Welsh Castles Project

I’ve been working on a small photography project for the last few years called The Welsh Castles Project. Its more of a lifelong ambition, in that my goal is to visit every castle in Wales. My parents are Welsh, though I was born in England and when I was a small kid and we used to drive back to Wales to visit family, I used to get SO excited - my parents would hype it up as we were approaching the border and when we finally crossed we’d all cheer. As a kid, Wales became this mythical fantasy land I didn’t get to go to too often, but my relatives were there so I always looked forward to it, and I think I still have that childlike excitment with the place.

I’ve always been a lover of history and remember going to some castles as a kid and thinking how cool they were. Now as an Adult, a few years ago a friend told me about Dolbadarn castle. I really wanted to go see it, and one day drove 3 hours by myself to go visit it and the view was incredible. As my first taste of Welsh castles I thought it was incredible - this gnarled solitary tower against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains, mist and fog, and dragons. I got into reading the history of Wales and its castles and decided to visit a few more. To date I’ve been to about 30-ish and started an instagram for them. The logistics are a bit difficult, I live in Knutsford, Cheshire and my girlfriend lives in Nottingham so most free weekends I’m there with her. My parents actually live in Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, so when I visit them I have to drive literally the length and breadth of Wales to get there, so I always plan my route to include a few castles to stop off at. All pics are taken on Analog cameras, and I write a brief summary of the castle’s history. Maybe one day I’d like to release it as a little tourist/guide book but for now, its just me seeing some castles!

Dolbadarn Castle, Llanberis

Dinas Bran, Llangollen

Llansteffan Castle, Llansteffan

Should you be interested: Welsh Castles Project

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Visiting every castle in Wales is quite the ambition considering we have so many; the Normans had to stop practically every hill and build another just to take control of the place.

If you haven’t visited Coity Castle yet, I’d recommend doing so on a Sunday as my local games club meets just over the road from it on Sundays. :wink:

Good luck. There are so many. The big Edwardian ones are cool but I prefer the little ones. Many years ago my brother and I tried to visit all the native welsh castles. Him driving me navigating. We got all but Castell y Bere up by Machynlleth. Probably could have found it if he had not insisted on me using only 12 and 13 th century maps.

So cool, we have a few here but not even close to UK.

Yesterday I managed to get out to 2 castles in North Wales: Dinas Emrys and Castell Y Bere

  1. Dinas Emrys
    I’d wanted to visit this “castle” for a while. Practically nothing remains of the fortress that was once here, but the hill features in British Mythology and Arthurian Legend. I must admit right off the bat I know very little about this kind of lore, but it was super interesting visiting this place and delving into the story a bit.


The remains of the tower atop Dinas Emrys

Take from another website:

The Tradition: The Mabinogion tells us that Dinas Emrys was the place where the Celtic God of Health & Healing, Lludd Llaw Ereint ( the Silver-Handed ) buried two fighting dragons on the advice of his brother Llefelys. Nennius , followed by Geoffrey of Monmouth , further wrote how centuries later, when the High-King Vortigern fled into Wales to escape the Saxon hoards, he chose this lofty hillfort as the site for his Royal Retreat. Every day his men would work hard erecting the first of several proposed towers for the palace; but the next morning they would return to find the masonry collapsed in a heap. This continued for many weeks until Vortigern was advised to seek the help of a young orphan boy born of the fairies. The King sent his soldiers out across the land to find such a lad. They were eventually successful at the city which became known as Caer Myrddin (Carmarthen). The boy was called Myrddin Emrys, better known as Merlin today. He told Vortigern of the dragons fighting within the hillside beneath a pool and, when they were uncovered, he explained how the White Dragon of the Saxons though winning the battle at present, would soon be defeated by the British Red Dragon. After Vortigern’s downfall, the fort was given to High-King Ambrosius Aurelianus alias Emrys Wledig ( the Imperator ), hence its name.

As for the dragons and how they became confined? The story of Lludd Lleflys in the Mabinogion explains how Lludd captured the dragons in a cauldron filled with beer when they had transformed themselves – as apparently they did – into pigs. The dragons were buried at the place that later became known as Dinas Emrys since it was regarded as the safest place to put them.


Me at the ruins!

There’s also further connection with Merlin - Merlin’s Pool which is a waterfall just below the summit.


Merlin’s Pool

Despite little remaining of the castle, its well worth the 45 minute hike from the car park up to the summit. You’ll pass several waterfalls including Merlin’s Pool, walk through dense forest, marshland and have some stunning views of the mountains.

  1. Castell Y Bere
    This was another castle thats been on my list for quite sometime. Its in the middle of nowhere and was quite difficult to get to.

I’ve not read up on the history of the castle yet, I’ll save that for when I upload onto instagram, but its a cool little ruin atop a rocky hill nestled in a valley.


I was on quite a high after visiting Dinas Emrys, so this one sorta feels like it pales in comparison but I shouldn’t let it detract the great views!

All in, it was a long slog of a day. I left my place at about 8:30am and got home for about 6pm.

I had planned on doing a 3rd castle Castell Carndochan but was just drained after the 2nd castle, and the hike to this 3rd castle takes about 1.5 hours from what I’ve read, so decided to save it for another time.

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I also thought it’d be nice to geographically see the castles I’ve been to and those I haven’t. The lovehearts are castles I’ve visited, and the green flags are ones I’ve yet to see:

Its a bit of a rudimentary map but offers a quick glance on what I’ve done. Just to clarify, this isn’t a map of every single castle in Wales, I’m not even sure if one exists, but it covers a lot of them. I’d like to break it down further at somepoint, right now these are just pins on a map but don’t give details. For example, some pins represent full standing castles whilst some represent a muddy hill where only earthworks of a previous motte and bailey remain. Still, its cool to see it visually. You can make out Edward I’s Iron Ring of castles in the north, as well as those of the Marcher Lords.

I’ve still got a long way to go, and its mostly logistics stopping me to be honest. Given I don’t even live in Wales is a start aha. I’m fortunate in that my parents live in Milford Haven, right in the far south west of the country so each time I’ve visit I literally have to drive the length of the country to get there, so always try stop off at a castle or 2 along the way. The biggest area yet to cover is the south east - there’s a whole load of castles ranging from Llaneli all the way to Chepstow that I’ve yet to visit, simply because I’d really have to go out of my way travelling to see them. They’re still on the to-do list and I’ll make time for them someday!

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Some really beautiful pictures here. Spent a lot of my childhood at English castles, ruins and old churches so totally get the fascination with these places. Really cool looking through this. Only had time to skim the pics but will have a proper detailed read and look soon.

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This is a great project, I love watching this but am also a little ashamed all these are so close to me and I haven’t seen or even know about so may of them.

I went to school in Cyfarthfa Castle for 2 years, completely didn’t appreciate it at the time but I love telling my boys now I went to school in a castle :grin:

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Probably not hard to not know about them; we’ve got more castles than anywhere else in the world here in Wales. When the English invaded they pretty much had to stop every other hill and build a new one just to maintain control on the land they were seizing. ;p

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Thanks! Yea, I remember as a kid each time I’d go to Wales I would always get so excited, and remember my aunt once taking me to a castle (unfortunately neither of us know which!) and I was just blown away by how cool it was.

Where abouts are you based? I highly recommend visiting some! The “big” castles like Conwy get a lot of attention, but some of the lesser known ones are just as cool - my favourite is definitely Dolbadarn Castle.

Right? Its fascinating reading about Edward’s invasion, and the marcher lords and you can see how the lands were secured with the use of castles on a geographic level.

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I’m in Merthyr Tydfil

Just had a quick search of Dolbadarn and it does look amazing

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This is such and exciting hobby and project!

Maybe part of it can be to attempt mapping every castle in Wales (a kind of living map would likely be necessary with so many), and coding it to show ruins, standing, dilapidated, completely gone and then include a little guide to each (hiking time, additional features [such as waterfalls], brief outline of importance and maybe history).

Yeah, something like that would be very cool. I came across this map last year which does cover a lot of the castles, but it’s definitely lacking in useful information like you’ve described above. Maybe when things are settled a bit its something I might try my hand at!

Got my film back yesterday!

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Great project! One that will take a while too. I see you been to Dynefor and Drwsllwyn but you missed the best of Lord Rhys’ castles Carter Cennen just inside the Brecon Beacons at Trap. I have visited so many castles in Wales but this is my favourite. Worth a visit!

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That just means you’ve a great starting point and can start adding your info whilst waiting.to be able to visit more :wink:

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Yeah sadly I’ve just not gotten around to it yet! Each time I drive past it I’m either pressed for time, or my car is loaded up with things like my pc that I’d be hesitant to leave for a while aha. Lockdown dependent I’m hoping to do the castle early next year, which I’m looking forward to, I know its a castle that gets a lot of good comments.

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