Before heading back to school, take a step back in time with a visit to one of the region’s many castles, some more intact than others. And when you’re done with history, head to a local pub for a very present pint ...

Raglan Castle

The unmistakable silhouette of Raglan crowning a ridge amid glorious countryside is the grandest castle ever built by Welshmen.

We can thank Sir William ap Thomas, the ‘blue knight of Gwent’, for the moated Great Tower of 1435 that still dominates this mighty fortress-palace.

His son Sir William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, created the gatehouse with its flared ‘machicolations’.

These stone arches allowed missiles to be rained down on attackers.

But Raglan came 150 years later than the turbulent heyday of castle-building.

It was designed to impress as much as to intimidate.

Under various earls of Worcester Raglan was transformed into a magnificent country seat with a fashionable long gallery and one of the finest Renaissance gardens in Britain.

But loyalty to the crown was to prove its undoing.

Despite a garrison of 800 men and one of the longest sieges of the Civil War, it fell to parliamentary forces and was deliberately destroyed.

Among the looted treasures was a piece of Tudor wooden panelling, now proudly displayed in the visitor centre after being rescued from a cow shed in the 1950s.

Goodrich Castle

Near Ross-on-Wye and with commanding views of the surrounding landscape and the River Wye, Goodrich is one of the finest and best preserved of all English medieval castles. 

Among the many stories told about the castle is the tragic tale of Alice Birch.

In 1646 her uncle, the Parliamentary Colonel John Birch marched on Goodrich and besieged the castle, one of the few remaining Royalist strongholds.

Alice fell in love with the Royalist Charles Clifford and it’s said that the lovers attempted to flee before the final assault but drowned while trying to cross the river. 

Until September 1, children can discover what it was like to live, work and fight in a real-life castle.

From learning to sword fight, taking part in pike drills, or transforming into a Roundhead or cavalier, there’s loads to explore.

Croft Castle

The first Bernard de Croft of Croft Castle was noted in the Domesday book in 1086 and the Crofts have fought to keep their home ever since.

Meet Sir Richard Croft who fought with his Croft army during the Wars of the Roses alongside Edward Mortimer in 1461 at the ‘Battle of Mortimer’s Cross’ and fast forward to meet James Croft and find out how the family bought back their home in 1923, and see what life was like when the castle became a school for evacuees in the Second World War.

Wigmore Castle

One of many castles built close to the England–Wales border after the Norman Conquest.

Founded in 1067 by William Fitz Osbern, it was a major centre of power for over 500 years, and played host to several kings and queens.

The castle fell into ruin after the Civil War and remained an untouched ruin until the 1990s, when English Heritage conserved it in a way that ensured the castle’s natural environment was preserved to create a home for rare and unusual species including lesser horseshoe bats and wildflowers such as ploughman’s spikenard. 

Eastnor Castle

Eastnor was built by the 2nd Baron (Lord) Somers between 1810 and 1824, designed to create the impression of an Edward I-style medieval fortress guarding the Welsh Borders.

The castle fell into disrepair when the 6th Lord Somers and his family moved to Australia.

The revival of Eastnor began in 1949 with the Hon. Elizabeth Somers Cocks and Benjamin Hervey-Bathurst, parents of the present owner, James Hervey-Bathurst, who, with his family came to live in Eastnor in 1988, and accelerated the restoration and internal repair of the Castle. 

Hampton Court Castle

The oldest parts of the now fully restored castle, including the chapel, date back to 1427.

Henry IV began building on the site before giving it to Sir Rowland Lenthall, who built a quadrangular manor house in 1427.

The estate was later purchased by Richard Arkwright, son of the famous inventor and the Arkwrights lived at Hampton Court until 1912.

It was rescued in the 1990s by American Robert Van Kampen who refurbished the interior according to his interpretation of how an English castle should look and undertook a massive transformation of the gardens

Longtown Castle

Longtown Castle dates back 2,000 years, when it was originally a Roman fort, probably used by a 500-strong cohort of infantry sent to fight against a British tribe resisting Roman rule.

Research by the Longtown Castles Project suggests that it was probably Gilbert de Lacy who replaced the old wooden castle at Longtown with the stone castle visible today, garrisoned for the last time in 1403.

Not long afterwards it began the decline into a picturesque ruin.

Chepstow Castle

This magnificent clifftop fortress traces 600 years of history, stretching out along a limestone cliff above the River Wye like a history lesson in stone.

There’s no better place in Britain to see how castles gradually evolved to cope with ever more destructive weaponry – and the grandiose ambitions of their owners.

For more than six centuries Chepstow was home to some of the wealthiest and most powerful men of the medieval and Tudor ages.

Building was started in 1067 by Earl William fitz Osbern, close friend of William the Conqueror, making it one of the first Norman strongholds in Wales.

Pre-booking only. Open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

Grosmont Castle

Grosmont Castle is one of the Three Castles, a former medieval lordship, comprising Grosmont, Skenfrith and White Castle in Monmouthshire, which then played a role in defending the region for several centuries.

Some work was carried out to develop the castles in the 12th century, but their current form mainly dates from the 13th century, and by the 16th century they had fallen into disuse and ruin.

They are now managed by the National Trust and linked by a circular footpath known as The Three Castles Walk.

Hay Castle

Part Norman, part Jacobean and part Victorian, Hay Castle has been home to invaders, a patriots’ citadel, country manor and a world-famous bookshop.

The remains of the castle include a four-storey keep and a beautiful arched gateway.

The Jacobean manor was severely damaged by fire in 1939, and again in 1977.

Today, thanks to the Hay Castle Trust and lottery funding, it is in the process of a major restoration and preservation project, poised to take on a new life as a major centre for culture, arts and education.

Ludlow Castle

First referred to by chroniclers in 1138, Ludlow Castle was a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War.

In 1646 the town and castle were besieged by a strong Parliamentary force under Colonel Birch.

After 1669 the castle was quickly abandoned, and by 1722 Daniel Defoe described it as ‘the very perfection of decay’.

Successive earls of Powis prevented further decline, and in recent years grants from English Heritage have enabled important repair work. 

  • From Eastnor, head to Ledbury for a selection of pubs: Prince of Wales, not currently serving food; The Feathers, cosy, traditional coaching inn