Spectacular castles in Wales holiday cottages

Spectacular castles in Wales

Kate Atkin 01 February 2020

Wales is steeped in tradition and fascinating history, studded with battles, invasions and valiant defence. It naturally hosts more ancient fortresses per square mile than anywhere else in Europe, making it Britain’s undisputed king of castles. Echoes of its captivating past resonate with the centuries-old walls of these magnificent structures; some mere ruins, others well-preserved reminders of their defensive beginnings.

Most of the stone stalwarts date back to the reign of King Edward I, who built the castles to help him hold onto his newly acquired lands. The architectural splendour of these Edwardian castles features rings of imposing walls and multiple towers, which resemble something out of a magical fairy tale. Visitors of all ages are sure to find these atmospheric fortresses enchanting, and they make for a particularly attractive and educational day out if you’re planning a trip to Wales.

Before we begin our list of the best castles in Wales, here are a few frequently asked questions:

How many castles are there in Wales?

There are approximately 600 castles in Wales, in varying states, from near unidentifiable mounds in the earth to glorious, fully-preserved fortifications which would have struck terror into the heart of even the most valiant of invaders! There are over 100 castles that are still standing, so plenty of history to explore on your Welsh holiday. 

What's the largest castle in Wales?

Caerphilly Castle is the largest castle in Wales, and the second biggest in Britain. It's not all about size, however. What Dinefwr and Criccieth lack in size, they make up for in location.

What's the oldest castle in Wales?

Chepstow Castle is the oldest post-Roman stone fortification that still stands today. It's the oldest in Britain, in fact, at approximately 950 years old. 


For your inspiration, we have put together a collection of spectacular castles to spend a glorious day out in Wales near our Welsh holiday cottages. Follow our castle trail from north to south and learn about the Welsh nation’s dramatic and turbulent history through the buildings that defended it.


Castles in North Wales

Harlech Castle

Built by Edward I in 1283, the mighty Harlech Castle, standing atop a 60-metre-high spur of rock overlooking Snowdonia and blending beautifully with its natural surroundings, is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The castle was originally built beside the sea on a near-vertical cliff-face to strengthen the castle’s fortifications, but over the years the sea has receded, so it now overlooks the spectacular sand dunes of Harlech beach.

It may be marked by centuries of battle and decay, but it’s one of the most popular castles in Wales and visitors can roam its romantic ruins, enjoying panoramic wall walks with some of the finest views of the Cambrian coast. Children are given a fun treasure map full of clues on arrival and there are plenty of exciting events held at the castle during the year including dragon adventures, storytelling, a summer knight school, and stargazing, making it a fantastic family day out.

Location: Harlech, Gwynedd

Prices: Adults £6.00, Children £4.20, Family Ticket (two adults and up to three children under 16) £16.20, Children under five go free

Opening Times: Monday to Saturday 10:00-16:00, Sunday 11:00-16:00

Stay nearby:


Conwy Castle

Perched majestically on a rock against the backdrop of Snowdonia, the foreboding fortification of Conwy Castle has an indisputably magical feel. It was built by King Edward I during his conquest between 1283 and 1289 and is considered one of the finest works by architect James of St. George. The mesmerising views from the battlements overlooking the Conwy estuary are bound to take your breath away, whilst its impressive interior comprising great halls, private chapels and royal chambers transport you back in time, exuding grandeur and power in equal measure.

Built to take advantage of its location on a rocky coastal ridge, this well-preserved castle is amongst the finest surviving medieval fortifications in Britain, and you can learn more about its rich history during a one-hour informative tour led by the castle’s knowledgeable guides. As castles in North Wales go, this is one of the most enchanting!

Location: Conwy

Prices: Adults £8.95, Family Ticket (two adults and up to three children under 16) £26.60, Senior citizens, students and children under 16 £5.80, Children under five go free

Opening Times: Monday to Saturday 10:00-16:00, Sunday 11:00-16:00

Stay nearby:


Caernarfon Castle

With its imposingly high walls, Caernarfon Castle is one of the most intimidating and impressive structures in Wales, and would certainly strike fear into the hearts of any potential invader.

Occupying a strategic position on the banks of the River Seiont, this brute of a 13th-century fortress is one of the most visually arresting sights you’ll ever see with its mighty polygonal towers decorated with bands of different coloured limestone and sandstone, and is more than worthy of its World Heritage status. Designed by the era’s premier architect James of St. George for Edward I, this monster of masonry was used as a seat of power and as a palace and its immense size has not diminished over the years.

Climb the spiral staircases to the top of its towers to admire breath-taking views of Caernarfon and explore the interior; you can’t fail to be struck by the formidable scale of the structure. Be sure to check out the main King’s Gate, designed to be defended by a drawbridge along with no less than six portcullises, arrow loops, spy and murder holes, through which deadly substances and vicious objects could be hurled down onto attackers. This absolute colossus of a castle is certainly no crumbling ruin but an intact memorial to medieval military muscle.

Location: Caernarfon, Vale of Usk

Prices: Adults £8.95, Family Ticket (two adults and up to three children under 16) £26.60, Senior citizens, students and children under 16 £5.80, Children under five go free

Opening Times: Opening times vary throughout the year, please check the website

Stay nearby:

  • Island Hide, Pentre Berw (1ml SW) – Sleeps: 2, Bedrooms: 1, Dogs: 1
  • The Llyn Retreat, Trefor Beach (1.5mls SE) – Sleeps: 2, Bedrooms: 1, Dogs: 2


Penrhyn Castle

A visit to Penrhyn Castle will resemble stepping into an enchanting storybook. This picturesque neo-Norman fantasy castle designed by famous architect Thomas Hopper in the 19th century is crammed with fascinating objects including intricate carvings, handmade wallpaper and exquisite paintings. Open the door to the gloriously restored rooms where the Pennant family and their famous guests once dined and played in opulent fashion, and admire the Gothic stairways with carved balusters, grinning gargoyles, elaborate stained glass and a one-ton slate bed built for Queen Victoria.

Outside there are 60 acres of beautiful gardens and grounds waiting to be explored; find the thatched hut and enjoy an elevated view in the Bog Garden, or take a nature trail through the magical woodland. For a little peace and quiet, enjoy a stroll through the tranquil walled garden and breathe in the fresh, floral scents. There’s even a steam locomotive museum to discover and a little tea room housed in the old servants’ quarters to indulge in a slice of homemade cake.

Location: Bangor, Gwynedd

Prices: Adults £11.80, Children £5.90, Family Ticket £29.50

Opening Times: Open daily 11:00-17:00 (seasonal exceptions)

Stay nearby:


Beaumaris Castle

The unfinished masterpiece of Beaumaris Castle, built by King Edward I and his favoured architect James of St. George began construction in 1295. By this time, they had perfected the art of castle building and created a beautifully designed concentric structure with classic proportions and perfect symmetry.

Located on the Isle of Anglesey, overlooking the stunning 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 building ceased around 1330 and the inner apartments were never completed, the castle remains a magnificent sight and there’s a wealth of passages in the walls and vast grounds to explore.

Location: Beaumaris, Isle of Anglesey

Prices: Adults £6.50, Family Ticket (two adults and up to three children under 16) £19.30, Senior Citizens, students and children under 16 £4.20, Children under five go free

Opening Times: Monday to Saturday 10:00-16:00, Sunday 11:00-16:00

Stay nearby:


Criccieth Castle

Criccieth Castle is a marvellous sight to behold, resting atop a rocky headland jutting out into Tremaddog Bay, with excellent views towards Snowdonia. It was built as a statement of power by Llywelyn the Great in the late 13th century with its twin-towered gatehouse intimidating any prospective attackers. Some 50 years later Edward I’s forces took hold of the castle and added further improvements including menacing stone-throwing engines at the top of a tower.

The castle changed hands between the Welsh and the English until its fate was sealed in the early years of the 15th century when it was captured and burned down during the last great Welsh rebellion. Today, visitors can wander through the romantic ruins and explore interesting exhibits about the history of Welsh castles, and of course, take in the mesmerising views.

Location: Porthmadog, Gwynedd

Prices: Adults £5.00, Family Ticket (two adults and up to three children under 16) £14.95, Senior Citizens, students and children under 16 £3.30, Children under five go free

Opening Times: Friday to Saturday 09:30-16:00, Sunday 11:00-16:00, Monday to Thursday 10:00-16:00

Stay nearby:


Powis Castle

Powis Castle is one of the most well-preserved castles in Mid-Wales, rising dramatically above its extraordinary gardens of French and Italian styles, which tumble down its verdant slopes. The castle, which dates back to circa 1200 when it was the medieval fortress of the Welsh Prince of Powys, has seen many alterations over the years, and as such boasts modifications from several different periods. Within the castle walls lies one of the world’s greatest collections of art and historical items; discover decadent galleries full of unique statues and exquisite furniture and textiles from Europe, India and the Orient.

Outside, the famous gardens adorned with fragrant plants, overhung with clipped yews, and lined with lavish herbaceous borders and original lead dancing statues are the perfect spot for a relaxing stroll. On the Italianate terraces, you will find an orangery and explore a little further to find a medieval deer park; the gardens never fail to impress.

Location: Welshpool, Powys

Prices: Adults £12.50, Children £6.25, Family Ticket £31.25

Opening Times: Open daily, times vary throughout the year so please check the website

Stay nearby:

Gwrych Castle

Gwrych Castle

Gwrych Castle has found fame as being the setting for I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! A hauntingly beautiful ruin, this Grade I-listed country house was built between 1812 and 1822 by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh as a memorial to his ancestors, The Lloyds of Gwrych. 

Over time, the estate has had many owners, coming into decline in 1985. In the early 1990s, it was stripped of its wealthy assets and vandalised. The castle is now under the care of the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust and it is their vision to ‘secure a vibrant and sustainable future’ for the castle. This stunning estate, when not being used as a TV set, remains an amazing place to visit.

Location: Abergele, Conwy

Prices: Adults £5, Children £2.50, Family Ticket £15

Opening Times: Open daily, times vary throughout the year so please check the website

Stay nearby:

  • Y Daflod, Denbigh (4.5mls NW) – Sleeps 8, Bedrooms: 4, Dogs: 2
  • Ty Ucha, Denbigh (5.5mls NW) – Sleeps 8, Bedrooms: 4, No Dogs

We have some lovely holiday cottages throughout North Wales, why not take a look at our collection to feel inspired? You can also see a guide to our favourite North Wales and Snowdonia castles, including ancient ruins hidden away in the mountains. 


Castles in South Wales

Raglan Castle

Situated on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, surrounded by a patchwork of fields, the handsome late medieval fortress of Raglan Castle is perfect for a historical day out in Wales. Its ruins, which date from the mid-1400s are so impressive that they have been used as a filming location for an episode of BBC’s Merlin.

As you approach the astonishing gatehouse, which once denied Oliver Cromwell at the end of the Civil War, you’ll be enraptured by Raglan’s majestic multi-angular towers. Inside, the mysterious ruins transport you back to the past with tales of important dates throughout history including how it was partially destroyed after backing the losing side in the Civil War. A climb up the spiral staircases to the top of the Great Tower offers incredible views of the moat below and the magnificent surrounding countryside, and don’t forget to delve underground into the dark cellars, which were originally built to hold hundreds of casks of wine.

Location: Vale of Usk, Monmouthshire

Prices: Adults £6.50, Children (under 16) and Senior citizens £4.20, Family Ticket (two adults and up to three children under 16) £19.30, Children under five go free

Opening Times: Open daily 09:30 until 17:00

Stay nearby:


Pembroke Castle

The mighty fortress of Pembroke Castle is guaranteed to delight children and adults of all ages. Spend a day exploring its endless passages, tunnels and stairways and learn more about its tumultuous medieval past in fascinating exhibitions. One of the finest castles in Wales, or even Britain, it was the birthplace of Henry VII, the first Tudor king, and has often had a leading role in shaping Britain’s history. The oval shape of this cunningly designed fortress, standing alongside the Pembroke Mill Pond, is a spectacular sight and remains well preserved.

Its construction dates back to 1093 when the Earl of Shrewsbury took control of the town from the Welsh. After undergoing a couple of restorations throughout the ages, the castle became recognised as a grade I listed building in 1951, and although it is the largest privately-owned castle in Wales, it is fully open to the public; free guided tours of the castle delve further into its gripping past.

Make the most of the sunshine and enjoy a picnic in the beautifully kept grounds whilst admiring breath-taking views along the estuary. Be sure to visit the Brass Rubbing Centre where kids can create an attractive wall hanging to take home as a memento, and with fun family events scheduled throughout the year including battle re-enactments, falconry displays, dragon days, story-telling, and even rock concerts, there’s always abundant entertainment for all ages.

Location: Pembroke, Pembrokeshire

Prices: Adults £6.60, Child £5.50, Seniors £5.50, Kids under three go free

Opening Times: 1st April until 31st August 09:30 – 17:30, 1st September until 31st October 10:00 - 17:00, 1st November until 28th February 10:00 – 16:00

Stay nearby:


Caldicot Castle

Caldicot Castle has a romantic and intriguing history, founded by the Normans, developed in royal hands as a stronghold in the Middle Ages and restored as a Victorian family home. Located in a 55-acre beautiful country park with tranquil gardens and woodland, every view from this incredible medieval castle could be a picture postcard. Find out more about its colourful past with an audio tour, scale its imposing towers or watch one of its exciting battle re-enactments. There’s even a tearoom to unwind in with a delicious homemade treat.

Location: Chepstow, Caldicot

Prices: Free admission

Opening Times: Open Tuesday to Sunday 11:00 until 16:00 during their open season

Stay nearby:


Dinefwr Castle

The ivy-clad ruins of Dinefwr Castle, once home to the princes of Deheubarth quietly occupy a hilltop high above the scenic Tywi valley. Surrounded by 800 acres of tranquil parkland where fallow deer and Dinefwr White Park cattle roam free, this atmospheric 12th-century castle is perfect to while away some peaceful hours. Once a formidable fortress, now a Grade I listed, scheduled monument, its history is closely entwined with the rule of powerful Lord Rhys who influenced most decisions in Wales.

Re-live Dinefwr’s story in the ‘hands-on’ Newton House, adjacent to the castle and discover what life would have been like in Edwardian times. Cared for by the National Trust, the sweeping parkland with its towering trees, nature reserve and croquet lawn are free to explore and there are plenty of delicious home-cooked delicacies on offer in the inviting tea room afterwards.

Location: Llandeilo, Camarthenshire

Prices: Free admission to the castle, although there is a car parking fee for non-members of Cadw. Additional prices for entry to Newton House.

Opening Times: Open daily 10:00-16:00

Stay nearby:


Caerphilly Castle

There are few sights quite as magnificent as Caerphilly Castle, Wales’ largest and most foreboding fortification, often cited among the best castles in Wales. Surrounded by 30 acres of immense moats, islands and ramparts, this giant stone fortress is considered the first true concentric castle built in Wales. It was constructed in the 13th century on the site of an ancient Roman fort by Earl Gilbert de Clare as part of a campaign to conquer Glamorgan and was then used as a model for Edward I’s castles in North Wales.

The almost fairy tale appearance of the castle boasting a maze of atmospheric rooms, corridors and walls to explore, has served as a backdrop for many TV shows and films, including the recent BBC series ‘Merlin’. Wander the extensive exterior with its huge gatehouses and discover an array of delights including four menacing siege engines; an audio-visual tour helps to set the scene. Inside, there is an informative Castles of Wales exhibition located in one of the towers, which tells of the castle’s intriguing history.

Location: Caerphilly

Prices: Adults £7.95, Children (under 16) and Senior citizens £5.20, Family Ticket (two adults and up to three children under 16) £23.70, Children under five go free

Opening Times: Open daily 9:30-17:00

Stay nearby:


Chepstow Castle

High above the swirling waters of the River Wye, Chepstow Castle majestically stands guard over a strategic crossing point into Wales. This is one of Wales’ most historically important castles and boasts the oldest castle doors in Europe. Construction began by William the Conqueror in 1067, making this the oldest post-Roman stone fortification in Britain. Building work continued through six centuries of military architecture, constantly changing the castle's appearance until 1690; you can still see the 800-year-old wooden gates in the exhibition centre.

With grand towers to climb, a wealth of nooks to explore, and extraordinary views to take in from the ancient battlements, the ruins provide plenty to see. There is also a regular programme of special events, plays and concerts throughout the year to provide entertainment for all ages.

Location: Chepstow, Monmouthshire

Prices: Adults £6.50, Children (under 16) and Senior citizens £4.20, Family Ticket (two adults and up to three children under 16) £19.30, Children under five go free

Opening Times: Open daily 09:30-17:00

Stay nearby:


Carreg Cennen Castle

Carreg Cennen Castle is the ultimate romantic ruin, perched high on a rocky limestone hill on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Climb to the top of the 325ft cliff where the castle is situated and admire panoramic and spell-binding views of the Black Mountain and spectacular Welsh countryside; on a clear day, you can see for 60 miles.

Its location is beyond compare, and it boasts a rich history dating back to the 12th century when the structure was built by Rhys of Deheubarth to take advantage of the natural environment. Attackers scaling the steep cliffs may as well have signed their own death warrants. It was later rebuilt in the 13th century by John Giffard on behalf of Edward I, and although much of the castle was destroyed during the Wars of Roses, the crumbling ruins are well worth a visit. You can even take a dramatic trek through a hidden tunnel cut into the cliff-face to discover a natural cave beneath the fortress with its own freshwater spring.

Location: Trapp, Llandeilo

Prices: Adults £5.50, Children (under 16) and Senior citizens £3.50, Family Ticket (two adults and up to three children under 16) £15.00, Children under five go free

Opening Times: Open daily 9.30-18:00

Stay nearby:


Laugharne Castle

Looking out over the Taf estuary, Laugharne Castle, an impressive relic of ancient times, is a sight to behold; it will simply take your breath away. The fortress was constructed in the 13th century by the de Brian family atop an earlier Norman castle and later transformed into a fine Elizabethan mansion. Its extensive renovations over the years include a delightful Victorian garden, which along with the picturesque ruins, became the inspiration behind the famous work of writer Dylan Thomas who wrote ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog’ in the summerhouse of the castle garden.

Today, you can take a relaxing stroll through the peaceful grounds where poetry was once in motion, before heading for the foreshore to take in the remarkable views.

Location: Laugharne, Carmarthenshire

Prices: Adults £4.00, Children (under 16) and Senior citizens £2.60, Family Ticket (two adults and up to three children under 16) £11.90, Children under five go free

Opening Times: Open daily 10:00-17:00

Stay nearby:


Cardiff Castle

Located in the heart of the city, Cardiff Castle is an alluring structure boasting an incredible history spanning over 2,000 years. Over the centuries, it has been transformed into a Norman keep, a medieval fortress and a Gothic residence. Today, visitors can discover the remains of a Roman wall, climb to the top of the medieval keep for stunning views over the city, and be overwhelmed by the opulent interiors in the Castle Apartments. In the 19th century, architect William Burges created a medieval dream world for the third Marquess of Bute in the Gothic Revival style with rich gilding, elaborate wood carving, murals and stained glass; the results are simply breath-taking and well worth a look.

Be sure to take a tour of the atmospheric Second World War air-raid shelters, explore the Firing Line regimental museum, admire the gorgeously gaudy clock tower and wander around the wonderfully landscaped parks in the castle grounds. Cardiff Castle is a hive of activity throughout the year with regular events from jousting to medieval battle re-enactments and Welsh banquets: a definite contender for one of the best castles in South Wales.

Location: Cardiff

Prices: Adults £12.50, Children (aged 5-16) £9.00, Senior citizens and students £10.95, Family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) £37, Children under five go free

Opening Times: March to October 09:00-18:00, November to February 09:00-17:00

Stay nearby:

Castell Coch

 Castell Coch

This fantastic fairy-tale castle was once a plaything for the rich and powerful. The third Marquess of Bute let architect William Burges go wild and free on its design, creating richly decorated interiors and opulent furnishings which make this spectacular castle a gleaming masterpiece of the High Victorian era. Imagine fabulous turquoise ceilings, beautifully adorned with images of birds and golden stars. Shimmering golden panels, beading and spectacular portraits of the natural world are in abundance within these fantastic walls.

Feel like a fairy-tale prince or princess as you explore this lavish castle and be prepared to be wowed by just how pretty it really is, inside and out! Take a look at our guide to more of the prettiest places in Wales for even more dreamy inspiration. 

Fancy an enchanting wedding? You’re in luck as you can even tie the knot here, surrounded by the beautiful flowing imagery of the drawing room.

Location: Cardiff

Prices: Free for Cadw members. Adults £6.90, Children (aged 5-17) & NUS £4.85, Senior citizens £6.40, Family ticket (2 adults, 3 children) £22.60, Children under five go free.

Opening Times: Please check for up to date opening times.

Stay nearby:

  • Usk at Ty Gwyn, Usk (2.5mls SE) – Sleeps: 2, Bedrooms: 1, Dogs: 1  
  • Old Stables – Wolvesnewton, Chepstow (5mls NW) – Sleeps: 2, Bedrooms: 1, Dogs: 1

    We have some lovely holiday cottages throughout South Wales, why not take a look at our collection to feel inspired?

    Map of castles in Wales:

    Plan your Welsh getaway by locating your favourite castles from our list on the map below.

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    Enjoy a holiday in Wales

    Discover these spectacular castles during a stay in one of our holiday cottages in Wales. Dotted throughout the country in beautiful locations, from rural idylls to coastal hideaways, wherever you're looking to explore you'll find a comfortable base nearby.

    We have a wonderful selection of romantic boltholes for that much-needed couples' getaway, and plenty that cater for your four-legged friend too! There are family cottages in abundance and even glamping options if you're looking for a unique and memorable holiday. 


    *Prices and opening hours are correct at the time of publishing; however, they are subject to change.

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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