Llywelyn, Lord Rhys and Glyndwr. The names of the Welsh Princes are still remembered and revered today but do we really do enough to celebrate these legendary figures of Welsh history?

Not according to Culture Minister Lord Elis-Thomas who has spoken of his determination that the castles and history of the Lords and Princes of Wales should be better commemorated.

Speaking at Castell y Bere, the Minister explained why these sites reserved a special place in Welsh history and what more was being done to ensure they were as accessible and informative as possible.

“From Caerphilly to Caernarfon, Conwy to Castell Coch, we are a country blessed with some of the most magnificent, imposing castles in the world, attracting record visitor numbers and boosting the economies of many of our towns and cities," said Lord Elis-Thomas.

“But there are a whole host of castles on our doorsteps that are, perhaps, less well known but both individually and as a collective serve as precious physical reminders of our history and our heritage.

“These, to me, are the true Welsh castles — those built or inhabited by distinguished Welshmen of the past — by Llywelyn, Lord Rhys and Glyndwr amongst others. Welsh Princes who fought for and over Wales and helped shape the Wales and Welshness we recognise today. I’ve been determined to better promote and signpost these castles and their significance to our history and culture."

To help fulfill this wish, Cadw has produced a guide in a bid to raise the profile of the ancient buildings and ruins with connections to the princes. The booklet, called The Castles of the Lords and Princes of Wales, is intended to give a general introduction to the castles closely associated with the Welsh lords and princes. They include castles in Cadw’s care as well as castles owned by local authorities or in private hands, but offering some level of public access.

With the remains of up to 500 earthwork and stone castles, Wales is truly ‘a land of castles’. The large numbers reflect the

fragmentation of power and land in medieval Wales, when castles were built to assert authority and defend land in a period dominated by intermittent, often localised, warfare.Most of the castles were built by the kings of England or the Anglo Norman lords in their bid to extend control along or beyond the Welsh ‘March’ — an area of land on the border

between England and Wales.

But the Welsh were castle builders too. The Welsh-held lands were divided between the major princedoms of Gwynedd (centred on north-west Wales), Deheubarth (centred on south-west Wales) and Powys (in east Wales), and several smaller realms. Castles were built by the Welsh lords and princes to defend their land from each other, from invasion, and, like the English, to protect important routes.

Although less than 30 of the surviving castles in Wales are formally recorded as being Welsh foundations, the original numbers must have been much higher. All of the known castles of the Welsh lords and princes are now fully protected as scheduled monuments following a thorough review of statutory protection carried out by Cadw.

Among the sites included in the booklet is Caergwrle Castle, Cadw’s most recent acquisition, whose ruins are a focal point of a hilly walk from the community of Caergwrle, off the A541 Wrexham-Mold road.

Built by Welsh noble Dafydd ap Gruffydd between 1278-83, it is notable for being the last castle to be built by a native Welsh prince and provided the base for Dafydd’s attack on the English garrison at Hawarden in 1282, which sparked Edward’s second Welsh campaign. When Dafydd's forces rebelled against the English, Edward sent Reginald de Grey, 1st Baron Grey de Wilton to take the castle in June 1282, but Dafydd had retreated and sabotaged the structure. Rebuilding works began, and it was given to Edward's wife, Eleanor of Castile. Incredibly, a large town was planned at the base of the castle, and had it been built then Wrexham may well have been a different place today.

Records show 340 carpenters, 600 diggers and 30 masons were employed to start its refurbishment. But it wasn't completed as the castle was gifted by the king to various English nobles.

By the 1300s it started to go into decline as these private owners failed to invest in its upkeep unlike the crown when it was first taken under English control.

As well as Caergwle, the new booklet also includes Ewole Castle in Flintshire, the iconic ruins of Castell Dinas Brân in Llangollen and Owain Glyndwr’s Mound near Corwen.

“Cadw have made great strides over recent years to improve accessibility to a number of sites across Wales," added Lord Elis Thomas. "This, in conjunction with some fantastic work in making the information at our sites clearer and more interactive means that more people can now enjoy these physical reminders of our past.

“Each of these castles has its own history, its own story and its own character. I hope that, through the material launched as well as through future improvements, we can help encourage as many people as possible to explore and enjoy these Welsh castles and their significance to the Wales we live in today.”

The new booklet, which features 24 castles alongside abbeys and other historical sites, is available for free at all Cadw sites, with further information also available online.