The beautiful Welsh countryside is a living, breathing journey through history. Dotted among the rugged hills, perched above lush valleys and overlooking windswept bays, you’ll find more castles per square mile than any other country in Europe - a staggering 427 in total. From Roman ruins and Norman fortresses to Medieval masterpieces, each one whispers stories from the past of conflicts, rebellions and the fierce determination of the Welsh to protect their land. Today, these castles attract visitors from around the world who want a glimpse of the fairytale turrets and imposing battlements. Take a look at our unique places to stay near some of Wales’s most spectacular castles.
Built as a medieval fortress by a Welsh prince, Powis Castle sits proudly above one of the finest gardens in Britain, world-famous for its dramatic Italianate terraces and an 18th-century Orangery. Today it’s run by the National Trust so you can waft around the extravagant castle interior before refuelling in the coffee shop or café. Continue the regal theme by staying at nearby Oaken Fort, your very own mini castle with incredible views over the misty valleys on the Anglo-Welsh border. The Fort is fit for a King or Queen with a hot tub on the deck, an outdoor look-out bar, huge picture window, sheepskin rugs and cosy underfloor heating. It’s so luxuriously appointed it gives Powis Castle a run for its money, except here you can shed your clothes and hop into the copper bathtub without anyone batting an eyelid.
If a moat floats your boat, a visit to White Castle is a must. Its deep water-filled moat defends an imposing fortress that is one of three Monmouthshire castles (imaginatively known as the ‘Three Castles’) built to protect the route from Wales to Hereford. Set in a beautiful rural location, there’s plenty of open space for picnics and games and White Castle is within easy reach of the Offa’s Dyke Trail for a walk afterwards. Stay nearby at Woodlands Farm, a peaceful family glamping site set over four acres of spectacular gardens where you can choose from a stripey bothy, a converted horse box, a studio or a cabin on stilts. The talented owners offer floristry and ceramics workshops on site as well as tours of the gardens and the opportunity to collect eggs and feed the hens.
Atmospheric Aberystwyth Castle is positioned right on the seafront with fantastic views over Cardigan Bay. The ruins pulse with a bloody history of conflicts, sieges and revolts that span centuries. For a while it was designated a Royal Mint by Charles I before being deliberately damaged by Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War. Today, it’s a stunning place to watch the sunset after a walk through the town and along the prom. Stay close by at Ty’r Derw treehouse, nestled in an idyllic woodland spot in between the coast and Snowdonia National Park. There’s no internet so you can focus all your attention on luxurious soaks in the huge tub on the deck, cosy nights in the hot tub and al-fresco dinners on the wrap-around deck. If you can drag yourself away from all that relaxation, there are mountain walks, wild swimming spots, bike trails and a whole host of water sports on the doorstep.
Pack a snack or two for your ascent to the romantic ruins of Castell Dinas Bran, set high on a hilltop above the Welsh valleys. You’re rewarded for the steep climb to the craggy pinnacle with epic 360-degree views that stretch for miles. It will come as no surprise to learn that this dramatic spot is linked to Arthurian legends and the search for the Holy Grail. You can go from ancient myths to school boy comics when you stay nearby at Copse Camp where the owners have wallpapered their cosy treehouse in Beano magazines. Complementing the quirky creativity are luxuries like a wood-fired hot tub, the finest bed linens and fluffy towels to make your stay deliciously comfortable. When you’ve finished smiling at the decor, cross the rope bridge and roast marshmallows over the campfire, hang out in the gypsy caravan or explore the 300-acre site that is home to horses, chickens and a few farm cats.
Once voted the most romantic ruin in Wales (and there are plenty to choose from), 13th-century Carreg Cennen Castle dominates the Carmarthenshire skyline on its dramatic perch on a limestone crag above the river. There’s a small fee to enter the castle grounds where you can visit the tea rooms and explore the deepest bowels of the castle that lead down into a natural limestone cave. Just remember your torch and your best ghost stories. When you reemerge blinking into the fresh air, head to The Log House Studio at Cwm Farm, a Swedish-style cabin where you can unwind on the covered verandah and watch the local wildlife. If the creative juices are flowing, there’s an artist’s easel and desk where you can use the glorious countryside and majestic castles as inspiration for your next masterpiece.
As you cross the drawbridge at Denbigh Castle, listen out for the din of horses, marching soldiers and rattling chains. Thanks to the wonders of technology, history has been brought to life, but – apart from the sound effects – the ruins are peaceful today with beautiful views over the Vale of Clwyd. Make sure you leave enough time to explore the independent shops, cafes and Elizabethan pubs of Denbigh itself before heading back to the seclusion of Ty Twt cabin. Settle in for lazy days lolling in the rocking chair on the veranda as you gaze out over the green, steep-sided valley. There’s dough mix in your welcome hamper so you can whip up easy feasts in the pizza oven before retreating inside to cuddle up in front of the wood burner. The charming cabin has all the ingredients for a relaxing evening for two – board games, a few musical instruments and a romantic sleep deck, just a quick scramble up the ladder.