Rhuddlan Castle – The Mighty Fortress Of Wales (History & Travel Tips)

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Everyone knows about the Prince of Wales, but very few are acquainted with the historic castles of Wales. Rhuddlan Castle is a significant historical monument in the country of Wales, considered one of the mightiest English fortresses out there. Let’s look at how it has traveled through history and how it fares in the world of today:

The heart of Rhuddlan boasts a diamond-shaped enclosure. It’s surrounded by six towers and is one of the safest places inside this architectural marvel.

Rhuddlan Castle's west gatehouse.
Rhuddlan Castle’s west gatehouse.Rhuddlan Castle – North Wales flickr photo by s1ng0 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Frequently Asked Questions

FOR HISTORY | BEAUTIFUL IMAGES | INTERESTING FACTS | TRAVEL TIPS

Early History

Earliest Documentation

The earliest mentions of Rhuddlan Castle date back to the 8th century, when its surroundings consisted of marshes against a backdrop of the mountains of North Wales. It is believed to be the host of the settlement of Rhuddlan, which was the center of the racial struggles between the Welsh and English borders.

Edward the Elder

Edward the Elder was the son of King Alfred. It was he who erected the first fort in the area, against Scandinavian raids. It was very close to Rhuddlan, and many believe that the ditches and banks in the outskirts of the town were formed during its construction.

An 1806 print of Rhuddlan Castle.
An 1806 print of Rhuddlan Castle. National Library of Wales, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Prince Gruffydd vs. Earl Harold

Rhuddlan emerged into the forefront of history in 1063, when it was the seat of power for the Welsh Prince, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn. He was most notably known for bringing Wales together under one ruler. He was later driven out of Rhuddlan Castle by the Earl Harold Godwinson.

After the Norman Conquest

The Norman invasion led to the seizure of Llywelyn’s castle. In its place, a motte-and-bailey castle was set up at the behest of William the Conqueror, the site having been marked during the Norman invasion. The castle was built by Robert of Rhuddlan, who served as Lord of North Wales under William the Conqueror for a time. Ultimately the Welsh reclaimed their country, but the earthen mound remains of Rhuddlan’s establishment remain to this day known as Twthill.

A photo of Rhuddlan Castle's ruin.
A photo of Rhuddlan Castle’s ruin. flickr photo by steve p2008 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Llywelyn vs. Edward I

The 11th and 12th centuries saw some major conflicts between the English and the Welsh. This ultimately led to a war between the last native Prince of Wales, Llywelyn  ap Gruffydd and the English King, Edward I. Edward’s invasion of northern Wales led to Llywelyn’s surrender. The castle that we see today was actually built in 1277 to commemorate the English control of the captured region. Construction finished in 1282 in the midst of a new war over the imposition of English customs on the people of Wales.

A monument to the mighty Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (not to be confused with Prince Gruffydd ap Llywelyn previously mentioned!)
A monument to the mighty Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (not to be confused with Prince Gruffydd ap Llywelyn previously mentioned!) Jeff Tomlinson / Monument to Llywelyn Ap Gruffydd Fychan

Later Events

There’s very little that happened after that in the castle’s history. There was a Welsh uprising in 1294 and the Glyndwr rising in 1400, but Rhuddlan withstood all that with grace and sturdiness. The castle was controlled by the Royalists during the Civil War, but they surrendered in 1646. After that, Rhuddlan Castle was partially dismantled so that no one could use it again.

The stairs at Rhuddlan Castle.
The stairs at Rhuddlan Castle. Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net)., CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Current Times

Rhuddlan Castle is managed and preserved by the Welsh government body of CADW today. It’s listed as a heritage site and visited by a number of tourists throughout the year. It’s a historical legacy that speaks of wondrous architectural marvels and is certainly appreciated by professionals and laymen alike.

Rhuddlan Castle in its current condition.
Rhuddlan Castle in its current condition. Tanya Dedyukhina, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Interesting Rhuddlan Castle Facts

  • The earliest construction and design work of Rhuddlan Castle was carried out by Master Bertram – a king’s engineer under Henry III. However, he was replaced by James of St. George, who saw Rhuddlan to completion.
  • The design of Rhuddlan Castle is “concentric” and has an incredible inward defense system. Its symmetrical plan, walls-within-walls design, and artificial moat add to the castle’s beauty and historic value today.
  • The heart of Rhuddlan boasts a diamond-shaped enclosure. It’s surrounded by six towers and is one of the safest places inside this architectural marvel.
  • Edward I always built his castles along the coast, so that supplies could get in by sea even during a siege. The inland location of Rhuddlan led to his decision of redirecting the Clwyd River; he hired hundreds of ditch diggers for the job.
  • Rhuddlan Castle’s construction cost a whopping £9613 (at today’s conversion rate: $13,240 USD) back in the day.

Visiting Rhuddlan Castle – Tips and Tricks

Rhuddlan Castle marks the successful English invasion of Wales and is one of those buildings that mark an important zeitgeist in time. It’s a must-visit if you’re in Wales, here’s everything you need to know to make the trip easier:

Current view of Rhuddlan’s grounds.
Current view of Rhuddlan’s grounds. Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net)., CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to get to Rhuddlan Castle?

You can easily get to Rhuddlan Castle from the market town of Conwy. You just have to take the Betws-y-Coed train to Llandudno Junction, from where you’ll take another train to get to Rhyl. From here, you can take a bus to Rhuddlan, and enjoy a pleasant 7-minute walk to the castle. The whole journey will take around 2 hours and cost you £21-£42 ($28-$56 USD).

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

You can visit Rhuddlan any day between April 1 to November 30th. It opens at 10:00 am and closes at 5:00 pm. The last entry is logged in half an hour before closing time.

Ticket prices vary. For adults, it’s £4.30 ($6 USD) per person. Families can get in at £14.20 ($20 USD) while the ticket price for children is £3.00 ($5 USD). Disabled people and their companions can get in for free.

The bridge to Rhuddlan Castle's gatehouse.
The bridge to Rhuddlan Castle’s gatehouse. Llywelyn2000, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

Two hours and thirty minutes are enough to tour the castle in its entirety, including a leisurely exploration of the grounds.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • Wear comfortable shoes, take a long walk, and see for yourself if this castle was really worth moving an entire river for.
  • You can pack yourself a small picnic and enjoy the lush green surroundings with some good company while you’re at it. You can even bring your dog!
  • Rejoice if you’re coming by car, because parking is easily available.

Quick Video Tour of The Main Rhuddlan 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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