Six magnificent Welsh fortresses

Harlech Castle, Gwynedd, north Wales
Harlech Castle, Gwynedd, north Wales. Credit: Chris Warren/Loop Images/Corbis

There are more than 600 castles in Wales – a legacy of King Edward I and his determination to subdue Welsh dissidents and keep control. Here are some of the most majestic of those historic fortresses.

Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd, north Wales. Credit: David Angel/Alamy
Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd, north Wales. Credit: David Angel/Alamy

A fatal blow struck the Welsh monarchy in 1282 when Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (Llywelyn son of Gruffudd) was cut down by an English soldier. His premature death earned him the title Llywelyn the Last and, even today, some Welsh people regard him as the last true Prince of Wales.

Llywelyn’s death was the culmination of a brutal campaign by the English King Edward I to defeat the Welsh.

Having conquered the country, Edward, nicknamed ‘Longshanks’ because of his height, incorporated the Principality of Wales into England, colonised his new land with loyal Englishmen and crowned his own son Prince of Wales, a title that is still used by the British Royal Family today.

Fortified towns were built to protect the English settlers and a ring of castles was constructed to dominate the resentful Welsh. It was a massive construction project. The world’s leading castle designer, James
of St George, a military engineer from Savoy, France, was appointed Master of The Royal Works in Wales. The castles he created were technical masterpieces, designed to withstand attack and project King Edward I’s power across the land.

Edward’s castles subdued the natives for a century until Owain Glyndwr, a charismatic Welshman, emerged to challenge English domination. Visit Wales and you will discover a legacy of more than 600 castles
to explore. Some, like Conwy and Caernarfon, are World Heritage Sites but they all have fascinating stories to tell about ancient battles, legends and mysteries.

Scroll down for photos of six of the most atmospheric of these castles

Denbigh Castle, Denbighshire, Wales. Credit: Crown Copyright (2009) Visit Wales
Denbigh Castle, Denbighshire. Credit: Crown Copyright (2009) Visit Wales
Harlech Castle, Gwynedd, north Wales
Harlech Castle, Gwynedd, north Wales. Credit: Chris Warren/Loop Images/Corbis
Carreg Cennen castle , Carmarthenshire, Wales. Credit: Adam Burton/www.robertharding.com/Corbis
Carreg Cennen castle, Carmarthenshire, Wales. Credit: Adam Burton/www.robertharding.com/Corbis
Conwy Castle, north Wales. Credit: VisitBritain/Britain on View
Conwy Castle, north Wales. Credit: VisitBritain/Britain on View
Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey, Wales. Credit: Funkyfood/Paul Williams/Alamy
Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey. Credit: Funkyfood/Paul Williams/Alamy
Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd, Wales. Credit: Jim Richardson/Corbis
Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd, Wales. Credit: Jim Richardson/Corbis

To read our full feature on Welsh castles and for lots more castles see the Sept/Oct 2015 issue of BRITAIN.

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