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11 Castles you must visit in South East Wales

Wales is home to more castles per square mile than anywhere in the world with over 600. Here are the 11 must visit castles we recommend in South East Wales.

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff castle

Welcome to Cardiff, the Capital city of Wales. In the heart of the city centre, this castle conceals 2000 years of history. The first essence of Cardiff castle was a Roman fort built in the region of 55 AD. Fast forward in time and we hit the 11th Century, where the Normans built the motte and bailey style castle on top of the Roman fort. It is one of Wales’ leading heritage sites and is classed as a site of international significance. More recently the castle’s tunnels were used as air raid shelters during the second World War. This magnificent tribute to history stands tall and proud in the city of Cardiff.

Built: Originally 55 AD

Present: In 1947, the keys of Cardiff Castle were handed over to the Lord Mayor of Cardiff and is now owned by Cardiff Council.

Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly castle

In the time of Henry III, Caerphilly Castle was constructed by one of his most trusted and powerful barons, Gilbert de Clare. Acting as a 30 acre defence of walls, towers, gatehouses combined with water, Caerphilly Castle was impenetrable to Welsh leader Llywellyn the Last. The castle is one of the biggest fortresses in Europe and the second largest in Britain, second only to Windsor. In present day one of the castle’s eye-catching features is the leaning tower. When gazing upon its 10 degree lean off vertical, your imagination takes you to a world of catapults and fire bombarding the castle. We hate to break it to you, the lean derives from subsidence but is still impressive and could be argued as the castles best feature, along with the hungry geese pecking at your toes for fresh bread.

Built: 1268 – 1271
In the late 15th century the castle fell into decline and by the 16th century the surrounding waters had drained away, leaving the stone from the wall to be robbed.
Caerphilly Castle is maintained by CADW, a service of the Welsh government.

Castell Coch – ‘Red Castle’

Castell Coch

Castell Coch was described to me in my childhood as Cinderella’s castle with its fairytale essence looming from the forest upon the cliff edge. Although this is now the face of Castell Coch its rich history may lie beneath. Once used by Gilbert de Clare at the same time as Caerphilly Castle in the 13th Century, this location was an important defence on the northern fringes of his territory. Its history travels further to when the first castle was built by the Normans in 1081. There are still traces of its true history but the overwhelming 19th Century Gothic revival castle emerges triumphant above the village of Tongwynlais in South Wales. William Burges, the architect was given free rein to manage the masterpiece which is now standing as Castell Coch. The site has been played with for over 700 years by the rich and powerful which is clear when you see the highly decorated interiors and beautiful finishes throughout. It truly makes for a fairytale castle location.

Built: 1081
In 1950 Castell Coch was placed in care of the state and is now maintained and cared for by CADW.

Caldicot Castle

Caldicot Castle

Set within 55 acres, enough space for 41 football fields, Caldicot is an extensive medieval castle within a picturesque country park. In 1221, the village of Caldicot was inherited through marriage to Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford. He is thought to have started the construction of the castle as a replacement for an earlier motte-and-bailey fortification. Through history Caldicot castle has acted as living quarters. With everything costing money these days, Caldicot castle is one of the few things to see in a day for FREE, including FREE parking.

Built: 13th Century as a replacement to an earlier fortification.

Ruin: 19th Century fell neglected and into ruin becoming a glorified farmyard until sold in 1885 when restoration began.
Present: Caldicot Castle became a Grade I listed building on 10 June 1953 and is today open to the public and managed by Monmouthshire County Council.

Chepstow Castle

Chepstow Castle

Chepstow Castle, stands on the cliffs overlooking the River Wye. Building commenced in 1067 and remains the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Great Britain. This Norman castle was built less than a year after William the Conquerer (the leader of the Normans) was crowned King of England. For the following six centuries Chepstow acted as the home to many of the wealthiest and most powerful men. History states that Chepstow Castle fell into decline in the late seventeenth century due to neglect and became a depot for out-dated weaponry. The castle has now become a prominent part of the cliff edge that stands beside the River Wye.

Built: Commenced in 1067.
17th Century – Neglected and fell into ruin.
Present: With the later growth of tourism, the castle became a popular visitor destination. The ruins were Grade I listed on 6 December 1950. Owned by CADW.

Raglan Castle

Raglan Castle

Raglan is a castle that stems across time having been built in several phases with initial work beginning in the 1420s – 1430s and alterations being made as late as the end of the 16th century. This medieval castle lies just North of the village Raglan, embedded in Monmouthshire. Interestingly, although the castle was built for comfort rather than defence, it withstand one of the longest sieges of the English civil war of thirteen weeks. Parliamentary forces were the cause of the damage to Raglan with significant mortar fire damage. The castle is now a scenic ruin and with a fascinating history, Raglan Castle is a must to delve into the medieval world.

Built: 15th – 16th Century
1646 – The castle was besieged and left as a ruin having been refused restoration.
Today, the castle is classed as a Grade I listed building and is maintained CADW.

Three Castles in Monmouthshire Grosmont, Skenfrith and White Castle

The three castles of ‘Gwent’ were built by the Normans to protect the route from Wales to Hereford, a problematic border, in the wake of their conquest of England in 1066. Although now castle ruins, building commenced in the 12th Century but the form you see today would have been established in the 13th Century. The sites are linked by a modern footpath expanding 19 miles known as the Three Castles Walk. We recommend wearing your most comfy shoes for this beautiful cross country trek. Click here to find out more!

Grosmont (French for Big Hill)

Grosmont castle

Grosmont was initially built purely with earth and timber and later replaced with stone and of course placed on a big hill. The castle was used dominantly for residential purposes although played a part in defence against Welsh uprising. At present, the Grosmont ruins are not often visited and can really capture your imagination with its variety of architectural features.

Built: 12th – 13th century (The castle was rebuilt)

Ruin: In 1538 the Grosmont castle fell into ruin after being derelict and unused.

Present: In 1922 the castle was placed into the care of the state and is protected under UK law as a grade I listed building. CADW, which is a service of the Welsh Government to preserve historic environments, maintains all three castles in the Monmouthshire region.



Interestingly, in 1219 Skenfrith was ravaged by substantial flooding from the Monnow valley. Hubert De Brugh the creator of Grosmont, Skenfrith and White castle, decided to bury the first castle in river gravel and build on top. He built what you now see today, a medieval fortress with a central circular keep built on an earthen mound acting as a last defence. During excavations in the 1950’s, the hall of the very first castle had been found, dating back to before the flooding in 1219.

Built: 12th – 13th century (The castle was rebuilt)
Ruin: 1538 abandoned and ruined.

Present: Owned by the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty.

White Castle


Much like Grosmont and Skenfrith the White Castle also historically known as Llantilio castle lies on a peaceful, rural setting. White Castle has maintained its original structure the best, although still classed as a ruin. Its original name is said to be established by the white render used on its stonework.

Built: 12th – 13th Century (The castle was rebuilt)
Ruin: 1538 abandoned and ruined
Present: In 1922 the castle was placed into the care of CADW.

Ogmore Castle


One of our favourite walks includes Ogmore castle because of it’s beautiful surroundings with sand dunes, the beach and stepping stones across a picturesque river being a few. It is a lovely location to walk around for all of ten minutes and take in another breath of history. The construction of Ogmore castle is suspected to be as early as 1106 by William Londres (known as one of the twelve knights of Glamorgan). The castle was attacked in 1116 and only survived due to William’s butler, Arnold Butler, who was therefore later knighted. This stimulated the rebuilding of the castle in stone. In 1405, Owain Glyndwr a historic Welsh defender fighting for independence held a rebellion which damaged the castle into what we see today.

Built: 12th Century (suspected 1106)

Ruin: 1405 – Although damaged in 1405 by Owain Glyndwrs rebels, Ogmore Castle remained to be home to a large stone building acting as a courthouse until 1803.
Present: Now maintained by CADW and free to enter at any time for all persons.

Coity Castle

Coity Castle acts as one of three neighbouring castles alongside Ogmore Castle and Newcastle. They were placed to control river crossings into Glamorgan. Built by one of the twelve knights of Glamorgan, Sir Payn de Turberville, also known as “The Demon” for reasons unknown. Coity castle withstood two sieges during the Owain Glyndwr rebellion with major rebuilding taking place in the 14th – 15th Century. This castle is one of the more forgotten South East Wales castles and is a must for visitors. Another positive is that this castle is FREE to enter, another reason to visit!

Built: 12th Century

Ruin: 16th Century – The castle fell into ruin when it ceased to be lived in. Even though the family owned the castle for three more centuries, the splendid castle decayed.
Present: Coity Castle has fortunately been taken over and is now maintained by CADW, open to the public.

We would like to thank Paul Fears Photography for some of the amazing photos captured and featured in our 11 Castles to visit in South East Wales Blog. If you would like to see more of Pauls brilliant work click here!

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