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.

White Castle: Facts About Llantilio Castle

Here are some facts about White Castle.

  • White Castle, or Llantilio Castle is located about 1.5 km from Llantilio in Monmouthshire, South Wales. Along with nearby Skenfrith Castle and Grosmont Castle, they are sometimes called the Three Castles.

  • The castle is situated close to Offa’s Dyke. This 240 km 8th century earthwork was built to form the boundary between England and Wales; today the boundary still follows much the same path.
  • An earlier castle on the site was made of wood. It was replaced with the existing castle during the 12th century. It was given the name White Castle as the walls were originally whitewashed.
  • King Henry II ordered the castle to be built to strengthen his control over the Welsh. The castle’s position on a hill provided good views in all directions.

White Castle

  • In 1201, Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent took over ownership of White Castle. He is said to have spent a fortune adding the 6 towers to the structure.
  • In the 13th century, the Three Castles were given to future King Edward II and later to his younger brother. They were used as Royal homes and administrative centres.
  • By 1538 all 3 castles were abandoned and in ruins. They were used to store supplies, and as local offices until being cared for by the Welsh government in the early 20th century.
  • The Three Castles walk is a long distance path connecting the three strongholds. The 32 km walk also passes through woodlands and provides good views of the Black Mountains.
  • During World War II, White Castle was painted by Rudolf Hess when he was a prisoner in a nearby military hospital. Hess was Adolf Hitler‘s second in command.
  • The water filled moat can still be seen at White Castle and was one of its defensive features. Other defences included an inner and outer ward, a gatehouse and strong walls and towers.

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

Chepstow Castle: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Chepstow Castle.

  • Chepstow Castle is in Chepstow, in the county of Monmouthshire, in South Wales. It is situated on a cliff overlooking the River Wye, close to the Welsh / English border.
  • Chepstow Castle was built during the 11th and 12th centuries by Lord William Fitz Osbern. It is the UK’s oldest surviving stone fort built after the Roman occupation.

  • More improvements were made to the castle at the end of the 13th century. These included the addition of a gatehouse, a back entrance and a round tower in the castle’s south east corner.
  • The castle has four baileys, or enclosed courtyards. Although it does not have a strong keep or two sets of surrounding walls, it was still considered a strong castle.
  • During the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was owned by several different people, including the Earls of Worcester and Pembroke. It was used more as a stately home than as a defensive castle.
  • Chepstow Castle was besieged twice during the English Civil War. The Parliamentarian forces were able to take the castle from the Royalist forces in 1648.
  • The castle was left abandoned from the late 17th century to the late 18th century. It became a popular attraction for tourists taking a boat trip on the River Wye.

Chepstow Castle

  • During the 1840s, the castle’s courtyard was used for farm shows and other events. The Duke of Beaufort tried to find a buyer for Chepstow Castle but was not successful.
  • Today Chepstow Castle is open to the public and holds regular events. Some of the Dr. Who 50th anniversary broadcast was filmed there, as well as scenes from the film Jabberwocky.
  • Across the road from the castle is the Chepstow Museum. Housed in a Georgian house, it has exhibits on Chepstow Castle, as well as the town’s salmon fishing and wine trade.

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

Caernarfon Castle: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Caernarfon Castle.

  • Caernarfon Castle is located in the town of Caernarfon in North Wales.
  • The huge fortress was built by King Edward I of England to help in his fight against the Welsh.

  • The site was chosen as it offered easy access to the sea. It was built on the site of a Norman castle, and there are the remains of a Roman fort nearby.
  • The castle was built in the 13th century, and was considered a masterpiece of design. Like several other Welsh castles, it was designed by James of St. George, a skilled architect.

Caernarfon Castle

  • He used several unusual design features, probably based on his travels in the Middle East. These included coloured bands of stone, and eight sided towers instead of round ones.
  • As well as soldiers, the castle housed a constable and a watchman. Soon after it was built, a wall was built around the town of Caernarfon, parts of which still stand today.
  • The castle had several clever defensive features, including arrow slits and murder holes through which boiling liquid could be dropped. The walls are over 6 metres thick at their base.
  • Caernarfon Castle was meant to be a Royal home and a symbol of power, as well as a strong castle. Some turrets have stone eagles on them, another symbol of the King.
  • In the early 15th century, the castle withstood two attacks by the Welsh ruler Owain Glyndwr. During the English Civil War in 1646, the castle was taken by Parliamentary forces.
  • Caernarfon Castle was neglected from about 1640 until the late 19th century. Many parts of the castle were then restored and some nearby houses demolished to improve the view of it.
  • In 1911, Caernarfon Castle was the site of the investiture of Edward VII as Prince of Wales. In 1969, Prince Charles was crowned Prince of Wales at the castle.

What next? Discover some facts about other famous castles.