South Wales

The capital of South Wales is Cardiff, featured in the previous gallery. Nearby are two wonderful castles – one from the Middle Ages and the other a 19th century folly. You will also want to tour a Restoration mansion on a 90 acre estate.

Share this
View MAP

1 South Lake View of Caerphilly Castle in Caerphilly, Wales

Caerphilly Castle is a spectacular medieval fortress, the largest in Wales and the second biggest in the U.K. Its concentric design sits on a 30 acre island protected by manmade lakes and moats. Most of it was built within three years (1268 – 1271) by Gilbert de Clare, the 7th Earl of Gloucester, during his quest to control an ancient county of South Wales called Glamorgan. The castle was attacked numerous times until it was mostly in ruins by the end of the 15th century. Refurbishment began in the late 18th century and continued under various members of the Stuart family through 1950.

Caerphilly Castle, Castle St, Caerphilly CF83 1JD, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

2 South Dam Platform at Caerphilly Castle in Caerphilly, Wales

This view from the Outer East Moat displays many of the gorgeous features of Caerphilly Castle. In the foreground is the massive South Dam Platform, a wall of pennant sandstone stretching almost 500 feet. From left to right are: Felton’s Tower, a replica of a siege engine (catapult) between the Great Tower and the Great Hall, the leaning Southeast Tower, the East Inner Gatehouses and the corn Mill.

Caerphilly Castle, Castle St, Caerphilly CF83 1JD, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

3 Leaning Southeast Tower at Caerphilly Castle in Caerphilly, Wales

The Southeast Tower in the center is perhaps the most curious element of the Caerphilly Castle. Half of its façade is missing and the rest leans at an angle of 10 degrees, steeper than the Tower of Pisa. Some historians believe it was destroyed by gunpowder by Oliver Cromwell’s troops at the end of the English Civil War in the mid-17th century. Others claim the land beneath it is sinking. There is a wooden statue of John Crichton-Stuart, the 4th Marquess of Bute, pretending to hold the structure up. He was responsible for extensive renovation of the castle from 1928 through 1939. The 20 foot sculpture by John Merrill was erected in 2013.

Caerphilly Castle, Castle St, Caerphilly CF83 1JD, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

4 Outer Main Gatehouse at Caerphilly Castle in Caerphilly, Wales

This is the Outer Main Gatehouse of Caerphilly Castle and the tourist entrance to the attraction. In the 13th century, there were two draw bridges before reaching this point. Inside was a third bridge leading to the East Gatehouse. Imagine being a soldier of Llwelyh ap Gruffudd, the last Prince of Wales, ordered to storm this citadel in 1270 under a barrage of arrows and javelins fired from five levels of slits in the tower. Despite those odds, they succeeded in burning the half-finished castle. However, Gilbert de Clare reclaimed it within a year and continued its construction through 1290, making it into one Wale’s greatest and innovative strongholds.

Caerphilly Castle, Castle St, Caerphilly CF83 1JD, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

5 Inner West Gatehouse at Caerphilly Castle in Caerphilly, Wales

In 1776, Lord Mount Stuart became the Peerage of Great Britain and owner of Caerphilly Castle. He took some steps to restore it. His grandson, John Crichton-Stuart, the 2nd Marquess of Brute, became a wealthy coal industrialist and focused his investments on building docks at Cardiff. However, the 3rd and 4th Marquesses of Bute loved castles. They spent heavily on revitalizing Caerphilly Castle through 1939. In 1950, the 5th Marquess of Bute gifted the fortress to the Welsh government.

Caerphilly Castle, Castle St, Caerphilly CF83 1JD, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

6 Northwest Tower at Caerphilly Castle in Caerphilly, Wales

The Northwest Tower is one of the grandest structures at Caerphilly Castle, thanks to a significant reconstruction during the 20th century. The upper two floors contained lavish accommodations. Notice the chalice in the upper right window. This is part of a scavenger hunt designed to entertain kids.

Caerphilly Castle, Castle St, Caerphilly CF83 1JD, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

7 Knight Sculpture at Caerphilly Castle in Caerphilly, Wales

Caerphilly Castle is managed by Cadw, the Welsh heritage agency. Since 2013, they have invested over £260,000 making this into an exciting tourist destination for all ages. Highlights include a ten minute, 270 degree digital film, warfare games, touch screen displays and statues explaining the castle’s history. An example is this knight protecting himself while the enemy showers him with stones, hot liquids and arrows from a hourd in the tower wall.

Caerphilly Castle, Castle St, Caerphilly CF83 1JD, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

8 Entry Castell Coch in Tongwynlais, Wales

You are convinced this is a beautiful and well-preserved medieval castle while walking towards these three stone towers. Actually, Castell Coch was built in the late 19th century. However, two previous strongholds stood on this site. The first was constructed by the Normans in 1081 as part of their conquest of Wales. Gilbert de Clare, the 7th Earl of Gloucester, built the second in 1277 but it was partially destroyed in 1314. The land was acquired by John Stuart, the 3rd Earl of Bute, in 1760. He was the Prime Minister of Britain and also the first Prime Minister of Scotland. It would be another 100 years before a member of his family, John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, commissioned this castle. The “Red Castle” is located in Tongwynlais, a small town about a fifteen minute drive north of Cardiff.

Castell Coch, Tongwynlais, Cardiff CF15 7JS, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

9 Courtyard of Castell Coch in Tongwynlais, Wales

John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute, was one of the wealthiest men in the 19th century. He loved spending his money on fanciful architecture. After he hired eccentric architect William Bruges, the two of them splurged on building the Cardiff Castle (see separate photo gallery) and the Castell Coch. This lavish restoration of a 13th century castle was intended to be an occasional summer house. After construction was completed in 1891, neither the owner nor his subsequent generations spent much time here. Castell Coch was donated to the government in 1950 and is managed by Cadw, a heritage agency. This is the inner courtyard with the twin turrets of the Well Tower in the background.

Castell Coch, Tongwynlais, Cardiff CF15 7JS, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

10 Keep Tower at Castell Coch in Tongwynlais, Wales

This side view of Castell Coch demonstrates its enormous size. The base of the Keep is almost ten feet thick, has a diameter of 39 feet and is constructed with limestone. It is a majestic tower containing the Drawing Room and the bedroom of John Crichton-Stuart’s wife, the former Gwendolen Fitzalan-Howard. The Marchioness stayed here only occasionally after he died in 1900 at the age of 53.

Castell Coch, Tongwynlais, Cardiff CF15 7JS, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

11 Vaulted Ceiling of Drawing Room at Castell Coch in Tongwynlais, Wales

The Drawing Room is the opulent centerpiece of Castell Coch. This two-story grand hall is octagon shaped defined by arches. It is crowned with a vaulted ceiling plus a carved wooden chandelier. Images of birds grace the walls together with murals of animals from Aesop’s Fables. A portrait of the distinguished looking John Patrick Crichton-Stuart is the third painting from the left.

Castell Coch, Tongwynlais, Cardiff CF15 7JS, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

12 Moirai in Drawing Room at Castell Coch in Tongwynlais, Wales

Above the ornate fireplace in the Drawing Room are these sculptures of the Moirai. Also called the Three Fates, they are Greek goddess who controlled every person’s lifetime. On the left is Clotho, the spinner of life’s threads. In the center is Lachesis. She measured a person’s lifespan. On the right is Atropos, the deity who determined the manner of death. This ensemble was created by Thomas Nicholls.

Castell Coch, Tongwynlais, Cardiff CF15 7JS, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

13 Bedroom Coffered Ceiling at Castell Coch in Tongwynlais, Wales

This magnificent ceiling canopies the two-level bedroom of Lady Bute, the wife of John Patrick Crichton-Stuart. Her round apartment at the top of the Keep features an outer and inner dome covered with gilded panels faming delicate flowers. It was created by William Frame and Horatio Lonsdale, the architect and designer who assumed the castle project after mastermind William Burges died.

Castell Coch, Tongwynlais, Cardiff CF15 7JS, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

14 Entrance of Tredegar House in Newport, Wales

The Tredegar House is an impeccable mansion located near Newport, Wales. Llewelyn ap Morgan was the first to live on the grounds early in the 15th century. Little of the original structure remains. The property is dominated by the red brick buildings commissioned by William Morgan. Most were finished by 1672. Three more generations of Morgans enhanced the interior while delighting guests during lavish social events and slowly draining their wealth. In 1951, Tredegar House became a Catholic school. After another 23 years, it was purchased by the city of Newport City Council. In 2011, it was leased to the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest and opened as a tourist attraction.

Duffryn, Newport NP10 8YW, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

15 Gilt Room Ceiling at Tredegar House in Newport, Wales

Walking through the Tredegar House is a visual display of opulence. The Morgans spared no expense at creating a glamorous interior filled with carved woodwork, ornate moldings and elaborate furniture. An example is the Gilt Room ceiling. The painting depicts Pope Urban VIII quelling the evils of lust on the left and intemperance on the right. It is an adaptation of a 17th century fresco by Pietro de Cortona in the Salone at the Palazzo Barberini in Rome. You can view this reproduction while laying down on a daybed.

Duffryn, Newport NP10 8YW, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

16 Cedar Garden at Tredegar House in Newport, Wales

The Cedar Garden in front of the Tredegar House is named after the 250 year old Lebanon cedar on the right. This species of ornamental evergreen tree was introduced to Britain sometime during the mid-17th century. This beautiful garden with sculpted bushes is one of three on the 90 acre estate. You will also want to enjoy the Orchard and Orangery Gardens.

Duffryn, Newport NP10 8YW, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

17 Stables at Tredegar House in Newport, Wales

This building at the Tredegar House estate looks fit for any Welsh lord from the Restoration period (1660 – 1700). Instead, it served as the horse stables. The Stable Block is constructed with red bricks in a Carolean design. Even the Morgan animals lived in style. If the name Moran and the 17th century ring a bell, it should. Sir Henry Morgan, better known as the pirate Captain Morgan, was a relative. He was the son of Robert Morgan, a framer from Rhymney, Wales.

Duffryn, Newport NP10 8YW, UK
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions
TOP