Wales has more castles per square mile than any other country in the world. Some of the most famous castles were built in the late 13th century by Edward I as part of his campaigns to defeat the Welsh Princes. What is today Snowdonia National Park, a beautiful mountainous region in the north of Wales, was at one point the heartland of the Welsh. So it was around this region that Edward I built a circle of castles, known as the Ring of Iron. Even today, over 700 years later, the castles built during this period are some of the most famous and impressive in Wales. Four of them that have remained the most complete are today designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are all a convenient drive from one another, making a trip to this part of Wales both a relaxing and interesting experience. Spend your nights in a charming country house overlooking a castle or if you prefer, in a centuries-old pub with creaking floors, and you are sure to experience the true essence of North Wales.
Here are the four most famous castles in North Wales that you should make sure to visit:
Once located on the edge of the sea, Harlech now commands a rocky crag that overlooks sand dunes far below. A spectacular setting with the peaks of Snowdonia rising on one side and a view out to the sea on the other, its mighty walls have seen many sieges during some of the fiercest battles in Welsh history.
Caernarfon This castle on the banks of the River Seiont has a distinctive appearance with octagonal towers and decorative masonry that echo imperial Roman architecture, in particular the walls of Constantinople. While Harlech might be known for its beautiful setting, Caernarfon stands alone for its sheer scale and the beauty of the castle itself. Caernarfon is also where the investiture for the Prince of Wales takes place, and when you visit you can see the platform where the ceremony is held.
Today a charming harbor town, Conwy was once one of the mightiest fortresses in Wales. Exceptionally well preserved, you can visit the medieval royal apartments and walk the walls that surround the town in an unbroken ring of over a kilometer. Be sure to also walk the battlements of the castle as due to recent restoration work you can now make a complete circuit of them.
Beaumaris Sometimes referred to as the 'greatest castle never built', Beaumaris is considered to be the crowning glory of Edward I’s castles, but it unfortunately was never completed. Located on the Isle of Anglesey facing the Menai Straits, Beaumaris has a beautiful setting. Even in its incomplete form, you can easily get a sense of how massive the castle would have been had it been finished.
This part of Wales has so many other wonderful castles to visit – from Criccieth on the sea to Dolwyddelan in the heart of Snowdonia – and if you are a lover of castles, history, and the great outdoors, you are sure to enjoy spending a leisurely vacation visiting these impressive sites and the charming towns in between.
We can arrange a trip to this part of Wales by self-drive or driver guide, click here to contact us today and start planning.