For most of the time the land we currently know as the United Kingdom has existed, the kings and queens that have ruled over it have done so with entitlement and brutality — and often both.

From the motte and bailey castles of the Norman conquerors to the military fortresses of Edward I's Ring of Steel, Wales' castles are among the most stunning features of the country's landscape — and a constant reminder of the violence that made them necessary. It is in fact possible that William the Conqueror himself, the man to whom many people trace the foundations of our current monarchy, built the first castle at Cardiff. For eight years, it was the prison of his eldest son until his death in 1134.

These pictures show just how magnificent these buildings are and just how much they dominate their surroundings, even 800 years after they were built.

Read more:The real Red Wedding and four other Game of Thrones plots that actually happened in Welsh history

Read more: 21 facts about Cardiff's past that will absolutely blow your mind

1. Conwy

Conwy Castle

A castle of "massive military strength", it has been described as the most impressive of Edward I's Welsh fortresses, which were built for the English king's merciless suppression of Wales. An estimated £15,000 was spent building it, the largest sum Edward spent on any of his Welsh castles between 1277 and 1307.

2. Rhuddlan

Rhuddlan Castle, with two towers dominant against the sky

For centuries, Rhuddlan had been a fiercely contested strategic location leading to much bloodshed. At the end of the 13th century, it became Edward I's chosen location for this mighty castle.

3. Caernarfon

Caernarfon castle taken in the late afternoon with a dramatic cloud formation framing the building

Edward I began work on strategically important Caernarfon Castle in 1283, when the Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, mounted an uprising.

4. Roch

Roch Castle
Roch Castle is now a beautiful hotel

Roch Castle was built by Norman knight Adam de Rupe in the second half of the 12th century, probably as one of the outer defences of 'Little England', or Landsker, the unmarked border which for centuries separated English and Welsh areas of Pembrokeshire.

5. Kidwelly

Kidwelly Castle in South Wales, photographed from the Gwendraeth River

The earliest castle on the site was Norman and made of earth and timber. By the 13th century the castle had been rebuilt in stone. Kidwelly benefited from the latest thinking in castle design. It wasn't completed until 1422, thanks in part to Owain Glyndwr's efforts to stop it going up in the first place.

6. Powis

Powis Castle, a medieval castle, fortress and grand country mansion located near the town of Welshpool

A medieval castle, fortress and grand country mansion, Powis is an example of a military stronghold which was preserved and renewed by continual occupation.

7. Chepstow

Chepstow Castle on top of cliffs overlooking the River Wye

Chepstow boasts the oldest castle doors in Europe, being all of 800 years old. From around 1067 through to 1690, the castle changed its appearance. The oldest building is the Norman great tower but building work continued well into the 17th century as medieval battlements were replaced by stronger musket-friendly parapets. It is the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain.

8. Carreg Cennen

Carreg Cennen castle sits high on a hill near the River Cennen

A stunning castle, Carreg Cennen rises from a sheer cliff-face. The first masonry castle on this site was probably the work of the Lord Rhys in the late 12th century, and it was developed in Edward I's time. It was ruined in 1462 during the Wars of the Roses.

9. Beaumaris

It's been described as the "most technically perfect castle in Britain" and was the last of Edward I's massive building programme in North Wales.

10. Llansteffan

Llansteffan Castle with a beach seen through the castle walls

Standing on a headland overlooking the mouth of the river Towy, the castle was built by the Normans after 1100. The castle fell to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1257 and b y 1367 it was described as being in a poor state.

11. Pembroke

Pembroke Castle

The castle as a Norman fort was established in 1093, 27 years after the Battle of Hastings, but was fortified in the 12th century, during which the huge stone concentric castle was built. It survived the ravages of the Owain Glyndwr revolt and the future King Hnery VII was born here in 1457.

12. Dolbadarn

Wide shot of Dolbadarn Castle Keep on a clear summer day showing the staircase and surrounding ruins overlooked by mountains and lush green grass

Probably built by Llywelyn ab Iorwerth ('the Great') early in the 13th century, the castle is dominated by a massive round-towered keep, which still stands at around 50 feet high.

13. Carew

Carew Castle in Pembrokeshire

The Norman castle's origins date to around the year 1100. In the middle of the 12th century, an enclosure with stone walls was built incorporating the original keep and a Great Hall. The current structure was created by Nicholas de Carew around 1270.

14. Dolwyddelan

Late afternoon sunshine illuminates Dolwyddelan Castle

Dolwyddelan, along with nearby Dolbadarn and Prysor, formed a collection of strategically important mountain fortresses for Llywelyn the Great (1173 - 1240).

15. Dinas Bran

Castell Dinas Bran at sunset. These ancient ruins are all is left of a mighty castle that once stood on top of the hillside

The first building placed at Dinas Bran was an Iron Age hillfort built around 600 BC. The castle first appears in 12th century historical documents and the remains we see today probably date to the mid-13th century.

16. Chirk Castle

Chirk Castle in late afternoon winter sunshine
Chirk Castle from Bronygarth in late afternoon winter sunshine.

Chirk Castle was completed in 1310 during the reign of Edward I to subdue the last princes of Wales.

17. Caerphilly

Caerphilly castle with water from its moat in the foreground

The largest castle in Wales, the castle was built in the 13th century by Gilbert de Clare, a nobleman of Norman descent who also built the original Castell Coch.

18. Manorbier

Manorbier Castle, with the sea behind it

Manorbier Castle is a Norman castle located in a village five miles south-west of Tenby. It was built in the late 12th century. In 1146 Gerald of Wales, the famous twelfth century Welsh scholar, was born there.

19. Cardiff

The Norman Keep of Cardiff Castle

The castle site dates back to the Romans. The original motte and bailey castle at its heart was built in the late 11th century by the Normans (possible William the Conqueror himself) on top of a third century Roman fort. The stone keep was built in the early 12th century and the larger Gothic castle was built by the Third Marquess of Bute in the 19th century.

20. Castell Coch

The towers of Castell Coch above woodland

Though the foundations date back several centuries, the castle you see today is also the work of the Third Marquess of Bute and his architect William Burgess.

21. Dinefwr

Dinefwr ruins at sunset

The castle was created by the Lord Rhys and while Edward I destroyed the power of the Welsh princes the castle survived and by 1425 was once more controlled by a powerful Welshman, Gruffydd ap Nicholas.

22. Ogmore

Built by the Norman de Londres family, the initial castle was established by William de Londres soon after 1100.

23. Harlech

Harlech Castle with the town below

Another Edward I castle, it was built very quickly between 1283 and 1295 by a workforce of nearly 1,000.

24. Flint

Begun in 1277, it is one of the first castles to be built in Wales by Edward I. The castle also famously features in Shakespeare's Richard II.

25. Gwrych

Gwrych Castle

Alongside Castell Coch, this is the most modern castle in the list and very different to Wales' medieval behemoths. Gwrych Castle was erected between 1819 and 1825 at the behest of Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh and was the country house of the Dundonald family.

26. Laugharne

Aerial view of Laugharne

Laugharne Castle was built in the 13th century by the de Brian family, probably on the site of an earlier Norman ringwork castle. After being captured by Parliamentary forces after a siege during the Civil War, it was partially dismantled.

27. Raglan

Raglan Castle with a view that includes the moat and gatehouse

Raglan was begun in the 1430s, and built through the 15th and early 17th-centuries by the ruling families of the Herberts and Somersets. The fortified castle has a large hexagonal keep, known as the Great Tower.

28. Penrhyn

Small boats moored in the harbour with a background of hills and mountains and the tower of Penrhyn Castle seen above the trees

Penrhyn is an enormous 19th century neo-Norman castle that sits between Snowdonia and the Menai Strait.

29. Dryslwyn

Isolated in the Towy Valley, this is another castle linked with the 12th century rule of the Lord Rhys. It was in ruins by the end of the Middle Ages.