Our Year of Castles
We have been lucky enough for the last two Christmases to receive a Cadw pass, allowing us access to all of their castles in Wales. Since Wales has more castles than any other country in Europe, it has been an amazing experience. We have visited so many in the last year or so and yet there are still so many for us to discover.
We started our explorations at one of the castles on our doorstep; Weobley castle. A really lovely ruin with absolutely breathtaking views across North Gower and the Estuary. It won't take you long to have a good explore but it's definitely one to take a picnic to on a Sunny day and have a walk in the amazing surroundings.
As well as Cadw members we are also National Trust members, and there is the most amazing property in Llandeilo with an amazing manor house, a lovely Deer park and if you take a little stroll through the woods and up the hill you come to the impressive Dinefwr Castle ruins. It has breathtaking views of the valley and grounds below. A must visit in spring when the Bluebells are flooding the woods. It will take your breath away.
We didn't waste too much time before heading to Caerphilly castle. A quick image search for this place and you know you are going to be in for a treat. It has it all, dramatic ruins, water all around it, beautiful views, and tunnels and passage ways that will spark your imagination and make for an amazing glimpse into the past.
Oxwich castle is another one on our doorstep and it is one we have visited several times. A fairly small castle, but it has both ruins and in-tact sections, and in one of the old rooms there are lots of different outfits for the children to dress up in. A favourite part of the visit for our 3 children. The views over Oxwich Bay don't disappoint either. Pair a visit here with a trip to the beach afterwards and you're in for a perfect day out.
I think, if I'm being completely honest, Llansteffan Castle is my favourite of all the castles we have been to so far. It probably helped that the day we visited was hot and sunny, and after exploring the castle we spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach enjoying the sun and eating lots of ice cream. But I think it would be a special place all year round. I'll let the views do the talking though.
In the summer we were lucky enough to go on holiday to North Wales. (You can read and see a bit more of that here.) With so many amazing castles all in one area we made the most of it and crammed in a lot of castles. We started with Caernarfon castle. A really stunning, huge castle, with so much to see. Definitely a must visit.
Penrhyn castle is a National Trust property and was definitely a little different to the other castles we'd visited. It was actually built in the 19th Century when castles weren't really the thing anymore, but someone clearly felt they deserved one. It's all still intact and is fitted out beautifully inside. My 2 year old had a hard time accepting this castle wasn't quite like the rest though and may have ran through a keep out barrier and set off a very loud alarm. We unsurprisingly didn't spend too long in there in the end. But the grounds and gardens were also beautiful and no one set off any alarms there. Phew.
I probably spoke too soon saying Llansteffan was our favourite, Conwy castle was definitely up there with the best of them. Breathtaking views and such a fun castle to explore. Great little town to explore too, and being able to still walk on top of the city walls was really fun.
Whilst up North we also spent a day on Anglesey, and visited Beaumaris castle. The Island is stunning and the castle is a beauty. Definitely worth a trip over the bridge, I really hope we get to go back and explore there a lot more one day.
Kidwelly Castle is another amazing place to visit, a really fun ruin to explore, and that recurring theme with all these castles; amazing views.
Whilst all the castles we have visited have boasted amazing views, I think that there can't be too much debate as to which one has the best views. For me it is hands down, Pennard Castle. It's just a small ruin, and you have to walk over a golf course to get to it, but you will not be disappointed. I was lucky enough to photograph a wedding at this castle last year, unfortunately it wasn't as sunny as it was the day I took this picture below, but the view is still a stunner rain or shine.
Our first castle visit of 2017 was to Laugharne Castle. Laugharne was home to Dylan Thomas for the last years of his life. The castle itself doesn't open till March (so we are going to have to revisit this one) but wondering around the outside and exploring Dylan Thomas' home and writing shed made for a beautiful day out. It's not hard to see why he chose to live there, it is a stunning place and made for a very peaceful day of exploring.
I feel like we have made such great use of our Cadw membership, but truth is I still have a big old list of Castles we need to go and visit. If you live in Wales it's definitely worth looking into getting yourself a pass, so many days out on our doorstep. If you are planning a visit to Wales this year make sure to squeeze in as many castles as you can. Perfect for some happy memory making.
I'd love to hear about your favourite Castles below in the comments, I need to keep working my way through the list.
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