Resting just inland from Carmarthenshire’s idyllic coastline is the formidable Kidwelly Castle. Begun in 1106 after the lands of Kidwelly were granted to Bishop Roger of Salisbury by Henry I, this distinctive castle, built on the remains of an 11th-century ringwork stronghold, was to serve as a battleground for Normans and the Welsh revolting against their rule in South Wales.
It was here in 1136 that Gwenllian, wife of the Deheubarth prince Gruffydd ap Rhys, defended her people against an attack launched by Maurice de Londres in her husband’s absence. Although Gerald of Wales said that she fought “like an Amazon”, Gwenllian was defeated and killed just outside Kidwelly Castle, in the clearing known today as Gwenllian’s Field.
Much of the castle visible today is the result of extensive refortification by the de Chaworth family in the 13th century in an effort to keep it up-to-date with the military standards of its time. The south gatehouse contains prison cells as well as an office, locking from the outside to protect a treasury beneath the floor.
The building of the south gate was initiated by John of Gaunt in 1389, while the ditch beyond the north gate was dug in response to an attack by supporters of Owain Glyn Dwr in 1403. While the walled town fell to the rebels, the castle was never taken. With a well preserved solar, window mouldings and spur-buttressed Chapel tower, Kidwelly Castle is among the finest fortresses of Wales.
Don’t miss: the Welsh slate monument to Gwenllian overlooking the Gwendraeth.
Kidwelly Castle, Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire SA17 5BG
tel: 01554 890104