Magical castles in Snowdonia & North Wales holiday cottages

Magical castles in Snowdonia & North Wales

Sarah P 23 November 2020

With over 600 castles located in Wales, it goes without saying that it’s a country of history, heritage, and tradition. Discover fascinating stories of ancient battles, learn the tales of myth and legend, and explore everything from grand interiors to romantic ruins and rural fortresses. We’ve picked out the best castles in North Wales and Eryri / Snowdonia for you to discover when you visit this stunning region.

Conwy Castle, Conwy

One of the most magnificent medieval fortresses in Europe. 

This exceptionally well-preserved fortress was built in the late 13th century to dominate and intimidate and, over 700 years on, it still achieves its goal. Dominating the skyline, it competes with the rugged Snowdonia mountains in the background. Its huge brooding appearance is menacing, yet beautiful, and that’s what makes it so magnificent. Exceptionally well preserved, this towering castle evokes a medieval atmosphere, making visitors feel like they are stepping back in time. Explore a grand interior of great halls, a royal chamber and private chapels, and allow yourself to take in the mesmerising views from the battlefields overlooking the Conwy Estuary.

Stay nearby: Conwy Valley Farmhouse | Conwy – sleeps 6 + 1 dog

Harlech Castle, Harlech

A formidable fortress that keeps watch over the coast and mountains.

This remarkable coastal castle perches on a 60-metre-high rock overlooking the sweeping sands and crashing waves of Harlech Beach, while also keeping a watchful eye on the dramatic mountains of Snowdonia National Park. Although competing with neighbouring castles such as Conwy and Caernarfon, Harlech’s setting is probably one of the most impressive in all of North Wales. Built by Edward I in 1283, this mighty castle may have seen its fair share of battles and endured centuries of turbulence, but it remains one of the most popular of Snowdonia’s castles. There are numerous events and activities held at the castle throughout the year, from treasure hunts and storytelling for children to live-action performances and seasonal shows.

Stay nearby: Hafan Y Traeth, Barmouth – sleeps 8

Criccieth Castle, Criccieth

A statement of power, this castle will be sure to capture the imagination.

This magnificent castle commands a formidable position, crowning its own headland which juts out between two beaches into Tremadog Bay. It’s worth visiting just for the astounding views over Cardigan Bay and towards Snowdonia National Park. The romantic ruin attracts artists and photographers far and wide to capture its beauty and the essence of a fascinating history. Originally built by Llywelyn the Great and modified by his grandson, it was later improved by Edward I when the fortress failed to ward off his invasion. In the early 15th century, the tower burned to the ground in the last great Welsh rebellion. Today, visitors can admire the picturesque ruins, explore exhibits and learn all about the history of this stunning North Wales castle.

Stay nearby: The Llyn Retreat, Trefor Beach – sleeps 2 + 2 dogs

Caernarfon Castle, Caernarfon

Recognised around the world as one of the greatest buildings of the Middle Ages. 

Architecturally, Caernarfon Castle is one of the greatest in Wales, worthy of its World Heritage status. The intimating building occupies a strategic position on the banks of the River Seiont between Anglesey and North Wales. The huge building project, which took 47 years to complete, saw Edward and his architect create the castle, town walls and a quay! Originally built as a sign of power and dominance, little of this has diminished over the last 700 years. Today, there is still plenty of evidence of magnificent battles that will inspire the imagination like no other North Wales castle. We certainly wouldn’t consider this beautiful building a ruin, but more a beautiful memorial of medieval military history.   

Stay nearby: Caernarfon cottages

Dolwyddelan Castle, Dolwyddelan

A striking fortress set among rugged mountain scenery. 

There’s something overwhelmingly breathtaking about an impressive castle ruin sitting majestically against the backdrop of remarkable Welsh mountains. As you drive along the A470 from Betws-y-Coed towards Blaenau Ffestiniog, it’s hard to miss the imposing tower peeking out through the trees ahead of you. This Snowdonia castle ruin was originally built as part of a collection of strategically positioned mountain fortresses for Llywelyn the Great, to protect the approaches to Snowdonia. The English later went on to introduce another rectangular tower, which hasn’t stood the test of time and now lies in ruin. Dolwyddelan Castle is well worth a visit while you’re in the area, just for the views itself.

Stay nearby: Craig y Nos, Betws-y-Coed – sleeps 2 + 1 dog

Penrhyn Castle, Bangor

An enchanting castle that wouldn’t look out of place in the pages of a classic fairy tale.

This astounding neo-Norman castle lies in the care of the National Trust and offers visitors a wealth of history, fortune and fame to uncover. Behind every door, you’ll find a delight for the eyes from opulent interiors and intricate carvings, to grand antique furniture and exquisite paintings. Like something from the pages of a fairy tale, this fantasy castle is complete with gargoyles, stained-glass windows, carved balusters and impressive Gothic stairways. Flanked by extensive grounds that offer stunning views of Snowdonia and the North Wales coast, there is much for families to discover at this enchanting fairy-tale castle. Take a nature trail through the magical woodland, admire the peaceful walled garden, browse the steam locomotive museum and take tea in the little tearoom.

Stay nearby: Island Hide, Pentre Berw – sleeps 2

Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey

A spectacular unfinished masterpiece on the Isle of Anglesey.

Located on the Isle of Anglesey, the unfinished masterpiece of Beaumaris Castle was built by King Edward and his architect James of St. George and it sits majestically overlooking the Menai Strait. It was constructed to an ingenious ‘walls within walls’ plan and features a moat connected to the sea and round towers on every corner. Although money ran out and the inner apartments of the castle were never completed, Beaumaris Castle remains a sight to behold, with a network of passages and beautiful grounds to explore. 

Stay nearby: Island Hide, Anglesey – sleeps 2

Dolbadarn Castle, Llanberis

A magnificent ruin that stands alone against the stunning backdrop of Snowdonia mountains. 

Often referred to as the ‘solitary guardian of Snowdonia’s Llanberis Pass’ this lonely castle commands a quiet, but no less beautiful, spot above the waters of Llyn Padarn. The remains of the round tower are in good condition, maintaining a simplistic design which was probably inspired by similar fortresses built by rivals of Llewelyn the Great who constructed the castle in the 12th or 13th century to watch over the inland route from Caernarfon. This Snowdonia castle is worth a visit, whether you’re passing by or you combine it with a walk in Snowdonia National Park.  

Stay nearby: Plas Meirion, Betws-y-Coed – sleeps 6

Gwrych Castle, Abergele

A 19th-century country house that has been on quite a journey in its lifetime. 

You might recognise Gwrych Castle as the setting for the 20th series of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here 2020. Aside from this TV fame, Gwrych Castle is a Grade I-listed country house in North Wales, built between 1812 and 1822 by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh as a memorial to his ancestors, The Lloyds of Gwrych. Over the decades, the estate has passed through the hands of many owners. It finally came into decline in 1985, and then in the early 1990s when it was stripped of its wealthy assets and vandalised. The now-ruin is under the care of the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust, whose vision is to ‘secure a vibrant and sustainable future’ for the castle. Despite its turbulent journey into the modern day, the stunning estate remains a beautiful and inspiring place to visit.

Stay nearby: Y Daflod, Denbigh – sleeps 8

Castell y Bere, Tywyn

An impressive ruin in the heart of the National Park.

Perhaps one of Snowdonia’s lesser-known castle ruins, but no less impressive than any of the monsters among the collection! A little off the beaten track, it still attracts castle lovers to its location in Dysynni Valley in the shadows of Cader Idris. Another of Welsh ruler Llywelyn the Great’s constructions, its commanding location and design is a testament to the ingenuity of Welsh architects. Its unique and sophisticated entrance is like nothing that has been seen on any other castle in Wales, featuring ditches and two gate towers, each with its own drawbridge and portcullis. Its wild and remote location makes it difficult to imagine its life controlling an important route from the coast at Tywyn through the mountains to Dolgellau.

Stay nearby: Tegfan, Aberdovey – sleeps 2

Book a cottage in Eryri / Snowdonia

Explore these magnificent castles in Snowdonia and North Wales when you stay in one of our holiday cottages in Snowdonia / Eryri. Dotted throughout the mountains of Eryri / Snowdonia and along the North Wales coast, you’ll be guaranteed breathtaking scenery as well as a wealth of history and heritage. Book one of our cottages in Snowdonia / Eryri and start discovering magical North Wales castles.

Heading south? Check out our guide to castles in Wales to discover even more fortresses, towers and strongholds elsewhere in the country. If you're sticking to North Wales, why not explore our complete guide to Eryri / Snowdonia and guide to Eryri / Snowdonia restaurants for our favourite things to do and activities to try?

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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