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.