Below we have listed six of the most amazing castles in North Wales. This area is a hotspot for history buffs as there were once over 600 castles in North Wales. Over 100 are still standing and ready to be explored today.
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The Most Amazing Castles in North Wales
1. Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle is a medieval fortress in Caernarfon, Gwynedd, north-west Wales. One of the oldest castles in Wales, it was built by Edward I as part of his campaign to conquer the Welsh kingdom of Gwynedd.
The site was originally occupied by an ancient Celtic monastic establishment called “Penmon”, meaning ‘old head’, and may have been the monastery where Saint Tudwal lived in the 6th century AD before he became Bishop of Bangor. The Normans built a wooden castle on the site after 1068. Caernarfon was the northernmost of their castles in Wales. The castle was besieged numerous times during the 13th century, when Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Gwynedd from 1225–1282, rebelled against English rule.
In 1284 when Madog ap Llywelyn rebelled, the castle fell to his forces, but Henry de Loundres recaptured it later that year. In the aftermath of the revolt, however, the castle was taken by Edward I and improvements were made to its defences. It was recaptured by Welsh forces in 1401 after a siege. The castle was recaptured yet again in 1404 by the forces of Owain Glyndŵr but swept away following his final defeat fourteen years later.
By 1660, Caernarfon Castle had fallen into a poor state of repair and during the English Civil War it was damaged further when used as a fortress.
2. Denbigh Castle
Located in Denbighshire, this castle was constructed as a defense against the English but ended up falling to them during Edward I’s campaign to conquer Wales. It is now a ruin.
The castle was originally built in 1282 by Robert Trevor, Justiciar of Chester and Lord of Bromfield and Abergele.
The castle passed to the House of Lancaster through the marriage of Cecily de Sutton to Sir John Grey of Heton, Governor of Calais under Edward IV. It was forfeited to the crown by the latter’s son, Sir Thomas Grey, in 1461.
The castle is now cared for by Cadw and is open to the public.
3. Caerphilly Castle
The castle was originally a royal estate before the Normans took control of Wales. It was taken by William the Conqueror’s troops in 1093 and became a formidable fortress, guarding important routes from England into southern Wales.
Today, Caerphilly Castle is open to the public with a beautiful moat and well-maintained gardens, making it popular for locals to have picnics there. There are also shops housed in buildings on site which sell Welsh produce and souvenirs.
The castle is a good example of a concentric castle. It was designed to allow the defender to control the surrounding area, and consists of three defensive walls around a circular keep. The castle has been in a ruinous state since the 16th century when it was attacked and plundered by forces acting on behalf of King Henry VIII.
4. Conwy Castle
In the middle of the River Conwy, atop a low ridge, stand the massive walls of Conwy Castle. This Norman sea-fortress now houses part of the collection of Britain’s first museum.
Built in the 12th century, during Anglo-Norman rule in Wales, it was for three centuries one of their most important strongholds. As with many castles, it’s believed that King Edward I (nearing his death) was involved with its design and construction.
The town of Conwy is situated in a narrow valley, on the banks of the River Conwy. The castle’s location atop a crag of rock looking down upon the town afforded it amazing natural defenses. After being built it needed little modification for almost 600 years, when gunpower made its way to the British Isles. Today’s visitors can still make out sections of some of ‘Conwy’s original walls.
5. Harlech Castle
Harlech Castle is a medieval castle situated on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Irish Sea. It overlooks Harlech town, which adjoins the village of Rhosllannerchrugog.
Built by Edward I, Harlech was originally one of a string of fortresses built along the Welsh coast to defend against Viking invaders and to provide a base for further invasions into Wales.
It has been described as “one of the most perfect examples of medieval military architecture in Europe.
Built between 1283 and 1300, it was the ultimate castle for the perfect medieval siege. Located in a commanding position atop a rocky promontory, it has no natural weaknesses. The walls, which are ten feet thick, approach nineteen feet in height and are defended by seventeen towers. The walls are over thirty three acres in size and have an enormous gatehouse leading to two main halls.
6. Machynlleth Castle
Built in the 13th century, Machynlleth Castle is a Grade I listed castle situated on the outskirts of Machynlleth, Powys, Wales. It’s a great place to visit for history lovers and those interested in architecture as it’s one of the oldest examples of quadrangular castles found in Wales. Be sure to check out our free audio tour when you visit!
In the year 1284, Thomas de Ellesmere was given licence to crenellate his home. He owned the castle until his death in the year 1317, his son, Thomas then inherited the castle.
In 1604, during the reign of King James I of England, Sir Edward Herbert took over Machynlleth Castle and began fortifying it significantly. Sir Edward owned the castle until his death in the year 1651.
In August 1821, a riot broke out between tenants, workmen and the owners of Machynlleth Castle. The building was struck with stones and eventually burned down. The fire was so intense that a hole was left in the ground where it once stood.
7. Powis Castle
Powis Castle is a castellated mansion house with gardens. It was built in 1838 by Bishop William Smyth, as the seat of the Johnes family. The house was sold in 1928 to Captain Frank Crawshay Collins, who became High Sheriff of Montgomeryshire.
After World War II Powis Castle was requisitioned as an RAF Intelligence training base until 1961. It then became a training centre for the Post Office Engineering Department, until 1980.
The estate had been owned from 1765 to 1838 by Johnes family, whose ancestor Sir John Johnes (1675-1750) had been Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.
The gardens have a fine display of rhododendrons and azaleas. The statues in the garden include a stone sealion made by Edward Smyth and two large blue glass vases designed by Hugh Ray Easton.
8. Chirk Castle
Chirk Castle is a medieval fortification and one of the most amazing castles in North Wales. The castle sits on the Welsh-English border, with some protection afforded by the moat that surrounds three of its four sides.
Throughout its history, the castle has changed hands many times between various factions and forces in Britain. It has been occupied by English, Welsh and Scottish forces, all of whom wanted to control the border area. When these battles were over, Chirk Castle was left battered but still standing.
The site of Chirk Castle was once a Roman fortification. The stone and timber castle that was built in the 12th century was initially held by the de Chirks family, before being taken over by Llewelyn ap Gruffudd in 1246.
9. Penrhyn Castle
Penrhyn Castle owes its fame to its creator, the eccentric Victorian industrialist and philanthropist Lord Penrhyn, who decided to build a “vast palace” on his slate quarryings in North Wales during the 1820s. But it was John Crichton-Stuart, Lord Penrhyn from 1874 until his death in 1889 who consolidated the vast landholdings of the family and built much of what we see today, including in particular a notable chapel designed by George Gilbert Scott. The present owner, the National Trust, has put considerable effort into restoring this richly decorated and furnished house to its former glory.
The original mansion was designed by architect John Nash in 1810 for William Pennant (1768-1838), who succeeded his uncle Thomas Pennant (1726-1798) as 2nd Baron Penrhyn of Llandegai in 1781. Lord Penrhyn took possession of the completed house in 1821 after Pennant died suddenly.
10. Castell Dinas Bran
Castell Dinas Bran is a ruined medieval fortification in the Vale of Clwyd, north Wales. The castle overlooks the junction of the River Dee and Afon Dyfrdwy to the west and northeast respectively.
The fortification has been described as “The most spectacular castle in Wales”. It was built by Edward I, during his conquest of North Wales in 1277 to provide an advanced military base for operations against Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Gwynedd. The castle is situated on the Great Orme’s Head, a limestone headland overlooking the Irish Sea.
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