Holidays in West Wales
Historic Places Of Interest
TENBY CASTLE & TOWN WALLS, SA70 7BP. Only a small tower now remains of Tenby Castle, perched on top of Castle Hill, which is almost surrounded by the sea. The old town walls, however, are remarkably complete, containing a maze of narrow streets that make up the picturesque old town of Tenby. The castle was built by The Normans in the 12th Century and there is a record of its capture by the Welsh in 1153. Tenby was also attacked in 1187 and again in 1260, when Llewellyn the Last, sacked the town during his campaigns. Most of the town walls were built in the 13th Century and in 1328 the D-shaped barbican was added to defend the gate. D-shaped towers north and south of the gate were also added at this time. In 1457, the moat, which ran outside the walls where St Florence Parade is now, was widened to 30ft. and the walls were heightened, with a second, higher series of arrow slits also built which were reached by a new parapet walk. In 1648, a unit of Royalist rebels held the castle for 10 weeks but were starved into finally surrendering.
PEMBROKE CASTLE, SA71 4LA Tel: 01646 681510 The grand and vast stone structure that is Pembroke Castle dominates the horizon of the historical and perfectly formed little town of Pembroke. This magnificent and remarkably well-preserved castle in private hands, is considered by many to be one of the most historically important castles in Wales. Pembroke Castle was originally built in the late 11th Century as a timber structure, and was later re-erected as a stone structure towards the end of the 12th Century. Possibly the most fascinating historical fact surrounding Pembroke Castle, is that it is the birth place of Henry Twdwr, later to become known as Henry VII after his victory against Richard III at The Battle of Bosworth. This imposing structure predominantly oval in its layout has many exciting features for visitors to enjoy including a deep underground cavern, accessed via a steep spiral staircase. The inner keep boasts five stories in height, and there are extensive rooms, stairways, and battlements for visitors to explore. Pembroke Castle is open year round, offering guided tours and fantastic events, including medieval reenactment days, and even circus fun days. There is a brilliantly well-stocked gift shop onsite selling everything from souvenirs to historical books, jewellery and children’s stories, and a delightful café set in the heart of the castle grounds serves a selection of freshly prepared delicious treats throughout the day. Visitors are required to pay a reasonable admission fee to enter Pembroke Castle
CALDEY ISLAND, SA70 7UJ Tel: 01834 844453 A monastic Island, home to the monks of the Cistercian Order. A pleasant boat trip from Tenby Harbour takes you to this beautiful and fascinating island. Caldey has been inhabited since the Stone Age, and has been home to various orders of monks since Celtic times. It is now owned by monks of the Cistercian Order, whose picturesque monastery overlooks the Village Green and the pretty cottages of the islanders.You can explore the historic Old Priory and the medieval churches of St David and St Illtud, or join the free guided walk for a closer look at the island's heritage. Visitors are also welcome to attend the one of the short chanted services in the Abbey Church, which form part of the daily prayer life of the monks. In the village you can buy the perfumes, chocolate and shortbread made on the island. The Village Post Office is also a museum giving an interesting insight into Caldey's history. Postcards and special covers are franked with the Caldey Island handstamp. Boats from Tenby run every 20 minutes during the summer seasons.
NARBERTH CASTLE, SA67 7BE Narberth Castle is set in a beautiful little spot, just outside the picturesque town of Narberth. Although very little of the original rectangular structure and castle towers remain today, Narberth Castle is still a sight of much historic interest owing to the many intriguing stories surrounding its colourful past. It is thought to have been the home of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, whose adventures are written of in the much-loved Welsh book of myths and legends, The Mabinogion. The existence of Narberth Castle is first documented in 1116, however the exact date in which this Norman structure was erected is not known.
CAREW CASTLE and TIDAL MILL, SA70 8SLTel: 01646 651782 When entering the small and picturesque Pembrokeshire village of Carew, it is almost impossible not to be struck by the magnificent sight of Carew Castle, standing tall and proud amongst the treetops. This large stone castle although just a ruin today, is still grand in its presence. Originally constructed as an earth and timer fortification by the Norman Gerald of Windsor in the early 12th Century, this historically rich castle has taken many forms over centuries past. The stone structure that can be seen today was built for the most part by the Carew family. However in the late 16th Century, Carew Castle was converted into an Elizabethan mansion by Sir John Perrot, who was granted the castle by Queen Mary.
HAVERFORDWEST CASTLE SA61 2EF The shell of the castle dominates the small riverside town, which huddles around its base. Although it's impressive from the riverside, very little remains other than the outside wall. It's probably more interesting as an example of how castles can withstand repeated attempts to destroy them! It is first mentioned by Giraldus Cambrensis (See Manorbier Castle) as one of the places he visited in 1188 with Archbishop Baldwin. The castle, then, was only an earth and timber construction. The castle was probably a strong stone castle by 1220, when it withstood an attack by Llewelyn the Great, who had already burned the town. It was acquired by Queen Eleanor (wife of Edward I) in 1289, who immediately began building on a large scale.
LAMPHEY BISHOPS PALACE SA71 5JL, Tel: 01646 672224 Extensive remains of a lavish country retreat used by the bishops of St Davids, with buildings dating from the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries. Lamphey was a seat of the last of the Welsh, pre-Norman, Bishops, according to Giraldus Cambrensis (See Manorbier Castle).Subsequent Norman Bishops embellished & extended the site considerably.They added The Old Hall, The West Hall and The Great Hall.After the Reformation, Lamphey passed into secular hands and was acquired by the Earl of Essex and his descendants but quickly fell into ruin. The palace was more recently acquired by CADW, the Welsh historic buildings agency, who have restored it.
MANORBIER CASTLE, SA70 7SY Tel: 01834 871394 Situated on a grassy hill overlooking the breathtaking Pembrokeshire coast, Manorbier Castle is a magnificent feature amongst the glorious South Pembrokeshire landscape. Originally constructed of earth and timber, this historic fortification was created by the Norman knight Odo de Barri in the early twelfth century. Over the years timber was replaced with stone, most of which is remarkably still intact. Manorbier Castle is a true testament to the skill and imagination of its creators, with many rooms, stairways, towers and battlements to explore and enjoy even today. Manorbier Castle is open to visitors from April to October, with a small entrance charge . There are toilet facilities and a castle gift shop onsite to pick up that perfect Pembrokeshire souvenir. Picnics are welcomed, as are dogs which must be kept on a lead at all times.
CILGERRAN CASTLE, SA43 2SS, Tel: 01239 621339 Cilgerran Castle is a remarkably well-preserved Norman fortification erected in the early 13th Century. Situated in the picturesque village of Cilgerran, looming high above the Teifi valley, this imposing castle is roughly triangular in shape, with two circular towers and the inner castle walls mostly still intact. Cilgerran castle features two wooden bridges, and even has a small number of rooms and passages that are just waiting to be explored. A popular tourist destination for many years gone by, Cilgerran was a spot regularly frequented by the famed artist Turner, who sketched and painted Cilgerran Castle on many occasions. Today this historically and nationally treasured castle is managed by the Welsh historic buildings organisation CADW. The castle is open to visitors throughout the year for a small charge.
PICTON CASTLE & WOODLAND GARDENS, SA62 4AS Tel: 01437 751326 Set amongst some forty acres of earthy woodland, and walled gardens Picton Castle in the heart of Pembrokeshire is a truly magnificent sight to behold. Picton Castle as it exists today was primary built by Sir John Wogan during the late 13th and early 14th centuries. This distinguished castle continued to be home to the name of Wogan throughout the centuries to come, until in the late 15th Century when a Wogan heiress married a Dwnn, whose descendants in turn married Sir Thomas Philipps. The Phillips family has held Picton Castle across the centuries to follow, right up to the present day. Externally, Picton Castle has the appearance and indeed presence of an imposing medieval Castle, however within the towering castle walls, linked together by an array of half-round towers and a striking gatehouse, lies a fine country mansion of such grandeur that it cannot fail to impress.
LAUGHARNE CASTLE, SA33 4SA Situated amidst serene Welsh greenery, overlooking the glorious Taf river estuary, Laugharne Castle stands tall and proud. Although much of this magnificent stone structure now lays in ruin it is still breathtaking to behold. Originally a Norman earth and timber fortification constructed during the early 12th Century Laugharne Castle has a rich and varied history. Refortified in stone by the de Brian family in the 1200’s, evidence of which can still be seen today in the form of the domed keep tower and the gatehouse of the inner bailey. Later, in the 16th Century, Laugharne Castle was transformed into a splendid Tudor mansion by the famed Welsh historical figure, Sir John Perrot. Unfortunately, much of this splendour fell to ruin during the 17th Century when the Castle fell under siege during the Civil War. Luckily, all was not lost and thanks to extensive restoration work carried out during the 1980’s and 90’s Llaugharne Castle still has many magnificent towers looming up high into the skyline for visitors to marvel at and enjoy.
CARREG CENNEN CASTLE, SA19 6TS Tel: 01558 822291 An attack on this castle must have presented a daunting prospect. Drop dead gorgeous and also very clever. A killer combination. Attackers scaling the steep cliffs might as well have signed their own death warrants. The chances of returning alive were slim. Carreg Cennen’s defences exploited the natural environment to great effect, glued to the sheer cliff-face on all sides. The stronghold led a chequered life however, falling into Welsh and English hands during the troubled medieval period. Carreg Cennen Castle text content courtesy of CADW
ABERGLASNEY HISTORIC HOUSE & GARDEN, SA32 8Q. Tel: 01558 668998 Although much of Aberglasney history is shrouded in mystery, recent archaeological findings indicate that parts of Aberglasney House and its gardens date back to Tudor times, and possibly even further, with the presence of coins discovered in the cloister garden dating back to 1288. Whilst exploring the vibrant gardens and abundant wildlife to be found at Aberglasney, why not relax for an hour or two on the café terrace. Sample a selection of the fantastic local produce on offer whilst taking in the surrounding views of the tranquil pool, colourful scented flowers, and near by woods. The quaint gift shop at Aberglasney stocks many treats to delight in, from handmade silver jewellery, to Welsh woollen picnic blankets and a fine selection of books.
KIDWELLY CASTLE, SA17 5BQ Tel: 0155 489 0104 The magnificent Kidwelly Castle sits tall and proud amongst the wondrous rural Welsh landscape. Originally constructed out of earth and timber by the Normans in the early 12th Century, and then re-erected out of stone in the 13th Century, this wonderfully imposing fortification is remarkably well intact and is a joy to explore. Existing in an unusual half moon shape, with four round corner towers Kidwelly Castle's fascinating design are 12th and 13th Century castle building at its very best. The recent work completed on the castle footbridge has meant that access is much improved for wheelchair users, and also unearthed the existence of a hidden underground passage. The castle is open throughout the year aside from the Christmas and New Year holidays, with an affordable entrance charge, with concessions and family tickets available. There are toilet facilities on site, and a delightful little castle gift shop to pick out that perfect Kidwelly Castle souvenir. Well-behaved dogs on leads are welcome to explore the castle and grounds also. Just a short drive from the historic town of Kidwelly and its marvellous Castle lays the busy market town of Carmarthen. Full to the brim with gorgeous shops and splendid restaurants and cafes, this friendly little town has much and more to offer to visitors.
UPTON CASTLE & GARDENS, SA72 4SE, 01646 689996 Managed and maintained by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, these gardens are home to more than 250 species of trees and shrubs. They occupy a secluded wooded valley which runs down to a tributary of the Carew River.
TUDOR MERCHANT'S HOUSE, SA70 7BX, 01834 842279 This 15th- century National Trust property is the town's oldest furnished residence, authentically recreating the style in which a successful merchant of the Tudor age would have lived. It is virtually on the doorstep of the FBM Holidays headquarters.
St GOVAN'S CHAPEL This tiny and remarkable building is hidden in a fissure in the cliffs of St Govan's Head, close to the car park. It nestles at the bottom of narrow stone steps and occupies the site of a 5th-century hermit's cell, though the age of the chapel is unknown.
COLBY WOODLAND GARDEN, SA67 8PP, 01834 811885 In a secluded woodland setting, this beautiful National Trust attraction hosts one of the finest collections of rhododendrons and azaleas in Wales, and open wooded pathways make for very pleasant walks through the valley. The National Trust also owns and protects many of the most important sections of the Pembrokeshire coast, including Barafundle beach, Marloes, St David's, Porthgain and Dinas.
St DAVIDS CATHEDRAL The most religious monument in Wales, dedicated to the principality's patron saint and built on a secluded site chosen for the original 6th-century church. Much of the cathedral as it stands today dates from the late 12th century and has been extended and altered over the centuries, and the cloisters have been restored only recently. Food is served in the refectory and there is a Cloister Gallery.
CAREW CONTROL TOWER Less than a mile from Carew Castle, at Carew Cheriton, is a recreated RAF control tower. The airfield here saw active service in the Second World War.