Guest Post by Cath (BattleMum)
Although we are originally from Ireland, we lived in South Wales for over ten years. It is where our son was born, and we loved our time there. What made South Wales even more magical for us, once our son came along, were all the wonderful castles it has to offer. You are never too far from a castle in South Wales and we made it our mission to visit as many of them as we could before we emigrated from the UK. Today I’d like to share with you our favourite three castles in South Wales, in the hope it will inspire you to visit them yourselves.
Our Favourite Three Castles in South Wales
When we first moved to Wales back in 2007, we decided to start in Caerphilly. My husband was working in Swansea and I was going to be working close to Caerphilly, so we thought it would be a good place to base ourselves. To be completely true I knew very little about Caerphilly, other than it would be a good location to base ourselves both for work and to be close enough to Cardiff.
So, when we eventually moved into our rented house, I was pleasantly surprised to find ourselves living ten minutes’ walk from one of the most beautiful looking castle I’d ever come across. Caerphilly Castle is the largest castle in Wales and one of the largest in the UK. With a double moat system and a famous leaning tower, it is simply a gem in the South Wales valleys.
I bet you didn’t know that the leaning tower at Caerphilly Castle leans to a greater angle than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There’s some trivia for you.
Caerphilly Castle is in fairly good condition for a castle which has been standing since the 13th century. You can visit the great hall, where weddings are often held. You can walk around the battlements, taking in the views across the top of Caerphilly and out across the valley. It’s possible that you might even spot a dragon or two there.
In 2016, to mark St. David’s Day, a fearsome dragon appeared on the banks of the moat outside the castle. Soon after Dewi moved into Caerphilly Castle and has since been joined by a lady dragon. The result of their union; two baby dragons. The dragons are not always located at Caerphilly Castle as they sometimes fly off on their holidays, so if you are hoping to see them, I’d suggest checking the Cadw website to see where they are going to be.
We first met the dragon in the castle when my Dad and sister were visiting one weekend. My son wasn’t too sure about this smoke-breathing creature and didn’t get too close. Fast forward a year later and we met not one, but two dragons, spying their nest of eggs during our visit.
Caerphilly Castle has been one of our favourite castles in Wales from the time of living in the town to long after we’d moved further north up the valleys. There are so many nooks and crannies to explore with children, stairs to climb and dragons to spot (if you’re lucky), that I’d highly recommend you visit if you are visiting South Wales or Cardiff.
Located just 20 minutes from the market town of Abergavenny in Monmouthshire, Raglan Castle is a stunning looking castle. Dating from the mid-15th century, this medieval castle was one which we lived less than 30 minutes from before we moved from the UK, and it is one we visited quite often with our son. I first visited it with my Dad and nephew when my son was just a few months old and we visited it several times after, often doing a dragon hunt with our son to make the visit more interesting for him.
Although a ruined castle, it is still an impressive looking castle, especially it’s hexagonal keep. There are plenty of areas to explore in Raglan Castle, including the keep itself, and it has some lovely grassy areas for children to play on if the weather permits. Although it does have a gift shop, it doesn’t have a café, but I’d highly recommend a stop at the Cwtch Café in Abergavenny, which was our favourite place for breakfast before exploring castles in the nearby area of a weekend.
And as far as I am aware, those dragons from Caerphilly Castle sometimes make a stop at Raglan during their holiday tour of Wales. However, we’ve yet to see them anywhere other than their home castle of Caerphilly.
Sitting on the banks of the Wye River, Chepstow Castle is one of the oldest surviving post-Roman fortifications in Britain. Standing on cliffs along the river bank, Chepstow Castle was located just an hour from where we lived and is another castle I visited with my Dad and nephew during one of their visited before revisiting as a family with my husband.
This is quite an impressive castle, with no less than four baileys (or courtyards) to explore. There are basement cellars with impressive ceilings to view as well as stunning views out of the windows across the Wye River. Chepstow Castle has even been featured in the TV series Dr Who!
The first time I visited with my father and nephew there was a medieval festival taking place with people re-enacting medieval times and there was also a catapult in action. Although we’ve visited this castle a few times, we’ve never ventured above the ground floor for some reason. Again, there are grassy areas for children to enjoy some playtime if the weather permits.
Castles in South Wales
All of the castles I’ve mentioned can be easily accessed from either Cardiff or Newport. Chepstow is the furthest one from both cities but it worth a visit. And if I had to chose just one to revisit or to recommend to you, it would probably have to be Caerphilly Castle. While these are our favourite three castles in South Wales, Caerphilly just pips Raglan to the top spot for us.
About Cath our Guest Poster
Cath is an Irish expat who now lives in Portugal with her husband and son. A former scientist, she gave up working when they emigrated south from the UK. She is a family travel and lifestyle blogger and hopes that, through her blog, they will inspire more families to travel, especially with the toddlers in tow. As a family they love travelling and have started working their way through their family travel bucket list. Cath writes about their family travels and experiences on her blog BattleMum.
All three castles are run by Cadw Wales and are shut over the colder/winter months so please check their websites for opening days and times. Prices for each castle are as follows:
Caerphilly castle – Currently adults are £8.50, children under 16 are £5.10 and a family ticket is £24.60. Children under 5 are free. Other pricing options are available.
Raglan Castle – Currently adults are £6.90, children under 16 are £4.10 and a family ticket is £20.00. Children under 5 are free. Other pricing options are available.
Chepstow Castle -Currently adults are £6.90, children under 16 are £4.10 and a family ticket is £20.00. Children under 5 are free. Other pricing options are available.
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