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Castles of the Ring of Iron

  • Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 29 March, 2024

This group of late 13th-century castles is more than a set of medieval fortifications — it’s a metaphor for the military might of King Edward I.

The so-called ‘Iron Ring’ of four castles – Conwy, Caernarfon, Harlech and Beaumaris – were built to crush the Welsh rebellion, led by Llywelyn the Last, as the English King drove his troops across North Wales with brutal efficiency. Llywelyn was captured and executed in 1282 but the castles remained, a statement of a turning point in Welsh history.

Today this group of castles forms one of the four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Wales.

Who to go with: tour operators

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Beaumaris Castle

  • Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

Beaumaris Castle

Experience

The last and most elaborate of the four, Beaumaris is a castle designer’s dream with its concentric design of a castle within a castle. Although unfinished, it represents a dramatic landmark and the gateway to the visitor-hub town of Anglesey.

Adult price: 8

Good for age: 4+

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Caernarfon Castle

  • Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

Caernarfon Castle

Experience

This imposing medieval fortress was originally built in the 11th century, then enhanced by King Edward I at the end of the 13th century. The scene of many a siege and sacking, and then increasingly unnecessary, it fell into disrepair so that only the shell walls remain today.

Adult price: 11

Good for age: 4+

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Conwy Castle

  • Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

Conwy Castle

Experience

Built by the English King Edward I during his 13th-century – one of the so-called ‘Ring-of-Iron’ castles – Conwy remained a refuge of kings and usurpers until it was ruined in 1665 by the English government to prevent further revolt. An evocative complex with all the castle ingredients – keeps, moats, towers and battlements you can walk around.

Adult price: 11

Good for age: 4+

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Harlech Castle

  • Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

Harlech Castle

Experience

Picture-postcard Harlech is most fairytale of the four castles, its imposing towers set atop a 200ft rocky outcrop overlooking the Cambrian coastline. An exhibition in the visitor centre explores the story of the castle’s military history.

Adult price: 8

Good for age: 4+

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Logistics

Price from: £8+
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

The castles are all managed by Cadw, the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage, with tours available to book online and volunteer greeters often in place to orientate visitors.

The castles are best visited independently, so be aware of pre-booking and avoid peak periods to make the most of your visit.

When to do it

The castles are open seven days a week, all year round. Summer days can be particularly busy with coach-tour visitors and school groups, so consider going early or later in the day for a crowd-free to soak up the ambiance.