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Unmissable Castles in North Wales For History Buffs & Folk Tale Lovers

Castles are dotted all across the UK and are a common feature in European history. However, most visitors are surprised when they learn just how many ancient fortresses and keeps decorate North Wales. 

From well-maintained UNESCO World Heritage Sites to mystical ruins that tower over the Irish Sea, the castles of North Wales offer a glimpse into the past and bring regional folktales to life. Here’s a quick guide to the highlights with some useful information for your visit. 

Criccieth Castle

Constructed: 1230 & finished 1327

Location: Criccieth

Opening Times: Friday to Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm

Criccieth Castle is first on the North Wales castles list, an impressive thirteenth-century castle that stands tall on a rocky headland. Built by Llywelyn the Great of the Kingdom of Gwynedd, this castle transports you back to an ancient era. 

However, dreams of kings and knights aren’t the only history here. Criccieth Castle was used as a prison in the early 1400s and later became a central inspiration for romantic painters like William Turner and Joseph Mallord.

Beaumaris Castle

Constructed: 1295

Location: Beaumaris

Opening Times: 9:30 am to 5 pm every day

When it comes to North Wales activities, Beaumaris Castle will always be at the top of the list. But did you know that this castle was never fully completed? 

Created in King Edward I’s campaign to take North Wales, Beaumaris Castle looks like a finished fortress. However, it was meant to have a concentric look — just like Harlech Castle. This didn’t stop it from attaining UNESCO World Heritage status, though!

Harlech Castle

Constructed: 1283

Location: Harlech

Opening Times: 9:30 am to 5 pm every day

Standing proud on a rocky knoll, Harlech Castle cuts an imposing silhouette against the wild Irish Sea. You’ll want a camera on hand to immortalise your visit here.

Edward I constructed this fortress during his 1282 to 89 Welsh invasion. However, the castle is also known for playing a role in the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr in 1404. It also inspired the Welsh ditty “Men of Harlech,” so you’re truly stepping into history at this spot.

Castell y Bere

Constructed: 1221

Location: Llanfihangel-y-Pennant

Opening Times: 10 am to 4 pm every day

Located south of the Snowdonia National Park, Castell y Bere is a ruinous castle created by Lywelyn the Great to protect Gwynedd. 

While it once defended the south-west of the kingdom, today it isn’t as grand as its original form. But the castle offers a unique perspective into the past when you see what’s left of the harsh stone structures against the lush green scenery.

Conwy Castle

Constructed: 1283 to 1289

Location: Conwy

Opening Times: 9:30 am to 5 pm every day

One of the most famous castles in North Wales, Conwy Castle is a well-preserved picture-perfect fortress. It’s also home to the country’s most intact set of mediaeval royal apartments — something truly special for any interior decor fans planning a visit!

This fortification is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known as an iconic example of Mediaeval military architecture not only in the UK but also in Europe.

Caernarfon Castle

Constructed: 1283

Location: Caernarfon

Opening Times: 9:30 am to 5 pm every day

Another of the top things to do in North Wales, Caernarfon is an iconic mediaeval fortress with a history that spans from the 11th century to the present day. 

Alongside being associated with King Edward I and Madog ap Llywelyn’s rebellion, Caernarfon is known for being used for the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1911 and 1969. And it’s a must-visit for any fan of Netflix’s “The Crown,” as the production team secured the castle for season three scenes.

Castell Aberlleiniog

Constructed: 1080

Location: Beaumaris

Opening Times: 24-hours 

Castell Aberlleiniog is the oldest on the list and is a classic motte-and-bailey fortress on the Isle of Anglesey. Built by Hugh d’Avraches, the 1st Earl of Chester, this Normal structure was restored in 2008 and now remains permanently open to the public.

As one of the lesser-known castles, it is a great place to experience Welsh history without the crowds. You might even spot buzzards on the castle walls if you’re lucky. 

Castles in North Wales – The Takeaway

The seven castles of North Wales featured on this blog are a stunning addition to any trip. But they’re not the only ones to choose from! With over 600 castles in Wales, history buffs and fantasy fans are spoilt for choice — and we’re here to be your guide. Learn more about things to do in North Wales via our blog.

Or start exploring Oyster’s unique holiday cottages in North Wales to secure your spot!

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