Border country and the Marches of Wales:
The Welsh border lands (the Welsh Marches) are home to the Offa's
Dyke Trail, one of the great walks in the United Kingdom. But the Welsh Borders
offer more than a long distance path, much more.
The border counties of England and Wales have some of the most beautiful
countryside in the United Kingdom with the added bonus of being rich in
fascinating history and culture, making the border counties ideal for
a holiday in Wales. Battles have been fought over these lands for thousands
of years as evidenced by the abundance of castles, ancient forts, and
other historic sites.
Many of the castles owe their existence to the decision of William the
Conqueror, after his conquest of England in 1066, to grant land along
the Welsh border country to his fellow Normans. These men became the
Marcher Lords who
built the chain of castles that acted as a buffer between England and
the unconquerable Welshmen. The Marcher Lords owed allegiance to
the English monarch but had the freedom to administer their feudal estates
as they saw fit. However It was not an easy life for the Marcher lords
as the Welsh Princes continued to wage war against the English
for a great part of the next three hundred years.
From Flint Castle in the north to Chepstow Castle
in the south ( built in 1067, less than a year after William the
Conqueror was crowned King of England ) the Welsh border castles are
still to this day fantastic examples of mediaeval architecture. Not surprisingly
some of the castles are little more than ruins, but many still stand
proudly in their strategic positions on this turbulent landscape.
The Castles :
Flint Castle, in Flintshire on the northern coast, is one of King Edward
1's 14th Century "iron ring" of castles, and guards the Dee
estuary and the most northern route from Wales to England.
Chirk Castle, Chirk, Wrexham County. Chirk Castle has been occupied
virtually continuously as a castle and stately home for almost 700 years.
was probably built by Roger Mortimer, of the powerful Marcher family,
who was granted the area by Edward I after the Welsh defeat in 1282.
TIP! If walking the Offa's Dyke Trail you will need to make a small detour
here as the Dyke now passes beneath an artificial Lake in the grounds
of Chirk Castle.
Castell Dinas Bran, in Llangollen, Denbighshire, towers high above
the Dee Valley occupying one of Britain's most spectacular
and romantic sites. With it's Arthurian connections some say that the
Holy Grail is hidden on the hillside at Dinas Bran.
Powis Castle, in Welshpool, Powys still survives
as a captivating example of a military stronghold which was preserved
and renewed by continual occupation.
Dolforwyn Castle, Dolforwyn, Powys. Dolforwyn was built by the Welsh
Prince, Llywelyn the Last (Llywelyn ap Gruffydd), between 1273-77. It's
close proximity to the Anglo Norman town of Montgomery antagonised the
English KIng Edward 1 ( BIG
MISTAKE ........ Edward 1 was the last person you would want to antagonise
Montgomery Castle, Castle Hill, Montgomery, Powys. Montgomery Castle
is an impressive stone fortress built on a rocky promontory located high
above the town centre of Montgomery. It was originally known as Y Domen
and replaced a nearby earlier castle that was initially
built under Roger de Montgomery in 1072. It was probably originally built
in timber in 1223 but was almost immediately rebuilt in stone and completed
Clun Castle, Clun, Shropshire. One of the lesser Marcher castles located
on the English side of the border in the small village of Clun.
Knighton Castle, Knighton, Radnorshire, Powys. Built by the Marcher
Lord William de Braose in the 12th Century. Llewelyn ap Gruffydd captured
Knighton castle during his conquest of the area in 1262 and the castle
and town were burned. In 1402, during the Owain Glyndwr rebellion,
Knighton castle was again burned and the Marcher Lord Edmund Mortimer
was defeated in a great battle at nearby Pilleth.
Brecon Castle, Brecon, Powys. Brecon Castle, and the priory,
were founded by the Norman Lord Bernard de Neufmarche. A walled town
grew up around these buildings and that signaled the beginning of the
ancient town of Brecon. There may not be a lot to see of the present
Castle but the church of Brecon Priory,
now a cathedral, and the lovely little market town of Brecon are
well worth a visit.
Abergavenny Castle, Abergavenny Monmouthshire. Abergavenny Castle
was founded circa 1087 by the Norman lord Hamelin de Ballon, the original
castle having a wooden keep built on a steep hillock, which was surrounded
by a ditch still visible today. In the late 12th Century the Normans
started to rebuild the castle in stone and it is the remains of the Easter,
South Western towers and the Great Hall and Gatehouse that can be seen
today. A 19th century hunting lodge housing the Abergavenny Museum stands
on the original motte. The Castle is notorious as the scene of a terrible
act of murder committed by William de Braose Lord of Abergavenny. In
the guise of a reconciliation meeting for an earlier killing de Braose
had summoned several Welsh leaders to the Castle, but instead of reconciliation
all were murdered and their lands seized.
Chepstow Castle, Chepstow, Monmouthshire. Chepstow Castle has a spectacular
setting on cliffs above the river Wye close to where it joins
the river Severn. It is one of the earliest stone-built castles in Britain
- the centre of the medieval Marcher lordship of Chepstow. Built by
the Norman Lord William Fitz Osbern from
1067 it is the southernmost of the chain of castles built along the