10 romantic ruins to visit in Wales

Discover Wales’ most soulful abandoned abbeys and castles. Their graceful decay inspired great artists and poets such as JMW Turner, William Wordsworth and Dylan Thomas in centuries past.

  • Carew Castle

    Carew Castle, Pembrokeshire

    In a beautiful waterside location, this imposing castle has a powerful presence. Founded around 1100 and built from local limestone, it was abandoned in the 1680s and is now used as a roost by rare greater horseshoe bats. The village of Carew has a beautiful Celtic stone cross and the only restored tidal mill in Wales.

  • The ruins of Carreg Cennen Castle overlooking the Carmarthenshire countryside
    Carreg Cennen Castle, Carmarthenshire

    There’s something truly poetic about the silhouette of this hilltop ruin, surrounded by Carmarthenshire farmland. In the 1790s, JMW Turner drew and painted it several times in sketchbooks which are now held at Tate Britain. As a medieval defence, it was brilliantly sited, on top of a steep cliff with 360-degree views.

  • Laugharne Castle, Carmarthenshire
    Laugharne Castle, Carmarthenshire by Paula J James

    The restless spirit of Dylan Thomas lives on in the village of Laugharne, whose ruined medieval castle stands close to the shining estuary of the River Tâf. To him, its moody stones were “brown as owls”. They’re now the walls of a garden. A short stroll from here is the Boathouse which was the great poet’s home.

  • Llanthony Priory

    Llanthony Priory, Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons

    Rounded hills dusted with woodlands, bracken and grass make the perfect backdrop to the time-worn stones of this 12th century Augustinian priory. JMW Turner sketched it in graphite and watercolour during his tour of Wales in 1794. Close to the English border in the Black Mountains, this is a fabulous area for walking and horse riding.  

  • An aerial view of Neath Abbey and Gatehouse
    Neath Abbey, Vale of Neath

    This riverside abbey was founded by Cistercian monks in 1130 and grew to become one of the largest monasteries in Wales. Parts of it were used long after the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII, which spelt doom for grand ecclesiastical buildings all over Wales. But by the late 1700s, only roofless walls remained.

  • Ogmore Castle with horse in foreground
    Ogmore Castle, Glamorgan

    An irresistible chain of well-worn stepping stones leads you from the village of Ogmore across the shallow River Ewenny to the remains of this 12th century castle. As the veteran travel writer Jan Morris noted, you have to feel for the Norman soldiers stationed here, who must often have slipped (or been pushed) into the river after an evening out. 

  • The gatehouse of Oystermouth Castle in the Mumbles, Swansea
    Oystermouth Castle, Swansea

    This rather pretty little Norman castle floats above the seaside town of Mumbles, with wonderful views out to sea. It once contained an impressive banqueting hall and staterooms. A glass walkway allows you to explore. In spring and summer, locals picnic in its grassy parkland, the setting for medieval fun days and other events.

  • Interior and courtyard of Raglan Castle
    Raglan Castle, Wye Valley

    Raglan was built in the 1430s for William Herbert, the first Earl of Pembroke, as a grand home rather than a military defence. Herbert insisted it had fashionable domestic features such as huge windows and carved timber panels. Nonetheless, from the outside, it does a good impression of an impregnable medieval fortress.

  • Tintern Abbey, Wye Valley
    Tintern Abbey, Wye Valley by Wonderful Wales

    Captured by JMW Turner, William Wordsworth and countless other artists, writers and poets, Tintern is the most famous of Wales’ beautiful medieval ruins. Its setting in the steep-sided Wye Valley is simply ravishing, and its soaring Gothic arches are close enough to the road, river and footpaths to be viewed from many different angles.

  • Valle Crucis Abbey with autumn trees in the background
    Valle Crucis Abbey, Llangollen, Borderlands

    Founded three decades earlier than Tintern in 1101, this Cistercian abbey near Llangollen was relatively modest, but there’s still grandeur in its Gothic arches and beauty in its lush, pastoral setting. When JMW Turner painted it, he shifted the perspective to include the hilltop fort of Dinas Brân in the same frame.

More castles and ruins in Wales