Wales is famous for its vast collection of castles – but everyone seems to end up visiting the same ones!
You know the ones I mean. The big, famous show stoppers like Caernarfon Castle and Cardiff Castle. But there are many smaller castles you can visit around Wales. They are just as interesting as the larger, more famous castles – but tend to attract less visitors. (And a lot of them are also FREE – bonus!)
During the summer holidays I was lucky to visit Ogmore Castle, one of the beautiful but underappreciated castles near Bridgend in South Wales. It got me thinking, and my research uncovered a whole host of other castles near Bridgend just waiting to be discovered and explored!
Castles Near Bridgend
I lost my heart to Ogmore Castle. The setting of this 13th century castle is divine!
Overlooking a picturesque river crossing still marked by a series of ancient stepping stones, Ogmore (along with Coity and Newcastle) is part of a trio of medieval fortresses built to guard thr ancient county of Glamorgan against attacks. The remains are quite substantial, and in the summer it really is the perfect place for a picnic.
Ogmore is an open site and entry is free.
Top Tip: Don’t miss the picturesque village of Merthyr Mawr with its chocolate box thatched cottages just across the river. But you will have to brave the ancient stepping stones!
Hidden in the sand dunes of Merthyr Mawr you will find a castle that isn’t technically a castle. It’s more of a fortified manor house – albeit haunting and covered in ivy.
Built in the late 14th Century by the de Cantelupe family, the evidence suggests Candleston may have originally acted as some sort of look-out tower or guard house, overseeing trade on the nearby Ogmore River. Its hard to imagine it now as the structure is slowly reclaimed by the shifting dunes.
Candleston is an open site and entry is free.
Top Tip: Take your time to explore the dunes – Merthyr Mawr is Europe’s largest sand dune system!
In my view, Coity is the most underappreciated of the castles near Bridgend. It is the equal of some of the more famous castles sites in South Wales!
Coity Castle may be a romantic ruin but it is extensive! Today’s visitors are presented with a centuries-spanning jumble of architectural styles that reflect its long history. Visually you can follow the development of the castle through its different architectural features right up until when the castle was abandoned in the 17th Century.
Coity is an open site and entry is free. At the time of writing the castle is undergoing some conservation works, so please check access before visiting.
The final fortress of the three castles built to protect early medieval Glamorgan, you can find Newcastle Castle in the centre of Bridgend.
Newcastle guarded the important river crossings which once controlled access into Glamorgan. The remains of the castle you see today was built by Henry II. This royal connection probably explains why it was so well constructed. There is some outstanding surviving Romanesque architecture here.
Newcastle Castle is an open site and entry is free.
Top Tip: Newcastle is very near to St John’s House, an exceptionally well-preserved late medieval building set within the historic Newcastle area of Bridgend. It is managed by a charitable trust and not always open, but its always worth checking just in case.
The most ruinous of the castles near Bridgend, Kenfig Castle is still historically significant enough to be featured on this list.
In its day, this castle near the settlement of North Cornelly was an important Norman stronghold. It was built by Robert, Earl of Gloucester in the early 12th century, and was so strategically important it was seriously attacked by the Welsh at least nine times during its history.
Kenfig Castle is an open site and entry is free, but you will have to park in the Kenfig Nature Reserve Car Park and walk through the dunes to find it.
Top Tip: Kenfig is an area with A LOT of history. When you’ve finished exploring the castle have lunch at the nearby Prince of Wales Inn. Reputedly haunted, upstairs you will find the old borough guildhall.
Have you visited any of these castles near Bridgend? Have any top tips for visiting them? Then let us know in the comments below.
Want to discover more great castles in Wales? Then check out my handy Welsh History Travel Guide.