Wales has more Castles per square mile than anywhere else in the world. Cardiff alone has more than one. Our Three Castle Tour lets you visit Three different Castles in one day. Through the course of the day we will take you to the biggest Castle in Wales, one of the oldest Castles in Wales, and one of the newest castles in Wales. Each built in a different style for a different reason. Each as magnificent and impressive as the other. Despite being built at different times for different reasons, the three castles all share a common history.
Built by Gilbert de Clare in the 13th Century to control his lands. The construction was opposed by Llewelly ap Gruffydd, one of the last native Prince of Wales’, who attempted to destroy it before it was completed. By the time construction was finished, Gilbert de Clare had constructed a fortress covering 30 acres, making it the largest Castle in Wales, and the 2nd largest in Europe. The first Concentric Castle in the UK, with a huge gate house and network of moats and dams, Gilbert de Clare’s fortress was considered to have the most elaborate water defences in Britain.
Through much of its history Caerphilly & Cardiff Castles were owned by the same families. By the end of the 16th Century, the popularity of Caerphilly Castle had waned in favour of Cardiff Castle, and the Castle began to fall into disrepair. In the late 17th Century much of the outer walls were demolished, and the stone used on construction projects elsewhere.
During the English Civil war it is believed Parliamentary forces attacked and damaged the castle to prevent Royalists using the fortress, a tactic known as “slighting”. It is thought that this slighting caused towers to totally collapse, and the South East tower to lean more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Today, the south East tower, is still standing, and leaning, over 350 years after being damaged.
In the mid 18th Century, the nearly ruined castle passed to the Bute’s, along with Cardiff Castle. 100 years later and John Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, was one of the richest men in the world due to the families ownership of large coalfields in the South Wales Valleys, and Cardiff Docks. The Marquess used his vast wealth to begin the restoration of Caerphilly Castle, and much of the work was carried out by William Frame, whose mentor had been WIlliam Burges who had carried out significant renovations at Cardiff Castle, and built Castell Coch for the Marquess.
After more restoration work by the 4th Marquess of Bute, also called John Crichton-Stuart in the early 20th Century. The 5th Marquess (also called John Crichton-Stuart) gave Caerphilly Castle to the state in 1950.
Built in the 12th Century, Llandaff Cathedral has stood for nearly 900 years, but it was not the first church on the site.
It is believed the site has held religious significance for over 3000 years, and there has been a church of some kind, for various religions here for three millenia.
Now a suburb of Cardiff, Llandaff has been a city in its own right far longer than Cardiff. As Cardiff grew, it reached the city boundaries of Llandaff, and eventually engulfed the smaller city. Today Llandaff is known as “The City in a City”
Over the centuries the Cathedral has sustained damage from storms, lightiing, floods and bombs, but has stood firm and is a popular stop on with all guests who visit it.
Compared to Caerphilly Castle, the Red Castle (Coch is Welsh for Red, and Castell is Welsh for Castle) is miniscule. That is not the only way they are completely opposite. Where Caerphilly Castle is nearly 800 years old, Castell Coch is only 150 years old. Despite its Medieval look, that suggests it was built in the 14th or 15th Century, construction began in 1871, and the castle wasn’t completed until 1891.
Where most castles are built as some form of defensive fortress, Castell Coch was not. Despite its look, there was never the intention that the castle would need, or be able to, with hold an attack, or protect ground. Nestled in the hills to the North of Cardiff, Castell Coch was built to be an occasional summer house for the Bute’s whose main residence was Cardiff Castle. This was underlined by the fact it only has three bedrooms.
Although the Castle is young, it is built on the site of a Castle built by the Normans, but abandoned shortly afterwards. Then rebuilt by Gilbert de Clare around the same time as he built Caerphilly Castle. Just as the Normans had done though, de Clare, abandoned the Castle shortly after, and it was destroyed during the Welsh Rebellion of 1314. The ruins remained untouched until the mid 19th Century, when Bute ordered surveys of the land, which resulted the construction of the summer house that was completed in 1891.
Just as the Normans and Gilbert de Clare before him, Bute also had little use for the Castle after its completion, and in 1950 the Castle was handed to the state by the 5th Marquess of Bute along with Caerphilly Castle.
From Normans to de Clare to the Butes, to today, Castell Coch is an enigma. Nestled in the hills, it sits inspiring wonder. Despite being 5 miles from the centre of a European Capital City, the grounds of the castle are a calm and tranquil place. This is why we give you an hour and half here. During your time at Castell Coch you can look round the Fairytale castle itself and enjoy the peace and quiet, and explore the grounds before we head into the centre of that Capital City and our final destination of the day.
Built on the foundations of a Roman Fort dating back to the 4th Century, which in turn were built on the site of a first century roman fort, this 2000 year old castle sits imperiously right in the heart of the Capital of Wales. Whilst not as big as Caerphilly Castle, it is even more impressive.
Where most castles get their name from the place where they are built. The city of Cardiff, gets it names from the Castle. The Romans were first to build a fort on the site in the 1st Century. At the time, the coast was a lot closer to the city centre than it is today, and the Romans built a fort on the banks of the river Taff to guard the Roman border. When the fort was built there was no settlement of any kind, and the native welsh people named the Roman fort, Gaer Y Taff. Or “Fort on the Taff”, as Gaer is Welsh for fort. Over time, Gaer Y Taff evolved into Caerdydd, the English translation of which is Cardiff.
During the Romans time in Wales, the original fort was replaced with a smaller wooden one, which itself was replaced with a stone one. When the Romans left Britain in the 5th Century, the fort was abandoned. It remained untouched for 600 years until the Norman conquest of Britain.
The Normans built a Motte and Bailey castle on the site of the stone Roman fort. Building on what was left of the roman walls. Large sections of the Roman wall can still be seen today.
Over the centuries the castle has passed through the hands of many notable families, including Gilbert de Clare, the Dispensers, the Beauchamps, the Tudors (including King Henry VIII when he was Prince Henry), Herberts and finally the Butes. The Butes took ownership of Cardiff Castle in 1776 when John Stuart, who would become the first Marquess of Bute married the grand daughter of Lady Charlotte Herbert and Viscount Thomas Windsor. John Stuart carried out extensive renovations and significant changes to the Castle. The 2nd Marquess of Bute, John Crichton-Stuart invested in coalfields and building Cardiff docks. By the time John Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, came of age in 1868, the Bute’s had become immensely wealthy due to ownership of large swathes of coalfields (22,000 acres) in the Welsh Valleys, and ownership of the Cardiff Docks. As one of the richest men in the world at the time the 3rd Marquess hired architect William Burges to redevelop Cardiff Castle in a Gothic Style. The 4th Marquess of Bute (John Crichton-Stuart) continued work on the castle, predominantly the grounds.
The 5th Marquess of Bute (also John Crichton-Stuart) inherited the Castle in 1947, along with Caerphilly Castle and Castell Coch. The Marquess almost immediately gave the Castle to Cardiff Council.
Today it is a popular visitor attraction, and is one of Cardiff’s “must visit” attractions
Book a tour
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Timings & Numbers
Theis Tour is a four hour tour for up to 6 people. Starting at 9:30 from any location of your choice in Cardiff, it ends when you arrive at Cardiff Castle at around 1:30pm
Additional important information
We are unable to accommodate any luggage on this tour. If you are likely to have luggage with you, please contact us in advance.
Whilst this tour is available for up to 6 people, we will need to know how many people will be going on the tour, as we may use a vehicle licenced for 4 passengers.
Caerphilly Castle, Castell Coch & Cardiff Castle all have an entry. This is not included in the tour fee, and will need to be paid on the door on the day. Caerphilly Castle & Castell Coch are both owned and operated by CADW, where as Cardiff Castle is owned and operated by Cardiff City Council
Llandaff Cathedral is an active Cathedral. It is open to the public every day of the week, although access to it may be restricted when there is a service of some kind taking place at the Cathedral.
During Events at The Principality Stadium, there may be road closures in place, preventing vehicle access to Cardiff Castle. On these days the tour would finish as close to Cardiff Castle as possible, but you will have to go the rest of the way (approximately 600m) on foot.
During some events at Cardiff Castle, the castle may be closed to the general public. This tour will still go ahead if Cardiff Castle is closed, as the castle is the finishing location of the tour, and not part of the tour itself. Where possible, we highly recommend visting the castle after the tour however.
Events at The Principality Stadium
At the time of writing (1st November 2023) the following events have been confirmed for The Principality Stadium on days the tour would be running. We have indicated our estimated road closure times next to each event to help you decide which tours to book. This times are our estimates based on past events at the stadium. This may differ from the actual road closure times
Saturday 4th November 2023.
Rugby. Wales v Barbarians – Kick Off 2:30pm. Estimated Road Closure 11:00am
Saturday 3rd February 2024
Rugby. Wales v Scotland, Kick Off 4:45pm. Estimated Road Closure 12:00pm
Saturday 16th March 2024
Rugby. Wales v Italy, Kick Off 2:15pm. Estimated Road Closure 11:00am
Saturday 27th April 2024
Women’s Rugby. Wales v Italy, Kick Off 12:00 Estimated Road Closure 10:00am
Tuesday 18th June 2024
Concert. Taylor Swift, Doors Open 5:00pm. Estimated Road Closure 3:00pm
Tuesday 25th June 2024
Concert. Foo Fighters, Doors Open 7:00pm. Estimated Road Closure 5:00pm
Events at Cardiff Castle
At the time of writing (1st November 2023) the following events have been confirmed for Cardiff Castle on days the tour would be running. On these days the Castle may not be open to the general public
Friday 14th June 2024
The Smashing Pumpkins & Wheezer
Friday 5th July & Saturday 6th July 2024
Manic Street Preachers & Suede