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6 Days to Find The Best Castle Ruins in Wales

6 Days to Find The Best Castle Ruins in Wales

Feb 6th, 2011, 04:21 PM
  #1  
plr
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6 Days to Find The Best Castle Ruins in Wales

I'll be flying into and out of Manchester, England. I dearly love well-preserved castles which are Not furnished and dressed up...ones which allow me to just wander and fantasize about medieval life therein without the decoration. Have just come to this message board for Wales, and am awed by the quality of advice given here!

Would love to hear recommended itineraries for making the most of my few days. I do spend 2-3 hrs in each castle I ever visit, so this would be a factor. Looking for ones that are impressive in terms of structure, state of preservation or restoration, and not necessarily the most well-known and popular ones, but certainly to include them if they fit the description. I'm really excited about this trip, and anxious to hear from everyone!
plr is offline  
Feb 6th, 2011, 04:33 PM
  #2  
 
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I've only been to Caernarfon and Conwy. Caernarfon was best preserved, but Conwy was more atmospheric.
azzure is offline  
Feb 6th, 2011, 04:50 PM
  #3  
BKP
 
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Our favorite castles are in Wales! Here is a great website to help with your research,
www.castlexplorer.co.uk

We also prefer the less dressed up, more ruined castles. Our favorites so far are:
Raglan Castle (can also squeeze in a visit to Tintern Abbey which imho is unmissable)
Castle Carew
Castle y Bere


Our list:
South Wales
Caerphilly Castle
Carew Castle
Carreg Cennen
Castle Coch
Chepstow Castle
Grosmont Castle
Raglan Castle
Skenfrith Castle

North Wales
Ewloe Castle
Criccieth Castle
Harlech Castle
Castle y Bere

Definitely not all of the famous ones on that list. But we have a 5 year old that prefers to run, jump and play and I'm a parent that prefers to daydream and imagine!
BKP is offline  
Feb 6th, 2011, 05:15 PM
  #4  
plr
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Thanks so much for all of those suggestions, BKP and azzure! BKP, do you have any suggestions for a do-able itinerary to pack in as many as I can in 6 days coming round from Manchester? Train, bus, car are all fine with me if I can get it to work.
plr is offline  
Feb 6th, 2011, 05:42 PM
  #5  
 
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We loved Conwy/Conway and its walls and castle. Definitely atmospheric and requires imagination

For a real ruin, you might consider Llewelyn's supposed birthplace (but not) the castle Dolwyddelan. Wonderful!

The castlexplorer website is great.
texasbookworm is online now  
Feb 6th, 2011, 05:50 PM
  #6  
 
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In southern Wales I'd suggest Carreg Cennen Chepstow and Kidwelly, the last two especially. Click on my name and scroll down to my fairly recent trip report.
Fra_Diavolo is offline  
Feb 6th, 2011, 06:07 PM
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If you have time, you might call CADW (+44 o 1443 33 6000) and order "Great Castles and Historic Attractions in Wales." I found it very helpful in planning our Wales trip. The book is a guide format that will have pictures, open hours and other local info helpful for your planning. It will take about a week to get it.

BTW, you can read our Wales trip report at http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-and-wales.cfm

I wish I could go back and see more of Wales. I really enjoyed my two visits.
VolCrew is offline  
Feb 7th, 2011, 05:56 AM
  #8  
 
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Three not yet mentioned are Beaumaris in NOrth Wales (near Conwy and Caernarvon)and Caerphilly and Goodrich in S Wales. Beaumaris is one of my favorites. It is surrounded by a moat which rflects the castle. Caerphilly has a tower that seems to balance on nothing but it has been hanging in for over 300 years. (It was damaged in the Civil War by Cromwell's guns)

I would definitely rent a car for your trip. I have done it with public transportation and by car on several different trips. Trains and busses had me either waiting for the next one or exploring faster than I wanted. Several of the castles also require fairly long hikes from bus stops or train stations. The walks were not necessarily bad things but they were time eaters!

I might spend 3 days in Conwy from where you could explore its castle and Beaumaris, Harlech, Caernarvon, Criccieth. Walk Conwy's town walls in the evening after spending the day out and about.

Head south for the next three days. Visit Goodrich, Monmouth, Skenfrith, Raglan, on the way.

We stayed in Chepstow and covered Penhow (I am not sure this is still open), Caldecott, Caerphilly, Coch (a nineteenth century fantasy for a wealthy businessman and quite gussied up), and chepstow itself. We lucked out and happened on a reenactment weekend with people dressed in the time, jousts, falconry displays, archery contests, etc. Penhow was my favorite of these. It is much smaller and does have furniture and a kitchen as it would have been in the 1500's. Kitchens are a favorite of mine so this is personal. An added bonus was a friendly cat. (Sorry for this digression)

I just remembered two castles in mid-Wales. Ludlow is an interesting pile. It was the last home of Edward IV's two sons before they were taken to London on orders of their uncle Richard III. After a brief stay with their mother and sisters, they went to the tower where they disappeared. while in Ludlow, have lunch at the Feathers, a historic, half timered inn/pub. About half an hour from Ludlow is Stokesy Hall near Craven Arms. While technically not a castle, it is a fortified manor house and is not gussied up. It is a good illustration of the transition from castle to home. I enjoyed this visit.

These are just my experiences and hope it will be of help to you in your planning.

Have a great trip! Would you like a driver?
irishface is offline  
Feb 7th, 2011, 06:17 AM
  #9  
BKP
 
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I actually can't really suggest an itinerary! Almost all of those castles were seen as (long) day trips, as we live just outside London.

But I would suggest renting a car instead of relying on public transportation. Our favorite castles tend to be in out of the way places. Also, make sure your rental comes with a Sat Nav. Even if you have a driving partner. Even if you love maps. Even if you don't trust technology. The countryside in Wales is beautiful. You don't want to miss any of it stressing about what road you're on or looking for your next turn. My satnav has a great feature that helps you find nearby amenities, like restaurants, b&bs, toilets, even other historical interests. It really takes the stress out of driving in another country!
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Feb 7th, 2011, 11:05 AM
  #10  
 
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While i cant speak to all of the castles folks have mentioned so far, i do highly recommend Chepstow, Harlech, Caernarvon, Conwy and Beaumaris. Based on your description of what you are looking for (one where you can imagine what it was like without decoration), i'd say avoid Castel Coch. We enjoyed it alot, but as mentioned earlier, it is very much decorated to the period. It is nothing like most of the other castles mentioned. We found Wales amazing, and i'm sure you also will. In particular, climbing the narrow circular staircases of Conwy and Caernarvon to reach the highests vantage points were something i'll never forget. Enjoy!
packer4rob is offline  
Feb 7th, 2011, 03:54 PM
  #11  
plr
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I've just returned from work to read all your posts, and feel like I've just received many gifts on my doorstep! Please allow me time to digest all of this, and get back with you. What a delight this forum is!! I'm so excited!
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Feb 7th, 2011, 04:54 PM
  #12  
plr
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VolCrew, is there anywhere online I can order this publication you mentioned (Great Castles and Historic Attractions in Wales)?
plr is offline  
Feb 7th, 2011, 05:13 PM
  #13  
 
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Their website is www.cadw.wales.gov.uk, but I didn't find the book on it then and I still don't see it. So when I called CADW, I gave the title and the man taking my order knew exactly what I was talking about. He was very helpful and even talked me out of express shipping because regular mail would be very quick. He was right. I think the book was about $11 US in paperback.

BTW, the book is bilingual, so if you read Welsh or English, no worries!
VolCrew is offline  
Feb 8th, 2011, 04:44 PM
  #14  
plr
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Well I've had just a bit of time to begin exploring the castle links here and to take a quick look at all those castles which have been recommended. What fun! Thanks again to everyone!

I do tend to lean toward those castles which have most all of their basic structure still standing. But BKP, I'm very interested in your high rating of castle sites with little of the walls still in existence. I also appreciate yours and Irishface's recommendations for car rental and what we call GPS. When I was in Scotland, I used trains & buses and hiked a lot to get to castles. This time, I might want to use less time hiking since I have half the total time in Wales.

Texasbookworm, what did you love about Dolwyddelan?

Fra_Diavolo, I had not yet come across Kidwelly, and now it's on my list. Thanks! Will get to your trip report another day, for sure.

VolCrew, I've put in an email for the castle book. Thanks again--and I'll be reading your trip report as well.

Irishface, you've packed so much into your post, I haven't caught up with you yet! Beaumaris is a keeper! I'll look at all the rest ASAP. Offering your services as a driver?? Hmm! Will take that under advisement, haha!

And Packer4rob (great name!)--I agree with your suggestions completely. Thanks so much.

I can already see that planning a reasonable itinerary within a week may be a real challenge. I haven't researched this yet, but how many hours would it take to drive the regular roads I will be using, from north to south if I stopped nowhere? This will just give me a frame of reference. Thanks.
plr is offline  
Feb 8th, 2011, 05:59 PM
  #15  
 
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If you read VolCrew's report, you will see he is my dear hubby and we tag-teamed that report. So you can see what we said about Dolwyddelan. We went there because it was on our quick-drive between Shrewsbury and Conwy and we were interested because of having learned about Llwellyn by all of us reading Here Be Dragons. When we got there, it was so gorgeous, the stone ruins still wet from morning rain set in the wild hills of Wales, with not much modern to intrude --and not busy. I'm sure there are others equally beautiful, some bigger, some prettier themselves (but hard to beat the scenery around it!) but it was a very convenient one for us to stop by on our day and Glad We Were!
texasbookworm is online now  
Feb 9th, 2011, 09:08 AM
  #16  
 
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PLR, have fun planning the trip! All of the planning just builds the anticipation up. My user name is even more perfect after the superbowl victory last Sunday!

One last comment, i want to echo what someone said in another post. When you're in Chepstow, you must see Tintern Abbey. Not a castle, but the structure that is still left is amazing and definitely will let your imagination run wild visualizing what it may have looked like hundreds of years ago. Also, GPS is a godsend, especially for those like me who werent used to driving on the left side of the road. It took navigating out of the equation and let me focus on staying in my lane.
packer4rob is offline  
Feb 9th, 2011, 09:43 AM
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You have received fantastic suggestions.
As you no doubt know, Wales is full of the castles that you love.

I suggest you dive into http://www.castlewales.com
Get a map and see where you fancy going.

Enjoy

Muck
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Feb 9th, 2011, 04:51 PM
  #18  
plr
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Yes I absolutely agree, Muck. Fantastic suggestions here! Packer4rob and BKP, I definitely planned to visit Tintern Abbey. Thanks.

VolCrew and texasbookworm, I have just begun reading your epistle, and am enjoying it and learning so much. Thanks for your incredible work here.

Still wondering if someone can give me an idea of how many hours or miles it is from north to south of Wales, just to give me an idea of what might be realistic for me in driving to these sites. Thanks to all.
plr is offline  
Feb 9th, 2011, 07:06 PM
  #19  
 
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plr, I can't give specific info on miles/hours since my trip was about 5 years ago, but I can refer you to the Wales portion of my trip report, in which we traveled from south to north in the space of 3 days as part of our whirlwind tour of the UK. (As a bit of background, we were living in Stuttgart at the time and I planned this 17-day driving trip with the primary goals of visiting Cornwall, Northern Wales, and the Scottish Highlands - not knowing when I might ever make it back again!) We specifically were targeting Northern Wales to support my castle obsession, and it sounds like you and I have similar taste in castles, so I am sure you would enjoy Conwy, Caernarfon, and Beaumaris. We managed to squeeze all 3 into one day, spending a few leisurely hours at each, just stopping to have snacks for lunch.

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...land-wales.cfm

(See Day 8 for the three castles)

Hope that is helpful!
hausfrau is offline  
Feb 10th, 2011, 12:09 PM
  #20  
plr
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Hausfrau, very helpful indeed! Yours and the trip report by VolCrew are awesome! I was planning to purchase an Explorer Pass from CADW, but from what you wrote, am now concerned that it won't cover all the sites as it is advertised to do. Can anyone clarify how it works? (I haven't been able to get a return email from the website).
plr is offline  

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