Five Of The Best Castles In Wales

The land of song, poets and warm welcomes, Wales, is also famed for its castles. From the imposing fortresses along the rugged coast to the whimsical lodges such as the fairytale Castell Coch. Choosing just five is a tall order so, for the purposes of this article this pick is based on uniqueness – either in its history or architecture – and what’s on offer in and around the castle. So, in no particular order, here goes…

Caerphilly Castle
Caerphilly Castle is a huge, moated medieval castle in the heart of the town whose name it bears, which is just north of Cardiff, the Welsh capital. The principal attraction of this, Europe’s second largest fortress castle, is the leaning tower whose angle is more acute than its more famous counterpart in Pisa. While in the neighbourhood why not try some of Caerphilly’s most famous export its mild and creamy cheese – great in sandwich with a pint of Cardiff brewed Brains SA.

March to July the castle is open from 9.30am to 5pm;
July and August 9.30am to 6pm;
September to November 9.30am to 5pm;
November to March 10am to 4pm;

St Donats Castle
This castle is only open to the public for a short time during the Summer though the Tythe Barn Arts’ Centre in the castle grounds is open year round for cinema, theatre, music of every genre and the sensational Storytelling Festival and, down on the Castle’s jousting lawn, open air theatre.

This is indeed a special place. It is the longest continually inhabited castle in Wales and besides the international students now in residence it has been home to a few colourful characters indeed. There are many who will swear that some such as the tragic Lady Anne after whom one of the castle’s towers is named still roams the beast garden at night. William Randolph Hearst, the subject – some might say target – of Orson Welles’ Citizen Cane owned and lived in the castle for many years.

The starlets and parties held there became the stuff of legend in the nearby seaside village of Llantwit Major not least because some of the ladies wore trousers!

For what’s on at the Tythe Barn Arts Centre and castle tour information visit: http://www.stdonats.com/

Beaumaris Castle
This castle on the island of Anglesey is a World Heritage site and represents the best in castle building of its day – building began in 1295. Built by the English to, ostnsibly, defend against Welsh insurrection, it is described as the most “technically perfect” castle in Britain. Beaumaris is beautifully symmetrical and uses the extremely effective concentric walls within wall device for its defence.

There are no high, imposing towers from which archers might attack as the castle was virtually impenetrable but, just in case, and you’ll spot them if you look, there are the “murder holes” little slits near the entrances to the castle – its most vulnerable points – where archers would be positioned.

March to July the castle is open from 9.30am to 5pm;
July and August 9.30am to 6pm;
September to November 9.30am to 5pm;
November to March 11am to 4pm

Pembroke Castle
Anyone who has been to this part of the world will know just how stunningly beautiful the coastline of the Pembrokeshire National Park is. The castle was the place where Henry VII, a Welshman, yet England’s first Tudor king was born and so a dynasty continuing with his son, Henry XIII and then his grand daughter Elizabeth I.

The castle houses extensive exhibitions on medieval ad early Tudor life and you can make your own souvenirs at the brass rubbing centre. However, take your camera along and get a few snaps of the castle from the estuary upon which it sits and of the estuary from the castle and these will be souvenir enough.

The castle is open April to October 9.30am to 6.00pm
March and October 10.00am to 5.00pm
November to February 10.00am to 4.00pm

Powis Castle
Powis Castle near Welshpool, mid Wales, is also sometimes known as Castell Coch – red castle – just like the so called fairy tale castle in Taffs Well just on the edge of Cardiff. There is plenty to see in this fortress-come-mansion house perhaps most notably room upon room of sumptuous furniture, textiles and carpets, the portrait of the Countess of Powys painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1777 and Clive of India’s Cat: a statue of a cat and snake possibly dating back as far as the first century BCE.

As well as these very tangible exhibits and its immaculately manicured gardens Powis Castle is also noted for attractions more, shall we say, ethereal. There have long been tales of a ghostly pianist who give renditions day and night!

The castle, museum and gardens are closed every Tuesday and from April to June and throughout September and October every Wednesday too.
Throughout November and December, the castle, gardens and restaurant are only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday;