Wales is better known for all those mighty castles built by Edward 1st – Carnarfon, Conwy, Harlech etc – but there are are also some real gems from a later period, such as Raglan in Monmouthshire and Carew near Pembroke
I was always vaguely aware that there was a castle and a place called Raglan in Wales and was intrigued because the word raglan always made me think of knitted cardigans! I don’t think there’s a connection to a style of knitting but I may be wrong.
On one of our trips through Wales we needed a break and could have stopped at Monmouth Services, but instead, we did what we often do on a long journey and looked for somewhere interesting and more peaceful to visit. Nearby was Raglan castle – only a mile from the dual carriageway but in the quiet of the countryside.
Raglan is a grand Tudor castle, built at a time when castle building in Britain was coming to an end and castles such as Raglan were built as much for show and as a statement of wealth than for fortification.
It was built in the 1430’s and occupied until 1646 when it came under siege during the English Civil War. Its fortifications were still strong enough for it to be able to hold out against Cromwell’s parliamentary forces for almost 3 months, making it one of the longest sieges of the Civil War. It suffered extensive damage and was partly destroyed but there is still enough left of its grandeur and elegance to see today.
The castle was an important social centre during Tudor times. As much a palace as a castle, it was elegantly furnished and held many fine treasures, including paintings and sculptures.
There was an impressive Hall and Long Gallery and also an immense library which contained an important collection of Welsh manuscripts. After the siege the contents of the library were destroyed – a huge loss to Welsh culture and history.
Everything about the castle is very striking, particularly the Great Tower and its surrounding moat. The castle was built from two types of sandstone, old red sandstone and the pale yellowish sandstone that was used to build the tower. The Great Tower was so impressive in its day that it became known as The Yellow Tower of Gwent.
The moat is withing the castle walls and running alongside it is the Moat Walk, where it’s easy to imagine Elizabethan ladies taking a promenade.
The Moat Walk
Above – looking down from the Great tower. There was a very good tearoom in the neighbouring farm buildings – much better than stopping at the motorway services!