The most magnificent castles in Wales

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. Here are some of the most majestic castles in Wales

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

The 600 or more castles in Wales are a relic of the brutal campaign led by the English King Edward I in the 13th century to conquer Wales. But while their origins may be soaked in bloodshed, today they are a celebrated part of the Welsh landscape.

King Edward I and the ring of castles

King Edward I’s determined campaign in Wales came to a dramatic end in 1282 when Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (Llywelyn son of Gruffudd), the native Prince of Wales, was slain by Edward’s forces at a battle in Cilmeri.

The prince’s premature death earned him the title Llywelyn the Last and, even today, some Welsh people regard him as the last true Prince of Wales.

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

Fortified towns were built to protect the English settlers and an Iron 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.

Click through our gallery of castles in Wales

This feature on castles in Wales originally ran in the Sept/Oct 2015 issue of BRITAIN.

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