This is a guest blog… by my Son Will… as part of his Year 7 History remote learning… so take it away Will…
There are over 600 castles in Wales, so wherever you travel you won’t be too far from one, although about 500 of them have disappeared into hilltops. It is often said that Wales has the most castles of any country in the world! The reason there are so many castles is due to the centuries of conflict against the English, spanning from the Norman invasion to Owain Glyndwr’s uprising.
There are some very well known castles in Wales, such as Caernarfon which hosted the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in 1969 and Gwrych which hosted the recent series of ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’! The largest Welsh castle is Caerphilly, which also has a leaning tower!
In this blog post I am going to concentrate on the castles closest to my home. I live in Loughor, a town in the county of Swansea, lying on the estuary of the River Loughor. My closest castle is Loughor Castle! Although only the tower of this 12th century castle remains, Loughor Castle had a strategic location at the mouth of the estuary. The Romans established the fort of Leucarum on this site to protect the road into Gower. The fort gave way to earthwork fortifications and the tower seen today.
Swansea Castle is nestled amongst the buildings of the city centre. This castle was once a mighty fortress which survived sieges, rebellions and even the blitz of World War 2! This is a favourite castle for ghost hunters as it is apparently haunted by a mysterious woman in blue!
There are a number of castles within the Gower peninsula. Oxwich Castle is a great choice for children to visit as it has interactive displays and overlooks the magnificent Oxwich Bay. Oxwich Castle is actually a Manor House dating back to Tudor Times and owned by the Mansel family. In 1968 a brooch rumoured to belong to Edward ll was uncovered at the castle. This fine example of medieval jewellery can be seen at the National Museum of Wales.
Weobley Castle is a fortified medieval Manor House which occupies a prime spot within the grounds of a working farm, famous for it’s Salt Marsh Lamb. There are many nooks and crannies to explore. It has it’s very own watchtower, a reminder of dangerous times gone by. A great choice for families to visit as it’s close to the many other attractions of Gower.
Another Gower castle is Pennard Castle. This romantic ruin is positioned above the world renowned view of Three Cliffs Bay. The castle was abandoned centuries ago due to encroaching sand dues.
Overlooking Swansea Bay is Oystermouth Castle, a medieval fortress in the village of Mumbles. This castle has had many roles within it’s history, as the residence of the Lords of Gower, a fortress and even a prison! It features graffiti art from the 14th century and a 30 foot high glass bridge. Events are regularly held at the castle.
A little further afield, in the county of Carmarthenshire, there are more spectacular Welsh Castles to visit. The most well known of these is probably Kidwelly Castle. It began as a wooden ringwork castle in the early 12th century, protected only by an earthen bank and ditch. Not surprisingly it was constantly under attack. In the 1280s a stone ‘castle within a castle’ was built, and this still stands today. A gatehouse was later added, making Kidwelly a match for any castle in Wales. To attack the castle you would have to conquer the gatehouse with its drawbridge and portcullis, whilst being attacked by arrows and rocks. If you breached these outer defences, you would then face the four inner towers! Even the forces of Owain Glyndwr couldn’t break through such defences! Kidwelly Castle has appeared on screen in the film ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’. Regular events such as Birds of Prey Displays, Plays, Concerts and Exhibitions take place at Kidwelly.
Tucked away in the Carmarthenshire countryside is Carreg Cennen Castle. Countryfile Magazine readers voted Carreg Cennen the most romantic ruin in Wales. The climb up to this castle is not for the faint hearted as the pretty ruins sit on top of a steep hill. This did provide the castle with a perfect defensive position though. An underground tunnel leads from the castle to a natural cave.
One of the most fought over castles in Wales was Laugharne Castle. This castle was built to guard the Taf Estuary, as part of a chain of Norman coastal castles. Fans of Swansea born Poet Dylan Thomas often visit the Boathouse in Laugharne, where he lived for the last four years of his life. Dylan could often be found writing in the castle’s grounds. In fact the ‘brown as owls’ castle he referred to is this castle!
Occupying one of the most stunning locations in Wales is Llansteffan Castle. It sits on the headland overlooking Carmarthen Bay. Although it is largely ruined, you can still view its large twin-towered gatehouse which was built around 1280.
As you can see, I am very lucky to have such a selection of castles on my doorstep. Although they are closed to visitors at the moment, I look forward to exploring them again when the current pandemic restrictions are lifted.
A lot of my information was found on the cadw.gov.wales website.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post 🙂