Welsh castles have been undisputed jewels in England. In fact, Wales can boast to have the greatest number of castles in the world! The strength of the mighty and ferocious fortresses of North Wales can only be attributed to one man, King Edward I of England.
In order to secure the control of Wales, King Edward I formed what is known as the “Iron Ring” and circles Gwynedd, North Wales with formidable castles. This was a strategy that King Edward adapted in order to crush and intimidate the Welsh population. There are more than 600 Welsh Castles
This strategy apparently started in 1278 following the Welsh rebellion. Initially, King Edward I commissioned the first four major castles in Wales and they were Flint, Rhuddlan, Builth, and Aberystwyth. After the second rebellion, more buildings and castles were built including Caernarfon, Conwy, Harlech, and Beaumaris castles.
It was through these Welsh castles that King Edward I was able to keep his reign. These massive and strong power bases brought by these Medieval Welsh Castles as well as his purpose-built township helped him keep his reign furthermore.
To this day, these castles have been renowned all over the world. Some of these castles have been protected by UNESCO as part of World Heritage.
Abergavenny was one of the earliest castles in Wales, Abergavenny which can be dated back to 1087. It originally had a motte and bailey structure and the first tower built on top of the motte was made of wood. During the turbulent times throughout the 12th century, the castle had been handed back and forth between the English and the Welsh.
It was also said to have been significantly strengthened during the 13th and 14th centuries while it was under the administration of the Hastings family. However, most of the buildings were badly damaged during the English Civil War and the castle was slighted to prevent it from becoming used as a stronghold again.
Caerphilly Castle is located in the town of Caerphilly. It is the largest castle in Wales and the second largest in Britain. This 13th-century stone structure and fortress was built by the 7th Earl of Gloucester Gilbert de Clare.
The construction of the castle was to take advantage of the extensive water defense that the lakes to the north and south offered.
Kidwelly Castle was built north of Llanelli in 1106 by the Bishop of Salisbury since he served as the Justiciar of England. It was built primarily to defend the roads to the west of Wales. The half-moon shape of the castle defends one side of the river and is a common Norman style of building fortresses.
However, the castle had several additions such as a rectangular stronghold with round towers, a kitchen, a garrison, and a chapel.
Caernarfon Castle was constructed under the order of King Edward I. It was situated on the northwest side of Wales. This was where King Edward’s son was born and where he was later on crowned as the first English Prince of Wales.
The castle showcased King Edward’s Constantinople concentric influences such as the famous dream story where a King wanted a castle to be built in a beautiful place. Although it was designed as a military castle, this was where King Edward’s grand ideas of a castle were born.
To this day, the Caernarfon castle has been restored impressively attracting over 200 million visitors every year.
Harlech Castle can be found in the south of Porthmadog. This also forms part of King Edward’s chain of castles called the Iron Ring. It was built by Master James of St. George, a military architectural genius.
The Harlech castle took advantage of its high position and its natural surroundings to defend inhabitants from attacks from the land or sea.
Men of Harlech refers to the unofficial Welsh anthem that honors the longest siege in British history, where the King’s forces defended the Harlech castle during ‘The Wars of the Roses
Conwy Castle probably was the only one that did not have concentric walls within walls. This was because Cowny, the town where it was situated was already walled ad had over three-quarters of a mile of guarded towers.
The castle appeared to have grown naturally out of a rock with huge curtain walls and eight round towers. This structure has provided the town with quite an awesome and significant presence.
The following is a list of important Castle ruins in Wales, there are not many images available of these ruins and little left remaining.
Deganwy Castle can be found at the mouth of the River Conwy, a river north of Wales. What is now a number of ditches and mounds on top of the massive rock was formed from the remains of a fortress during the dark ages. This served as the headquarters of Maelgwn Gwynedd, King of Gwynedd from 520 to 547. Historians believed it is most likely that Deganwy was the first to occupy the castle during Roman times.
The castle was rebuilt in stone by the English King Henry III. However, it was later on abandoned and finally destroyed in 1263 by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales. The ruins seen today are remnants of King Henry’s fortification.
Caer Penrhos castle was a very well preserved earthwork and a fortified version of the castle is believed to have been set within an earlier Iron Age earthwork serving as its bailey. It was built around the 11th century by Cadwaladr, the son of Gruffydd ap Cynan.
Ewloe Castle was built with a D-shape which was a trademark and very typical among Welsh castles built by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. This castle was built from local stone and is believed that its construction may not have been complete before the castle had fallen into the hands of English King, Edward I in 1277.
Flint Castle was built by the English King Edward I in his campaign to conquer Wales. It was the first of Edward’s chain of fortresses that surrounded North Wales called the ‘Iron Ring’. These structures were built in 1277 and were constructed primarily to subjugate the unruly Welsh princes during that time.
Flint castle was besieged by the forces of Dafydd ap Gruffydd during the Welsh Wars and was later attacked again during the revolt of Madog ap Llywelyn in 1294. However, during the English Civil War, it was held by Royalists but was later on captured in 1647 by the Parliamentarians.
Grosmont Castle was the first castle with earth and timber motte and bailey fortification. It was rebuilt in local red sandstone in the 13th century and was enclosed by a high wall and three stone towers. King Henry III granted this castle to his son Edmond Crouchback in 1267, who wanted to convert it into a residence. However, the Welsh army attacked the fortress in March 1405.
The English King Henry V. Grosmont appears to have fallen into disuse after this as records indicated that the castle had been abandoned.
The castles built by King Edward I marked the completion and extension of King Henry III, his father’s scheme. With a very well-conceived strategic plan, he has built the fearsome Iron Ring of massive fortresses that represented Europe’s most impressive medieval structural project.
These castles were built for one reason: to subjugate the princes of Welsh and prevent the recurrence of a massive military campaign against him. Today, King Edward’s project has earned Wales the title of the Land of Castles, having the highest number of castles per square mile all over the world.
Wales lies in the western territory of the United Kingdom and has an unrivaled heritage of glorious medieval Welsh castles.