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Castles & historic houses

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Wales has more castles per square mile than anywhere else in the world. About 640 of them, give or take. And Mid Wales has more than its fair share.

 

Ever since Iron Age people built the huge hillfort of Pen-y-Crug at Brecon a couple of millennia ago, this has been disputed ground. The Romans, the Mercians and the Normans all came, liked what they saw and built fortresses to stake their claim.

 

And a succession of Welsh princes, including the great freedom fighter Owain Glyndwr, did their best to raze them to the ground. They even built a few of their own.

 

All this means you could spot a castle just about anywhere in Mid Wales. Most of our towns have got one. The atmospheric ruins crowning a hill above Montgomery, for instance, or on the green “tump” beside the river in Crickhowell.

 

Hay-on-Wye has two. One with a Jacobean mansion tacked onto the side for good measure. But at Builth Wells only earthworks and ghosts remain.

 

Some of our castles may have started life as stark medieval fortresses. But they became sumptuous family homes where the rich and powerful could display a love of architecture, gardening or the arts.

 

You can still see a magnificent suite of rooms at Tretower Court near Crickhowell exactly as the ambitious Vaughans might have left them in 1470.

 

And at Powis Castle near Welshpool – our greatest house and one of the finest in the whole of Britain – the spectacular terraces blasted from solid rock are part of a Baroque garden that has survived almost intact since the 1680s.