The remains of the medieval Holt Castle lie just on the Welsh-English border, near the pleasant Cheshire Village of Farndon.
The red sandstone castle is situated on the banks of the River Dee and was probably intended to guard the river crossing now occupied by the Holt-Farndon bridge a little further down the river. It lies in a small quarry, which presumably was the source of the stone for the building. The building dates to the thirteenth century and was constructed during the Welsh Wars of King Edward I. The five-towered fortress was once known as Castrum Leonis or Castle Lyons because it had a Lion motif carved into the stonework above its main gate. Almost all of the stonework was removed from the site in the seventeenth century, sadly, only the base of the sandstone foundation now remain.
A stone enclosure and bailey fortress, built to an unusual pentagon shaped design, with towers at each corner, the castle once had a stepped ramp up to a main gateway, barbican, inner ward, postern and curtain walls. There was also a water-filled moat that was fed from the River Dee. The design of the castle featured towers that were built against the face of the rock outside the curtain wall, similar to the inner wards at Ruthin and at Conwy. A survey carried out in 1562 reveals the towers to be round with a rectangular external annexe containing the chapel running full height of the south-eastern tower opposite the gate as square or rectangular.
Work on the castle commenced shortly after Edward I's invasion of North Wales in 1277. King EdwarI presented the of the lordship of Bromfield and Yale, in which Holt was situated, to John de Warrene, Earl of Surrey, in 1282. Holt Castle had been completed by 1311 and a planned town for English settlers laid out next to it. The town was burned down in 1400 during the Welsh uprising led by Owain Glyndwr.
By the sixteenth century Holt Castle is recorded to have fallen disuse and ruin. The Elizabethan map maker John Norden surveyed the site and reported that it was "nowe in great decay". In 1643, during the English Civil War, Holt was garrisoned by Royalists troops. Three years later, after holding out for a year during a second siege, Holt became the last castle to be captured by Parliamentarian forces in north-east Wales.
Between 1675 and 1683 much of the castle was taken away by Sir Thomas Grosvenor, 3rd Baronet of Eaton, who used barges to carry the stonework downstream to rebuild Eaton Hall after the English Civil War.
Today the only sizeable part of Holt Castle that remains is the sandstone base. The most prominent remaining feature is a doorway in a substantial fragment of wall, which leads to a flight of steps that gave access to the inner court.