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Castles of Wales (Hardback)

Ancient History P&S History > British History P&S History > Medieval World > Medieval History P&S History > Social History World History > UK & Ireland > Wales

By John Paul Davis
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Series: Castles of...
Pages: 264
Illustrations: 25 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399018876
Published: 23rd February 2022



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In 1277, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Gwynedd, met with Edward I of England in Aberconwy to finalise a treaty that would change the fate of both nations. His hand forced by Edward’s invasion earlier that year, Llywelyn’s acceptance of the terms confirmed not only short-term peace but also that the rule of Wales would pass to Edward on his death. To augment his rising dominance, the English king embarked on a building project that saw the rise of some of the most recognisable fortresses in Europe. Quite literally, an ‘Iron Ring’ of castles.

Even before the construction of Edward’s infamous ‘Iron Ring’, castles were by no means rare in Wales. Both before and simultaneous to William the Conqueror’s establishment of timber and stone fortresses in the south and borderlands, a process continued by many of his descendants, native structures also existed. Though often more palatial than protective, such constructions proved decisive to the ongoing wars and were often chosen as sites for future castles. Just as had been the case in England, the story of the castle crosses many centuries. Many began as Roman forts, whereas others date from more modern times. While many are now romantic ruins, others remain cherished family homes, if not hotels or museums.

By adopting an identical approach to that seen in Castles of England, the purpose of this book is to throw light on the stories behind them. For as long as there have been castles in Wales, there have been mysteries within their walls. Murders that remain unsolved, treasures unfound, prisoners left to rot in the darkest pits and valiant warriors whose heroic deeds have become a cherished part of the Welsh identity.

From blood-soaked heroes to long-lost legends, despotic pirates to wailing hags, Castles of Wales offers a fresh investigation into many of its fascinating fortresses. No country has more castles per square mile than Wales. Even today, there are more than 200 to be enjoyed. Inspired by such a rich tapestry of tales, this book provides an essential introduction to the nation many regard as ‘The Land of Castles’.

Featured by

A Tudor Reader

A really good book and an informative read.

Read the full review here

The History Fella

"Well researched and well written."

Clwyd FHS

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A very detailed book for castle lovers with drawings and history. I would purchase for a trip to Welsh castles to find out more before or after a trip to the castles.

NetGalley, Tina Milledge

Anyone with an interest in castles , Wales and the history of the country will love this book. It is well written and researched, as far as some myths and legends can be. One is encouraged to get out a map and check out the layout of the country, well done Mr. Davis, Pen & Sword publishers for an exceptional book.

NetGalley, Carol Elizabeth Keogh

As featured in: Bookshelf


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a great book full of interesting information, historical facts, and daunting tales that occurred in the Castles of Wales. I hope to someday visit some of these amazing places.

NetGalley, Jaime Burns

Castles of Wales is an absolute gem, and there can be no better day than today, St. David’s Day, to give this book the praise it fully deserves.

It wasn’t until I read this book that I realised how extensive my childhood adventures exploring castles throughout south and west Wales had been. As it turns out, there’s barely a castle I missed. Castles of Wales supplies the historical narrative lacking at the time, yet hardly required for a young boy lost in a world of imagination. It’s a book that will definitely be added to my bookshelf and will doubtless accompany me as I retrace my footsteps, and find new castles further afield.

It’s an invaluable guide to the casual tourist as well as the scholar. I recently finished reading a biography of Edward I, and it was interesting to learn in more detail in Castles of Wales about his citadels and ‘Iron Ring’. I’m inspired to read more by this author!

NetGalley, Richard Lewis

I found this a very engaging read for the layperson with an interest in history-- or in reported hauntings. I'm currently studying Cymraeg, which is what caught my interest more than anything. I'm in no position at the moment to travel there myself, but the author's passion for the landscapes as well as the history come through, and make this a fine pick for the armchair traveler as well as the armchair historian.

The story of Castell Carew, in the chapter on the castles of Pembrokeshire, was hands down my personal favorite-- while I enjoy history and nonfiction, I admit that nonfiction history reads rarely crack the barrier between a three and four star read for me, but that one... well. Even if your interests lie far from the exploits of Edwards and Henrys, fascinating tales abound.

NetGalley, Cat Marsh

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Castles of Wales by John Paul Davis is a fascinating book on a subject that intrigues so many people: castles. This volume gives the reader so much good information yet avoids the long dry patches many such books contain.

While each section is about a specific castle or grouping, this is more than simply a book about the structures. This is part history and part folklore, with the legends that inhabit these sites sitting alongside the verifiable (mostly) historical figures.

If, like me, you have a couple of coffee table books about castles, whether of a particular region or in general, this book will complement those books by including the history in more detail than many popular books do. While the photographs here are nice, this book fleshes out the fascination castles still hold over us, adding some weight to the skeleton that many beautiful coffee table books offer.

The bibliography in the back is extensive and includes a list of websites. I would also suggest doing some searches of your own on any castles and/or legends that pique your curiosity. I did and found some great pictures and information (and even made a new friend on one of the sites). This book is ideal for turning into a multimedia experience based on which locations or stories grab you.

I would highly recommend this to readers who would like a little more history to go along with their love of castles. The entries discuss the current state of the castles as well as their importance throughout history so is appealing to both the historian and the person who might want to visit some of these places.

NetGalley, Jack Messer

For anyone who enjoys history or castles in general, I would recommend this book!

The book was beautifully illustrated throughout, and looks in detail at several of Wales's castles, providing details of construction and history in each case. The cover is attention-grabbing, and I could easily imagine this book being placed on bookshelves at castle bookshops throughout Wales, and selling well.

NetGalley, Caryl Blake

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Very informative book taking you into the world of castles in Wales.
Beautiful photos.
Worth reading.

Llyfr gwych, cestyll bendigedig
(Great book, wonderful castles)

NetGalley, Karen Bull

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A compelling historical read about the history, construction and use of the Castles in Wales. It is well-written and engaging. I was fascinated by the descriptions of the after effects of the Rose War. As an American, this book gave me a fresh introduction to the history of Wales which I appreciated.

NetGalley, Maggie Palner

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

John Paul Davis is also the author of the wonderful Castles of England. Learning about the availability of Castles of Wales thrilled me, especially as I have visited so many castles he discusses in this riveting book. Though visiting the castles really does help there is just the right amount of information to give readers a good sense of history, the attributes and purpose(s) of each (they sometimes changed), roles and whether they can be visited. The author's family had a Cadw pass when he was a young boy which revealed a different world. Wales is jam packed with castles and churches, more per square mile than anywhere, the ultimate in castle exploring for people like myself.

Not only does Englishman Davis describe the history of Wales and England from a defensive castle perspective but defines "castle" and explains many mythological connections and folklore. Additionally, he describes many multisensory hauntings witnessed by people over the ages including a "blue lady", an ape, disembodied legs, piercing screams, laughter, crying children, cold spots, soldiers and a "glowing wraith".

Many castles in Wales are Norman or Plantaganet and several comprise Edward I's "Iron Ring". However, there were fortifications well before this. Many names synonymous with the time of stone castles are Owain, William the Conqueror, Marcher lords, Cromwell, Edward I, legendary King Arthur and more. Thankfully one can visit about 200 of the 600 or so castles in Wales. The author includes a few in bordering England as well. Some of my personal favourites in the book are Caerphilly with its concentric design and double moat, wonderful Beaumaris, Chirk with its original dungeon, Denbigh's breathtaking views, Ewloe for its splendidly steep access, Gwyndir which is lived in and has peacocks strolling the grounds, Ruthin labyrinths, historical majestic Harlech, grand Manorbier, gardens at Picton, Carreg Cennen for its sublime location and passage/cave, powerful Chepstow and pretty Stokesay. I like the "The Best of the Rest" section as well as the photographs (only wish there were more!). Exploring castles and ruins is one of the most educational pursuits one can have in my opinion. If this book doesn't inspire, nothing will!

My sincere thank you to Pen & Sword and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this thoroughly researched and highly informative book. I can't wait to return to Wales!

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

About John Paul Davis

John Paul Davis is the international bestselling author of eleven thriller novels and four works of historical non-fiction. His debut thriller, The Templar Agenda, was a UK top 20 bestseller; The Cortés Trilogy has also been an international bestseller.
As well as being a thriller author, his debut work, Robin Hood: The Unknown Templar, has been the subject of international attention, including articles in The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Mail, Yorkshire Post and Nottingham Evening Post, mentions in USA Today and The Independent and reviews in the Birmingham Post and Medieval History Journal. His second work, Pity for the Guy, was the first full-length biography of Guy Fawkes and was featured on ITV’s The Alan Titchmarsh Show in November 2011. His most recent work on Henry III, The Gothic King, was released in 2013. His latest work of non-fiction, A Hidden History of the Tower of London, also published by Pen & Sword, was released in February 2020.
He was educated at Loughborough University and lives in Warwickshire. His websites are www.officiallyjpd.com and www.theunknowntemplar.com. Twitter @unknown_templar.

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