeshire
Contributed by Kristin from Scotland Less Explored
Pembroke Castle originates from around 1093 when the inner part of the castle was built. Despite being over 1,000 years old, what makes this castle stand out is that it is built on top of a cavern. Wogan Cavern can be visited together with the castle. Today the cavern is only inhabited by bats but archaeologists discovered that hunter-gatherers lived there 11,000 years ago.
A more recent claim to fame is the castle was the birthplace of King Henry VII.
The castle has a beautiful setting along the river and it is best to visit during good weather to fully appreciate the outdoor areas of the castle. Entry is £9 for adults and it includes a free guided tour which runs 3 times a day. Outside of the guided tours, you can still learn a lot about the castle’s history from the QR codes dotted around. They provide you with video explanations of what you are looking at.
After exploring the castle, stop by the Castle Kitchen for something to eat or the gift shop to buy a souvenir.
There is no parking at the castle but there are several public car parks nearby.
The castle is in Pembrokeshire and is surrounded by beautiful countryside with good walks and lovely beaches. Pembrokeshire’s beaches have similarities to those in parts of Scotland, such as White Sands of Morar, so a visit to Pembroke Castle and its surrounding area is a good alternative for those living in the southern parts of the UK.
Gwrych Castle, North Wales
Contributed by Paulina from the UK Every Day
Gwrych Castle is a magnificent and historic castle located in North Wales. It stands proudly on a hillside, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Although, is often overlooked in favour of neighbouring Conwy Castle which attracts many visitors every year.
Despite its impressive size and convenient location, Gwrych Castle is still a bit of a hidden gem in the UK. The castle has a rich and varied history, having been used as a sanctuary during World War II and became a tourist attraction in 1948.
Almost 40 years later, Gwrych Castle was closed to the public and was heavily damaged. In 2018 the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust decided to protect this historic building and its surrounding landscape.
Gwrych Castle, a Grade I listed building, built in the early 19th century holds tremendous historical and cultural significance. It has faced years of neglect and damage, but the Preservation Trust is committed to reversing this trend by actively fundraising, organizing events, and attracting volunteers to contribute to the restoration efforts.
Today, it is a popular destination for visitors who are drawn to its fascinating past and its striking beauty. Moreover, Gwrych Castle has been also featured in the television show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! . The television exposure has not only brought recently much-deserved attention to Gwrych Castle but has also contributed to the preservation and restoration efforts of this historic landmark.
Kidwelly Castle, West Wales
Contributed by Kieren from Wales Guidebook
Kidwelly Castle dominates the small town of Kidwelly which sits between Llanelli and Carmarthen in West Wales. Constructed by the Normans in the 12th century, it played a significant role in Wales’ turbulent past but more recently was used as the filming location for the iconic opening scene of Monthy Python and the Holy Grail.
Built in a strategic location, perched alongside the picturesque River Gwendraeth, the castle offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
From the front, the castle looks deceivingly small, but this is only because the castle has a unique D-shape layout with a curved wall on one side and the straight river providing defences on the other. Once inside you’ll experience the full grandeur of Kidwelly Castle.
Although some parts have weathered over the centuries, Kidwelly Castle has stood the test of time and is generally well-preserved. You’ll be able to explore the ruins, wander along the walls, and climb up the towers for views across the fields where many battles once took place.
There are some information boards and displays around the castle, but these are limited so it’s best to read up on information before your visit or purchase the castle guide on your way in if you are interested in learning more.
Conwy Castle, North Wales
Contributed by Nancy from Around the World at the Weekend
You can’t miss Conwy Castle in Wales as you have to drive through it to get into the very charming town. Conwy Castle is a fantastic place to explore and as a 13th Century World Heritage site, it is absolutely steeped with history.
Sitting on the River Conwy estuary, it was designed by the English King Edward I to intimidate the locals and it is certainly still an imposing presence. It’s really the perfect ruined castle for adventures and has an almost ‘Famous Five’ feel to it.
Conwy Castle isn’t cheap (an adult ticket is £9.90) but it is worth the cost, though I would avoid visiting with very small children as there are plenty of places for them to jump off.
If you do visit, then make sure you also make time to visit the town too. Amazing fish and chips, a dynastic view of the bay and you can even pick up a crabbing bucket and bacon and catch some local crabs!
Castle Coity, Glamorgan
Contributed by Larch from The Silver Nomad
Originally an earthwork castle built in 1100AD, Coity Castle has been added to many times over the centuries. In the late 12th Century, the curtain wall and the rectangular stone keep were added by the Normans. More additions and rebuilding were made in the 14th and 15th centuries and a third floor was added in the 16th Century.
Welsh castles always seem to have a rich history. Coity Castle, just outside Bridgend in the south of Wales is no exception. Coity Castle was one of the strategic defensive line of castles protecting South Wales from the English along with Newcastle and Ogmore Castles.
From 1404 to 1405, Owain Glyndŵr laid siege to the castle. Even though the siege was an important part of the history of the castle, many of the details are quite sketchy.
Coity Castle has been undergoing a programme of restoration which started in early 2020 after contracts were awarded in late 2019. This was preceded by a long and involved series of assessments, feasibility studies and costing involving many different Cadw departments.
The three-year process is in three phases sees some of the wall tops recapped, repointing using a hot lime process and invasive vegetation being removed. Any structural defects have been sympathetically restored to retain the overall look of the castle, protecting it for future generations to enjoy.
Before the start of the restoration, Coity Castle was used for four to five major events during the year including Jam in the Park.
Currently, Coity Castle is not open for visitors and should reopen to the public in late 2022. Cadw are arranging small private tours for members throughout August 2021 where you can learn about the renovations and tour the castle.
Powis Castle, Powys
Contributed by Pauline from BeeLovedCity
If you are heading to Wales soon, make sure you visit Powis Castle!
Powis Castle is one of the best things to see in Welshpool. This National Trust property is the locals’ favourite!
The best way to get there is by car although it is also possible to bike or walk up to the castle from Welshpool train station. As you enter the property, you will discover a gorgeous deer park. Keep your eyes open! If you are lucky you will see some deers and rabbits.
You can leave your vehicle in the car park by the castle. Walk up to the entrance and get your ticket. The entrance costs £14.20 and is free for National Trust members. This will give you access to the castle and gardens. You can start your visit by the castle itself. It was built around 1200 and features fabulous tapestries and paintings.
But the best part is the gardens! These Italian style gardens are absolutely breath-taking. From the terraces, you will be able to admire beautiful views over the Welsh countryside. As you walk down, you will discover amazing plants and flowers.
There are two National Trust cafes at Powis Castle and they serve amazing food. If you truly want to enjoy your visit, make sure to get a scone with cream and jam.
If you go around Christmas, the castle is illuminated and they serve mulled wine, it’s magical!
Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey
Contributed by Larch from The Silver Nomad
The last of the four castles that were built by King Edward I in his quest to quell the Welsh, Beaumaris Castle was due to be his most impressive. Building started in 1295, but money issues and fighting with the Scots brought the build to a standstill and the castle was not completed.
The castle was built in perfect symmetry with twelve towers, two gatehouses and four lines of fortification. A moat surrounded most of the castle, and a tidal dock meant that ships with supplies could sail right up to the castle itself.
Beaumaris Castle is part of the UNESCO inscribed World Heritage site which includes Harlech, Caernarfon and Conwy Castles.
One of the highlights of the castle is Chapel Tower. The chapel has vaulted ceilings and pointed windows and is worth the climb. The tower also houses the “Castles of Edward I in Wales” Exhibition.
Entry costs: Adult £6.50; Seniors (over 65) £5.20, and £3.90 per child (ages 5-15).
Cardiff Castle, Cardiff
Contributed by Pip Jones from Wales Bucket List
Cardiff Castle sits smack bang in the centre of the city centre and is a real historical contrast to the surrounding shops and cafes.
Despite looking like a relatively modern castle it has survived over 2000 years of history. The timeline includes conquests, Victorian restoration and eventually becoming home of the influential Bute family.
The inside of the castle is particularly spectacular and there are many lavish and ornate rooms to explore. The best way to experience the Castle is to take a guided tour and learn more about the architecture, history and how it was also used as a shelter during WW2.
There are distinctive areas of history and culture to discover during a visit. The guides and the visitor centre do a great job of laying out the varied historical timeline in a clear and informative way.
Entry to the castle is, in all honesty, a little on the steep side at £39 for a family ticket. However, if you live or work in Cardiff, you can actually apply for a Castle Key, which gives you free admission to this fantastic castle.
Visiting the Castle is a fun activity if you are visiting Cardiff for the weekend as it is definitely one of the must-visit castles in Wales.
Surely one of the best castles in Wales, Castell Coch near Cardiff is a departure from other more traditional Welsh castles, and wouldn’t look out of place in Europe.
If you catch a glimpse of Castell Coch from the A470 road, you might be forgiven for thinking you had taken a wrong turn and ended up in Germany. The beautiful conical towers soar above the Fforest Fawr like a castle from a fairytale.
In 1081, the first castle was by the Normans, though not used for long. During the 13th Century, the Marcher lord Gilbert de Clare used the castle’s motte as foundations for a fortified castle.
By 1314 the castle had been abandoned and the castle fell into ruins until it was acquired by the third Earl of Bute in 1760.
In 1848 it was inherited by John Crichton-Stuart, the third Marquess of Bute and the fortunes of the castle changed. Engaging the services of the notable architect, William Burgess, the Marquess gave him free rein to rebuild and decorate Castell Coch.
The results are stunning. The drawbridge over the moat to the restored circular courtyard. Off the courtyard are the three turreted towers connected by a covered walkway.
Inside each tower, the rooms are highly decorated with painted walls, ceilings, fireplaces, and furniture. The drawing room has flower panels below a depiction of Aesop’s Fables while the vaulted ceiling is painted with birds.
Above it the Marquessa’s room has a mirror set into the ceiling above the painted fireplace, dressing table and washstand. The paintings on the ceiling are of cavorting monkeys which were seen to be a bit lewd at the time.
Castell Coch – or the Red Castle, as Coch is the Welsh for red – is a place of whimsy and charm and was never used as a permanent residence more of a country retreat.
Bute did revive commercial wine growing and making into Britain with a vineyard planted below the castle. Wine production continued until the First World War.
The castle was passed to the state in 1950. Castell Coch is now one of the properties managed by Cadw and the public regularly vote it as their favourite building in Wales.
Castell Coch has been used as a location for the films like ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ and ‘Robin Hood’ as well as TV programmes ‘Dr Who’, ‘Sherlock’ and Torchwood.
Criccieth Castle, Gwynedd
Contributed by Mandi from Great Yarmouth Family Fun
Criccieth Castle is located in North West Wales, it is more of a ruin, but it’s a very nice ruin, in a stunning location, rising from the sea atop a small hill, dominating the small town of Criccieth. A warm clear summer’s day is the best time to visit, it is very exposed and a clear day will give you amazing views of dozens of miles of the Welsh Coast.
The entrance is also the gift shop and exhibition centre and has lots of interactive ways for everyone to learn about the castle’s history.
The gatehouse is reached via a short steep climb, which is in good shape for its age.
The castle provides lots of information on the story and the structure of the castle and you can easily imagine what life would have been like in the castle.
A visit to the castle will last between 2-3 hours, but you can easily spend a day in Criccieth with beaches on either side of the castle and a vast array of shops, and restaurants.
The castle is open all year round, with reduced hours between November and March.
Its quite a reasonable price, with a family ticket for 4 costing less than £20
Although if you are visiting Wales and have a keen interest on history and castles, you may be better off purchasing an Explorer pass, a 3-day pass can be used during a 7-day period and a 7-day pass can be used during a 14-day period, so depending on how long you are visiting the area for, this may be a cost effective way of visiting various castles in the area.
Caerphilly Castle, Mid Glamorgan
Contributed by Cath from Passports & Adventures
One of the best castles to visit in the UK is Caerphilly Castle in South Wales. Located in the town with which it shares its name, Caerphilly Castle dates from the 13th century, was built by the wealthy and famous de Clare family, and is the second largest castle in the United Kingdom occupying 30 acres.
Caerphilly Castle is situated on an island and features a double moat system. The inner wall was built higher than the outer for defensive purposes and four turret towers were included in the defensive measures of the castle. Its sprawling water defences are why it covers such a large area.
Caerphilly Castle is a great castle to visit in the UK. Extensively restored by the wealthy Marquess de Bute before being handed over to the state in the 1950’s, it has many nooks and crannies to explore. The Great Hall is worth visiting, if it is not closed for a wedding (the castle is a popular wedding venue). The towers can be climbed, and you’ll get a great view across the valley from the top. The battlements can be walked, there are replica trebuchets and there are also two dragons in residence.
These have become a popular draw and now lie in the Dragon’s Lair along with their two babies. At the rear of the castle you will find Gilbert de Clare’s Maze, a great thing to explore if you are visiting Caerphilly Castle with kids. You could also stop by the knight holding up the Leaning Tower of Caerphilly, which leans to a great degree than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Caerphilly Castle can be reached from Cardiff by train or you can visit by car, parking at the public car park across the road. It is a Cadw site (free for Cadw members) and has an entrance fee of £9.40 for adults and £5.60 for juniors (5-17 years of age).
Ewole Castle, Flintshire
Contributed by Larch from The Silver Nomad
One of the smallest and less well known of the Welsh castles, the ruins off Ewole Castle are tucked away in Wepre Woods off the A55 in Flintshire.
The Welsh and English had long had battles and skirmishes over control of Welsh land. In 1255, Prince Llewelyn of Gruffydd was the ruler of Gwynedd, but Roger de Mantalt on the English side of the border included the manor of Ewole in his lands of Hawarden and fenced off the forest as his private hunting park. This infuriated Llewelyn who destroyed the enclosure and took back the land for the Welsh.
Two years later, Llewlyn had built a castle in the woods. As the battle for the lands was fought over by the Welsh and English, the castle passed from the ownership of one to the other.
The castle was never meant to be a strategic stronghold and the construction of it shows many inadequacies: it has low curtain walls; the gatehouse was not strong enough; it was built on low ground and even from the highest point you could not see an attack in the forest.
The ruins do show a D-shaped tower, which makes it uniquely Welsh. This would have been the castle’s keep and where the Lord of the castle would sleep. It would also have been the last stronghold in the castle.
The castle is about 1-kilometre walk from the car park and is free to look around.
Caernarfon Castle, Gwyned
Contributed by Bec from Wyld Family Travel
The mighty Caernarfon Castle sits strong on the edge of the water. The huge and extremely intimidating walls would make anyone think twice about an invasion as they rounded the river bend to see this in their path. Even standing in the car park under the shadow of Caernarfon it is a marvel of its time.
First commissioned by King Edward the 1st in 1283 it was meant to intimidate and discourage the Welsh from attacking the invading English.
The fortress that is Caernarfon Castle is world-renowned as one of the greatest buildings of the Middle Ages and has to be one of the best things to see in North Wales. Not only was it a fortress it was also a Royal home that stood to become the birthplace of the first English Prince of Wales. Walking the halls of this amazing Welsh Castle you wish the walls could talk and tell you the stories of what it has seen. Instead, you have to rely on the boards located throughout to tell you what has happened here over the last 700 years. From battles to daily life, Caernarfon Castle has seen it all.
While the castle is easy to navigate some areas can be uneven so you must take extra care. Entry to the castle is £7 pounds per adult and £5 pounds for a concession ticket. There is a museum inside the castle and it is free to enter with your castle ticket.
Harlech Castle, Gwynedd
Contributed by Larch from The Silver Nomad
The beautiful ruins of the majestic Harlech Castle stare out over the Ceredigion Bay. Once a stronghold of Edward I for his battles to conquer the Welsh, Harlech Castle was built in the late 13th century between 1283 to 1286.
The cliff-top position gave the perfect vantage point for seeing attacks from sea or land. Attacking from the front, the first obstacle was the moat, then thick wooden doors, an iron portcullis and a killing area where they were shot at by arrows or cross bolts all had to be overcome before entering the castle.
It is much easier to get across to the castle nowadays with an elevated walkway leading up to the castle gates. Once inside, explore the many rooms with explanation boards, or climb up the towers to the ramparts to get views across the sea and towards the hills of Snowdonia.
There is also a – friendly – dragon model in the courtyard for a photo opportunity.
Harlech Castle, along with the Castles of Beaumaris, Caernarfon and Conwy form part of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
There is a café and information centre and the site is dog friendly.
Entry costs: Adult £6.50; Seniors (over 65) £5.20, and £3.90 per child (ages 5-15).
Picton Castle, Pembrokeshire
Contributed by Cath from Travel Around Ireland
Picton Castle and Gardens is located near Haverfordwest in West Wales and is one of the best castles to visit in the UK. This stately home in Pembrokeshire has over 40 acres of woodland, gardens and grounds and is a must-visit if you are visiting the area.
Originally built in the 13th century as a medieval castle by a Flemish knight, it was completely transformed into a stately home in the 18th century. The four symmetrically spaced half-round towers on the outside, along with the gatehouse, which is flanked by two narrower towers, were based on the design of Irish castles from the same period. Due to the transformation, there is no inner courtyard or keep once you enter it, only elegantly decorated stately rooms, making it a unique castle in the United Kingdom.
The castle is run by a registered charity, the Picton Castle Trust, which relies on donations and ticket sales to help with both the upkeep and restoration of the castle. They are slowly restoring as many rooms as they can. The castle is opening from spring to autumn, but the extensive gardens are open all year round. You can join a guided tour in which you will visit splendid rooms and learn about the famous painting of the castle which was featured on the TV show “Fake or Fortune?”.
Outside are extensive gardens and woodland including a beautiful walled garden featuring a pond and also the Welsh Owl Centre. Entry costs £9 per adult and £6 per child (ages 5-15), and it can only be reached by car.
If you enjoyed this tour around the Best Castles in Wales, you might also like the posts on Best Castles in Scotland and the Best Castles in England. Do you have a favourite Welsh Castle? Let me know in the comments below.