Caerphilly Castle: Biggest Castle in Wales

Located in Caerphilly in the South of Wales, Caerphilly Castle is the largest castle in the country and the second largest castle in all of Britain, behind Windsor Castle. The most unique aspect of Caerphilly Castle is that it is one of the first concentric castles in British history and is surrounded by artificial lakes on all sides.

Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly Castle was a defensive fort in the beginning. After the Normans conquered England, they started to move towards Wales. One of the toughest regions in the country was Glamorgan which took nearly 150 hundred years to subdue. Even though the Welsh prince Llywelyn tried to reclaim their lands, they lost more and the de Clare clan expanded their control over the regions in the 13th century.

Caerphilly Castle from above

After taking control of Glamorgan, Gilbert de Clare wanted to strengthen his rule over his lands. Therefore, he ordered the construction of a castle but this castle was not like the others. In such a unique fashion, the castle had water defenses by damming a stream nearby.

Caerphilly Castle bridge

Aside from the artificial lakes, the castle had extensive towers and walls, ready to defend itself against any invasions. While the castle’s defense systems proved themselves useful as the castle survived many invasion attempts, after Gilbert’s son died, the castle went under the control of the British crown.

Caerphilly Castle entrance
Ryan Bergenthal

Although the castle was a marvelous sight, the British kings did not really care for it. As a result of their negligence, the castle fell into despair in the following decades. Moreover, the castle may have been damaged by the British parliament in the 17th century as a precaution as well.

Caerphilly Castle entrance wall

While it is not certain, some sources say that when the English Civil War broke out, the South of Wales was full of Charles I supporters. In order to stop the supporters from hiding in Caerphilly Castle, the parliament forces destroyed it.

the statue holding the wall
Tom Martin

The castle remained abandoned and in ruins for a long time. Between the 18th and 20th centuries, the new owners of the castle tried to renovate it as best they could but to no avail. After WW2, the last marquess of the castle sold his lands and Caerphilly Castle to the Welsh government.

dragons in their nest

The Welsh government knew that they were handling one of the most culturally important pieces of architecture in Britain. So, they were careful not to damage the castle’s medieval identity. They filled the lakes again, renovated the towers and the halls, and turned Caerphilly Castle into one of the most popular destinations in Wales. Nearly 100,000 people visit the castle every year.

the complex from a far