Wales’s biggest castle and the second largest in the UK (after Windsor), Caerphilly Castle is a massive stone fortress surrounded by a series of lakes. Built between 1268 and 1271 by Gilbert de Clare, the Earl of Hertford and Gloucester, the castle was designed to defend south Wales against the expansion of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, prince of Gwynedd, who was attempting to unite the principality.
The castle was the first in the UK to be built in a concentric style, that is a castle within a castle. I used to visit Caerphilly Castle as a child and back then, the structure was in a state of disrepair and all you could do was walk around the grounds as it was too unsafe to go inside. That’s all changed today and now you can explore much of the inner castle, which includes the great hall and various towers and passages.
The castle is only 20 minutes from Cardiff and having not been there for 20-odd years, I was keen to find out how it had changed over the years. First up, I made a beeline for the castle’s famed leaning tower. The leaning tower has been on an incline since the 17th century and now leans more than the famous tower of Pisa. I was delighted to discover that not only is the tower still standing (and leaning), but there’s now a statue of a man “holding it up”.
After taking a few photos of the tower, I headed through the Inner East Gatehouse to explore the main body of the castle. There isn’t much to see within the castle as most of the rooms are empty, but the Inner East Gatehouse is home to a couple of small exhibitions, including an interactive display about the castle’s history where I inadvertently blew up the castle (virtually, of course).
There are several towers and passages to explore and you can even get to the top of a few of the towers, which provide great views over the castle and the surrounding area. I spent a good hour or so wandering all over the castle and seeking out all the nooks and crannies to explore, and had a great time imagining what the castle must have been like during the 14th century.
After having a good look around the inner castle and the middle ward, which surrounds it, I crossed one of the drawbridges back towards the entrance and headed to the right where there’s a grassy area with a few more bits and pieces to explore (above). The area is home to a couple of small towers and a series of wooden catapults that show how its medieval guardians defended the formidable fortress during its heyday. I really enjoyed my morning at Caerphilly Castle – it certainly lived up to my expectations.
Caerphilly Castle, Caerphilly CF83 1JD
Adults £7.95, Children and concessions £5.20