The Welsh like to tell you that they have 427 castles scattered around their part if the UK. They probably do, but at least 200 of the castles in Wales are little more than crumbled ruins or earthworks that, to the untrained eye, look like natural features on the landscape.
Still, that does leave 200 castles in Wales worth visiting. Where do you begin?
One approach is to understand a little bit about the different periods of castle building and then to choose some good examples of the kinds of castles in Wales that interest you the most. So here's a quick rundown on the Welsh castle builders, along with recommendations of the best examples.
After William the Conqueror became ruler in 1066, one of the first things he did was secure the country by giving land to his loyal nobles. Those early castles in Wales went up quickly. Most were a combination of earthworks and enclosed wooden courtyards called motte and bailey castles. Later, weathly Norman lords built elaborate stoneworks and stone keeps. The period of Norman castle building in Wales lasted into the early 13th century. Norman Castles worth visiting include:
Castles of the Welsh Princes
History, as you probably know, is written by the victors - who also do a pretty good job of moving in on anything good the losers have left behind. The princes of Wales built stone castles in Wales to defend themselves against invading Normans and, later, the English. Most ended up being incorporated and built over by successive waves of victors -- though the Welsh national hero Owen Glendower did win back some. One of those he captured back was the spectacular clifftop ruined Castle in Wales Carreg Cennan.
Click here for a map that will help you find the ruins of some more castles of the Welsh princes.
The Castles of Edward I
Edward I of England led two military campaigns against the Welsh in the late 13th century. Eventually, he surrounded the North Wales province of Gwynedd with castles. Those that remain today are some of the most famous and well preserved castles in all of the UK:
After the 15th century, the Welsh and English stopped fighting with each other and the need for fortified castles in Wales disappeared. Some important castles were redeveloped into great houses for nobles and royals. A few are still occupied to this day. Among the best of these later castles are: