Cadw's top days out in Wales
Cadw does an amazing job looking after lots of the best historical and archaeological sites across all of Wales.
Our friends at Cadw picked out eight of their favourite places to explore...
Beaumaris Castle is a textbook model of a castle – no wonder it’s a world heritage site. Begun in 1295 it’s a pity it was never fully completed before the king ran out of money…!
Explore the four lines of defence that surround the heart of the castle, each one more formidable than the last. It took 450 masons, 400 quarrymen and over 2,000 skilled labourers to dig the moat and build the towering walls. Find the 15 separated major obstacles that faced any potential attacker.
Climb up the towers, creep through the dark wall-passages and venture on to the topmost ramparts to get stunning views across the Menai Strait to Snowdonia.
Visit Beaumaris Castle on the Cadw website, to discover more including details of opening times and special events.
Caernarfon Castle is a majestic monster of a castle. The incredible size of this World Heritage site mirrors the fortune spent on it by Edward I.
Explore the maze of winding wall-passages which link the castle’s massive towers. Spot the difference at Caernarfon – here the eight huge towers are angular instead of round. Why? Probably because Edward was copying the Romans!
Climb the mighty Eagle Tower and venture to the topmost turret. From here you can see the historic town of Caernarfon and across the Menai Strait to Anglesey. The lure of water and easy sea access proved irresistible to Edward.
Caernarfon also has a symbolic significance, featuring in the dream of Macsen Wledig in the Mabinogion and it is still a place with a distinctive Welsh-speaking culture. The castle was the site of two investitures of Princes of Wales in 1911 and 1969.
Check out Caernarfon Castle on the Cadw website, to find out more about the castle and details of opening times and special events.
Caerphilly Castle is a big castle; in fact, it's the biggest in Wales. It’s almost complete and it’s surrounded by a series of moats and watery islands.
Climb the rooftop of the massive east gatehouse. From here you can see the rings of stone and water defences that made Caerphilly so strong. The castle was the brainchild of Gilbert ‘the Red’ de Clare, a redheaded nobleman of Norman descent who also built the original Castell Coch, ‘Red Castle’. Explore the dark passage known as the Braose Gallery. Here you could have spied on what was happening in the great hall below or delivered food from the kitchen to the lord’s private apartments.
Don’t forget the south-east tower, which out leans Pisa’s famous tower, or the mighty siege engines. Keep an eye out for the fabled Green Lady who is said to haunt the site.
Visit Caerphilly Castle on the Cadw website, to discover more about what you can see at the castle, and for information about opening times and special events.
Fairytale turrets peeping out of beech woods…
There’s a lot more to Castell Coch than meets the eye!
As you cross the drawbridge – which is in good working order – you enter the world of the fabulously wealthy third marquess of Bute and his eccentric architect, William Burges, who together created a rural retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the centre of Cardiff.
Built on solid medieval foundations and faithful to the spirit of the Middle Ages, it is the furnishing and decoration that will bedazzle you as you explore the rooms.
There are three towers to climb and a dungeon to discover but it is the banqueting hall, drawing room and Lady Bute’s bedroom that leave a lasting memory. Each is decorated with vibrant schemes including Aesop’s fables, and the sun, moon and stars.
Check out Castell Coch on the Cadw website, for more information and to see opening times and special events.
Conwy Castle and town walls are amongst the finest surviving medieval fortifications to be seen anywhere in Britain. No wonder they are a World Heritage site!
Climb the towers and turrets, and marvel at the grandeur. It’s hard to believe the castle was built at breakneck speed in four short building seasons between 1283 and 1287. Back at ground level, you’ll find the most intact set of residential buildings left by the medieval English monarchy in Wales or England, as well as a massive great hall complex built to fit the shape of the rock on which the castle stands.
Don’t miss Conwy’s town walls. You can explore the wall-walks and imagine what it felt like to be on sentry duty 700 years ago.
Discover more about Conwy Castle on the Cadw website, including details of opening times and special events.
With its distinctive profile set against the skyline of Snowdonia, Harlech is justifiably one of Wales’s most famous castles. It’s got a turbulent history too.
It boats two rings of walls and towers, with an immensely strong east gatehouse. It was impregnable from almost every angle.
The castle’s secret weapon was a 200-foot-long stairway from the castle to the cliff base. Access to the sea beyond allowed crucial supplies to be brought in which kept the castle’s besieged inhabitants fed and watered. Seven hundred years later the tide has receded, but take to the ramparts and the views are as wonderful as ever.
Famous for the Song, ‘Men of Harlech’, the words are said to describe the longest siege in British history (1461-68), which took place here during the Wars of the Roses.
Find out more about Harlech Castle on the Cadw website, including information about upcoming events and opening times.
Kidwelly is everything a castle should be – steep earthworks, high towers, tall walls and a great gatehouse which took at least a century to complete.
Peel back the centuries to the earliest earth-and-timber castle built by the Normans. You can trace its distinctive half-moon shape by walking along the outer stone walls built almost 100 years later.
Climb to the top of the south-west tower. From here you can see the medieval town of Kidwelly, the river Gwendraeth where ships used to dock bringing goods from Somerset and beyond, and Maes Gwenllian – the site of a pitched battle where the Welsh princess, Gewenllian, lost her life in 1136 fighting against the Normans.
Don’t leave without exploring the great gatehouse or the beautiful little chapel overlooking the river.
Visit Kidwelly Castle on the Cadw website, and find out more about opening times and special events.
St Davids Bishop’s Palace
High walls hide carved stone human heads and mystical beats. Only the striking chequerboard stonework hints at what lies within what was once the fabulous palace of the medieval bishops of St Davids, built a stone’s throw from the cathedral.
Take time to discover the palace built almost entirely by one man, Bishop Henry de Gower. He built not one but two sets of very comfortable rooms. The east range was his private domain. The second was much grander and built for stylish entertaining. Imagine being an important guest entering the great hall flooded with coloured light from the round window. The food was probably pretty special too!
Explore the undercrofts, where great quantities of beer, wine and food were stored in readiness for these splendid feasts!
Find out more about St Davids Bishop's Palace on the Cadw website, and discover details of opening times and special events.
There's loads more too!
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All images © Crown copyright (2016) Cadw