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Great Castles in South and West Wales

Chepstow Castle

Chepstow, on its rock above the swirling waters of the River Wye, stands guard over a strategic crossing point into Wales. In a land of castles, Chepstow can rightly claim special status. Started by the Normans just after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, it was amongst the first of Britain's stone-built castles.

Mellow-walled Chepstow is an intriguing amalgam of different periods. At its core remains the original stone keep. In later centuries, towers, walls, gatehouses and barbicans were added, until the long, narrow castle occupied the entire cliff-backed ridge above the Wye. A final complement to its strength and siting was paid when Chepstow was adapted for cannon and musketry after a long siege in the Civil War, and it continued in use until 1690.

This well-preserved landmark castle, one of the few in Britain to trace the evolution of medieval military architecture from start to finish, merits a lengthy visit.

Telephone:- +44 1291 624065 - Access:- Chepstow via A465, B4235, A48 or M4(Jct 22) - Railway:- Chepstow 1/2 mile.

Raglan Castle

Noble Raglan remains the finest late-medieval fortress-palace in the British Isles. Largely the creation of the more peaceful later Middle Ages, it brings to a close the great castle-building chapter in Welsh history.

Raglan is as much a statement of wealth and social aspiration as that of military power. It was begun in 1435 by the influential Sir William ap Thomas, who raised the mighty Great Tower. His son William Herbert continued the grand work in the same lavish vein, creating a sumptuous, richly embellished palace with formal state apartments and a Great Gatehouse. Yet handsome Raglan was no pushover, for it endured one of the longest sieges of the Civil War.

Telephone:- +44 1291 690228 - Access:- Via A40 and signposted. -
Railway:- Abergavenny 10 miles.

Carreg Cennen Castle

There are few castles in Wales - or Europe for that matter - which can boast a more spectacular location than Carreg Cennen. Its ruins crown a precipitous crag in a remote corner of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Carreg Cennen, its origins shrouded in obscurity, is the ultimate romantic ruin. The existing stronghold, ingeniously adapted to its rocky hilltop, dates from around 1300. It led a chequered life, falling into Welsh and English hands during the troubled medieval period.

A visit to Carreg Cennen is an adventure - not least for the sight of the breathtaking 300ft cliff on which the castle is perched and the dramatic trip through the passageway cut into the cliff-face which leads to a natural cave beneath the fortifications.

Telephone:- +44 1558 822291 - Access:- Roads from A438(T) to Trapp Village. -
Railway:- Ffairfach 4 miles.

Oxwich Castle

This castle by the sea, stands in a lovely spot on the Gower Peninsula. Oxwich is, in fact, a grand Tudor manor house built in courtyard style in the peaceful 16th century (though its owners did see fit to add a mock-military gateway, more for show than effect). This striking testament to family status was founded by Sir Rice Mansel in the 1520s. His son, Sir Edward, added a soaring multi-storeyed eastern wing with all the latest features, including a fashionable Elizabethan long gallery. Oxwich's original stature can be seen in its south-east tower, which still survives to six storeys.

Telephone:- +44 1792 390359 - Access:- A4118, 11 miles southwest of Swansea (In Oxwich village).

Railway:- Swansea 11 miles.

Weobley Castle

Weobley, perched on Gower's wild and lonely north coast, is not quite what it seems. Despite its name, it served more as a fortified manor house than a serious military stronghold. Built by the knightly de Bere family in the late 13th and 14th centuries, well preserved Weobley reveals plentiful evidence of its owners' over-riding desire for creature comforts. Domestic necessities such as a fine hall with fireplace, private rooms, sizeable guest-chamber and numerous 'garderobes' or toilets can be seen, along with a two-storey porch block added in later times.

Telephone:- +44 1792 390012 - Access:- B4271, or B4295 to Llanrhidian Village, then minor road.

Railway:- Gowerton - 10 miles

White Castle

It's worth seeking out this castle, hidden in border country east of Abergavenny. Its squat round towers and high walls, still ringed by a water filled moat, are a well-preserved example of a compact, sturdy fortification of the troubled 13th century.

Telephone:- +44 1600 780380 - Access:- By minor roads from B4233 near Llantilio Crossenny.

Railway:- Abergavenny 8 miles.

Laugharne Castle

Laugharne's handsome old castle stands in the sleepy sea town immortalized by Dylan Thomas. Its history concerns comfort as well as conflict (medieval in origin, it was later transformed into a fine Elizabethan mansion). The castle last saw active service during the Civil War, after which it declined into a romantic ruin. Its extensive restorations include a Victorian garden. Dylan Thomas and Richard Hughes, author of the well-known book A High Wind in Jamaicam, worked in the garden gazebo.

Telephone:- +44 1994 427906 - Access:- A4066 from St Clears.

Cilgerran Castle

Cilgerran, one of Wales's most picturesque castles, crowns a wooded gorge in the beautiful Teifi Valley. This tranquil spot was once hotly disputed territory. The castle was protected on two sides by steep drops, and in the 13th century powerful twin round and curtain walls were built to defend its vunerable flank away from the cliff. Cilgerran's history and setting have long stirred the imagination. It has inspired artists for centuries and was one of Wales's first tourist attractions.

Telephone:- +44 1239 615007 - Access:- Main roads to Cilgerran from A478 & A484

For further information on Wales's Wealth of historic sites write to:-

Cadw, Plas Carew, Unit 5/7 Cefn Coed, Park Nantgarw, Cardiff, CF15 7QQ, Wales, UK.

Telephone:- +44 1443 33 6000

Fax:- +44 1443 33 6001

Website:- http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/

Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments. Crown Copyright.

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