by Katy Depledge
History and Heritage
North Wales is famous for its rugged coastline, dramatic mountains and golden sandy beaches. However, often overlooked is the impressive collection of mighty castles in North Wales.
Known as the “castle capital of the world”, there was once approximately 600 castles in Wales. Today, over 100 castles remain standing, either in ruins or restored to their natural beauty and North Wales is lucky enough to be home to a number of truly spectacular Medieval fortresses.
Keep reading to discover our pick of top castles in North Wales…
In celebration of the 20th series of I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! taking place on our doorstep, our list of top castles in North Wales starts with the historic Gwrych Castle. Nestled within a tree-lined hillside, overlooking the Irish Sea, Gwrych Castle was built between 1812 and 1822 by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh as a memorial to his mother’s relatives, the Lloyds of Gwrych.
The castle closed to the public in 1985 and began to fall into disrepair. However, the Gwyrch Castle Preservation Trust purchased the castle in June 2018, with an aim to restore the castle to its full glory. This year, Gwrych Castle will accommodate a range of celebrities, replacing the Australian jungle as the set for I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!
The ruins of the 200-year old castle overlook Abergele, a small market town located along the North Welsh Coast. During normal opening hours, you can visit the castle and explore its 250 acres of gardens and grounds. The Gwyrch Castle Preservation Trust also run nighttime ghost hunts. The Countess’ Tower is said to be one of the most paranormally active areas of the castle, haunted by the Countess herself.
An impressive fortress that began construction in 1283, Conwy Castle is one of Edward I’s four great castles of North Wales along with Caernarfon, Harlech and Beaumaris. Standing tall above the River Conwy with Snowdonia acting as a dramatic background, Conwy Castle still commands the same attention and dominance it once did.
With 8 towers and 3 gateways in total, explore inside the walls and discover the fascinating history of this World Heritage Site. Make sure you keep an eye out for medieval re-enactments that regularly take place inside the courtyards, perfect family-friendly entertainment.
Why not read our guide to the best gardens in North Wales for some more great places to explore.
Located on the Southern end of the Menai Strait, Caernarfon Castle once provided Edward I with a strategic advantage during his invasion of Wales lying in the middle of Anglesey and North Wales. The stunning architecture includes polygonal towers and a variety of coloured masonry.
This popular historical site has two gatehouses, once used for unloading supplies off ships. It’s a fantastic attraction to visit and people of all ages will be impressed by the atmospheric corridors and stairways. Discover everything you need to know about visiting Caernarfon here.
Dolwyddelan Castle is an early 13th-century fortress built by Llewelyn the Great. Used to control the road between the towering mountains of Snowdonia and the town of Conwy, the ruins stand on a rocky ridge overlooking the Lledr Valley.
You can easily access the castle with clear signs on the A470 between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Betws-y-Coed. There is also a great walking trail that leads uphill to the remaining ruins.
Built between 1283-1290 by Edward I, Harlech Castle is perched on a rocky clifftop overlooking the sea with the rolling mountains of Snowdonia in the background. The castle has a concentric design, meaning there is an inner and outer wall for extra protection.
The cost to build Harlech Castle amounted to about 10% of Edward’s military budget at a huge £10,000. Today you can climb up the round towers and walk around the walls. There are often exhibitions and demonstrations aimed at entertaining the little ones.
Penrhyn Castle was built in the mid 19th century for English MP George Hay Dawkins Pennant. Famous architect Thomas Hopper chose a neo-Norman design, which was adventurous for the time and involved the community with local craftsmen helping in the build of castle furniture.
The Castle has since come under the care of the National Trust where visitors can go inside and wander around the beautifully kept gardens and grounds.
Beaumaris Castle was the largest of the four great castles and last of Edward I’s castles constructed for his conquest of North Wales. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Castle has an impressive architecture and like Harlech Castle was built with a concentric, symmetrical design.
Often described as a vanity project for Edward I, Beaumaris Castle was left unfinished. This was due to his death and the new monarch’s change of strategy to conquer Scotland instead of continuing the invasion of North Wales.
The Castle was restored and repaired in the 20th century and is now managed by Cadw and draws thousands of visitors a year. You can walk around the walls and take in the beautiful views of the Menai Strait.
Like Dolwyddelan, Dolbadarn Castle was built by Llywelyn the Great on the turn of the 13th century. The ancient tower stands alone, overlooking the Llanberis pass into Snowdonia.
Walk up to the castle whilst taking in the stunning views of the mountains and Llyn Peris. Dogs are also welcome in the ground floor levels of the castle.
Why not turn your adventure into a getaway and stay in one of our North Wales holiday cottages. Relax in your very own home away from home, whilst spending your days exploring all the spectacular castles in North Wales.
Browse our collection of cottages today that cover Anglesey, Snowdonia and Llyn Peninsula or get in touch with one of our travel experts for further information.
Image Credits: Robin Parker (CC By 2.0)
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Hi, I'm Katy and I joined Sykes in February 2020.
Favourite UK destination: I absolutely love Snowdonia and try and spend as m...
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