Wales is part of the United Kingdom (although don't tell some of the Welsh that :-) and lies to the west of central - midland England. Or as the Welsh would say, England is that country to the Eest-o'us.
Wales has many interesting features, is 3 quarters 'girt by sea' - meaning its south, west and northern borders face the Bristol channel and Cardigan bay on the Atlantic, and the Irish sea in the north, and boring England to the east. The Welsh called their country Cymru [ˈkəm.rɨ]. It has about 1200 km of coast, nearly all of it subject to wind. Its a rare day it isn't windy.
The Welsh like to think of their country as mountainous with Snowdon its highest summit at 1085 m. For people living in Switzerland, this barely rates as a hill, but due to the changeable weather (every 5 minutes) it pays to respect the conditions if not the altitude.
With the death of the great Welshman, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Wales was conquered by Edward I of England's until Owain Glyndŵr briefly restored Welsh independence in the early 15th century.Which brings us the the focus of this page - Castles of Wales.
Edward 1 loved building castles and Wales has many fine examples. These were castles as fortifications to suppress the unruly Welsh, not pleasure palaces like those of the Loire valley in France. Pit they didn't work!
Welsh castles look the part, particularly large castles like Caernarfon, Conwy, Caerphilly, Raglan, Rhuddlan and Chepstow. They were design to keep out Trolls, Orcs and other unwanted creatures, or at least look like it. Pit gunpowder got in the way to the massive stone walls and unbearably drafty plumbing. Enjoy the photos!
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Caernarfon is the best preserved/restored castle and lies in the northwest and guards the bottom of the Menai strait. As luck would have it I had a fairly sunny day and a medieval fair to enliven my visit..
Conwy castle is in the north and according to local lore was easily subdued by the Welsh in a night.
Beaumaris castle is on the island of Anglesea on the north eastern end of the Menai strait. It is therefore the second major castle controlling the strait after Caernarfon castle.
The Menai strait is the waterway between north western Wales and the island of Anglesea. Actually every time I have visited it has been more a mudway than a waterway as the tide has been inevitably out and no one knows where the water went.
It does have a beautiful chain link bridge, still uses by car traffic, which is higher than the one in Budapest but not quite as long.
It also has one of the best cemeteries I have seen, being on an island with great views. Even when the tide is out, I have never heard the residents complain.
It also has a few interesting hostelries like Plas Rhianfa.
And not forgetting the ear catching village of:
Rhuddlan castle is in central northern wales. It is popular for weddings, at least when I was there, there was a wedding party wandering the grounds.
Criccieth castle (ruin actually) is below Caernarfon on the west coast northern half. It is further north than the better known Harlech castle.
Harlech castle is also on the west coast in north Wales. It has a commanding position over the local golf course, so any errant slicers could be caught and punished with the Swingmaster 2000 torture device.
Raglan castle is in the east of southern central Wales. It was the scene of the last major parliamentary - monarchy wars. The monarchist lost out to muskets.
Caerphilly castle is in southern Wales, northwest of Newport and therefore more or less north of Cardiff. It is one of my favorites, with the famed leaning tower, the arbalests, catapults, outer and inner keeps and walls and so on. I had 1 of the 2 days of sunny weather for the year there, plus a medieval fair.
Chepstow castle is in the south east of Wales, put there to guard against the Welsh getting into England. Times have relaxed since it was built, as now the Welsh can cross the nearby Severn bridges to England without paying a road toll. It is a bit oddball design as it stretches out along the river cliffs.
When in Wales, Cardiff is worth a visit. It has the Millennium stadium - which is unlikely to stand for a millennium and certainly not as long as the Colosseum, lots of shopping, arcades, the animal wall and Cardiff castle. The locals are very friendly although I didn't shake hands....