The English King Edward I conquered Wales in the late 13th century.
Most were built by his master architect, James of St.George, from Savoy near the modern France/Swiss/Italian border. He perfected the concentric ring design – several walls within walls – characteristic of the period.
The Ring Of Iron Castles
Here are the castles Edward, via James, built (with links to longer articles where we have one on the site).
We’ve listed them in chronological order and they are marked on the following map:
1. Flint Castle (1277)
The first castle to be built was Flint Castle,
The castle was built in a strategic location in North East Wales. It was only a day’s march from Chester, supplies could be brought down the River Dee, and a ford across to England was nearby, accessible at low tide.
Unfortunately it is now partially ruined and so doesn’t get the attention some of the other more intact places on this list receive.
2. Hawarden Castle (1277)
Hawarden is a ruined medieval castle built on a spur above the River Dee, in Flintshire in north Wales five miles to the west of Chester.
The Welsh leader, Dafydd ap Gruffudd, provoked the English king Edward I to mount a full-scale invasion of Wales when he attacked Hawarden Castle.
The remains of this medieval castle include a round keep and some low sections of wall.
3. Rhuddlan Castle (1277)
Rhuddlan Castle is a castle located in Rhuddlan, Denbighshire, Wales. It was built concurrently with Flint Castle by Edward I.
It is now a partial ruin, although the original inner ring can still be discerned.
4. Builth Castle (1277)
The most southerly of the castles on this list, Builth Castle was started in the same year as Flint, Rhuddan, Hawarden and Aberystwyth.
However, Edward I’s priorities changed during its construction – he wish to concentrate on Gwynedd in the north west of Wales – and it remained unfinished.
It is now just a mound of earth and rubble.
5. Aberystwyth Castle (1277)
Aberystwyth Castle is a fortress built in the late 13th century.
Like the other castles started in 1277 it was constructed to subdue the Welsh, but is now a partial ruin.
6. Denbigh Castle (1283)
Denbigh was once the royal residence of the aforementioned Dafydd ap Gruffudd, the Welsh leader.
On Easter 1282, he rebelled against Edward I, thereby starting the final conflict with England which led to the loss of Welsh independence.
Edward ordered a new castle and town walls to be built to fortify the region and granted it to Henry de Lacy, an ally.
7. Caernarfon Castle (1283)
The largest and best known of the Ring of Iron – indeed it is probably the best known Welsh Castle.
Here’s our post on this major fortress, and tourist attraction:
Resting on the River Seiont banks in northwestern Wales, Caernarfon Castle more than earns its reputation as a crowning achievement of Middle Ages architecture. Taking its moniker from the once-sleepy…
8. Conwy Castle (1283)
This picturesque castle, built in the late 13th century, is a perfect representation of an ‘inner castle’ surrounded by a ‘outer castle.’ (or ‘concentric ring’ design).
Here’s our post on this great castle:
Conwy Castle in North Wales is one of the best preserved medieval castles in the UK. Read on to learn about this splendid castle. Where Is Conwy Castle? Conwy Castle…
9. Harlech Castle (1283)
Looming over the town of Harlech, this castle was actually on the sea when it was built in the 13th century.
The sea has since moved away but it’s still a spectacular scene, especially with the mountains of Snowdonia in the background.
Here’s our post on Harlech:
Harlech Castle looks out from an imposing rocky bluff, with the sheer peaks of Snowdonia as its backdrop. Located in North Wales, Harlech Castle has been awarded World Heritage Site…
10. Beaumaris Castle (1295)
The last of Ring of Iron to be built, Beaumaris is located on the Isle of Anglesey, just off the coast of North Wales.
Although still pretty spectacular it’s unfinished as Edward I died in 1307. The castle was to be even more impressive than it is now.
Here’s our post:
Beaumaris Castle was built to be the titan of castles: four rings of fortress-style defence walls and a moat so vast it needed its own dock. Yet more intriguing still…
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