Dreaming of a romantic getaway full of medieval charm and grandeur? Look no further than North Wales; dotted with spectacular castles, this gorgeous region is the ideal destination to explore some impressive historical sites. From the fortified walls of Conwy Castle to historic Chirk Castle, there’s something magical about each of these majestic Wonders of Wales. Here’s my guide to the best castles in North Wales! Ready your camera, it’ll be an adventure you won’t want to miss!
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Wales is renowned for its castles, It has more castles per square mile than any other country in Europe! There were once over 600 castles dotted around its rugged coastline and dramatic mountain ranges, however, only around 100 are still standing today. Many of these castles lie in ruins but some have been restored to their former glory and make a wonderful day out.
North Wales in particular is famous for its medieval castles, built by King Edward I during his reign from 1272 – 1307 as part of his campaign to conquer Wales. Some of the most famous castles in North Wales are situated overlooking some of its most loved towns such as Conwy, Caernarfon, Beaumaris, and Harlech, all of which have held UNESCO World Heritage status since 1986.
If you’re a fan of castles and history, then North Wales is the perfect place for you to visit. There are many different types of castles to see, from small fortresses to large castles that were once homes to royalty. No matter what your interest is, you’re sure to find a castle in North Wales that you’ll love.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best castles in North Wales!
8 Incredible Castles In North Wales:
1. Conwy Castle
Conway Castle was built by King Edward I during his conquest of Wales. It was designed by Master James of St. George and took only four years to build. The castle is surrounded by an extensive system of walls and towers, which would have made it virtually impenetrable in its day. The cost to build the castle and its surrounding fortifications were around £15,000, which was a huge sum of money at the time. The castle is considered to be one of the finest examples of medieval military architecture in Europe alongside Caernarfon, Beaumaris, and Harlech hence their UNESCO World Heritage Status.
Conwy Castle is one of my favourite medieval castles to visit in North Wales. Surrounded by the beautiful welsh countryside, the castle sits predominately overlooking the lovely town of Conway on the North Wales coast.
Take a walk through its ruined inner shell before climbing one of its eight towers for some stunning views of the town, coast and the surrounding Snowdonia National Park. If you have the time you can also take a walk along the castle walls that circle the town.
Conwy Castle is well worth a visit for anyone interested in history or architecture.
2. Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle is another medieval castle built by Edward I during his conquest of Wales, and its purpose was to serve as both a military stronghold and seat of government. Caernarfon Castle is widely considered to be one of the most impressive castles in Britain and has UNESCO World Heritage status alongside Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech.
Caernarfon is one of the biggest castles in Wales and cost £25,000 and took 47 years to build. One of its most prominent features is the Eagle Tower with its 18 feet thick walls! It was here that its most famous residents would live in lavish luxury. Its most notable resident was King Edward II who was born at Caernarfon and became the first Prince of Wales. Ever since every Prince of Wales has been invested here including Prince Charles who was famously invested here in 1969.
Visitors to Caernarfon can explore the castle’s many features, including its massive gatehouse, towers, and Great Hall. They can also learn about the castle’s rich history, which includes serving as a prison during the English Civil War and being successfully besieged by Welsh forces in 1404. Caernarfon Castle is an essential part of Welsh history, and it offers visitors a rare opportunity to see a well-preserved medieval castle.
3. Beaumaris Castle
Beaumaris Castle is situated on the island of Anglesey in a stunning location beside the Menai Strait. The castle has a fascinating history, with plenty of reasons to visit this intriguing site.
Beaumaris Castle was built during the 13th century by King Edward I and represents the height of medieval military engineering. It was the last of Edwards castles to be built but unfortunately, unlike other castles in North Wales, Beaumaris Castle was never completed due to a lack of funds, but its partially finished state is still impressive. The near-perfect symmetry of its design makes this castle so unique, it really would have been the castle to end all castles!
The castle has an interesting history, and it is well worth a visit for anyone interested in medieval history or architecture. Beaumaris Castle is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside Conwy, Caernarfon and Harlech and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Wales.
4. Harlech Castle
Harlech Castle is a medieval fortification located in Harlech on the west side of the North Wales coast. The castle was built on top of a rocky outcrop overlooking the dunes and sea below. This location is undoubtedly the most spectacular of King Edward I’s many castles. You can easily understand why it got UNESCO World Heritage status alongside Conwy, Caernarfon and Beaumaris.
Like other castles in the area, Harlech had a fascinating history and its ‘walls within walls’ design made the castle one of the strongest. So much so, whilst besieged during the rebellion of Madog ap Llewelyn, the castle held out. This was thanks to its 108 steps down its rocky cliff face to the sea which allowed the besieged defenders to be fed and watered by ship.
Visitors today can explore the castle’s many rooms and towers, and they can also enjoy stunning views of the coastline from the top of the keep. Harlech Castle is a fascinating piece of history, and it is well worth a visit.
5. Gwrych castle
Gwrych Castle is a 19th-century country house near Abergele in North Wales. This modern castle was one of the first attempts at replicating true medieval architecture in Europe and become famous in recent years due to being the location of the popular reality TV series I’m a Celebrity…. Get Me Out Of Here!
The castle was built between 1812 and 1822 by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh as a memorial to his mother’s ancestors, the Lloyds of Gwrych. The castle was designed in the Gothic Revival style and is considered one of the best examples of this type of architecture in Wales.
During World War II the castle was used to house 200 Jewish refugees as part of the Kindertransport program. Following the war, the castle was made into a tourist attraction and hosted medieval re-enactments. However, the castle later fell into decline and disrepair with numerous private renovations planned but never completed. In 2018 the castle was sold to the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust which aims to preserve and repair the castle back to its former glory.
Gwrych Castle is now open to the public and offers tours, exhibitions, and events throughout the year. Visitors can explore the castle grounds, gardens, and facilities, and learn about its history and architecture. Gwrych Castle is a fascinating example of 19th-century Gothic Revival architecture and a must-see for anyone interested in Welsh history or visiting North Wales.
General admission is £10 for Adults and £5 for Children, guided tours can also be booked online here.
6. Rhuddlan Castle
Rhuddlan Castle is a 13th-century fortification located in Rhuddlan, Wales. The castle was erected by Edward I and played an important role in the subsequent wars between the English and the Welsh. Unlike Edwards’s other castles positioned along the Welsh coast, Rhuddlan was built 7 miles inland on the River Clwyd. However there was just one problem, the river wasn’t in the ideal location so Edward conscripted hundreds of ditch diggers to deepen and divert its course.
Completed in 1282, Rhuddlan was one of the first castles to be built with the ‘walls within walls’ designed by master architect James of St George for £9613. Rhuddlan remained an active garrison until the 16th century, after which it fell into ruin. Despite its state of disrepair, Rhuddlan Castle is a popular tourist destination due to its well-preserved walls and fascinating history. Visitors can explore the castle’s many chambers and towers, and learn about its importance in the turbulent history of Wales. Rhuddlan Castle is a must-see for anyone interested in medieval history or archaeology.
7. Chirk Castle
Chirk Castle is a spectacular medieval castle located in the Welsh Marches. The castle was built in 1295 by Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, and has been passed down through his family ever since. Chirk served as an important border stronghold for centuries, and its strategic location on the Welsh/English border made it the site of many battles during the Wars of the Roses.
Chirk Castle is the only fully intact castle on this list and today looks more like a grand stately home than a castle especially inside, however you can still imagine what the castle would have been like when it served as border garrison.
Today, Chirk Castle is owned by the National Trust and is free for members. Visitors can explore the castle’s beautiful rooms and extensive grounds, which include a beautiful garden giving sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. Chirk is an excellent example of medieval architecture, and its rich history makes it a fascinating place to visit.
8. Denbigh Castle
Denbigh Castle was built in 1282 by the order of King Edward I and was one of the largest and most expensive castles of its time. The castle was designed to be an impregnable fortress, with massive walls and towers. However, the castle’s construction was halted after it was attacked in 1294 when Welsh forces led by Madog ap Llewelyn briefly took hold of the fortification. Over the years that followed the castle changed hands many times and was eventually destroyed in 1646 after a 6-month siege at the hands of the Parliamentarians.
Today, Denbigh Castle is a ruin, but it’s still an impressive sight. A great example of medieval architecture, and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. The castle also has a fascinating history, and there are many interesting stories about its construction and its former occupants. Denbigh Castle is worth a visit!
Most of the castles in this list are owned by Cadw and are free for members. For those who have English Heritage or Historic Scotland entrance is half-price for 1st-year memberships and free for 2nd-year memberships.
Where To Stay In North Wales:
For booking accommodation, I recommend using Booking.com. This website offers the best-priced accommodation catering for all budgets and styles. Just pop in your requirements and it will give you a list of available accommodation. Perfect for picking out the best hostels, B&B or even some luxury escapes.Booking.com
These are just a few of the many castles that you can visit in North Wales. Each one with its unique history and features, and they are all well worth a visit. If you’re planning a trip to North Wales, be sure to add these castles to your list! You won’t be disappointed.
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