Did you know there are 427 castles in Wales?
Some are nearly 1,000 years old, well-preserved, and feature luxurious, authentic interiors. Although other fortifications have partially collapsed, the enormity of these fortresses remains impressive, often located on the edge of dramatic rocky cliffs.
Whether you’re planning a holiday in Cardiff city, a road trip along the south coast or a holiday in north Wales, there are plenty of stunning castles to explore.
However, there are many castles.
Unless you’re completely obsessed with historic buildings (and I don’t judge if you are!) or live in Wales, you probably have time to see the absolute best castles in Wales. There is no other choice. You want to see the most historic castles with gorgeous views, preferably in locations with charming villages and other activities.
So there you have it, the top 20 castles from across Wales to add to your Wales itinerary!
1. Conwy Castle
Wales has four castles so remarkable that UNESCO has included them in the ‘King Edward’s Castle and Town Walls of Gwynedd’ World Heritage Site. In the 13th century, Edward I built 17 castles around Wales in just a few years. One of these was Conwy Castle, located on the River Conwy on the north Wales coastline.
it is a vast fortress and incredibly well preserved for its age. The 1.3 km long city wall extending from the castle still remains intact. The main attraction of this castle is not the castle itself. Conwy is a beautiful town with narrow cobblestone streets and an impressive suspension bridge leading to the castle.
Read more about Conwy and the surrounding area:
A casual waterfall walk in North Wales, visit to Conwy Falls
Visit Gweech Castle (I’m a Celebrity!’s castle) and other stops along the North Wales coast, including Conwy
2. Beaumaris Castle
Another 13th-century castle that Edward I came close to making a UNESCO World Heritage Site is Beaumaris Castle on the island of Anglesey in northwest Wales. I say almost because this castle is known as “The Greatest Castle Never Built.” This fortress was to be the monarch’s crowning achievement. But the problem is that building a castle costs a lot of money!
But what remains is a beautiful, symmetrical castle with its own moat. Beaumaris means ‘beautiful marsh’, so the scenery around the castle, including the Menai Straits between Anglesey and the mainland, will be unique on this visit.
Read more about the Beaumaris region:
Glamping at Wonderful Wild (near Beaumaris Castle)
Historical cycling tour of Anglesey (with castle stop) with Green Lane Bike Tours
3. Penrhyn Castle
Penrhyn Castle is located on the north coast on the outskirts of Bangor city. It looks very different from the medieval castles of North Wales. Especially since it’s still there. The Pennant family built this castle in his 1820s, but its origins are rather murky. They paid for the construction using profits earned from Jamaican plantations during the slave trade.
The National Trust now manages the castle and has made no secret of where the money that went into building it came from. That’s very important! You don’t need to know its story to admire this impressive neo-Norman castle with its geometric turrets and bright red creeping vines.
Read more: 10 must-see National Trust attractions in North Wales
4. Caernarfon Castle
To the west, across the Menai Strait from Beaumaris Castle, is Caernarfon Castle, another UNESCO castle in North Wales, built in the 13th century. It is truly amazing that four of Edward I’s 17 castles built by him have survived his 800 years. However, while Conwy Castle took him just four years to build, Caernarfon Castle took him 47 years and cost him £25,000.
They took architectural inspiration from the Roman Empire and erected columns and statues depicting eagles to show off their royal power. Today, the castle is less intimidating, located on the edge of a charming seaside town, and has plenty of informative exhibits inside.
Read more: Stay in the bath tower on the ramparts of Caernarfon Castle (this is fantastic and surprisingly affordable so I highly recommend it!)
5. Dolwyddelan Castle
Although Dolwyderan Castle doesn’t have much to offer, it’s still one of the best castles in Wales. Llewelyn the Great, who lived in the middle of Snowdonia National Park, built this fortress on top of a mountain in the 13th century to protect the area from King Edward I. Unfortunately, he was not successful, but part of the castle remains as a memorial to him.
It is a completely open ruined castle and can be visited at any time of the day. It’s a short walk up to the castle and there are several plaques detailing the history of the place.
6. Criccieth Castle
Speaking of Llewelyn the Great, he also built Crickieth Castle in one of the most beautiful locations in Wales (which is saying something!). As well as being located on the coast next to the Llyn Peninsula, the castle also has views of the mountains in the background as it is on the edge of Snowdonia National Park.
It dates back to 1230 and is located on a small hill in front of the small town of Krikies. The area is full of beautiful beaches and is a great place to stop and stretch your legs on a road trip to the peninsula’s seaside towns.
Read more: Tips for visiting Porth Iago (my favorite beach on the Llyn Peninsula
7. Harlech Castle
The fourth and final castle on the UNESCO World Heritage List is Harlech Castle. Being located in Cardigan Bay, just a few miles south of Crickies, we also benefit from the dual beauty of Snowdonia and the coastline. Although Harlech is located on a small hill in the middle of town, visitors can easily access the castle thanks to a modern footbridge.
After the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century, the English Parliament ordered the castle’s destruction. Thankfully, that order was not followed, and we can still admire this beautiful sandstone castle!
Read more: A weekend in Harlech and exploring Harlech Castle
8. Chirk Castle
Close to the Welsh-English border (close enough to walk) and just a few miles south of Wrexham city is Chirk Castle. This medieval castle has survived devastation for around 800 years and is fully functional. His 18th-century apartment, with an impressive art collection, is set in grand grounds and has a carefully manicured lawn outside.
It is now run by the National Trust, but its previous owners were the Myddelton family, who lived there for around 400 years. You can imagine that they built up quite a collection of furniture, jewelry, books, and other knick-knacks back in the day, and all the best items are on display.
Read more: Family Christmas events in North Wales and Cheshire
9. Powis Castle and Garden
South of Chirk Castle, Powis Castle and Gardens is located in an area of natural beauty in the Shropshire Hills, close to the Welsh-English border. Gruffydd ap Gwenwyn, Prince of Wales, built the castle in the mid-13th century, and was only able to do so because he had an unusually good relationship with the then King of England, Edward I is.
He built a fortified and stately home so, although beautiful, it looks more like a military castle than someone’s home. Still, the impressive red brick building has survived incredibly well, and the National His Trust has added beautifully landscaped gardens. Antique furniture and decorations from India can be found throughout the castle, as the previous owners had interests in the Far East.
10. Cilgerran Castle
Towards the south of Wales, near Cardigan Bay on the River Teifi, is Silgellan Castle. The Normans built this castle in the 11th century with two huge round towers.
Although much of the castle is in ruins, it is in a beautiful location next to the town of Silgellan, where there is a visitor center run by the National Trust. One artist created larger than life-size statues of Norman soldiers and medieval royalty from branches and placed them around castles.
11. Castle Dinefwr
There are many reasons to visit Brecon Beacons National Park. You can go rock climbing, horseback riding, stargazing, or even visit a lovely castle. Dynefer Castle is a 12th-century fortress built by Lord Leith, who ruled the Welsh kingdom of Dehubals before the British seized control.
This atmospheric castle sits on a hill and is now owned by the National Trust. You can learn more about the castle’s connection to Welsh culture by taking a guided tour of the castle, as well as local nature reserves and cottages.
12. Pembroke Castle
Pembroke Castle is an 11th-century Norman castle, but is most famous for being the birthplace of Henry VII in 1457. In the English Civil War of 1648, Oliver was also the site of siege by Cromwell’s forces. The castle itself stands on top of a hill named Wogan Cave, which has been used as a shelter by humans since the Mesolithic era, over 4,000 years ago!
This castle is one of the best in Wales, not only because of its interesting and varied history, but also because of its dramatic exterior. Pembroke Castle’s wide defensive walls and towers look like something taken from a Robin Hood or King Arthur folklore book. Events such as the Christmas Market are also held here, and free guided tours are offered.
13. Laugharne Castle
Rowan’s most famous resident, the poet Dylan Thomas, loved this 12th century castle. He described it as “brown as an owl” and that Loughearn Castle cured him of his writer’s block. Thomas is said to have written his short story collection Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog there.
Dating back to the 13th century, this ruined castle is set in the same 19th-century gardens as the Tudor mansion, so you can visit both at the same time. Loughearn itself is a sleepy small town on the River Turf, just a stone’s throw from the south Wales coastline.
14. Kidwelly Castle
Just a few miles east of Rowan Castle, on the other side of the River Towy, lies Kidwelly Castle. Built in the 12th century, this incredibly intact Norman castle has a cinematic look and was featured as a filming location for Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
While visiting this castle, you can also explore other historic stone structures in Kidwelly, such as the Town Wall and Kidwelly Town Bridge. With famous castles such as Rowan nearby, this castle is quite a hidden gem. But it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re driving through the area.
15. Caerphilly Castle
Wales is full of surprises, but one of the most shocking places is Caerphilly Castle. This is the largest castle in Wales (three times the size of Cardiff’s Principality Stadium!) and is not built on top of a castle or on the coastline.
This 13th-century castle has huge towers (one of which is very unstable), high ramparts, and a moat so large that it looks like it’s in the middle of a lake. If you’re visiting South Wales, a visit to Caerphilly Castle is a must.
16. Cardiff Castle
Flying to Cardiff for a city break but don’t have a car to drive to a remote castle? Luckily, Wales’ capital has something of its own. What began as a Roman fortress became an 11th-century Norman castle, then an 18th-century Georgian mansion, and then a World War II bomb shelter.
Today, the castle is a popular destination for visitors thanks to its beautiful Georgian interior and stained glass windows. There are also guided tours, exhibitions, and a gift shop.
17. Castell Coch
Just a 20 minute drive outside Cardiff is the pint-sized Castle Coch. All Welsh castles can look a little intimidating, but Coch Castle has the most fairy-tale look. The soft red bricks look almost pink in the sunlight, and the charming little tower is a feature more common in central European castles than English castles.
This castle is one of the newest in Wales, dating back to 1870 and built in the Gothic Revival style. The interior of Castell Coch is authentically Victorian, and the surrounding landscape of Forest Fowl makes this a particularly enchanting place.
18. Raglan Castle
Raglan is located in south-east Wales, not far from the Welsh-English border and the Wye Valley. A gorgeous little village in the middle of vast countryside, with Raglan Castle perched on a central ridge. The castle is a mixture of architectural styles, built in the early 15th century and renovated in the late 16th century.
Today, Raglan Castle is one of the most unique castles in Wales, with a visitor center and costumed guides.
19. Chepstow Castle
Just meters from the Welsh-English border and not far from Severn Bridge, you’ll find Wales’ oldest surviving castle. Chepstow Castle is his 11th century Norman structure built on Roman ruins and later converted into a grand Tudor mansion.
Although now in ruins, its location on limestone cliffs on the River Wye is truly stunning. Bring your camera and visit during sunrise or sunset to take beautiful photos!
20. Caldicot Castle
Located in south-east Wales, near Prince of Wales Bridge, Caldicot Castle is mostly hidden in the forest, but it is a living monument. Built by the Normans in the 13th century, the castle survived long enough to become a Victorian mansion until the 55 acres of woodland surrounding it were reclaimed.
Parts of the abandoned stone fortress are covered with moss, grass and vines, while other areas of the castle have been renovated for display purposes.