This country has the most castles in Europe

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Conwy Castle

[Reading level: C2 – Mastery]

Few European attractions pop up more often on postcards and in Instagram posts than its castles.

 

But the best place for serious castle spotters may come as a surprise. It’s not France’s’s Loire or Germany’s Bavaria. The true epicenter is Wales, which features more castles per square mile than any other country in Europe.

 

From the northern mountains of Snowdonia to Swansea Bay in the south, castles that could have dropped out of Camelot shoot up everywhere. Why the density? Blame it partly on Wales’ history as a contested territory. Fighting over turf, the Normans, the native Welsh, and the English, led by expansionist Edward I, all erected epic fortresses in an explosion of castle building that dominated the 13th and 14th centuries.

 

The sheer number of Welsh castles is matched by their variety. “For a small country,” says historian Kate Roberts, “we have just about every type and form, including concentric castles with moated defenses, castles with gigantic well-fortified gatehouses, castles that make every possible use of natural defenses, and castles designed to be beautiful luxurious residences.”

 

Kidwelly Castle
Castle Coch is nestled in the hills of south Wales.

History in stone

That vast range of castles suggests just how profoundly the fortresses reflect Wales’ tumultuous, always shifting history. Take Chepstow Castle, which crowns a cliff overlooking the River Wye. The 11th-century stronghold started life as one of the first Norman command posts constructed by William FitzOsbern, a close ally of William the Conqueror. But it was its subsequent commander, William Marshall, who turned the homely castle into a formidable Norman fortress, building the first twin-towered gatehouse in Britain.

 

The castle did double duty. It also served as the repository for the gold and silver collected by Marshall. Chepstow’s most striking attraction is its massive timber doors – the oldest in Europe – which were originally sheathed in iron plates to both repel invaders and keep Marshall’s plundered treasures safe.

 

Carreg Cennen in south Wales stands on a lofty rocky crag and offers another regional history lesson. “The castle’s Lord Rhys,” says Roberts, “enjoyed a long and successful reign as a prince, expanding his territory across southwest Wales and gaining the respect of his contemporaries, including Henry II. But his later life was beset with family strife as his sons vied for supremacy and he actually ended up imprisoned by them” – suggesting the choppy fortunes of even the most astute warrior prince.

 

Castell y Bere, atop a remote outcrop in a Snowdownia valley, is a prime example of a Welsh castle constructed by a native Welsh prince, the formidable Llywelyn the Great. Although the native princes couldn’t command the architectural resources and craftsmen readily available to the English king, the 13th-century fortress, built to protect Llywelyn’s southern frontier, stood strong.

 

“In spite of additions made by Edward I after he captured the stronghold in 1283, the castle is fundamentally a Welsh princely castle,” says historian Bill Zajac, “and it displays a number of characteristic features, including two D-shaped towers.” While the Anglo-Norman knights designed their fortresses as a treasure house for their collected loot, Llywelyn was more concerned with guarding his cattle range, which symbolized real medieval currency for the native aristocracy.

 

If Castell y Bere represents a classic Welsh fortress, Conwy Castle is the stellar example of the much more opulent castles erected by King Edward. The king offered master mason James of Saint George a hefty budget to erect a circle of high towers, curtain walls, a monumental central hall, and massive battlements.

 

“It’s one of the most complete medieval town circuits in the world,” Roberts notes, allowing for a view of Snowdonia’s jagged mountains and the still largely medieval town of Conwy below.” Despite spending an enormous amount of money on the castle and town walls, Edward I only managed to stay there once: When the local Welsh rebelled in 1284, he passed a very sad and boozy Christmas in the castle, comforted by a single barrel of wine.

 

Raglan Castle

From stronghold to stately home

Over time the Welsh castles changed shape. As the internecine wars died down, they slowly evolved from primarily stony fortresses and command posts to stately homes flush with some of Wales’ finest art and most flamboyant treasures, nestled in elaborate gardens.

 

Raglan Castle is a prime example of the shift. “The older parts of the castle,” says Roberts, “extend back to the 13th and 14th centuries but what visitors see today mostly dates from the 15th century, when Raglan had become a grand manorial home, boasting sumptuous apartments surrounding a fountain court. Late additions in the 16th century included a conversion into a magnificent Elizabethan country house, surrounded by garden terraces and a lake.” An army of fanciful gargoyles and heraldic carvings frame the castle courtyards, testimony to the artistic flourishes that began to gild the original fortresses.

 

Caerphilly Castle represents another example of an endlessly evolving fortress. This 13th-century behemoth in south Wales, erected by the Norman baron Gilbert the Red to block the advance of a Welsh prince, was meant to be imposing, and it succeeds. It is second only to Windsor Castle as the largest in Britain.

 

A model fortress, it relied on a series of concentric fortifications, three drawbridges, and five sets of double gates to repel invaders. But when the castle, reduced to ruin after the English civil war, passed into the hands of the marquesses of Bute, in the late 18th century, the fortress was refitted as a very courtly manor.

 

Among the renovations overseen by successive marquesses over the next two centuries was a magnificently carved wooden ceiling in the great hall and a series of rich moldings framing the windows. Today its duck-filled lake and hunting park are a purely aesthetic castle-lover’s dream.

 

Powis Castle, on a prominent rock near the English border, is another medieval fortress that was reinvented as an artistic showcase when it became home to the aristocratic Clive family in the 19th century. Taking pride of place among the castle’s collection is the rich range of artifacts Robert Clive and his son Edward hauled back from India as their colonial spoils, including an entire, intact sultan’s ceremonial tent.

 

There is something for everyone crowded into the castle’s galleries: hand-woven tapestries, baroque furniture, a Joshua Reynolds portrait of Lady Henrietta Clive, and a prized Roman marble figure of a cat wrestling a snake. The show continues outside, in the 25-acre terraced Italo-French gardens that frame the castle. The lush landscape features clipped yews and formal flower plots all punctuated by a whimsical orangery.

 

Treasure houses

In some cases, more recent Welsh castles were conceived, from the start, as grand pleasure houses. Penrhyn Castle, a mock neo-Norman structure bristling with jutting towers and battlements, may look like a fortress. But it never saw any military action.

 

The current iteration was built in the early 19th century for a mega-wealthy north Wales mine owner as a kind of fantasia of a medieval fortress. It was specifically designed to house a master class of curated art. Containing one of Wales’ finest collections of paintings, it features everything from Dutch 17th-century landscapes to Spanish portraits and Venetian masterworks, including a Canaletto canvas depicting the Grand Canal. A formal walled garden adds to the artistic overflow.

 

Castell Coch, yet another designed as an artwork in itself, is more grand folly than bona fide castle. The 19th-century “Red Castle” was erected on the site of an 11th-century Norman fortress in high Gothic revival style by the wealthy Lord Bute. Since money for the south Wales country retreat was unlimited, architect William Burges went to work with exuberance.

 

The result – a favorite of wedding parties and film crews – is a storybook castle, complete with conical towers and a romantic drawbridge. The fanciful interiors follow suit: Vaulted ceilings come carved – why not? – with fluttering butterflies. “My favorite room,” says Roberts, “is the drawing room with its beautiful murals based on Aesop’s Fables. This is a 19th-century version of the middle ages, a riot of color and fantasy.”

 

There is one other feature of Welsh castles that adds to their allure. If they evoke both Wales’ roiling history and its evolving sense of artistry, they also allow a view of the country’s natural beauty. Typically situated on high ground, as impenetrable defensive lookouts, they often offer stellar views of Wales’ backroads, rivers, valleys, and mountains. Rhuddlan Castle sits above a stretch of the River Clwyd. Harlech Castle perches above a nearly vertical sea wall, overlooking the dunes below and backed by Snowdonia’s peaks. And telegenic Kidwelly Castle – featured in the opening scene of Monty Python and the Holy Grail – is located near the mouth of the River Gwendraeth Fach.

 

Part of the local landscape now, these stalwart castles are emblems of a Wales that kept changing shape, but that can now, finally and very happily, live in peace.

 

Source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/this-country-has-the-most-castles-in-europe?cmpid=org=ngp::mc=social::src=facebook::cmp=editorial::add=fbt20220726travel-resurftravelwelshcastles&linkId=174740826

WORD BANK:

WORD BANK:

pop up (PhrV): xuất hiện

temporarily /ˈtem.pə.rer.əl.i/ [B2] (adv): tạm thời

epicenter /ˈep.ə.sen.t̬ɚ/ (n): tâm điểm

feature /ˈfiː.tʃɚ/ [B2] (v): có

density /ˈden.sə.t̬i/ [C1] (n): sự dày đặc

contest /ˈkɑn·test/ (v): tranh chấp

territory /ˈter.ə.tɔːr.i/ [B2] (n): lãnh thổ

turf /tɜːf/ (n): láng giềng

expansionist /ɪkˈspæn.ʃən.ɪst/ (n): người theo chủ nghĩa bành trướng

erect /ɪˈrekt/ (v): xây dựng

epic /ˈep.ɪk/ (adj): hoành tráng

fortress /ˈfɔː.trəs/ (n); pháo đài

explosion /ɪkˈsploʊ.ʒən/ [B2] (n): sự bùng nổ

dominate /ˈdɑː.mə.neɪt/ [B2] (v): thống trị

sheer /ʃɪr/ [C1] (adj): chỉ là, tuyệt đối

concentric /kənˈsen.trɪk/ (adj): đồng tâm

moated /ˈməʊ.tɪd/ (adj): có hào bao quanh

gigantic /ˌdʒaɪˈɡæn.tɪk/ (adj): khổng lồ

fortified /ˈfɔr·t̬əˌfɑɪd/ (adj): kiên cố

luxurious /lʌɡˈʒʊr.i.əs/ [C1] (adj): sang trọng

residence /ˈrez.ə.dəns/ [C2] (n): dinh thự

vast /væst/ [B2] (adj): rộng lớn

profoundly /prəˈfaʊnd.li/ [C2] (adv): sâu sắc

tumultuous /tʃuːˈmʌl.tʃu.əs/ (adj): biến động

shifting /ʃɪft/ (adj): thay đổi

crown /kraʊn/ (v): nằm trên đỉnh

command /kəˈmænd/ [C2] (n): chỉ huy

construct /kənˈstrʌkt/ [B2] (v): xây dựng

ally /ˈæl.aɪ/ [C2] (n): đồng minh

subsequent /ˈsʌb.sɪ.kwənt/ [C1] (adj): sau đó

formidable /fɔːrˈmɪd.ə.bəl/ [C2] (adj): đáng gờm

repository /rɪˈpɒz.ɪ.tər.i/ (n): kho

striking /ˈstraɪ.kɪŋ/ [B2] (adj): nổi bật

massive /ˈmæs.ɪv/ [B2] (adj): khổng lồ

timber /ˈtɪm.bɚ/ [C2] (n): gỗ

sheath /ʃiːθ/ (v): bọc

repel /rɪˈpel/ (v): đẩy lùi (xâm lược, cuộc tấn công…)

plunder /ˈplʌn.dər/ (v): cướp

treasure /ˈtreʒ.ɚ/ [B2] (n): kho báu

lofty /ˈlɒf.ti/ (adj): cao chót vót

reign /reɪn/ [C2] (n): sự trị vì

contemporary /kənˈtem.pər.ər.i/ [B2] (n): người đương thời

beset /bɪˈset/ (v): bủa vây

strife /straɪf/ (n): sự xung đột

vie with sb for sth (v): tranh giành cái gì với ai

supremacy /suːˈprem.ə.si/ (n): quyền lực tối cao

imprison /ɪmˈprɪz.ən/ [C1] (v): bỏ tù

choppy /ˈtʃɒp.i/ (adj): sóng gió

astute /əˈstʃuːt/ (adj): tinh ranh

warrior /ˈwɔːr.i.ɚ/ [C1] (n): chiến binh

outcrop /ˈaʊt.krɒp/ (n): mỏm đất

prime /praɪm/ [C2] (adj): điển hình

frontier /ˈfrʌn.tɪər/ [C2] (n): biên giới

capture /ˈkæp.tʃər/ (v): chiếm

fundamentally /ˌfʌn.dəˈmen.t̬əl.i/ [C2] (adv): cơ bản

characteristic /ˌkær.ək.təˈrɪs.tɪk/ [C2] (adj): đặc trưng

knight /naɪt/ (n): hiệp sĩ

loot /luːt/ (n): chiến lợi phẩm

concerned /kənˈsɝːnd/ [B2] (adj): quan tâm

symbolize /ˈsɪm.bəl.aɪz/ (v): tượng trưng

medieval /ˌmed.ˈiː.vəl/ [[B2] (adj): thời trung cổ

aristocracy /ˌær.ɪˈstɒk.rə.si/ (n): tầng lớp quý tộc

represent /ˌrep.rɪˈzent/ [C2] (v): đại diện

stellar /ˈstel.ər/  (adj): chính, quan trọng

opulent /ˈɒp.jə.lənt/ (adj): sang trọng

mason /ˈmeɪ.sən/ (n): kiến trúc sư, thợ xây

hefty /ˈhef.ti/ (adj): lớn, khổng lồ

budget /ˈbʌdʒ.ɪt/ [B2] (n): khoản ngân sách

curtain wall (n): hệ vách

monumental /ˌmɒn.jəˈmen.təl/ (adj): đồ sộ, hoành tráng

battlements /ˈbæt.əl.mənts/ (n): trận địa

jagged /ˈdʒæɡ.ɪd/ (adj): lởm chởm

rebel /rɪˈbel/ [B2] (v): nổi dậy

boozy /ˈbuː.zi/ (adj): say khướt

barrel /ˈbær.əl/ (n): thùng

internecine war (n): cuộc chiến giết hại lẫn nhau

evolve /ɪˈvɒlv/ [C1] (v): phát triển

stately /ˈsteɪt.li/ (adj): trang nghiêm

flamboyant /flæmˈbɔɪ.ənt/ (adj): chói lóa

nestle /ˈnes.əl/ (v): ẩn mình

elaborate /iˈlæb.ɚ.ət/ [C2] (adj): công phu

manorial /mə’nɔ:riəl/ (n): trang viên

boast /bəʊst/ (v): tự hào

sumptuous /ˈsʌmp.tʃu.əs/ (adj): xa hoa

conversion /kənˈvɝː.ʒən/ [C2] (n): sự chuyển đổi

magnificent /mæɡˈnɪf.ɪ.sənt/ [B1] (adj): tráng lệ

fanciful /ˈfæn.sɪ.fəl/ (adj): huyền ảo, tưởng tượng

gargoyle /ˈɡɑː.ɡɔɪl/ (n): miệng máng xối

heraldic /herˈæl.dɪk/ (n): huy hiệu

testimony /ˈtes.tɪ.mən.i/ (n): minh chứng

flourish /ˈflʌr.ɪʃ/  (n): sự khởi sắc

gild /ɡɪld/ (v): tô điểm

behemoth /bɪˈhiː.mɒθ/ (n): vật gì đó khổng lồ

baron /ˈbær.ən/ (n): nam tước

imposing /ɪmˈpəʊ.zɪŋ/ (adj): oai nghiêm, bệ vệ

rely on/upon sb/sth [B2] (PhrV): dựa vào ai/cái gì

fortification /ˌfɔː.tɪ.fɪˈkeɪ.ʃən/ (n): tường thành

drawbridge /ˈdrɔː.brɪdʒ/ (n): cầu rút

civil war /ˌsɪv.əl ˈwɔːr/ (n): nội chiến

marquess /ˈmɑː.kwɪs/ (n): hầu tước

refit  /ˌriːˈfɪt/ (v): sửa lại

courtly /ˈkɔːt.li/ (adj): lịch sự

renovation /ˌren.əˈveɪ.ʃən/ [C1] (n): cải tạo

successive /səkˈses.ɪv/ [C2] (adj): kế nhiệm

aesthetic /esˈθet.ɪk/ (adj): thẩm mỹ

prominent /ˈprɑː.mə.nənt/ [C1] (adj): nổi bật

artifact /ˈɑː.tə.fækt/ (n): đồ tạo tác

tapestry /ˈtæp.ɪ.stri/  (n): tấm thảm

portrait  /ˈpɔː.trət/ [B2] (n): chân dung

marble/ˈmɑː.bəl/ (n): đá cẩm thạch

wrest /rest/ (v): vật lộn, đánh nhau

lush /lʌʃ/ (adj): tốt tươi

clip  /klɪp/ (v): cắt tỉa

yew /juː/ (n): cây thủy tùng

punctuate /ˈpʌŋk.tʃuː.eɪt/ (v): chấm phá, nhấn mạnh

whimsical /ˈwɪm.zɪ.kəl/ (adj): kỳ dị

orangery (n): vườn cam

intact /ɪnˈtækt/ [C2] (adj): nguyên vẹn

conceive /kənˈsiːv/ [C2] (v): hình thành

bristle with sth /ˈbrɪs.əl/ (v): đầy ắp cái gì

jutting/ˈdʒʌt.ɪŋ/ (adj): nhô ra

fantasia /fænˈteɪ.zi.ə/ (n): sự tưởng tượng

curated art (n): giám tuyển nghệ thuật

depict /dɪˈpɪkt/ [C2] (v): mô tả

bona fide /ˌbəʊ.nə ˈfaɪ.di/ (adj): chân chính, không gian dối

revival /rɪˈvaɪ.vəl/ [C2] (n): sự phục hưng

retreat  /rɪˈtriːt/ [C2] (n): sự rút lui

conical  /ˈkɒn.ɪ.kəl/ (adj): hình nón

interior /ɪnˈtɪə.ri.ər/ [B2] (n): nội thất

vaulted /ˈvɒl.tɪd/ (adj): hình vòm

flutter /ˈflʌt.ər/ (v): vẫy cánh, rung rinh

mural /ˈmjʊə.rəl/ (n): tranh tường

fable /ˈfeɪ.bəl/ (n): truyện ngụ ngôn

riot /ˈraɪ.ət/ [C1] (n): sự hỗn loạn

allure /əˈljʊər/ (n): vẻ quyến rũ

impenetrable /ɪmˈpen.ɪ.trə.bəl/ (adj): không thể xuyên thủng

dune /dʒuːn/  (n): cồn cát

telegenic /ˌtel.ɪˈdʒen.ɪk/ (adj): ăn ảnh

stalwart /ˈstɔːl.wət/ (adj): kiên cố

emblem /ˈem.bləm/ (n): biểu tượng


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