A guide to castles in Wales
Published: Thursday 6th Feb 2014
Written by: Anita Lee
Wales is a fiercely proud nation, and that characteristic is even more evident when it comes to its pride for its landmarks and heritage. This is no more evident anywhere than in the castles in Wales; with over 500 dotted around the country and each with their own unique history and stories, a tour of the country’s castles makes for a great way to see Wales and experience its culture.
Brief history of castles in Wales
Wales is often regarded as the castle capital of the world, partly due to the sheer volume of the wonderful structures that can be found there. What’s more, it is also home to Chepstow Castle in Monmouthshire, so is the host nation of the oldest surviving post-Roman castle in Britain.
With Wales featuring more castles than any other country in Europe, it begs the question as to why there were so many. One of the reasons for this is the long Welsh coastline; nowadays this is a reason for many visitors to come to the Welsh border as they arrive on holiday to stay in quaint coastal Pembrokeshire cottages, but for a time this also made the country vulnerable to attack from the water.
The castles in Wales have stemmed from many different battles and periods, with some dating back to the Civil War, the Tudors and the Victorians. Pembrokeshire playing host to a good proportion of the country’s castles makes this an especially good place to start on a Welsh tour.
Pembroke Castle is one of the most visited castles in Wales. As the birthplace of King Henry VII in 1457, it played a prominent role in the history of the Tudor royal family, but its history extends far before this point, with its origins said to have begun with a small inner bailey constructed by Arnulf de Montgomery in 1093.
Looking at the castle, it is clear that it was built with defence primarily in mind, as it overlooks Milford Haven on its rocky point. Today, the castle is open to the public with tours and activities available including falconry days, circus days, storytelling and even dragon days! While the castle is open to visitors all year round, it is worth checking the pembroke castle website for opening times and details.
While this castle is leased to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, it is still owned by the famed Carew family who took their name from the castle and surrounding area. The structure itself was built by Nicholas de Carew in 1270 following the death of his father William, who took on the name first after his father Gerald de Windsor married and received the manor as a part of his wife’s dowry.
Today, Carew Castle sits on a millpond that covers 23 acres and is open for the public to come and visit. Just a short 15 minute drive from the popular area of the south west coast, where many come to spend their summer holidays and enjoy dog friendly holiday cottages in Tenby, the castle often makes for a fun day out for families. With a medieval bridge and plenty of activities and events taking place during the summer months, Carew Castle is as lively now as it was in the late 12th century.
Picton Castle is another example of the renowned castles in Pembrokeshire. Built slightly later than the previous two listed in this guide, its beauty goes unrivalled. Built in the late 13th century by Sir John Wogan its estates, gardens and parkland were once a part of the Manor of Winston.
Today, the Phillips family reside within the castle, as descendants of Sir Wogan, but its estate is now run by the Picton Castle Trust and offers corporate dinners and venue hire, as well as being a popular wedding venue. Tours of the castle and gardens are available to the public and its galleries and restaurant make it a great day out for families and couples looking to further explore Pembrokeshire during their holiday.
Image Credits: Chris Hearn (flickr.com)