Welsh Castles: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about castles in Wales.

  • There are over 400 castles in the small country of Wales. Some are in ruins and many date from the Middle Ages.
  • Wales is said to have more castles for than any other country in Europe.

  • Some of the most spectacular castles in Wales are those built in the 13th century by Edward I to control the Welsh. These include Conwy Castle, Harlech Castle and Caernarfon Castle, all in North Wales.
  • Conwy Castle has one of the most dramatic settings of all Welsh castles. The walls around the town of Conwy are shaped rather like a traditional Welsh harp.
  • Most castles are open to the public, although some are still lived in as private homes. Rhuddlan Castle and several others offer authentic medieval banquet evenings.
  • Caerphilly Castle in south Wales covers 1.2 hectares and is surrounded by several moats. It is the country’s largest castle and featured in the popular BBC television series, Merlin.
  • Caerphilly was the first concentric castle in Britain, with walls inside walls offering extra defense. Its leaning tower leans more than the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.
  • One of the oldest castles in Wales is Chepstow Castle in Monmouthshire, the UK’s oldest surviving post Roman stone building. It was built along the Welsh/English border in the 11th century.
  • Many Welsh castles are said to be haunted. Bodelwyddan Castle is often said to be the most haunted, and the ghost of a monkey is said to haunt Carew Castle.
  • Powis Castle in Powys is worth visiting for its beautifully landscaped terraces and gardens, and Caldicott Castle also has over 50 acres of landscaped gardens and woodland.
  • Some of the most visited castles are in North Wales. Caernarfon was the site of the 1969 investiture of the Prince of Wales, and is famous for its 8 sided towers and bands of different coloured stone.

What next? Visit our castles resources page to discover more castle facts.

Facts About Castles

What is a Castle?

The meaning of the word castle has been used to describe a number of different types of buildings over the years. However, strictly speaking, it should only really be applied to a fortified home of a lord or nobleman. (Fortified means strengthened or designed for defence).

A castle is not the same as a palace as palaces aren’t fortified, and it’s not the same as a fortress because fortresses aren’t always homes.

The first castles were constructed in the 9th century. Many early castles were made from wood. Eventually, wood was replaced by stone, and castles continued to be made using this material until the 16th century.

Castle design changed and evolved over the centuries. As weapon technology and siege techniques developed, so castle designs adapted to counter the new threats. Castles became increasingly complex with elaborate defences in place to withstand whatever the attackers threw at them. Castles built in the late Middle Ages look very different to the motte-and-bailey castles constructed by The Normans.

Although castles varied greatly, they also had lot of features in common. Click here to learn more about some of these key castle features.

Why were castles built?

Castles were built for a two reasons. Firstly, they were constructed to defend those living within their walls, and, to a lesser extent, those living in the surrounding areas. Secondly, they were a symbol of power, strength and wealth. When the Normans invaded England in 1066, they built a series of motte and bailey castles. This wasn’t just a defensive measure – it was a way of exerting their dominance over the population.

What are some of the different types of castles?

As mentioned above, castle design changed over the years. Several different phases of castle design can be identified, ranging from simple motte and bailey castles to complicated concentric castles. Follow this link to learn more about some of different types of castles.

Here is a link to some more of our resources about castles.