Wales is sometimes known as the "castle capital of the world." It is claimed that there are over 600 castles in the little country of Wales - that's most per square mile than anywhere in the world. Most of these have long since crumbled back into the earth and around 100 are still standing today.

Of these 100 remaining castles, some are ruins, some are restored buildings. Some are small and forgotten while others are truly grand. The other 500 are today mostly mounds, earthworks, and ditches. Although no castles are as dramatically set as the Hohenwerfen Castle that starred in the movie "Where Eagles Dare."

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Why Wales Has So Many Castles and The Native Welsh Castles

At first glance, that may seem strange that Great Britain would have so many castles as is an island nation that has only been successfully invaded twice in the last thousand years (the Vikings and the Normans). It has not been invaded since 1066 - almost a thousand years ago.

Castles In Wales: 600 - Of Which 100 Are Still Standing

But the castles in Wales were not meant to protect from invaders outside Britain, they speak of the Norman's and then England's long struggle to subjugate the region as well as Welsh princedom rivalry and the subjugation of their own people.

Some of the castles were built by Welsh royal dynasties to protect themselves from the English, each other and to subjugate their subjects. The largest castles were built by the Normans in the years following their invasion in 1066.

Some native Welsh stone castles were built in the 13th century. Some of these were small, while others were much more substantial - like Dinefwr and Castell y Bere. Castell y Bere was the largest native Welsh castle and was built by Llywelyn the Great in the 1220s. It was built to exercise authority over his people and to defend the southwest part of the princedom of Gwynedd. It could only do that for so long, however, as in 1282, the castle fell to English forces under the reign of Edward I of England.

Native Welsh Castles: Typically Inferior and Weaker to the Norman/English Castles

Welsh castles were mostly inferior and weaker to their Norman counterparts although by the 1260s they resembled the Norman designs more closely. But this was at the end of the period of Welsh independence. Welsh castles were often irregular and maximized the defensive benefits of high, mountainous sites.

Related: Visit Japan's UNESCO-Listed, Most Popular, And Largest Castle (With Nine Lives)

The Norman/English Castles of Wales

The most famous castles of Wales are the four castles of King Edward in Gwynedd (which make up a world heritage site today). He built these in North Wales after the final destruction of the last Welsh polities in the 1270s. We will cover these in-depth in another article. The castles are Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy, and Harlech and are considered by UNESCO to be the "finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe".

In 1277 King Edward I launched the final invasion of the last of the Welsh stronghold in northern Wales. King Edward I was also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots - the same English king as in the historically awry 1995 movie Braveheart.

King Edward I's Nicknames: "Edward Longshanks ('shank' is leg)" and "Hammer of the Scots"

Normans/English: The Normans Invaded England In 1066 But Over Time Assimilated into England

Intending to occupy Wales permanently he ordered the construction of eight new castles - Aberystwyth and Builth in mid-Wales and Beaumaris, Conwy, Caernarfon, Flint, Harlech, and Rhuddlan Castle in North Wales. These are considered today to be of the finest achievements of medieval military architecture in Great Britain. These were constructed at great expense to the English treasury.

By the 14th century, castles were combining defenses with landscaped gardens, sophisticated living arrangements, and other luxuries.

Related: This Is Why The Tidal Castle Isle Of Mont-Saint-Michel In France Is So Iconic

 

Remarkable Welsh Castles Today

There are far too many castles in Wales to visit, but today some of the most remarkable castles in Wales are:

Laugharne Castle: A 12th Century Castle With Victorian Ornamental Gardens

Caernarfon Castle: An Edward I 13th Century Castle Built On A Roman Fort

Raglan Castle: Known For Its Striking Round Towers and Role In The English Civil War

Dinefwr Park and Castle: A Spectacular Castle Where One Can Also Enjoy the Nearby Nature Reserve, Cottages, and 18th Century Landscape Park

Caldicot Castle: Home of Re-Enactments And Has a Relaxing Tearoom

Conwy Castle: Considered By Some as The Finest Edward I Castle

Caerphilly Castle: The Largest Castle In Wales and Second Largest In Britain

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When in England, pop into Warwick Castle - a living castle with accommodation, scary dungeons, and excellent falconry shows.

Next: Scotland's Glamis Castle Might Be The Most Beautiful In The World

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