Raglan Castle – Medieval Glory of Wales (History & Travel Tips)

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A wonderful tourist destination in the South of Wales, Raglan Castle perfectly encapsulates late medieval European culture in all its glory. Its magnificent structure resides in the midst of water gardens, parks, and terraces, and is a must-visit when you’re in the area. Here’s everything you need to know about it:

Raglan castle was used as a site to film the fictional Isle of the Blessed for the TV series Merlin (2008).

Raglan Castle’s formidable architecture.
Raglan Castle’s formidable architecture. Adrian Farwell, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Frequently Asked Questions

FOR HISTORY | BEAUTIFUL IMAGES | INTERESTING FACTS | TRAVEL TIPS

Early History

Origins

The castle has its origins in the invasion of Wales by the Normans. After the takeover, the area surrounding the village of Raglan became the property of William FitzOsbern, the Earl of Hereford. 

It is believed by historians that a motte-and-bailey structure was laid down on the site during this period in time, as it’s quite a strategic location and the remains of a bailey ditch were discovered in the area.

An 1800 drawing of Raglan Castle.
An 1800 drawing of Raglan Castle. National Library of Wales, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The conception of the Manor House

A Norman noble family known as the Bloet family had custody of the local manor from the late 12th century till the late 14th century. They constructed a manor house on the property and surrounded it with a park. Towards the end of the medieval era, the site was encompassed by two large deer parks, the Home Park and Red Deer Park.

15th & 16th Centuries

It was during this time that the construction of Raglan Castle as we see it today was started by Sir William ap Thomas. He took a wealthy heiress named Elizabeth as his first wife and later married another powerful heiress named Gwaldus. In 1432, William bought the manor of Raglan for 1000 marks, the currency in use at that time. He began the construction work which laid down the basic shape of the castle that we see today. 

An 1855 image of Raglan Castle.
An 1855 image of Raglan Castle. Rijksmuseum, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The estate was then inherited by William’s son, William Herbert. He became a prominent figure and supported the House of York during the War of the Roses, fought in the Hundred Years War in France, and made a lot of wealth from the Gascon wine trade. In the 1460s William used his fortune to reconstruct the castle on a larger scale based on Welsh architectural designs.

The parks surrounding the castle in the middle of the wilderness were meant to give off the impression that the inhabitants were cultured people. In the 15th century, the castle also had a lot of orchards and fish ponds surrounding the castle.

An 1838 print of Raglan Castle.
An 1838 print of Raglan Castle. John Skinner Prout, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Continuing the Herbert Inheritance

After William Herbert’s execution in 1469, his son, also known as William Herbert, inherited the castle. During his era, the construction halted for a while before resuming in the late 1470s. 

The castle was inherited by William Herbert’s daughter Elizabeth in 1492. She had married Sir Charles Somerset, the first Earl of Worcester, hence the castle was passed onto the Somerset family. Charles’ son Henry used lead mined from Tintern Abbey for the construction of the castle. Henry’s son William rebuilt the Pitched Stone Court, added the Long Gallery to it, and developed the gardens.

A portrait of Henry Somerset, the 5th Duke of Beufort.
A portrait of Henry Somerset, the 5th Duke of Beufort. Francis Cotes, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

17th Century & Onwards

William Somerset’s son Edward Somerset improved the castle’s interior and exterior in the early 17th century. Henry Somerset inherited the castle in 1628 and led an extravagant life on the property. He developed the entrance route to the castle, adding the Red Gate. His son built a water-commanding machine in the great tower–it is unclear what exactly the machine was. 

In 1642 a civil war broke out between the Parliament and the Royalists. Religious tensions between Protestants and Catholics also intensified during the time. A local group attempted to raid the castle during the period but was scared away by the sound of Lord Herbert’s steam engine. After this, the defense structures of the castle were strengthened.

An aerial view of Raglan Castle's grounds.
An aerial view of Raglan Castle’s grounds. Raglan Castle flickr photo by Fwiffo shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Strengthening of the Defenses

Lord Herbert left the castle to participate in a campaign against Parliament and was captured in Ireland. The castle was strengthened in anticipation of an attack. Siege was laid on the castle in the summer, demanding it to surrender. The castle was finally surrendered on the 19th of August. General Fairfax ordered the castle to be destroyed, but the fortifications turned out to be quite strong–only a few walls were successfully ruined. A lot of the castle’s heritage was stolen or destroyed during this time.

Raglan Castle's bridge.
Raglan Castle’s bridge. Raglan Castle flickr photo by hugh llewelyn shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Somersets Again

The restoration of Charles II into power happened shortly after and the castle returned to the ownership of the Somerset family. The castle, however, continued to be neglected and deteriorated until the 5th Duke, Henry Somerset, renovated the place and made it a tourist destination in the late 18th century.

Current Times

In the 19th century, Raglan Castle was handed over to the Commissioner of Works and has since then been a prominent monument in Wales.

Today, the castle is under the administration of the environment service CADW, and is categorized as a Grade I listed building and Scheduled monument. It is a popular tourist destination, hosting multitudes of visitors every year, and should definitely be on your Welsh itinerary.

Raglan Castle in its current form.
Raglan in its current form. Tyssil, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Interesting Raglan Castle Facts

  • Raglan castle was used as a site to film the fictional Isle of the Blessed for the TV series Merlin (2008).
  • It is believed by architects that the castle’s design was inspired by Southern French architecture.
  • Raglan Castle had a magnificent library towards the west of the gatehouse which was famous for its collection of Welsh literature.

Visiting Raglan Castle – Tips and Tricks

Raglan Castle is a prime example of medieval glory in Wales. Its history is an epic saga that will enrapture all history buffs and enthusiasts, along with anyone seeking some cultural entertainment. Here’s everything you need to know about planning a visit:

Some visiting tourists at Raglan Castle.
Some visiting tourists at Raglan Castle. Palickap, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to get to Raglan Castle?

You can get to Raglan Castle from Cardiff via train, taxi, or car. The most recommended way to get to the castle is by boarding the train at Cardiff Central, getting off at Newport, and then taking a line bus from Newport to Raglan Castle stop. The castle is a 10-minute walk away from the station. The journey by train will take around 2 hours and 11 minutes and cost you about £95 ($130 USD) at a maximum.

By taxi, you can reach the site in 36 minutes, at a rate of around £66 ($90 USD). By car, you can get there in 36 minutes with a fuel cost as low as £5 ($7 USD).

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

The ticket fare for an adult is £6.2 ($9 USD) while for a family it is £21 ($29 USD). For children under 18, armed forces personnel, and veterans it is £4.40 ($6 USD). Admission is free for disabled people and their attendants. 

Visiting hours to the castle are 9:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. For now, under Covid-19 guidelines, only parts of the castle are accessible but the grounds and outdoor areas can be explored fully!

The aerial view of Raglan Castle flexing its structures.
The aerial view of Raglan Castle flexing its structures. view of raglan castle from above flickr photo by Steve Slater (used to be Wildlife Encounters) shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

Raglan Castle can be explored in around 2 hours.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • Carry food along and enjoy a nice picnic in the castle grounds! (There isn’t a cafe on-site so come prepared.)
  • Free parking is available outside the castle. 
  • You would have to climb a lot of stairs throughout your visit, so prepare yourself and carry a bottle of water!

Quick Video Tour of The Main Raglan Castle Areas

Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira is an architect and designer on paper, but a writer at heart. She’s got a Bachelors in Architecture and a passion for traveling, both of which combine in her writings about timeworn castles and fortresses that have withstood the tests of time and stand proud to this day.

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