Discover the Castles of Wales

January 5th, 2019

As we mentioned earlier in the week, 2019 is the Year of Discovery here in Wales, so we’ll be exploring many different ways that you can discover new and exciting things about our wonderful country – whether you already live here, are a seasoned visitor or have never been before!

Today, we discover some of the castles of Wales. And if ever there was a land of castles, then Wales is most certainly it – with the remains of up to 500 earthwork and stone castles. Castles were built to assert authority and defend land in a period dominated by scattered warfare. We have explored our local castles often here on the Oakeley blog, but mostly the ones built by English kings, in an attempt to control their unruly Welsh subjects during times of turbulence – such as Conwy and Harelch castles.

However, some of the most important castles in the history and heritage of Wales because they were built by Welsh Princes and Noblemen, rather than their English counterparts in an attempt to subordinate and control. You can find out more on the Cadw website  but they have produced a fantastic guide to the Castles of the Lords and Princes of Wales………

Most of the castles were built by the kings of England or the Anglo-Norman lords in their bid to extend control beyond the Welsh ‘Marches’ — an area of land on the border between England and Wales. But the Welsh were castle builders too. The Welsh-held lands were divided between the major princedoms of Gwynedd (centred on north-west Wales), Deheubarth (centred on south-west Wales) and Powys (in east Wales), and several smaller realms. Castles were built by the Welsh lords and princes to defend their land from each other, from invasion, and, like the English, to protect important routes.

It was Rhys ap Gruffudd, prince of Deheubarth (d. 1197) — the Lord Rhys — who emerged as one of the greatest Welsh leaders of the twelfth century, able to withstand the power of the Anglo-Norman lords of the March. He is recorded as building or occupying a number of castles. However, during the thirteenth century, the princes of Gwynedd were the first Welsh princes to claim rule over all of Wales, especially under the leadership of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (d. 1240) and his grandson, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (d. 1282).

During the later Middle Ages, castles continued to be associated with members of the Welsh gentry, for example Owain Glyndwr at the time of his uprising against English rule in the early fifteenth century, and, later still, new Welsh lords such as William Herbert of Raglan.

Find out more at https://cadw.gov.wales/docs/cadw/publications/97194_CastlesLordsPrincesWales.pdf

Some of the most important castles built by Welshmen in North Wales are:

  • Castell Dinas Bran, Llangollen
  • Dinas Emrys, Beddgelert
  • Deganwy Castle
  • Ewloe Castle
  • Dolwyddelan Castle
  • Dolbadarn Castle
  • Criccieth Castle
  • Castell y Bere