Featured image of Kidwelly Castle

Kidwelly Castle- History & Facts

LocationKidwelly, County of Carmarthenshire, Wales (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byState-Owned
Rooms AvailableYes (Filming)

Kidwelly Castle is a Norman masterpiece, the ruins of which stand majestically in the serene Welsh countryside as a reminder of the turbulent Anglo-Welsh past.

Kidwelly Castle History

Kidwelly Castle was initially erected as an earth and wood fortification (ringwork) on a steep slope above the Gwendraeth Fach River. It was protected by an earth rampart with a sickle-shaped timber palisade from the land side. The castle was constructed in 1106, shortly after the Norman conquest, and was intended to defend Norman and, therefore, English rule against the Welsh. Even though the castle fell several times during revolts in the 12th century, it stood firm when besieged by Owain Glyndŵr, the Welsh prince who led a powerful uprising against English rule in 1403.

The castle is also attached to Princess Gwenllian, one of Wales’ greatest heroines who led an army into battle in 1136 against the Anglo-Norman lord of Kidwelly. Even though she was captured and beheaded at Kidwelly Castle, her bravery inspired a subsequent rebellion that cleared the Normans out of West Wales for a time. It is said that her ghost haunts the grounds of the castle to this day.

Due to its place at the centre of several military engagements, Kidwelly underwent several repairs and improvements throughout the medieval period. It was constantly adapted to deal with the various threats it faced. Kidwelly Castle’s current form was principally developed between the 13th and 15th centuries and has remained largely constant ever since. From the later fifteenth century onwards, the castle declined in importance. Most building work after that focused on domestic ranges, and by the seventeenth century, the defences were described as ruinous. It was abandoned during the Civil War and continued to be neglected until it was taken into State care in 1927.

It still remains a much-valued fixture of the Welsh countryside and a fascinating insight into the country’s medieval past.

Kidwelly Castle Architecture

Kidwelly Castle view
Kidwelly Castle”, by Reading Tom, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Although Kidwelly Castle is in the form of ruin, it is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved castles in Wales. The castle has a powerful southern gate complex, a tower with a chapel, and fortifications of the inner ward. Together with the outer defensive wall and two towers, these elements have survived in the best condition. Today, the castle is managed by Cadw (a government agency) and is open to visitors.

The castle’s sophisticated defence system includes a circuit of inner walls to act as an extra buttress, following the semi-circle curve of the outer fortifications and ditch. All the structures remain in good condition, and visitors can see most of the walls standing at their original height. Their imposing nature is best appreciated by walking around on the castle grounds.

Kidwelly Castle is located in the town of Kidwelly and can be reached via the A484. The Kidwelly train station is 2km away, while bus service X11/X12 stops around 100 meters from the castle.

The castle is open for visitors every day from 9:30-5:00 pm (March 1 to June 30), every day from 09:30 to 6:00 (July 1 to August 31), every day from 9:30 to 5:00 pm (September 1 to October 31), from 10:00 to 4:00 pm during Monday to Saturday (November 1 to February 28).

You can add many places to your itinerary while visiting Kidwelly Castle. Kidwelly Market should top that list as it is only 0.2 miles from the castle. The British Bird of Prey Centre (9.7 miles from the castle) is also a must-visit if you love birds. While in Kidwelly, you should also visit Kidwelly Industrial Museum and Llansteffan Castle.

Kidwelly Castle Facts

Kidwelly Castle facts that you should know about:

  • Kidwelly Castle is built on the remains of an 11th-century ringwork stronghold to serve as a battleground for Normans and the Welsh revolting against their rule in South Wales.
  • The south gatehouse contains prison cells as well as an office, locking from the outside to protect a treasury beneath the floor.
  • The mascot of Kidwelly is a cat, as a black cat was the only living being in town to have survived the plague.
  • The castle was an important stronghold in its heyday and controlled the River Gwendraeth, which flows below it.
  • Although the castle’s ownership alternated between English and Welsh control several times in its long history, it was finally captured in 1403 by the English after a three-week siege. The castle remained in the ownership of the English crown after that. 
  • Kidwelly Castle’s exterior was used as a location for the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Frequently Asked Questions

How old is Kidwelly Castle?

Kidwelly Castle has almost 1,000 years of turbulent history and offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into medieval Wales.

Who built Kidwelly Castle?

Kidwelly Castle was built sometime after 1106 by Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, who was granted the lordship of the entire southwest Welsh coastal plain by King Henry I.

When was Kidwelly Castle built?

Kidwelly Castle was established between 1106 and 1115 at the same time as the Benedictine Priory, now called St Mary’s Church, and is located some 180m south.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at castrumtocastle@gmail.com. Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.
Also, don’t forget to mention your name and social media profile link if you want the credits!

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