Living in North East Wales, I’m within easy travelling distance of some of the most beautiful, imposing and forbidding castles in the UK. Years of conquest by Norman and Angevin kings left fortresses strategically placed across Wales to maintain their control. Other castles were built by Welsh princes as bases from which they could defend their lands. Many of these great structures are within an hour’s drive of my home and I have enjoyed visiting and photographing them over the last couple of years – here are just a few of the images I’ve captured in that time.
Powis Castle at Welshpool, in the county of Powys, Mid Wales
Building here started around 1200 and the castle was the home of the Welsh princes of Powis. Today it is owned by the National Trust and stands on a limestone outcrop with views over the Shropshire hills. Its terraced gardens are justifiably world famous and worthy of repeat visits throughout the year. Inside the building is a sumptuously decorated and furnished stately home, which boasts an Elizabethan long gallery and a state bedroom which survives intact from the 17th century.
Chirk Castle, Chirk, North Wales
This is another intact fortress, still lived in 700 years after it was built. Owned by the National Trust, Chirk Castle is again set in lovely gardens, which include a rose garden, clipped yew topiary, herbaceous borders, woodlands and stunning views out across the surrounding countryside. It was built as part of Edward I’s chain of defences across North Wales, but now provides a very peaceful day out for families from both sides of the Welsh border. The building is a beautiful and fascinating stately home, but I particularly enjoy the gardens which spring to life in February when snowdrops carpet the woodlands – and there’s lots to enjoy right through the year.
Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd, North Wales
As a child, back in 1969, I remember the investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle. This is an example of how this castle is wrapped up in the shared histories of the Welsh and English people. While the investiture, to many, was a happy occasion, the castle’s story is one of conflict, siege and violence begun as King Edward I aimed to secure his control of Wales. Built in 1283, the castle was sacked during a rebellion in 1294 and was besieged during the Glyndŵr Rising in the early 15th century. It was also besieged during the English Civil War in the 17th century.
While most of the internal rooms of the castle fell into disrepair through the centuries, the external walls are extremely impressive and give you an idea of the terrifying sight besieging armies must have faced. A great view of the castle, which is managed by the Welsh heritage body CADW, can be found by crossing the modern bridge over the nearby River Seiont. From here you can capture images of building with numerous brightly coloured boats in the foreground. A much more peaceful scene than faced our ancestors more than 700 years ago!
Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey, North Wales
Set in the pretty town of Beaumaris, on the island of Anglesey in North West Wales, this castle was again built on the orders of King Edward I. Work started in 1294, but despite an immense investment of £15,000 it was never finished and work was halted in the 1330s. The castle’s design though was cutting-edge, aimed at making life very difficult for attackers. However control of the fortress changed hands a few times, it was captured by rebels in 1403, recaptured in 1405 and besieged during the civil war. Today it couldn’t be more peaceful, set within a reflective moat which is home to swans and with lush fields on its north side. This photo of the south west corner of the castle was taken in mid-summer. It is managed by CADW.
You can see more images of all these locations in the Castles gallery on my main website.