Raglan castle

Raglan Castle- The Grandest Castle Ever Built by Welshmen

Raglan Castle is a stunning medieval castle that is located only slightly north of the village of Raglan. Sitting quaintly among the stunning countryside, this castle is not something you want to miss because it boasts incredible beauty and makes an impact on all who visit. It is hard to look past its mysterious silhouette that looms above the countryside and it is even said to be the grandest castle ever built by Welshmen.

Though Raglan Castle in Wales doesn’t have an overly complicated or distinct history like other castles do, it has still very much earned its place as a significant castle in history and to this day remains very much loved by people all over the world. Let’s take a look and see why!

Ruins of Raglan Castle
The ruins of Raglan Castle. Source: Geograph

Raglan Castle History

It becomes hard to describe the rugged and medieval formation that is Raglan Castle. It is unlike any castle in Wales and to this day, not a single other castle has come close to being as nice as Raglan. It was also one of the last historic and true castles ever built in Wales, so even more significance is added to this already amazing rugged structure that stands overlooking the stunning countryside.

When was Raglan Castle built?

Raglan Castle in Wales is a beautiful castle, and that is mainly attributed to Sir William ap Thomas who began the castle’s construction in the 1430s. Sir William ap Thomas was behind the construction of the Great Tower at Raglan also known lovingly as the Yellow Tower of Gwent. After his unfortunate passing in 1445, the castle was passed onto his son William, who then took the surname Herbert.

William ap Thomas’ son, who from then on was known as Sir William Herbert, also added some mighty additions to the castle which included adding the glorious gatehouse. The land that Raglan Castle sits on once belonged to the Earl of Hereford who had been granted the village shortly after the Norman invasion of Wales. This has, over time, led people to believe that perhaps there was a previous structure there, though there is not sufficient evidence to prove it aside from remains of a possible bailey ditch that were found on site.

Ruins of Raglan Castle
Raglan Castle. Source: Wikimedia Commons

William ap Thomas

It is because Sir William ap Thomas ended up with a castle like Raglan that people tend to make assumptions that he always came from a place of wealth, though that could not be further from the truth. William was the lesser son of a Welsh family and had to work hard to make his way up the ranks to get where he ended up. It was in 1432 after working extremely hard that he was finally able to purchase something great, that being the land where Raglan Castle would soon begin construction.

William was knighted after he fought loyally alongside King Henry V in the monstrous Battle of Agincourt in 1415. After that, he was forever known and cemented in history as the ‘blue knight of Gwent’. During his time, he made something pretty spectacular of himself and it is no surprise he has been internalised in history, his story is one of great beauty.

The tomb of William ap Thomas
The tomb of William ap Thomas. Source: Geograph

The rising, falling, and execution

This is where the castle’s history becomes far more disastrous than meets the eye. Sir William ap Thomas’ son, William Herbert, soon fell just as fast as he had previously risen and in 1469, he was executed leaving all of his current and future building projects at a halt. Luckily, the castle wasn’t left for too long and soon after, it was passed into the capable hands of the Somerset family.

The third Earl, William Somerset managed to finish the castle and ended up extending the Pitched Stone Court, rebuilding the unique hall, and putting together a rather delightful long gallery. He also added a beautiful garden finished with dozens of classical Roman emperor statues. Though very little of the gardens remain now, they definitely still tell a story. After many, many years of hard work, there was a significant downfall when most of Somersets work was completely abolished due to the civil war in which troops besieged Raglan for ten weeks.

The civil war

Sadly, Raglan fell victim to the civil war in 1642. The war initially broke out between the rival Royalist supporters of King Charles I and Parliament. Once it had caught on, stopping it was almost proving impossible. During this time, parliamentary troops besieged Raglan for ten weeks in 1646 and their efforts proved fairly successful.

Henry Somerset put up a fair fight during this time, though he knew his efforts were proving futile, so eventually, he surrendered. Afterwards, Fairfax had ordered for the castle to be destroyed, but alas, it had proved far too strong and only minor damage was done to this steady castle. As a result of all of this, the castle did momentarily fall into despair and was deliberately set aside for military use.

Even today, in all of its rugged glory, people are genuinely amazed at the strength and longevity of this beautiful medieval castle. The scale, vision, and grandeur of Raglan Castle in Wales alone is breath-taking and leaves you with many questions, even ones that may never be answered.

The progression of The English Civil War
The progression of The English Civil War. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The 18th century

The 18th century didn’t have a lot in store for Raglan Castle, in fact, it spent the majority of the 18th century deteriorating and getting very little attention. The Somerset family, at one point, were even allowing their stewards to take stone from the castle to perform repairs on the other estate buildings. In 1756, an end to this was finally set in stone by Henry Somerset and once again the castle was untouched, but not for long.

Soon after, the castle was turned into a grand attraction for tourists all over to come and bask in its glory. As a tourist attraction, it absolutely took over and soon enough plenty of people were embarking on long journeys just to see a glimpse of the stunning ruins of Raglan Castle.

The present day

These days, while some of the stunning ruins from the 13th and 14th century are still visible, the majority of Raglan Castle is made up of the additions which were completed in the 15th century. Either way, there is still plenty of history sitting there. As you walk around, beautiful pops of pink flowers erupt from the apron wall making an everlasting imprint on whoever is lucky enough to see them.

It is said that on rainy days the castle walls themselves seem to shiver dramatically and on the days that the sun makes an appearance, Raglan Castle gleams like a fairy-tale fortress rising high on a green hill above the busy road below. It is no surprise that visiting Raglan Castle in Wales will leave you in a distinct state of awe because of how perfectly impressive and regal this gorgeous castle really is.

Another beautiful addition to Raglan Castle is the Raglan Castle Café. The Raglan Castle Café is a quaint little farm courtyard and it gives you the perfect insight into what life may have been like in medieval times. It is filled with unique, flavoursome, and heritage food so not only can you enjoy a cultural day at the castle, but you can continue it at the café.

Sit down, relax, and enjoy a stunning view with perfectly friendly staff, beautiful food, and so much more at the old farm courtyard now known lovingly as Raglan Castle Café. It is the perfect addition to your castle trip and will make for the perfect ending to your beautiful day.

5 Raglan Castle Facts

  • Before Raglan Castle was partially destroyed, the Yellow Tower of Gwent was a massive four stories tall and even had some battlements included making it the highest tower in the castle. These days, it only stands three stories high.
  • Raglan Castle in Wales is one of the last true castles that was built in Wales and although it was built for its beauty far more than its strength, it was actually a strong and well-built castle despite that.
  • Henry Somerset, who lived in Raglan Castle, had a large army of staff including a steward, Master of Horse, Master of Fishponds, surveyors, auditors, ushers, a falconer and many footmen.
  • Raglan Castle is very different from other castles in Wales and that is mainly attributed to its design. It is made up of a polygonal design which means that every single one of its towers and even the gatehouse has six sides. They are not round or square like other castles.
  • The Great Tower or Yellow Tower of Gwent, built by Sir William ap Thomas, is surrounded by a large and intriguing moat that you are able to cross via a bridge when you are entering the main castle. It also has an apron wall that features six turrets just above water level.

If you enjoyed reading about Raglan Castle you may want to read about more Welsh castles here.

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