Wales: Castles 101
We were excited for the chance to explore Wales, but since we’d just had a week long road trip through Portugal we weren’t too excited to be back in a car again. Granted this time we only rented for 4 days instead of a full week, but then we had to zip through as much of Wales as we could in that short amount of time. We were still able to see a lot of castles and now have a good idea of how to build our future castle.
We picked up our car, a fiery red fiat with a sunroof that wouldn’t be used in the cold and wet weather, and spent the next 2 hours driving out of London. This was our first day itinerary:
On our way to Wales we took the scenic route to see the royal residence of Windsor Castle and Stonehenge.
Access right up to Stonehenge is no longer available, except for on the Summer Solstice and I’m sure you have to pay a pretty penny for that! There are two options for seeing Stonehenge: One is to pay 17.50 British Pounds that allows you to be a few yards from Stonehenge and have a shuttle to and from it (since Stonehenge is way out in farmland).
The second option is you get in for free, but you have to walk a mile and a half through beautiful farmland and you’re only about 40 yards away from Stonehenge. Can you tell which option we went with?
Since it took us a while to walk to and from Stonehenge we arrived to Caldicot much later than planned. We pulled up to the castle in the dark and even though there weren’t any lights on it we grabbed our flashlights and walked around a bit. The Castle looked impressive in the dark so we were disappointed that we couldn’t see it during the day. We headed to Raglan Castle and were again disappointed when it was gated and no lights on the castle. Due to the lack of time, and the lack of lighting on everything we skipped Tintern Abbey.
We ended day 1 late in Cardiff stopping at a backpackers hostel. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to look around at night because I was falling asleep before my head hit the pillow.
The morning of day 2 we were off right after finishing our toast and we completely skipped even changing out of our clothes for the first two days.
Once we arrived in Laugharne we found a little fish and chips shop owned by a retired police officer who always dreamed of cooking for people. Her fish and chips were the best we’ve ever had and she talked to us about the town and the literature festival they hold in the summer. It’s awesome to see these little towns with a huge castle in the middle of them, something we’re definitely not used to back home!
We briefly stopped to glance at Dinefwr Castle before realizing we had to pay to even get close to it. If you plan to visit Dinefwr, the entry to the castle includes the huge grounds where deer and other wildlife are constantly crossing through so it might be worth your while. We had too many castles on the list and not so much time so we moved on.
One of the few castles that we could go in because it was free, and oddly enough deserted… The best two things we could ask for in a castle! Cilgerran is a 13-th century ruined castle that has an awesome view of the river and valley (like all castles should).
We drove past Aberystwyth to take in all the sea views as the sun was disappearing and started our search for a place to sleep for the night. Since we were in a more baren area our search for a cheap enough place in low season was even tougher this night and it took us 5 hours before we found a room to stay in above the Y Castell Bar.
After driving through dark blair witch style woods to closed down B&B’s, getting in and out of the car to check out places that were open and struggling to stay awake as we drove around, I was indifferent to the drunken noise coming from downstairs at the Y Castell Bar that I passed out as soon as my head hit the pillow.
As we headed to and from Beaumaris Castle we had the best sea views. We kept stopping in the narrow streets to take photos and I wondered if that drove the locals nuts. Funny thing is that Europeans always park in the streets, but turn their emergency flashers on like that makes it legal so we followed suit. Everybody seemed okay with it too… do as the locals do, right?
By the way, if you want to take a ferry to see the puffins (better to go in the Spring and Summer) this town would be the best to do that!
We stopped in for more fish and chips, even though we knew they wouldn’t taste as good as the Laugharne ones, and apprehensively headed out to search for a place to spend our third night. Luckily, we quickly found a hostel in Liverpool that was solely dedicated to the Beatles and I felt like I’d stepped into the 60’s.
In honor of the Beatles, the next morning we drove around Liverpool checking out some popular spots before heading to the Preston Temple and onto our last castle.
We spent more time looking for parking then looking at the Warwick Castle, but it was nice to see the whole town. After seeing the castle and walking through St. Mary’s Church we drove to our last spot on our list, Cotswolds. Cotswolds is an area in Southern England that has medieval villages and a beautiful walkway.
We’re not really sure we’d found the right place, but since the sun was setting when we got to wherever we were it didn’t really matter. For the 3rd night in a row we stopped in at a fish and chips place, BUT we got meat pies and chips instead.
We were pretty tired at this point and were happy to drive to our final destination, London. Even though we visited a good amount of castles, there were still plenty that we skipped and we found a good list of places & castles you should check out when traveling to Wales. We would’ve loved to have more time, but keep in mind if you plan to take a trip to Wales that you need to plan for a lot of time.
How many castles would you be willing to see in 4 days time?