The Best Stately Homes & Castles in North Wales
Updated: Feb 24
There are several must-see castles in North Wales waiting to be explored. In fact, there are a huge 427 castles across the country. Each has its own rich history and cultural significance. Visiting these historical houses and grand fortresses can be a magical experience for the whole family to enjoy. Read on to discover a few of the most notable stately homes and castles in North Wales. Be inspired to book a trip today.
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1. Beaumaris Castle
Beaumaris Castle is one of the most impressive castles in North Wales despite the fact that it was never finished. Often referred to as the ‘Greatest Castle Never Built’ the incomplete structure is awe-inspiring. Visitors can get a sense of how grand the plans for the castle originally were. Located on the island of Anglesey, Beaumaris Castle was built by King Edward I in the late 13th century as part of his campaign to conquer Wales. Walk around the symmetrical layout and concentric walls and you will understand why the unfinished castle is nevertheless considered one of the finest examples of mediaeval fortress design.
2. Bodnant Garden
Although technically not a stately home or castle, Bodnant Garden deserves an honourable mention in our list. Part of the Bodnant Hall Estate, the garden draws focus from the main mansion house. Found near Conwy, Bodnant Garden developed over the course of several centuries and now is utterly gorgeous to explore. It is notable for its collection of plants from around the world (which includes a National Collection of Camellias) as well as for its beautiful views over the surrounding countryside. The garden is now in the care of the National Trust, and is open to the public making it a perfect thing to do on a family holiday in North Wales.
3. Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle is one of the largest castles in North Wales. Located in the town of Caernarfon, this fortress sits proudly on the banks of the River Seiont. It was another of the castles in North Wales erected by King Edward I in the final years of the 13th century and it was designed to withstand bitter battle. It is hard not to be spellbound by its immense size and strength. With a massive ring of walls enclosing a large inner ward and famous polygonal towers, there is plenty to capture the imagination.
4. Chirk Castle
Located near Wrexham, Chirk Castle is one of the most well preserved mediaeval Marcher castles in North Wales. It was extensively renovated in the 18th century to great success. Magnificent and elegant, this is one of the most beautiful castles to stroll around. It is notable for its immaculate gardens, which include a formal parterre, a rose garden, and a lake. Chirk Castle is also a must visit for its collection of art and furnishings, which includes works by artists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Peter Lely. The castle is now a National Trust property and is open to the public to visit.
5. Conwy Castle
Another of King Edward I’s creations, Conwy Castle is one of the most popular castles in North Wales to visit. Found in the picturesque town of Conwy, this mediaeval fortress is built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the river and town. Its imposing walls enclose an area of about 8 acres and feature 8 great towers. Considered one of the finest examples of mediaeval military architecture, Conwy Castle is a designated World Heritage Site. Impressively well-preserved, visitors can experience a true sensation of the castle's historical strength. In summer, visitors can even make the most of Conwy’s elevated height for a spot of stargazing.
6. Denbigh Castle
Denbigh Castle may now be in ruins but it is still one of the best castles in North Wales to visit. Located in the town of Denbigh, this castle was built in the late 1200s by Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln. It was another fortress constructed to try and consolidate English control over the Welsh. Although no longer standing, the massive walls and powerful gatehouse create a feeling of the castle's former glory. Uncover where the Great Hall once was, inspect the remains of the chapel, and walk around the outer walls. Denbigh castle is another of the castles in North Wales known for its stunning views over the surrounding countryside.
7. Penrhyn Castle
Found near Bangor, Penrhyn Castle is a 19th-century mansion that was built in the Gothic Revival style. Another National Trust property, this vast castle seems like something out of a fairytale. Aside from its spectacular exterior, Penrhyn Castle is famed for its beautiful gardens, which include a rock garden, a rose garden, and a formal parterre. The stately home is also home to a collection of art which includes works by artists such as John Singer Sargent and Thomas Gainsborough. One of the most serene castles in North Wales, visitors won’t regret spending a day here.
8. Plas Mawr
Another gem of Northern Wales located in the town of Conwy, Plas Mawr is a fascinating 16th-century townhouse. ‘Plas Mawr’ means ‘Great Hall’ and this historical property has been meticulously restored to its original appearance. It is remarkable for its beautifully preserved Elizabethan interiors. This includes a great hall, a drawing room, and a long gallery, as well as some of the artwork of Hans Holbein the Younger. Visitors can take an audio-tour around the property and learn all about life of the Tudor gentry in Wales.
9. Plas Newydd
One of the most spectacular stately homes in North Wales is Plas Newydd. Located on the island of Anglesey, this enchanting mansion boasts mesmerising views of Snowdonia. Visitors could spend a whole day strolling around the property’s beautiful gardens and lake. You can also head inside to marvel at the ornate interiors and the incredible works of art housed here. Most famous among these is Rex Whistler’s 58-foot mural.
10. Rhuddlan Castle
A list of the best stately homes and castles in North Wales would feel incomplete without mentioning Rhuddlan Castle. Begun in 1277, Rhuddlan Castle was designed by master architect James of St George for King Edward I. It was one of the first concentric castles meaning its design features walls within walls. Located in the town of Rhuddlan, this castle is notable for its location on the banks of the river Clwyd. Edward ordered ditch-diggers to divert the course of this river so that the castle could stand in an important strategic point for the control of the region. Perhaps one of the less famous castles in North Wales, Rhuddlan Castle is still well worth visiting for its historical and architectural significance.
Plan the Perfect Castles Holiday with Cottage Decisions
The mesmerising castles are just one of the many wonderful reasons to visit North Wales. Whether you are interested in learning about the history or getting lost in the fairytale settings, visiting castles in North Wales is a wonderful pastime. Not sure if North Wales is the destination for you? Why not try visiting Castle Bude or Launceston Castle in Cornwall instead. Discover more staycation inspiration with Cottage Decisions and fall in love with exploring the United Kingdom.