A model of medieval military might
Second only in size to Windsor Castle, Caerphilly has stood since the late 13th century as a dominant and complex series of fortifications. This was the first castle to be deliberately planned in a concentric design. A series of walls within walls aimed to deter sustained attack from every direction. And a series of moats and lakes surrounded the site to help repel invasion.
Caerphilly reflected the precision of the Norman military planners who used the naturally occurring local lakes and water courses in their defensive design. As a new innovation, its powerful defensive structure would have astonished people at the time.
Repelling the Welsh invaders
Before the Norman Conquest of Britain in 1066, castles did not exist in the Welsh landscape. The Normans however were prolific builders, and some 400 Norman castles survive within the borders of modern Wales. But only about 40 of them were constructed by Welsh lords, the rest were English built. Caerphilly was built by the Lord of Glamorgan, one of English King Henry III’s most ambitious barons.
It was a feudal stronghold designed to prevent lowland South Wales from falling into the hands of the Welsh. The castle certainly served its initial purpose, repelling Welsh invaders northwards.
The ‘Big Cheese Weekend’
Today, Caerphilly does not repel invaders welcoming more than 90,000 visitors annually. Attractions include the annual ‘Big Cheese Weekend’ when the streets surrounding the castle are filled with music, performance and street entertainment that brings the medieval period back to life. They also offer a chance to taste the local cheese and enter cheese rolling competitions. As tourism plays an increasing and valuable role in the Welsh economy, the castle continues to provide a dramatic centrepiece to the town’s attractions.