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First a Roman fort, then a late 11th century Norman castle, Cardiff Castle became a medieval fortress involved in the Anglo-Norman wars against the native Welsh. It was held by both Royalist and Parliamentary forces during the Civil War and managed to escape the destruction meted out on many of its contemporaries. Eventually, in 1766, it passed by marriage to the Bute family. The 2nd Marquess of Bute turned Cardiff into the world’s greatest coal exporting port and his son John, the 3rd Marquess, was reputed to be the richest man in the world. The 3rd Marquess employed the architect William Burges to create a Victorian Gothic revival mansion, transforming the castle with astonishingly opulent interiors, brimming with murals, stained glass, marble, gilding and elaborate wood carvings. After the death of the 4th Marquess of Bute, in 1947 the family gave the Castle and much of its parkland to the city of Cardiff and it is now one of Wales’ most popular visitor attractions.
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain and a World Heritage Site. It was designed by Thomas Telford and carries the Llangollen Canal over the valley of the river Dee. The Aqueduct is 336 yards long, 42 yards high and 4 yards wide. You can walk across (the advice is not to look down), or take a boat.
Dinas Bran Castle, or Castell Dinas Brân (Crow Castle in English), is a legendary ruined fortress built on the site of an Iron age hillfort. The medieval castle was probably built in the 1260s by Gruffudd ap Madog, Lord of Powys Fadog. However, to prevent it falling into English hands, the Welsh burned it to the ground shortly afterwards and, by 1282, it had been abandoned. Part of it was later used as a dwelling and it was apparently home to a Myfanwy Fychan in the 14th century, for whom the poet Hywel ap Einion Llygliw (c1330-1370) wrote a love poem - Myfanwy Fychan of Castell Dinas Brân. There are many legends and stories associated with Dinas Bran - it was the castle of Bran, hiding place of the Holy Grail - etc. The site is only accessible by foot and is about 1,000 feet (307m) above sea level.
Evocative remains of a Cistercian monastery, dating from 1201.
Note - parking is difficult at this site.
Caerphilly Castle is simply enormous. Huge. It is the largest castle in Wales and the second-largest in Britain, after Windsor. It covers a 30-acre site and is a mass of concentric defensive walls, surrounded by moats and artificial lakes. It was built by the Norman Gilbert de Clare, known as Gilbert the Red for his red hair, mainly between 1268 and 1271, in order to subdue the Welsh - and it still dominates the area. The castle declined as it became redundant and it was rescued from total ruin by the Bute family in the 19th century.
Enormous medieval castle, with iconic polygonal towers, constructed from the late 13th century on the orders of Edward I as part of his strategy to subjugate the Welsh. It was built on the site of an earlier Norman castle and close to where a Roman fortress had once stood. The castle and town then became the English administrative HQ for North Wales and was besieged many times - and captured too.
Caernarfon Castle is part of the World Heritage Site "Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd".
The sight of Conwy Castle across the Conwy Estuary is unforgettable. Conwy is one of Britain's few remaining walled towns and its castle, which is part of the defences, is magnificent and massive. One of English King Edward I's 'iron ring' of fortresses designed to keep the Welsh under control, it was his most expensive, and it was built between 1283 and 1289. By the 17th century, though, it was in a poor state. It was occupied by Royalist forces during the Civil War, but fell to Parliament and subsequently intentionally damaged to put it beyond military use. Its owner then stripped it of useful materials.
Conwy Castle is part of a World Heritage Site.
Ruined castle dramatically perched on a headland and towering over the small town of Criccieth. This was originally a Welsh castle, begun by Llywelyn the Great in the 13th century, but it was added to over time - and frequently changed hands between the Welsh and the English. It is dominated by an enormous gatehouse and, allegedly, the scorches made by the flames that finally destroyed it in the 15th century can still be seen on the stonework.
With a dramatic background and probably built by Llywelyn ab Iorwerth ('the Great') early in the thirteenth century, the ruins of Dolbadarn Castle are dominated by a massive round-towered keep, still standing up to 50 feet (15.2m) high, with walls up to 8 feet (2.4m) thick. Access to the keep was via a removable staircase at first floor level. The castle occupies a strategic location guarding the Llanberis Pass and was seized by an English army under the Earl of Pembroke in 1282, following which it was abandoned and pillaged for building materials. It is possible it was used again during the revolt under Owain Glyndwr in the late 14th/early 15th century.