Disclosure: This article may contain affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission if you make a purchase. Affiliate links cost you nothing to use and help to keep my content free. It’s a win-win for us both! Read this disclaimer for more information.
Few places in the world truly feel like they have stepped out of the pages of a fairy-tale, but Wales, with more castles per square mile than any other country in the world, is one of those places!
With over 450 of the original 600+ castles in Wales still standing, there are many beautiful castles in Wales to choose from in this small but beautiful country.
From castles with Roman origins to the motte and bailey forts of the Norman invaders to the stone medieval castles in Wales built by Edward I, every single one of the Welsh castles played its part in the long and turbulent history of the proud Welsh nation.
800 years after most of these castles were built, they still dominate their surroundings and lure visitors wanting to explore and discover their secrets.
For other destinations in the UK with impressive castles to visit, please see:
- 7 Best Island Castles in Britain
- Discover 3 Amazing Jersey Castles You Will Love to Explore
- 12 Fairytale Scottish Castles
Where do you start with so many castles in Wales to choose from? I started visiting the great castles across the British Isles as a child; however, memories of some have become as faded as my treasured old family Polaroid photos.
I asked top travel bloggers to share their insider tips for the best Welsh castles to visit, including what to see and do, where to eat and stay, to help you plan an amazing trip.
In this article, you’ll discover some of the best-known and most visited castles in Wales. There are also some hidden gems, if you prefer somewhere a little different – far from the madding crowds. Is it time for you to visit Wales?
Why Does Wales Have So Many Castles?
Centuries of conflict over land, combined with the hilly Welsh geography, drove generations of Welsh and English rulers to build fortifications in Wales.
The earliest castles in Wales were Roman hill forts, some of which were incorporated into the Norman motte and bailey castles that followed the Norman invasion in the 11th century. Incredibly, you can still visit Norman castles in Wales today!
Then there are the imposing “Ring of Iron” Castles in North Wales, ordered in 1282 by Edward I, after the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd – the Prince of Gwynedd who failed to drive the English from Wales.
10 Bewitching Welsh Castles to Visit
One of the best ways to decide which castles to visit is to group them together, as Wales is a small country, and you may be able to visit more than one of these fairytale castles in one trip!
The Best Castles in North Wales
If you fancy a short break in Llanberis, you can also visit Dolbadarn Castle.
The Best Castles in South Wales
The majority of the Welsh castles are in South Wales – here are some of the highlights from the hundreds to choose from:
- Laugharne Castle
- Ogmore Castle
- Carreg Cennan Castle
- Manorbier Castle
- Powis Castle
- Pembroke Castle
- Picton Castle
1. Conwy Castle
By Laura from The Historian Traveller
Overlooking the scenic harbour of Conwy, the 700-year-old Conwy Castle is one of the best-preserved medieval fortresses in Europe. Built in just four years, between 1283 and 1287, this Welsh jewel keeps visitors well entertained.
Secret corridors, spiral staircases and the perfectly preserved 1.3km ring of town walls are only a part of its timeless charm. Indeed, in addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Conwy Castle is famous for preserving the most complete set of residential rooms inhabited by the medieval monarchy anywhere in England or Wales.
Interestingly, the appearance of the castle has changed! Recent studies on the Conwy lime render of the castle’s walls revealed that its facade was originally white.
Conwy Castle lives up to its name for those passionate about ghost stories, hosting several mysterious figures lingering around the castle grounds and watching the town below from the battlements and windows. The two humble monks who lived in the Cistercian monastery preceding the castle are the most famous ghosts.
How to get there
Conwy is easily accessible by car and trains from most parts of the UK. It’s a 2-hour drive from Manchester and two and a half hours from the East Midlands. The Castle is located in the picturesque Rose Hill St., and it’s easily reachable on foot from Conwy harbour.
Stay Here: Pick one of the historical hotels in town, like the Castle Hotel and dine at Watson’s Bistro, a family-run restaurant near the castle walls famous for its delicious homemade dishes.
2. Laugharne Castle
By Angela from Where Angie Wanders
With plenty of things to do in Laugharne, the real jewel in the crown of this beautiful Welsh town is the romantic ruined Laugharne castle in Carmarthenshire.
Built as a Norman stronghold in the 12th century, it stands on the coast, towering over the Taf estuary. Over the centuries, the stronghold was no longer needed, and the castle was bought privately by a nobleman, Sir John Perrot, who owned the beautiful Carew Castle in Pembrokeshire.
Perrot created a home for his family and re-designed the castle to become an Elizabethan mansion. Sadly, over time, Laugharne castle was left in ruins, a crumbling skeleton of its former self, and it became part of a neighbouring estate.
The castle’s appeal was not lost forever, as in the 1930s, the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas used the castle’s summerhouse as a writer’s den. He was inspired by the view of the Taf estuary and went on to live near the castle.
You can visit his house and boatshed on a trip to Laugharne. The graveyard in town, where he is buried, is a popular tourist spot, and there’s a walk called Dylan Thomas’ birthday walk that celebrates the poet’s life.
Nowadays, visitors to Laugharne Castle can enjoy the grounds, gardens and stunning views.
For walkers, a loop starts by the castle, continues through the Carmarthenshire countryside and finishes at the church in town (site of Dylan Thomas’ grave). It is a lovely walk to take on a sunny day.
Top Tip: The Owl and the Pussycat Tea Rooms serves delicious light lunches and cream teas.
3. Beaumaris Castle
By Jan from Leisurely Drives
Located in the Welsh town of Beaumaris on the Isle of Anglesey, right next to Menai Strait, Beaumaris Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The best way to reach this castle is by driving through North Wales and the Isle of Anglesey. Another way is to take a train to Bangor station, then a short bus ride to the castle.
The castle’s construction began at the end of the 13th century but was never completed due to a shortage of funds. However, the architecture is impressive due to its high towers, turrets, and beautiful water-filled moat.
The castle offers visitors a great place to explore with its many narrow passages, stairs and spiral tower. The views of the Menai Strait from the top are fantastic.
Despite being an unfinished castle, it is well preserved. Visitors can spend hours walking through it, admiring the architecture. They can also enjoy a short movie depicting the castle’s history in the castle cinema.
There are several excellent eateries just 3 minutes from the castle. Beau’s tea rooms with a selection of cakes and scones and The George & Dragon Beaumaris pub restaurant are good options.
4. Chirk Castle
Medieval Chirk Castle is the star attraction for the tiny town of Chirk. Located a gnat’s whisker away from the fiercely fought-over Welsh-English border, it’s easy to see why Edward I chose this rocky outcrop above the rivers Ceiriog and Dee for one of his castles in Wales.
- The elegant staterooms: the 17th-century Long Gallery, grand 18th-century saloon with rich tapestries, and the East Range, with the library and 1920s style Bow Room
- The 18th-century servant’s hall, medieval tower, and dungeon
- The glorious award-winning garden – 5.5 acres of perfectly manicured lawns, terrace, pavilion and parkland.
The views over the Cheshire and Salop plains from the 18th-century ha-ha at the bottom of the garden are stunning. Within the 480+ acres of estate parkland are wild ponies, sheep, veteran trees, and a well-preserved section of Offa’s Dyke.
While in the area, don’t leave without a trip to the incredible UNESCO World Heritage Pontcyscllte Aqueduct!
5. Ogmore Castle
By Lowri from Many Other Roads
If you are looking for a Welsh Castle with impressive views and few crowds, Ogmore Castle is the place for you. Overlooking the charming Ewenny River in Bridgend, South Wales, Ogmore Castle was built in 1106 alongside Coity Castle and Newcastle to protect Glamorgan from Welsh Attacks.
The Castle is surrounded by the most incredible views, making it one of the best Castles in Wales to visit. One of the unique parts of the Castle is the ancient stepping stones that create a path across the river. A visit here is free, and there is no need to book, so it’s a fantastic option for anyone wanting to visit Welsh Castles on a budget.
There are so many wonderful things to do when visiting Ogmore Castle.
After exploring the Castle itself, step into history and cross the stepping stones. It’s a great way to get a photo of the Castle sitting on the river. Ogmore Castle is also very close to the stunning Ogmore-by-Sea beach. As this is a coastal Castle, be warned, the car park and stepping stones flood after a downpour of rain.
Ogmore Castle is very close to some of the best rustic pubs and restaurants in Wales. The best places to eat are Cobbles and The Pelican.
6. Carreg Cennen Castle
By Becky from Planes, Trains and Buggies
The history of Carreg Cennen Castle goes back to the 13th Century, with evidence to suggest it may even go back to Roman and prehistoric times. The building that remains today dates back to King Edward I’s famous period of Castle building in Wales.
Perched atop a craggy hillside, the Castle is a sight to behold. Add to that the incredible views over Carmarthenshire it is one not to miss. Despite it being a ruin, it is still possible to make out much of its original design. The natural Cave is a unique part of this castle, which you can explore down the bottom of steep stairs.
How to get there
The Castle is located just east of the village of Trapp in Carmarthenshire (SA19 6UA), and there is free parking on site. It is open 364 days a year, only closing on Christmas Day. You can access the lovely tea rooms for free, but there is a charge to explore the Castle. There is a short but uphill climb to the Castle itself. As the Castle is on an exposed hill, it is advised to dress for the weather.
Stay Here: Feather Down Cwmberach Uchaf Farm is a fantastic glamping site just 5 miles away from Carreg Cennen Castle that can be reached by foot. Otherwise, there is an abundance of Airbnbs and holiday cottages in the local area.
7. Manorbier Castle, Pembrokeshire
By Suzanne from Meandering Wild
Manorbier Castle is located in a small coastal village not far from Tenby in the far southwest of Wales, above a wide sandy beach that’s a perfect spot to surf while seeing the castle through the dunes.
The castle originated in 1003 as a wooden fortification, and over time stone replaced the wooden structures. In the late 15th Century, the castle became the monarchy’s property; however, in 1630, Queen Elizabeth I sold the castle, which had seen minimal action.
Take time to explore the towers, battlements and rooms. The walls are still intact and surround some beautiful gardens. In the summer months, displays relating to the castle’s history take place on the grounds.
How to get there
Manorbier Castle can be reached by taking the B4585, a small winding road off the main A4139 between Tenby and Pembroke.
Stay Here: The castle has a small café and the nearby Castle Inn has a restaurant and rooms if you want to spend more time in the village.
8. Powis Castle, Wales
By Pauline from Beloved City
Located in Welshpool, Powis Castle is one of the most beautiful National Trust castles in Wales, built in the 13th by a Welsh Prince and particularly famous for its stunning Italian gardens.
Since it is a National Trust property, you must go through the front desk to buy a ticket or show your membership card to get in.
You can visit three areas at Powis Castle – the gardens, the castle and the Clive Museum.
The gardens are spectacular and boast breathtaking views of the Welsh countryside. If you are visiting on a sunny day, you will be in for a treat!
At the top, you can find the entrance to the castle through the court. If you want to grab something to eat, you can walk into the National Trust café in the courtyard for delicious soup, sandwiches and scones.
The castle itself is extremely well-preserved. You will be able to go around and discover all the main rooms. There is an incredible collection of paintings, tapestries and furniture. You won’t know where to look!
Finally, in the Clive Museum, you will find a large collection of artefacts from India, dating from the British colonisation.
9. Pembroke Castle
By Cath from Wales with Kids
One of the best castles to visit in Wales is Pembroke Castle. Located in the town of the same name, this 11th-century medieval castle sits along the banks of the Pembroke River. The structure that remains today is partially ruined and dates from the 13the century, having been built by William Marshal, the 1st Earl of Pembroke.
What to see and do
Visitors can explore the Inner and Outer Wards, the Great Keep, several other round towers, and more.
The castle is also home to the largest map of Wales, located on the ground within the grounds of the castle. It depicts all the great castles in Wales and is unique to Pembroke Castle.
Visitors can also explore Wogan’s Cavern, which is believed to have been in use since the Bronze Age. And in the Inner Ward, visitors can see one of the last remaining medieval gaols in the Dungeon Tower.
How to get there
Pembroke Castle is best visited by car and can be easily reached from the M4 motorway. There is no on-site parking, but there is a large public paid car park just a few minutes’ walk from the castle. Pembroke train station is also an option and is a 15-minute walk from the castle.
There are lots of cafes and restaurants in Pembroke for refreshments, and if you are looking for a great place to stay in West Wales, head to the 5 star, luxury, eco-friendly Bluestone Resort in Narberth, less than a 20-minutes drive from the castle.
10. Picton Castle
By Cath from Travel Around Ireland
If you want to visit a pretty castle in Wales and one less visited than the other great castles, then head to Picton Castle in West Wales. Located near Haverfordwest, this castle dates from the 13th century and was built by a Flemish knight before Sir John Wogan took ownership.
The castle is unusual in that it does not have an internal courtyard. Instead, seven circular towers protect the castle. The castle underwent some remodelling in the 15th and 19th centuries. The castle is open to the public from Spring to Autumn, and the grounds are open all year round.
Guided tours of the castle introduce visitors to restored rooms where you can learn about the Picton “Renoir”, featured on the BBC program Fake or Fortune.
The grounds are a masterpiece, spanning 40 acres and including walled and Mediterranean gardens. You’ll also find the Welsh Own Garden and Zoo within the woods of Picton Castle.
Stay Here: Picton Castle is 2 miles south of the A40 and 3 miles east of Haverfordwest, which has restaurants and hotels should you want to stay in the area. This is it if you’re looking for a hidden gem of a castle in Wales.
As you can see, Wales is a rewarding place to visit to explore castles. Whether you fancy the ease and convenience of visiting a castle in a busy city or love exploring romantic remote ruins, Wales has something for you. The hardest decision is which of these breathtaking Welsh Castles to visit first!
Pin for later!