Uncover the rich history of these medieval Welsh castles

There are more than 600 castles in Wales and “powerful”, “impressive” and “daunting” are three words that could be used to describe many of them. Particularly those built during the 13th century, when the English monarch Edward I invaded Wales.

The castles we’ve featured here were at one time fortresses of the most magnificent kind. Today, they stand in partial ruins but the rich history that surrounds them is ever present.

Criccieth Castle: 5 min drive from our Llanystumdwy Campsite

Criccieth

Built in the 13th century on a rocky peninsula overlooking Tremadog Bay, Criccieth Castle is one of the most spectacular castle ruins to visit in Wales, not least for its amazing views.

Originally built by the native Welsh Prince Llywelyn the Great in the 1230s, the castle was remodelled some 50 years later after it was captured by the English forces of Edward I. In the early 1400s, Owain Glyn Dŵr, the last native Welshman to hold the title “Prince of Wales” captured Criccieth Castle in what would be the last major Welsh rebellion against the English. His men tore down the walls and set it alight, sealing the castle’s fate in the process.

Why is it worth a visit?

It was once wanted so very badly by Welsh princes and English monarchs and even now that it lies in ruins, Criccieth Castle is a fascinating landmark to see. Scorch marks can still be seen on some of the stonework where it was burned down.

On a bright sunny day, visitors can see as far as Snowdonia when looking to the north and the Llyn Peninsula to the west. The castle’s beautiful and almost romantic setting has inspired the work of various artists, including JMW Turner, whose painting of storm-wrecked mariners includes a portrayal of the castle in the background.

Harlech Castle: 29 min drive from our Llanystumdwy Campsite

Harlech

Standing impressively on elevated rock near to the Irish Sea and surrounded by magnificent views, Harlech is a Welsh castle not to be missed.

Edward I built the castle (at a sizeable cost of £8,190) in the latter part of the 13th century, during his invasion of Wales. Harlech Castle withstood the siege of Madog ap Llywelyn (who led the Welsh revolt of 1294-1295) but later was taken by the Welsh leader Owain Glyn Dŵr in 1404.

The castle was under siege for seven years during the Wars of the Roses, in the 15th century. The marching song “Men of Harlech” is said to describe the events that happened during the siege.

Why is it worth a visit?

Harlech Castle is classed as a World Heritage Inscribed Site. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) deem it to be one of Europe’s finest examples of military architecture built during the late 13th and early 14th century.

The twin-towered gatehouse at Harlech Castle is still more or less intact and visitors can enjoy outstanding views of Snowdonia from its tall battlements.

Caernarfon Castle: 27 min drive from our Llanystumdwy Campsite

Culzean

Caernarfon Castle is an imposing stone fortress built by Edward I, who used it as his administrative centre during his invasion of Wales in the 13th century. It was previously the site of a Norman motte and bailey castle.

Its walls, which look very similar to the walls of Constantinople, are almost intimidating and seem to have been cleverly designed to be off-putting to potential attackers.

Edward I’s son was born at Caernarfon Castle in 1284, thus becoming the first English Prince of Wales. The castle was used for the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1911 (Edward VIII) and again in 1969 (HRH Prince Charles).

Why is it worth a visit?

This is an Edwardian castle that has been awarded World Heritage status. Part of Edward I’s “Iron Ring” of castles, its impressive architecture alone is worth a visit.

There are various exhibitions and displays to see at the castle, including the opportunity to explore the polygonal towers, which are simply magnificent.

Dolwyddelan Castle: 48 min drive from our Bala Campsite

Dolwyddelan

Dolwyddelan Castle is another castle built by the Welsh leader, Llywelyn the Great, in the 13th century. It was designed as a mountain fortress, as one of the Snowdonia strongholds of the Princes of Gwynedd. Its site was strategic and was used as a guard post to monitor a main route through North Wales.

In its beginning, Dolwyddelan Castle consisted of one rectangular tower with two floors. Edward I’s English forces captured the castle in 1283 during his invasion of Wales and troops remained in place until 1290.

A second tower was added to the castle when it was in the hands of Edward I, although this now lies in ruins. Further improvements were made during the 15th century and again during the 19th century, when it was restored by Baron Willoughby de Eresby. At this point, the castle’s remarkable battlements were added.

Why is it worth a visit?

If you appreciate spectacular scenery, Dolwyddelan Castle shouldn’t disappoint. It’s a magnificent keep that blends beautifully into the surrounding rugged landscape.

Visitors can enjoy amazing views across the valley from the roof level of the remaining tower and find out more about the castle’s history via information displays.

Steeped in history and culture, Wales is a great place to explore during your camping holiday and each of the castles above are within easy reach of our Welsh Club Sites. With more castles per square mile than anywhere else in the world, you won’t have to stray too far from where you’re staying to find one in Wales.