Medieval castles in Wales

Cardigan Castle

Cardigan Castle overlooks the River Teifi in Cardigan, Wales. The first motte-and-bailey castle (ca. 1093) was built a mile away from the present site, probably about the time of the founding of the town by Roger de Montgomery, a Norman baron. The castle was later recaptured by the Normans, and was held for Earl Roger of Hertford. In 1166 it was captured by Rhys ap Gruffydd, who rebuilt it in stone in 1171. In 1176 the f ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Cardigan, United Kingdom

Skenfrith Castle

Skenfrith Castle was established by the Normans in the wake of the invasion of England in 1066, to protect the route from Wales to Hereford. Possibly commissioned by William fitz Osbern, the Earl of Hereford, the castle comprised earthworks with timber defences. In 1135, a major Welsh revolt took place and in response King Stephen brought together Skenfrith Castle and its sister fortifications of Grosmont and W ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Skenfrith, United Kingdom

Cilgerran Castle

Cilgerran Castle (Welsh: Castell Cilgerran) is a 13th-century ruined castle located in Cilgerran, near Cardigan. The first castle on the site was thought to have been built by Gerald of Windsor around 1110–1115, and it changed hands several times over the following century between English and Welsh forces. In the hands of William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, the construction of the stone castle began after 1223. Af ...
Founded: 1223 | Location: Cardigan, United Kingdom

Llandovery Castle

Llandovery Castle is a late thirteenth-century ruin which occupies a knoll overlooking the River Towy and the land surrounding it. The Normans built a castle in the current location in the early twelfth century and this was rebuilt in stone. It was burnt in the early sixteenth century and never repaired. A Norman knight, Richard Fitz Pons, received the lordship of Cantref Bychan in 1116 and he probably began construction ...
Founded: 1116 | Location: Llandovery, United Kingdom

Oystermouth Castle

The first Oystermouth castle was founded by William de Londres of Ogmore Castle soon after 1106 following the capture of Gower by the Normans. In 1116 the Welsh of Deheubarth retook the Gower Peninsula and forced William to flee his castle which was put to the torch. The castle was rebuilt soon afterwards, but was probably destroyed again in 1137 when Gower was once more retaken by the princes of Deheubarth. The ...
Founded: 1106 | Location: The Mumbles, United Kingdom

Usk Castle

Usk Castle is located immediately to the north of the present day town on a hill overlooking the streets and main Twyn square. The castle and town was probably laid out and established in 1120, after some of the other Norman settlements and castles of the region, such as Monmouth Castle and Abergavenny Castle. However, the site had a history of previous military, strategic, and local significance, for it was here t ...
Founded: c. 1120 | Location: Usk, United Kingdom

Coity Castle

Coity Castle in Glamorgan, Wales, is a Norman castle built by Sir Payn 'the Demon' de Turberville, one of the legendary Twelve Knights of Glamorgan supposed to have conquered Glamorgan under the leadership of Robert FitzHamon (d. 1107), Lord of Gloucester. The castle began as a late 11th-century ringwork. A rectangular stone keep and the main curtain wall were added by the Normans in the 12th century, under the de Turber ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Bridgend, United Kingdom

Dryslwyn Castle

Drysllwyn Castle stands on high ground overlooking the Tywi Valley with extensive views. It was built in about the 1220s by one of the princes of the kingdom of Deheubarth, and changed hands several times in the struggles between the Welsh and English over the ensuing centuries. It is considered one of the most important remaining structures built by a Welsh chieftain. Drysllwyn was seized by Owain Glyndŵr in the summer ...
Founded: 1220s | Location: Llandeilo, United Kingdom

Grosmont Castle

Grosmont Castle is a ruined castle in the village of Grosmont. The fortification was established by the Normans in the wake of the invasion of England in 1066, to protect the route from Wales to Hereford. Possibly commissioned by William fitz Osbern, the Earl of Hereford, it was originally an earthwork design with timber defences. In 1135, a major Welsh revolt took place, and in response King Stephen brought together Gros ...
Founded: 1219 | Location: Abergavenny, United Kingdom

Newcastle Emlyn Castle

Newcastle Emlyn Castle is a ruined castle strategically located on a steep-sided promontory overlooking the River Teifi. It was probably built by the Welsh lord Maredudd ap Rhys in about 1240. It changed hands many times over the years in battles between the Welsh and English, and during the English Civil War. The remains of the gatehouse and adjacent towers, and some fragments of wall are all that remain visible now. Th ...
Founded: c. 1240 | Location: Newcastle Emlyn, United Kingdom

Llansteffan Castle

Llansteffan Castle sits on a much older Iron Age promontory fort, proving Llansteffan has been inhabited for several millennia. The hill where the castle stands commands the River Tywi estuary. The hill would have been stripped of trees so that foot soldiers were vulnerable to attack by archers. The original earthworks can still be seen and were used as part of the modern castle"s defence system - the castle proper r ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Llansteffan, United Kingdom

Haverfordwest Castle

Haverfordwest Castle is located in a naturally defensive position at the end of a strong, isolated ridge. Pembrokeshire Records indicate that there was an Iron Age hill fort on the site of the castle although there is no physical evidence to suggest this on the present location. Haverfordwest was believed to have been a Danish settlement prior to the Norman conquest of West Wales in 1093/94. The Flemish settled in the ar ...
Founded: c. 1120 | Location: Haverfordwest, United Kingdom

St Donat's Castle

St Donat's Castle is a medieval castle in the Vale of Glamorgan, positioned on cliffs overlooking the Bristol Channel. The site has been occupied since the Iron Age, and was by tradition the home of the Celtic chieftain Caradog. The present castle's origins date from the 12th century when the de Haweys and later Peter de Stradling began its development. The Stradlings held the castle for four hundred years, until the deat ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: St Donats, United Kingdom

Dinefwr Castle

Dinefwr Castle lies on a ridge on the northern bank of the Tywi, with a steep drop of one hundred feet to the river. Dinefwr was the chief seat of the Kingdom of Deheubarth. The present castle is entered via a fortified entrance protected by a restored length of battlement. The short path from the car park gives an extensive view of the Towy valley. The door admits the visitor to the main space enclosed by the walls, ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Llandeilo, United Kingdom

Picton Castle

Picton Castle was originally built at the end of the 13th century by a Flemish knight. Later it was moved to the hands of the Wogan family. Picton Castle began as a motte castle and was reconstructed in stone by the Sir John Wogan between 1295 and 1308. The design was unusual, there being no courtyard internally, the main building being protected by seven circular towers which projected from the wall. At the east end, tw ...
Founded: 1295-1308 | Location: Haverfordwest, United Kingdom

Weobley Castle

Weobley Castle is a 14th-century fortified manor house on the Gower Peninsula. The existing buildings were largely created between 1304 and 1327 by the de la Bere family. They consist of a gateway, a hall and kitchen, a chapel block and an east range, enclosing a courtyard, all now in a semi-ruinous state. The buildings are largely constructed of rubble masonry with window and door features of sandstone. Until the 15th c ...
Founded: 1304-1327 | Location: Gower Peninsula, United Kingdom

Newcastle Castle

Newcastle Castle was initially constructed as a ringwork 1106 by William de Londres, one of the legendary Twelve Knights of Glamorgan, as part of the Norman invasion of Wales. William de Londres was a knight loyal to the Norman baron Robert Fitzhamon and the Newcastle defences marked the most western extent of Fitzhamon"s lordship. The defences were strengthened either by William Fitz Robert, 2nd Earl of Gloucester, ...
Founded: 1106 | Location: Bridgend, United Kingdom

Old Beaupre Castle

Although called Old Beaupre Castle the structure is seen as a fortified manor house. The original house was an L-shaped building, now located within the inner courtyard, built circa 1300 and from this period until the 18th century it was owned by the Basset family. During the 16th century intensive remodelling was undertaken, started by Sir Rice Mansel, continued by William Basset and completed by William"s son, Rich ...
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Cowbridge, United Kingdom

Candleston Castle

The castle, or rather a fortified court in Candleston, was founded in the 14th century on the initiative of the Cantilupe family. It could have been built on the site of an earlier building from the 13th century. At the end of the fifteenth century, it was renovated and rebuilt by Mathew Cradock, a constable of castles in Caerphilly and Kenfig, and around 1500 transformations were made in the range of the great hall. Furt ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Bridgend, United Kingdom

Loughor Castle

Loughor Castle is a ruined, medieval fortification built around 1106 by the Anglo-Norman lord Henry de Beaumont, during the Norman invasion of Wales. The site overlooked the River Loughor and controlled a strategic road and ford running across the Gower Peninsula. The castle was designed as an oval ringwork, probably topped by wicker fence defences, and reused the remains of the former Roman fort of Leucarum. Over the ne ...
Founded: c. 1106 | Location: Loughor, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.