With over 600 castles, wherever you go on holiday in Wales you won't be too far from a historic site. If you don’t have time to visit every single one, here are 10 top castles to visit.
Conwy Castle, North Wales
Conwy Castle is regarded as one of the most magnificent medieval fortresses in Europe. The castle, and its 1.3km ring of town walls, have World Heritage status.
This remarkable fortress was built in an astonishing four-year period, between 1283 and 1287, and remains incredibly well-preserved today: it contains the most intact set of medieval royal apartments in Wales. If you have a head for heights, climb one of the castle's eight tremendous towers for breathtaking views of the harbour and the narrow streets of Conwy below.
Denbigh Castle, North Wales
Perched on the hill above the town, Denbigh Castle's most distinctive feature is its impressive triple-towered gatehouse. The castle was once the royal residence of Dafydd ap Gruffudd, whose attack on the nearby Hawarden Castle provoked the English king Edward I to mount a full-scale invasion.
During your visit, explore the mysterious ‘sally port’ - a secret doorway that allowed defenders to sneak in and out of the castle. Plus play spot-the-difference between the round and polygonal towers, which were built in separate phases around 1282 and 1295.
Raglan Castle, South Wales
Raglan Castle was one of the last medieval castles to be built in England and Wales — still formidable, although designed with comfort and luxury in mind. Climb the Great Tower on its moated island and explore the newly-restored undercroft beneath the castle, which used to house some of the finest wines in Europe and were served at the high table to impress guests.
In keeping with Raglan's reputation for entertainment, the castle regularly plays host to events including poetry, plays, singing and dancing.
Caerphilly Castle, South Wales
The largest castle in Wales, and the second-largest in Britain, Caerphilly Castle was locked within water defences when it was built by the English in the 13th century. The outside is the place, among an array of delights, to see four siege engines, and the inside has a hallowed, majestic feel.
Climb to the rooftop of the massive east gatehouse, from where you can see the rings of stone and water defences that made Caerphilly so impressive. Look out for the south-east tower – Wales’ very own Leaning Tower, wonkier even than that of Pisa – which is probably the castle's best-loved feature.
Kidwelly Castle, West Wales
Kidwelly has everything a castle should: steep earthworks, high towers, tall walls and a great gatehouse that 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 half-moon shape by walking along the stone walls built almost 100 years later. Don't leave without exploring the great gatehouse or the beautiful little chapel overlooking the river.
Harlech Castle, North Wales
Perched upon a sheer, rocky crag and with the rugged peaks of Snowdonia in the distance, Harlech Castle has one of the most spectacular settings of all of Wales' castles.
Built between 1282 and 1289, along with Edward I's other castles Conwy, Caernarfon and Beaumaris, Harlech is a World Heritage Site. A 'floating footbridge' allows visitors to access this colossal coastal fortress.
Cardiff Castle, South Wales
Discover 2,000 years of Welsh history when you stumble upon Cardiff Castle, which is nestled among the shops, bars and general hubbub of the capital's city centre. Take a leisurely stroll through Bute Park to admire its sheer size before venturing inside to marvel at the Victorian Gothic magnificence.
Originally the site of a Roman fort – remains of the Roman wall can still be seen – following the Norman conquest a new castle was raised on the site with a keep built on the 40ft (12m) motte. Further medieval fortifications and dwellings followed over the years. The castle passed to the Bute family in 1776, and in 1866 the 3rd Marquess of Bute employed architect William Burgess to transform the lodgings into the lavish and ornate interior on show today. The castle, and much of its parkland, was given to the city of Cardiff in 1947.
Remember to check their upcoming events, which range from medieval battle re-enactments to live music events, Welsh-language festivals to open-air theatre and more.
Caernarfon Castle, North Wales
The mighty Caernarfon Castle is one of the most visually-arresting sights you'll ever see. This 13th century polygonal showpiece was built on a former Roman fort and is grouped with Edward I's other castles at Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech as a World Heritage Site.
The Eagle Tower, with its three great turrets and 18-feet thick walls, is the crowning glory of the castle (and it's where the royalty would sleep in lofty splendour).
Pembroke Castle, West Wales
Idyllically set on the banks of the river estuary, this mighty oval fortress is largely intact, and its endless passages, tunnels and stairways are great fun to explore. Pembroke Castle is the birthplace of Henry Tudor, father to the infamous Henry VIII. It was extensively restored in Victorian times, and is dominated by the complex gatehouse on the outside.
Enjoy a picnic in the beautifully-kept grounds, take a walk around the medieval town walls and millpond, and – from the opposite bank of the river – view the castle in all its splendour.
Beaumaris Castle, North Wales
Wonderfully incomplete, Beaumaris on Anglesey can be considered as the greatest castle never built. With near-perfect symmetry, four concentric rings of formidable defences and a water-filled moat with its own dock, this was the largest and last of the castles created by Edward I in Wales.
Along with Conwy, Caernarfon and Beaumaris, it forms part of the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward World Heritage Site.