CAERPHILLY, CF83 1JD
When the huge water systems that make up a proportion of this castle's defences are taken into account, this is one of the biggest, and certainly one of the most spectacular, military complexes in Britain. In fact it's so big, it's best to appreciate it from a distance, taking in the vast outer walls, the lakes and the inner concentric castle itself. After 1066, the Normans established themselves in southern Wales, leaving the unfarmable land in the north to the Welsh. In the mid-13th century, the last of the Welsh-born princes, Llywelyn the Last, decided that he should unite Wales under his own rule. He began to threaten the lands held by the Normans, causing Henry III to build a number of castles to protect them. One such castle was Caerphilly. Work started in 1268, funded by the wealthy baron Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Hertford. Two years later, Llywelyn attacked. How much damage was actually done to the fledgling castle is not known, but de Clare ordered that building should be completed as soon as possible. When Llywelyn attacked again in 1271 he was repelled and, although he was said to have claimed he could have taken it in three days, Caerphilly's defences were probably sufficiently developed to render this an idle boast. The castle itself comprises a rectangular enclosure with outer and inner walls. The inner walls contain two great gatehouses and the remains of the great hall and domestic areas. The outer walls, well fortified with towers and gatehouses, gave additional protection to the inner ward and were surrounded by a moat. Beyond the moat to the east lay a further complex of defences in the form of great walls studded with towers. The artificial lake lent protection to the north and south sides, while a walled island defended the west. After the death of de Clare's son, Caerphilly passed to Hugh Despenser, the favourite of Edward II. Edward himself took refuge here from his estranged wife and her lover, although he was forced to flee when she besieged the castle, leaving behind half his treasure and most of his clothes. Oliver Cromwell ordered Caerphilly to be slighted during the English Civil War. After the Civil War was over, local people stole Caerphilly's stones to build houses, and subsidence caused one of its towers to lean dramatically to one side.
Tel: 029 2088 3143
Cadw (Welsh Monuments)
£5.50 (ch under 16, concessions £4.10, disabled visitors and assisting companion free). Family (2ad+all ch under 16) £16.50
Open all year, daily Mar-Jun & Sep-Oct 9.30-5
Nov-Feb, Mon-Sat 10-4, Sun 11-4 (last admission 30mins before closing). Closed 24-26 Dec & 1 Jan
Dogs allowed all areas.
Access difficult to towers due to steps & slopes
Video presentation, portable induction loop, disabled drop off main entrance
M4 junct 32 to A470, from Newport A468, from Cardiff A469