Cardigan Castle

The History Of Cardigan Castle

LocationCardigan, County of Ceredigion, Wales (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byCeredigion County Council
Official WebsiteCardigan Castle
Rooms AvailableYes (Stay, Weddings, Events)

Cardigan Castle sits on the northern bank of the River Teifi in the County of Ceredigion, in West Wales. Although this region of Wales is relatively quiet today, it was once on the front line of significant struggles between the Welsh and Normans. The castle remains and its 900 years of history are open for the public, offering a range of permanent and temporary exhibitions focusing on its rich history.


Cardigan Castle was built in several stages, starting with an earth and timber fortress founded in 1110 AD by the Norman invader Gilbert de Clare. It superseded an earlier earthwork castle built a mile downstream from Cardigan by Roger de Montgomery during his invasion in 1093. Around 1170, Prince of Deheubarth, Rhys ap Gruffudd, took control and transformed Cardigan Castle into the first Welsh-built stone castle. After the castle was captured in 1171 by the Welsh prince of southwest Wales, Rhys ap Tewdwr, known as Lord Rhys, it was rebuilt using stone in a comparatively rudimentary style.

After Lord Rhys died in 1197, two of his sons, Maelgwyn and Gruffydd, fought over his property. Maelgwyn seized the castle, surrendered his brother to the Normans, and sold the castle for a nominal sum to King John. Cardigan Castle came in the middle of the endless struggle for superiority between the English and Welsh in south Wales. The castle was taken and retaken over the years as Welsh and Normans vied for supremacy.

After 1240, the English held it and did not relinquish it again. The castle was strengthened after the Welsh uprising of 1245, and walls were built around the growing town. The Welsh besieged Cardigan Castle during the Owain Glyndwr uprising, but its connection to the sea meant the defenders could get supplies by ship, keeping the Welsh at bay.

Post many sieges and repairs over the following years and its subsequent decay, the castle was refortified for use in 1644 during the civil war. After the parliamentary victory, the castle was slighted to prevent its further use as a fortress. The ruins were converted for peaceful purposes in the 18th and 19th centuries. Unfortunately, large parts of the castle were demolished to create a bowling green mansion house and walled garden.

The end years of the 20th century saw the Cardigan Castle walls filled with undergrowth and surrounded by crumbling houses. Enormous efforts have been made since then to clear the site. Many old buildings have been removed from around the castle, and the masonry has been preserved.


Cardigan Castle
Cardigan Castle, by M J Roscoe, is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Cardigan Castle ruins that can be seen today principally date from the Norman rebuild of 1244, overlain by a large 19th-century house. However, a second world war pillbox and a recent glass-fronted building remain prominent.

In 2003, Ceredigion County Council purchased the site, and a restoration project was started with the aid of the Friends of Cardigan Castle charity. The result is that the ruined castle has been completely restored and is open to the public. You can stroll back in time along the winding pathways of our stunning Regency-style gardens bursting with colourful blooms and rare plant species.

Cardigan Castle restaurant runs a breakfast and lunch service seven days a week plus selected evenings and events.

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