If you’re fascinated by castles, then Wales is the place to be. With 427 castles (around 200 of them are now in ruins) scattered around the country, Wales is certainly one of the top destinations to see majestic castles.
It’s important that you have an understanding about the periods of castle building in Wales to know where to begin your visit. Then choose the best examples of castles of each period. Here’s a quick look at the history of castle building in Wales and some recommendations of examples that might interest you the most.
Soon after William the Conqueror started his rule in 1066, the first thing he did was to secure Wales by distributing land to his ever loyal nobles and building castles everywhere. The builders built motte and bailey castles, usually in wood and soon replaced with stone. This type of castle was favored as a cheap but very effective defensive military construction that could ward off small attack forces.
Most castles during this period were built with forced labor on land taken from English rebels. Norman barons received these castles to hold for the king. This period of castle building ended in the early thirteenth century. Here are some Norman castles in Wales that are worth visiting: Tretower Castle, Laugharne Castle, Caerphilly Castle, and Kidwelly Castle.
Castles of the princes of Wales
History is often written by the conquerors, who are also good in exploiting anything good the defeated have left behind. Welsh princes built castles made of stone to defend Wales against the Normans and the English. Most castles were eventually built over and incorporated by a successive wave of conquerors, although Owen Glendower, the Welsh national hero, won back some. One of the castles Glendower captured back was the splendid and imposing clifftop castle, the Carreg Cennan.
The castles of Edward I
The English King Edward I launched two military campaigns against Wales in the late thirteenth century. The king built castles surrounding Gwynedd, a province in North Wales. The castles that still stand today are beautifully preserved and considered as some of the most remarkable castles in the UK. Recommended castles to visit are Caernarvon, Harlech Castle, Beaumaris Castle, Conwy Castle, and Rhuddlan Castle.
Later castles of Wales
After the fifteenth century, Wales and England stopped the war between them, and so fortified castles in the country disappeared as there were no needs for them. Many important castles underwent redevelopment and became great houses for royals and nobles. Few of them are still occupied today. Powis Castle, Chirk Castle, and Raglan Castle represent the best castles of the later period.