10 Free Castles to explore in South Wales

01/09/2023

Welsh castle


Did you know that Wales has more castles per square mile than anywhere in the world? While some have continuously been lived in for hundreds (in some cases thousands) of years, others are no more than a few overgrown ruins, hidden away off the beaten path, all with their own stories and history, waiting to be discovered. 

So any trip to Wales should include a castle visit and with more than 600 castles there is no shortage of ones to pick from. However, some can be, very valid reasons, and expensive to visit, these are usually ones that offer more facilities, events and are usually the larger, more intact castles. However, if you are visiting South Wales there are quite a few that are completely free to explore and make for a great family day out. 


So I thought I would share 10 of my favourite free Castles and ruins to explore in South Wales.


1. Coity Castle, Bridgend

Coity Castle is an impressive ruin that has recently had a major renovation and is well worth a visit. You can also pair this up with Ogmore Castle which is only about 15 minutes away and also free. Coity started as an earthwork castle in around AD 1100 with the stone keep and curtain being added in the 12 century. Further building works took place in the 15th century after Owain Glynd┼Ár laid siege to the castle. 

There is plenty of space for a picnic here and a walk through the gate house and moat. There is a small parking area in front of the castle and it's dog-friendly (dogs need to stay on a lead). There are no toilets but you can find these at the nearby McArthur Glen retail park. 


Coity Castle
Coity Castle in Bridgend


2. Ogmore Castle, Bridgend 

Only a short drive from Coity Castle you will find Ogmore Castle, another great free castle to explore and if you plan it right with the tides you can also enjoy crossing a series of ancient stepping stones. Beginning life as an earth and wood castle in the 12th century it was fortified in the early 13th century and lots of the curtain wall and stone fortifications still stand today. The views towards the coastline and across farmland from this castle are lovely and there is space to picnic and for kids to run around. The castle still retains its deep ditch around the inner ward which was designed to fill with sea water at high tide. There is a small amount of free parking next to the castle.

3. Newcastle, Bridgend

Along with Coity and Ogmore, Newcastle is part of a trio of fortresses built to guard against attacks from the Welsh-held West and you can easily visit all three in one day. While Newcastle is probably the smallest in terms of what there is to see and do. The remaining Norman doorway is impressive along with the view across Bridgend from this hillside location and there is a lovely central green space to sit and have a moment of calm. There is a small free car park 1 min walk from the castle. 

4. St Quentin's Castle, Cowbridge

St Quentin's castle is tucked away in a small hamlet a few moment's drive away from the market town of Cowbridge. Whilst not confirmed it's likely this castle was built in the 14th century but English nobleman Gilbert de Clare. Perched above a river the most notable remains is the twin-towered gatehouse and curtain wall. There is also a few more ruins and grassy mound which kids will love to explore. There is a small parking area next to the castle and the castle links up with some local walking paths. 

Old Beaupre Castle
Old Beaupre Castle in Cowbridge


5. Old Beaupre Castle, Cowbridge

One of my favourite historical sites in South Wales but also one that is pretty hard to find due to minimal signage and you have to cross private farmland (via a public right-of-way path) to reach it. While technically not a castle, it's actually a medieval manor, Old Beaupre has an interesting past, being built in two stages with he older part being constructed in the 13th century and then seeing major renovations around the 16th century of which large parts still remain and can be explored including the three-story gatehouse. There is space for 2 cars in a very small layby near a stile you need to go over to cross the farmland.


6. Neath Abbey

While Neath Abbey is not a castle it's still an important historical site and was once the largest abbey in Wales. It's free and deserves to be on this list, especially as there are substantial ruins to explore with virtually the entire layout of the abbey and buildings can still be seen today and is well worth a visit. It's also located right next the Neath canal and towpath for a walk after seeing the Abbey and there is a small parking area next to the Abbey.


Caldicot Castle
Caldicot Castle


7. Caldicot Castle, Monmouthshire

Caldicot Castle is an extensive medieval castle, much of which is still intact and makes for a great castle to explore inside and out. It is however only open during the summer months and offers free parking, a small playpark for kids and 55 acres of countrypark to explore. Inside the castle grounds, I recommend walking up to the top of the castle tower for some fantastic views across the Severn estuary as well as the 12 pounder muzzle-loading cannon in the courtyard. You can check opening times at here.


8 White Castle, Monmouthshire

White Castle, part of the trio called "Three Castles" which includes Skenfrith and Grosmont which are also listed here and are all within short driving (and you can even walk) distance from each other, White Castle is the best preserved and most imposing and like the rest of the castles on this list is completely free to explore. The large outer ward is as big as a football pitch and kids will love to run around here, just remember the picnic. 


White Castle
White Castle 


9. Grosmont Castle 

Like the other two castles in the trio, Grosmont experiences an active life. Starting life around the 13th century by the 15th century it was in the wars again, besieged by the Welsh leader Owain Glyndwr. There are quite a lot of ruins here to explore including the 14th-century chimney in the north block, the hall range and West tower. Parking is a short walk away. 


10. Skenfrith Castle

This medieval fortress with its imposing central tower lies right next to the river Monnow in a beautiful setting. The well-preserved walls surround the circular keep and offer real insight into this low-lying castle that took a role in defending the region against attacks. There is plenty of parking next to the castle and this is a great spot during the summer as you can wade in the river behind the castle (don't go in if it's just rained or the river is high)


Skenfrith Castle
Skenfrith Castle


14 comments:

  1. I had no idea they had so many castles, I do love history and have always loved castles

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  2. It is amazing that you can visit all these amazing castles for free, just amazing...I can't wait to visit Wales again, can't wait...

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  3. I would love to see all of these. Every time we've been to Europe I've made it a point to visit any local castle.

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  4. Castles are just about the coolest thing on earth. I've looked at them so many times in travle books and online. I'd love to see them in person.

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  5. I love that you can visit for no charge at all. We have visited a few castles. One was free, but the others were not.

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  6. Your descriptions of each castle and its unique characteristics provide readers with a real sense of what to expect during their visit. This kind of information is invaluable for travelers looking to make the most of their trip.

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  7. South Wales certainly has its fair share of castles. We haven't visited Wales in a while, it is such a beautiful place.

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  8. This would be so cool, I've always love how old castles and buildings through out E

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  9. This would be so cool! I've always loved how old castles and buildings look throughout Europe.

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  10. Marie Cris Angeles14 September 2023 at 15:11

    Wow! I'm so amazed to all these castle on SOUTH WALES. I will add all these on my bucket list!

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  11. The castles are beautiful throughout and what a beautiful day to go out and explore. I'd love to visit one of these days and sees some of these sights in person.

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  12. Wow, the wealth of castles in Wales is truly impressive! ­čĆ░ It's fascinating to learn that there are over 600 castles to choose from, each with its unique history and charm. Thanks for the tip about the free-to-explore options in South Wales, making castle visits accessible for everyone. Time to plan a castle-hopping adventure!

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  13. My daughter went to Europe this summer and had a chance to visit some castles. These all look like wonderful historical spots to check out.

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  14. I love castles, they fascinate me. I love the list you have provided, it is good. I just wanna explore them too.

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Lovely comments

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