Welcome to our guide to the best castles near Cardiff to visit.
The area around the Welsh capital, Cardiff, has a heavy concentration of medieval castles.
South Wales was the frontline in a centuries-long struggle between Norman noblemen and their Welsh counterparts.
I grew up within a five-minute walk of Caerphilly Castle, and visited it and all of these castles close to Cardiff more times than I can remember.
In our guide we’ll explore the various Cardiff castles around the city and its outskirts. We also venture further afield to some of the best castles around South Wales, all of which are within easy reach of Cardiff.
We also include a section on smaller castles near Cardiff at the end of the article. These are mainly smaller ruins and more off the beaten path. But hardcore castle aficionados among you may wish to seek them out.
Castles Near Cardiff – Must See
Location: Castle St, Cardiff CF10 3RB
Built: Roman fort in 1st and 4th centuries AD; medieval castle 11th to 14th centuries, with extensive 19th century remodelling
Architecture: Medieval and Victorian Gothic Revival
Cardiff Castle is the first Welsh castle many visitors encounter. It’s right in the middle of the city centre, and one of the best castles in Wales to visit. There’s probably more to see at Cardiff Castle than any other castle in Wales, partly because so many of the 19th-century parts of the castle have been opened up over the last decade.
Cardiff Castle was built in the 11th century on the site of the 1st-century Roman fort. There are extensive remains of this and 3rd-4th century additions to it, and the 11th-century castle keep is fully intact.
Much of Cardiff Castle dates from the 19th century, when John Crichton Stuart, the Third Marquess of Bute, bought the site. He was one of the wealthiest people on the planet. He commissioned William Burges to create one of the most extravagant Victorian Gothic fantasies ever built.
Every room, from the Moorish-influenced Arab Room to the Banqueting Hall, is sumptuously decorated. You can visit some of the smaller rooms on additional tours that go beyond the standard route.
Cardiff Castle was also used in World War 2 as one of the city’s main air raid shelters, and you can walk explore the tunnels where Cardiffians sheltered during the Blitz.
Top tip: Make sure to visit the wonderful Bute Park, which is located between the Castle Clock Tower and the River Taff. In the gatehouse at the entrance to the Park on Castle Street, don’t miss Pettigrew’s Tea Rooms, our longstanding tip for the best afternoon tea in Cardiff.
Location: Castle St, Caerphilly CF83 1JD
Area: Around 30 acres (12 ha)
A 30-minute drive or 15-minute train ride from Cardiff takes you to Caerphilly Castle, the largest castle in Wales and second-largest castle in the UK. It’s my hometown castle but there’s no bias from me in saying that it’s the best of the castles near Cardiff to visit.
The Castle was built by Norman lord Gilbert de Clare to guard the strategic Caerphilly Basin from local Welsh lords and the last Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. The Castle was one of the first in Britain to be built in the concentric style, with layers of defences, and it was also one of the first where water defences were deployed.
It saw most of its action in its first 50 years, fending off sieges and hosting fugitive King Edward II in 1326. It also saw action in the English Civil War in the 1640s before falling into ruin.
It’s renowned for its Leaning Tower – nobody quite knows how it ended up that way. And in recent years it has also become home to a pair of fire-breathing dragons.
This is up there with the four World Heritage Castles in North Wales as one of the great medieval castles in Europe.
See Also: Things To Do In Caerphilly
Location: Tongwynlais, Cardiff CF15 7JS, UK
Style: Gothic Revival
Architect: William Burges
Also known as the “Red Castle,” Castell Coch is the famous fairytale castle near Cardiff that has been voted the most people’s favourite building in Wales. It was built by William Burges for his patron, the Third Marquess of Bute, as a summer retreat in the beech forest outside the city.
The Castle is unlike anything else you’ll see in Wales. The conical towers often remind me of those on French chateaux, and I’ve also wondered if he was inspired by some of the romantic Bohemian castles that were being restored around the same time. He certainly visited the latter, and built a church there.
Castell Coch is a Victorian Gothic masterpiece with sumptuous interiors. The Drawing Room is decorated with a series of murals depicting Aesop’s Fables, and the ornate fireplace adorned with figures of the Three Fates. The Moorish-influenced Lady Bute’s Bedroom is another highlight.
Good to know: The setting of Castell Coch in ancient forests is magnificent. It’s also above the main A470 trunk road, which doesn’t detract from it in any way. But there are more enjoyable ways of getting there.
If you’re driving, forgo the A470 and head north up Rhiwbina Hill instead. You leave the suburbs behind, then have a two-mile drive through the forests. The sharp left-hand turn takes you downhill towards the Castle entrance.
If you have reduced mobility, and don’t drive, it may be worth considering a taxi up to the Castle. It’s a 10-15 minute walk from the nearest bus stop, or 30 minutes from the nearest train station at Taffs Well.
Location: Bridgend CF32 0QP, United Kingdom
Free to visit
Ogmore Castle is one of the most iconic castles in South Wales, on the bank of the Ewenny River next to a trail of centuries-old stepping-stones. It was one of three castles built in the Bridgend area in the 12th century, and it was used for various purposes up until the 19th century.
Part of the 12th-century keep of Ogmore Castle survives, along with its outer walls. It’s free to visit at any time, but if you want to cross the river on the stepping-stones, check the tide times, and plan to visit close to low tide. The stones can be slippery, and I once saw someone cross with a toddler and drop the poor child into the river. The little one was OK, but the lack of care was shocking.
Ogmore Castle makes for a fine afternoon or full day out. You could visit the Castle before heading across the road to the Pelican Pub for a meal, or spend some time at one of the beaches on the Glamorgan Heritage Coast a short drive down the road.
St Fagans Castle
Location: Cardiff CF5 6EJ, United Kingdom
Built: Late 16th century
Architecture: Tudor / Elizabethan
St Fagans Castle is an Elizabethan mansion in the village of the same name, on the western outskirts of Cardiff. It’s a classic large manor house, of which there are several similar examples (Y Fan and Llancaiach Fawr near Caerphilly) nearby.
It was donated to the State in 1948 by the Earl of Plymouth, and the surrounding estate was used for what is now known as the Museum of National History. It’s one of the best open-air museums in Europe, with around 40 buildings from around Wales painstakingly reconstructed around the site.
St Fagans Castle is on high ground in the corner of the Gardens – a 15-minute walk from the Museum entrance and 10 minutes from most of the building exhibits. At the time of writing only two rooms within the Castle are open. I’d venture to say that there’s more to see in the Gardens, but hopefully more of it will be opened in future.
Location: Bridge St, Chepstow NP16 5EY
Built: 1067 onwards
Chepstow Castle, overlooking the river Wye and English border, is the first Norman castle to be built in Wales. It’s also one of the first fully stone-built castles in the UK. After winning the Battle of Hastings in October 1066, the conquering Normans didn’t waste time.
William FitzOsbern, the first Earl of Hereford, started building Chepstow Castle the following year. It’s built on a cliff directly above a bend in the river Wye, and saw active service for almost 6 years, all the way through to the Civil War.
Don’t be deceived by the view from the car park – this is one massive castle. You start at the bottom, gradually working your way higher up the hill and the towers. It’s a great work-out, and one of the best day trips from Cardiff you could do would be a combination of Chepstow and nearby Tintern Abbey. This gorgeous ruined Gothic church is six miles (10 km) north of Chepstow on the River Wye.
Location: Near Llanrhidian, Swansea, SA3 1HB
Built: Early 14th century
Visiting Weobley Castle – Castell y Weble – is one of the most intriguing things to do in the Gower Peninsula, 50 miles to the west of Cardiff. It’s only a few miles’ drive from some of the best Gower beaches, but in a very different part of the Peninsula, overlooking the saltmarshes of the north coast.
Its location is spectacular, with views across the marshes and Loughor estuary to Carmarthenshire and the mountains of the Brecon Beacons.
Weobley Castle was built by the wealthy de la Bere family, who were stewards to the Lords of Gower. Around a century after it was built it was attacked by Welsh Prince Owain Glyndwr. It was heavily fortified, but its occupants would have lived in considerable luxury.
Built: 15th century
Raglan Castle was the last medieval castle to be built in Wales. Most had been built between the Norman Conquest and 13th century. Raglan was built in the 15th century, both as a fortress and country residence.
It was the work of Sir William ap Thomas and his son, Sir William Herbert. It was later owned by Earls of Worcester, who built one of the most renowned Renaissance gardens – now sadly long gone – in the country.
Raglan is 32 miles from Cardiff by road, but easy to reach as it’s on the A449 / A4 Newport to Monmouth road.
Other Castles Near Cardiff For Castle Lovers
Coity Castle is a substantial ruin in a village just north of the town of Bridgend. It’s a very impressive site, founded in the 12th century but with many later additions, including two chimneys, a rare feature in castles in Wales.
It’s open during daylight hours year-round.
Old Beaupre Castle
This is one of several castles in the Vale of Glamorgan, hidden away in the countryside west of Cardiff.
It’s part 13th-century castle, part 16th-century manor house, with a Renaissance-era porch a very unusual find in Wales.
Part of the charm is its location, on a farm surrounded by fields, the sheep wandering around the grounds with you.
This unique treasure, in countryside northeast of Cardiff, was one of the first mock castles in Wales, built in the 1620s for Sir Thomas Morgan. King Charles I stayed there for four nights in 1645, rallying local support for his cause.
Its name comes from the Welsh ‘rhiw’r perrai’, the hill of the pear trees, but these are long gone, as are the formal gardens. The Castle was requisitioned for Army use in the Second World War, but it burned down in 1941, and has remained in a ruined state ever since.
The Castle is on private land but footpaths close by offer views of it. It’s an extraordinary place, which will hopefully be brought back to some of its former glory one day.
This is one of the most unusual castles near Cardiff, hidden away in a forest and sand dunes near the picturesque village of Merthyr Mawr. It’s a 14th-century fortified manor house and its name may well be derived from the de Cantilupe family who were tenants there.
The building has been in ruins since the 19th century, and part of it is covered in ivy. For the best view of it, climb the stee sand dune a few metres from it. At the top, you get a bird’s eye view of Candleston Castle and also Ogmore Castle, a mile or so away across the river Ogwr.
There’s not a great deal of Barry Castle to see. It was a fortified manor house, probably having 12th or 13th-century origins.
A substantial part of the gatehouse survives, and this probably dates from the first half of the 14th century. It doesn’t get a great many visitors, hidden away among the suburban semis of Barry. One for the castle completists among you.
Bishops Palace Llandaff
The main reason to visit the village suburb of Llandaff is to explore Llandaff Cathedral. The Cathedral Green is a beautiful spot, and at one end you’ll notice the sturdy medieval gatehouse to the Old Bishop’s Palace.
The exterior walls of the 13th-century building also remain, enclosing a lovely, peaceful little garden. The only sound you hear is birdsong – it’s a world away from the busy city outside, a wonderful, little-known retreat.
It’s one of the least-known castles near Cardiff, but a wonderful surprise.
Good to know: Don’t miss Llandaff Cathedral, a three-minute walk away, and the wonderful village of Llandaff
Don’t go out of your way for this castle near Cardiff, as it’s quite overgrown and hidden in the forest on the ridge overlooking Cardiff.
The history of this Castle – known locally as Castell Morgraig – is lost in the murk of time. We don’t know whether it was a Welsh or Norman castle, but it was built on a very strategic spot.
You can access it via the car park of the Travellers Rest pub on the A469 road between Cardiff and Caerphilly.
Castles Near Cardiff – Final Thoughts
Cardiff is a phenomenal base for visiting castles, something I came to appreciate living there or nearby for close to 40 years. Cardiff Castle, Caerphilly Castle and Castell Coch are within a few miles of each other: start with these and branch out to explore more of these medieval (and occasionally later) treasures around the Welsh capital.
Check out more of our articles on castles in Wales here:
David Angel is a Welsh, photographer, writer and historian who has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 30 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, Condé Nast Traveller, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.