Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly Castle, Wales (c) Jason Hawkes

Britain from the Air - Caerphilly Castle

A model of medieval military might

The largest castle by area in Wales - Caerphilly Castle has stood since the late 13th century as a dominant and complex series of fortifications.

This was one of the first castles to be deliberately planned with a concentric design. A series of walls within walls aimed to deter sustained attack from every direction. The encircling moats and lakes prevented the walls from being undermined by tunnelling or scaled with ladders.

Caerphilly reflects the vast wealth and military ambition of Gilbert de Clare who took his experiences gained from the crusades abroad and siege warfare in England to create Caerphilly. The use of heavily defended gatehouses and concentric walls was the forerunner of Edward I’s later castle building campaign in Wales.

Marcher Lords

Gilbert de Clare built Caerphilly Castle between 1268 and 1271 to defend territories that had been seized from the native Welsh by invading Anglo-Normans.   He was one of many Marcher lords, given mandates by the Crown to occupy and control Welsh lands, by whatever means necessary.  The military might of de Clare’s castle reflects the turbulent times in which it was built.


By the early nineteenth century the long-abandoned castle had fallen into ruin, before it was rescued by the fourth Marquess of Bute who, during the time of the Great Depression, paid an enormous sum of money from his private estates to pay local masons to rebuild much of the castle, helping to support the economy of the town. 

 The ‘Big Cheese Weekend’

Today, Caerphilly Castle welcomes over 100,000 visitors annually. The town also holds the annual ‘Big Cheese Weekend’ when the streets surrounding the castle are filled with music, performance, and street entertainment. Within the castle re-enactment groups bring the medieval period back to life.

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.

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Location: Caerphilly Castle, Wales, CF83 1NZ
Grid reference: ST 15703 87111

Britain from the Air - Caerphilly Castle credits

Thank you to -

Jason Hawkes for aerial photography

Text researched and written by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

Wales reportedly has more castles per head of population than anywhere else in the world.