The Welsh town of Caerphilly is probably best known for its distinctive hard, white and crumbly cheese but it is also noted for one of the largest castles in the country. Caerphilly Castle sits just outside the town of the same name in South Wales. It was built in the 13th century by Gilbert de Clare, the 6th Earl of Hertford and 7th Earl of Gloucester. Gilbert was a powerful English nobleman known for being bad tempered and fierce when in battle which gained him the nickname of ‘the red earl’ thought partly due to the colour of his hair.
Work began on the castle in 1268 taking three years to complete and during that time the castle came under attack. In 1270, a dispute broke out between Gilbert and his rival Llywelyn ap Gruffudd who was King of Wales from 1258 until his death in 1282. Llywelyn objected to the building of the castle and during the troubles that ensued between these two powerful men the original castle was set on fire. Despite this, Gilbert battled on and repaired the damage caused by the fire and completed his work by taking control of the region.
In 1294, the castle was attacked by Madog ap Llywelyn who was a relative of ap Gruffudd. Further uprisings continued to blight the castle both in 1316 and 1326 and by the 16th century the castle had fallen into decline with the lakes drained away and the walls broken up for their stone. In 1776 the property was acquired by the Marquesses of Bute who began extensive restoration of the castle and by the 21st century it had transferred into the hands of the Welsh Heritage Agency (Cadw) becoming a tourist attraction.
Caerphilly Castle is the largest of all the castles in Wales and claims to be the second largest in Britain after Windsor Castle. However, this is disputed by supporters of Dover Castle in Kent who claim theirs is actually bigger than both Windsor and Caerphilly.
Whatever the truth might be, Caerphilly Castle is truly impressive. Surrounded by an array of moats and waterways, it was the first ‘concentric’ castle to be built entirely from scratch in Britain. Concentric castles are designed to have an inner and outer wall and are usually built without a central free standing keep.
The South East Tower has a vertical split which has caused it to ‘lean out’ further than the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.
Caerphilly Castle’s is shrouded in folklore and like most castles Caerphilly does not escape the visitations from ghosts and ghouls. Legend says that the de Clares family that once lived at the castle were haunted by the spirit of an ‘old hag.’ It is said that she would appear at times when a family member was going to die warning them of their pending doom.
Her spirit is still seen rushing towards the ruins and disappearing once inside the walls. A figure dressed all in red is also said to haunt the site.
The castle is open throughout the year although the exact times are subject to seasonal changes. Access on the main pathways is good but due to the nature of the location some visitors might experience difficulties when exploring the ruins.
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Bracelands Drive, Christchurch, Coleford
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+44 (0)845 130 8224
- Address: Castle Street, Caerphilly, Glamorgan, Wales, United Kingdom, CF83 1JD
- GPS: 51.57622222,-3.220244444
- Phone: 0044 (0)2920 883 143
- Part of UK: Wales
- Sat Nav Postcode: CF83 1JD
- Entrance Fees: Yes
- Disabled Access: Central level is paved but access restricted to towers due to steps and slopes.
- Visibility from Road: Very Good
- Image Credits: Header Image: Eldo