With so many tourists heading to Wales every year from within and outside the UK, kids and adults alike are curious about aspects of the country, not least its castles. Everything from Wales’s Gaelic origins, its traditions, language, culture and its varied towns, countryside and beaches spark interest in visitors to Wales. That’s why this page was made – to give those who like and enjoy Wales an opportunity to learn fun and interesting facts about this beautiful country’s castles.
When most people think about Wales’s history, the hundreds of castles small, large and colossal often spring to mind. You could probably call Wales the world’s ‘Castle Capital’, because you wouldn’t be exaggerating!
These impressive structures were generally erected for defensive military purposes, and while some lay partly ruined, some of the best-known examples remain reasonably intact and open to the public and visiting tourists.
Let’s check out five of the most interesting things about Wales’s castles…
Early castles were built to oppress Medieval Welsh people
In the Middle Ages, Wales and its people were seen as an agitation by kings in neighbouring England. The forceful Edward I, having already suppressed a rebellion by his own barons, imposed his dictatorship onto Wales where he would commence and finish construction of some of the country’s biggest and most symbolically powerful castles.
Most of Edward’s efforts were concentrated upon the troublesome Northern Welsh, with castles in Conwy, Harlech and Caenarfon serving the dual purpose of suppressing rebellious elements of Wales’ own population while protecting the coast from pirate raiders and all-out foreign invasions.
They have always been multi-purpose buildings
Earlier in their history castles were straightforward military bases. However the presence of young soldiers, many of whom would bring or start families in the locality, resulted in whole towns springing up around their respective garrisons. After this, castles would act as jails, as sites for executions, as accommodation for visiting nobles, and as the symbolic seat of power in each province of Wales.
Later on when the castles were made obsolete by gunpowder and cannons, they would variously become residences for local lords or landowners, while some abandoned ones were scavenged by locals keen to reuse the excellent quarried stone. Later on, castles became objects of study for imitative architects, converted into stately homes or hotels, with some obviously remodelled as tourists attractions!
They are the world’s longest lasting military bases
Most military bases today lack the distinction which Welsh castles have: namely serving as garrisons and defensive positions for centuries. Many Welsh castles kept their primary, military purpose throughout entire eras of history, with some playing roles in wars and conflicts for a very long time.
Conwy Castle was famously captured by the Welsh in the 15th century, when it was already about two centuries old. Denbigh Castle meanwhile was a base until the English Civil War, four hundred years after it was built. It was so strong and influential even at that age that it had to be blasted apart by the Parliamentarian army!
Welsh castles were technological marvels
Although today we have skyscrapers, mobile phones and spacecraft, back in the Middle Ages the castles of Wales were the most high-tech things around. Their enormous turrets, expensive design and deliberately impressive and imposing nature were unlike anything ever seen in Wales before.
While ordinary homes, shops and streets would crumble and be refurbished time and again, castles remained the constant, unchanging element of many towns. This was because the engineers and builders of the time mixed the best cement and quarried only the best stone for the job. Some of the best preserved castles of Wales include Caernarfon, whose formidable moats and turrets represent architecture and Medieval military engineering at its finest.
People still live in them today
A little-known fact about Wales 400-odd castles is that some are still private residences and hotels. Despite standing for hundreds of years and requiring renovation from time to time, these castles serve their purpose well, with Glandyfi Castle serving as a B&B in its locality while Manorbier Castle in Pembrokeshire is at over 900 years old one of Wales oldest functioning accommodations.