There are six main castles in Pembrokeshire, these are, Manorbier Castle, Pembroke Castle, Carew Castle, Narberth Castle, Haverfordwest Castle and Llawhaden Castle. However, this is not the full story, as there are a multitude of fortifications and other ancient sites of historical importance throughout Pembrokeshire. This short guide is intended to give a flavour of the historical sites that can be accessed throughout the county. FBM Holidays are delighted to offer self-catering holiday cottages throughout Pembrokeshire, many within easy reach of all the attractions this beautiful part of Wales has to offer.
Carew Castle - One of Pembrokeshire’s finest castles, dramatically located on the shore of the millpond. It was originally a Norman stronghold but later was converted to a grand Elizabethan Manor House before succumbing to the ravages of Civil War. The castle is ruined now, but was once a powerful stronghold and a grand Elizabethan mansion. The first fortification on the site was an Iron Age fort with 5 ditches. An earth and timber castle that was built here by the Norman Gerald of Windsor around 1100. He was given the site of Carew Castle in a dowry when he married Nest, the most beautiful woman in Wales. Owain ap Cadwgan, son of a Welsh Prince, was so overwhelmed by Nest’s beauty that one night in 1109 he is said to have scaled the walls of Carew Castle and captured her. 6 years later, Gerald killed Owain in battle and retrieved his wife, along with two new children. When Gerald died the following year, Nest then married Stephen, Castellan of Cardigan, and had yet more children by him. A stone structure probably stood in its place in 1212, when for some reason, King John seized it for a short time when passing through Pembrokeshire on his Irish expedition.
Llawhaden Castle - Situated along the Landsker line, which formerly divided the Welsh-speaking north from the English speaking South of the county, this castle stands on the site of an earlier ring motte. Its purpose was to protect the estates of the Bishops of St Davids. Impressively located on high ground overlooking The Vale of the Eastern Cleddau. This would have been a grand residence rather than a more functional fortification, but very castle like in appearance. Most likely, Llawhaden began as an earth and timber castle in the 12th century, the prize of the Norman Bishop Bernard. The defences were refortified with stone, in response to a siege led by the Welshman, the Lord Rhys, in the late 12th century. In the 13th century, Bishop Thomas Bek (1280-93) established and expanded the village, added the hall block, with its kitchen and stone-vaulted undercrofts, and the bishop’s elaborately adorned chambers above. During the next century, the bishops added the twin-towered gatehouse, the most impressive structure at Llawhaden Castle.
Manorbier Castle - Its quiet coastal location overlooking the sandy beach caused Gerald the Welshman (Giraldus Cambrensis) to describe Manorbier castle as ‘the pleasantest spot in all of Wales’ .FACT: This was the location for the BBC production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.he castle’s basic plan is almost rectangular, and consists of a sturdy battlemented curtain wall with niches and powerful corner towers, impressive gatehouse, a complex hall-range, and a huge barn. The Norman knight Odo de Barri was granted the lands of Manorbier, Penally and Begelly in gratitude for his military help in conquering Pembrokeshire after 1003. He built an earth and timber fortification, which was gradually replaced with a stone structure. His fourth son was Gerald de Barri. Known commonly as Gerald of Wales (the great twelfth century scholar, known as Giraldus Cambrensis) who was born at the castle. Renowned today for his chronicles and descriptions of life in his time. The de Barris owned the castle until 1359, after which time ownership changed hands on several occasions, becoming property of the monarchy in the late 15th century. By 1630 Queen Elizabeth sold the castle (then considered “ruynous … quite decayed) to the Bowen family of Trefloyne. The Philippses of Picton Castle bought the castle in 1670.
Pembroke Castle - An enormous oval castle, mostly surrounded by a serene mill pond. Extensively restored in Victorian times, it’s dominated by the complex gatehouse on the outside and the huge circular keep once you’re inside. The walled town of Pembroke which grew up around the castle also contains many ancient and interesting Norman buildings. Established by Roger Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury in 1093 as a timber structure.The first stone structure was erected by William Marshal after he became Earl of Pembroke in 1189.His third son, Gilbert, was responsible for enlarging and strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241. The castle then passed into the hands of William de Valence, a half-brother of Henry III through his marriage to Joan, granddaughter of William Marshal.Valence family held the castle for 70 years, strengthening it by building the walls and towers around the outer ward. They also fortified the town, creating a ring of walls with three main gates and a postern. On the death of Aymer, William de Valence’s son, the castle passed through marriage into the hands of the Hastings family. In 1389, the castle reverted to Richard II. It was granted out in a series of short tenancies and began to fall into disrepair. In 1400, the castle was attacked by Owain Glyndwr, but escaped a siege because the Constable at the time, Francis ? Court, bought off Glyndwr with the Welsh equivalent of danegeld. Eventually Pembroke Castle passed into the hands of a new Earl, Henry VI’s half-brother Jasper Tewdwr. He was the first to make it more of a home than a fortress. In 1457 Henry Tewdwr was born in the castle. He later defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field to become the first monarch of the Tudor dynasty, Henry VII. In 1648,
Narberth Castle – Unfortunately, only a few remnants remain of this castle. A rectangular castle with towers on each corner but, unfortunately, not much remains today. The most fascinating thing about Narberth Castle is the legends that are attached to it. The castle’s exact origin lies back in the mists of time but it is believed the site may once have been occupied by a palace spoken of in the Mabinogion, a collection of ancient legends and myths. It was supposedly the home of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, whose adventures make up one of the four branches of the book. The first recorded Norman castle is mentioned in 1116.
Haverfordwest Castle – 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 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.