Castle Hotels of Wales
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Nowhere in Europe will you find so many romantic medieval castles concentrated in one area.
Soon after invading England, the Normans began a castle building program in Wales. They were replaced centuries later by Welsh princes and the English armies of Edward I, intent to subjugate any rivals.
With a castle hotel as a base, spend your days exploring countless historical sites, walking along unspoiled coastline, and discovering dramatic landscapes.
Some great reasons to visit
Harlech Castle Dramatically situated on a rocky promontory, Edward I built this castle in the 13th century to help subdue the Welsh; now it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Caernarfon Castle One of the most recognizable castles in Wales with its polygonal towers and bands of different-colored stones, Caernarfon was modeled on the 5th-century walls of Constantinople. At one time, the castle was a royal palace and seat of government, and it, too, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Conwy Castle Conwy Castle is one of the great fortresses of Wales. Eight enormous drum towers mark massive curtain walls, and although the great hall is now roofless, the castle doesn’t fail to impress. The town of Conwy is surrounded by a superb medieval wall, fortified with 21 towers and 3 gateways. The town and castle together are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also, within the town walls, Plas Mawr is considered the best-preserved Elizabethan town house in Britain. Just five miles south of Conwy, horticulturalists from around the world come to Bodnant Garden for its exquisite rhododendrons and magnolias.
Powis Castle Built by the princes of Powys in the 13th century to help control the border with England, Powis Castle has been continuously occupied since that time. This lavish residence contains priceless art and fine furnishings. A family connection to the 18th-century British statesman “Clive of India” explains the castle’s Clive Museum. Outside the castle, the terraced gardens are among the best in Wales.
Chirk Castle On the border with England, this wonderfully preserved, 13th-century castle evolved into a grand house over the centuries. Beautiful gardens and parkland surround this National Trust property.
Beaumaris Castle Never finished for lack of money, this final castle of Edward I’s “ring of iron” around Wales is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Concentric lines of fortification, a moat, arrow-slit windows, and murder holes where boiling liquid would be poured down were only a few of the techniques to keep attackers at bay.
Snowdonia National Park Outstanding mountain scenery, valleys full of oak woods, moors, lakes, and outdoor activities galore highlight this 840-acre park. Snowdonia is a well-known center for climbers, but if you enjoy more passive pursuits, take a journey on one of the narrow-gauge railways.
Portmeirion Fans of the cult 196os TV series The Prisoner will recognize this fantasy, pastel-colored Italianate village, created by Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis.
Plas Newydd Situated on the Isle of Anglesey, this 18th-century Gothic grand house was built for the marquis of Anglesey, a cavalry commander at the Battle of Waterloo whose descendants still live here.
More Amazing Castles
Pembroke Castle Building began on this massive Norman fortress in 1190. “Strongbow” Richard FitzGilbert, earl of Pembroke was based here during the Irish conquest. A plaque commemorates the birthplace of the future Henry VII, the first Tudor king.
Chepstow Castle Located at the mouth of the Wye, whoever controlled this Norman castle controlled the way into south Wales. Construction began only three years after the Norman Conquest, making Chepstow the oldest stone castle in Britain.
Caerphilly Castle Three moats, six portcullises, and concentric fortifications of this enormous 13th-century castle cover some 30 acres.
Cardiff First occupied by the Romans in AD 75, one of William the Conqueror’s knights became the first landowner. Cardiff Castle, built on the site of the Roman fortress, reigned supreme for 700 years. In the late 19th century, the 3rd Marquess of Bute transformed the castle interiors into an extravaganza of romantic medieval decor. (Outside of Cardiff, the Marquess also built Castell Coch, a Victorian-Gothic castle fantasy.) Cardiff also boasts a world-class art collection and natural history exhibits at its National Museum and Gallery of Wales.
St. David’s A 6th-century monastic community has given rise to some of the holiest ground in Britain: the Cathedral of St. David, patron saint of Wales. The simple austerity of this shrine has attracted pilgrims for hundreds of years. Three visits here were equal to one to Jerusalem. Located on the spectacular coastline of Pembrokeshire, the cathedral sits concealed in a small hollow, a deliberate but futile attempt to protect it from Viking raiders.
Brecon Beacons National Park Farmland, valleys, and rolling hills distinguish this great national park. Brecon Beacons is perfect country for pony-trekking, rock-climbing, cycling, hiking, canoeing, and even spelunking.
Hay-on-Wye Anyone who adores books must make a pilgrimage to the town with the highest concentration of used book stores in the world—40 at last count. Summertime brings on the Hay Festival, a celebration of literature and authors.