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Pembroke Castle: explore the Welsh castle that has shaped the course of British history

23rd September 2018
Pembroke Castle

In this edition of the Celtic Haven Resort’s reviews of Pembrokeshire’s unique attractions, we explore the historical Pembroke Castle that dominates the small accompanying town whose name it bears.

One of the best preserved and most iconic pieces of Welsh history available within the entire county, the castle affords all-comers with the opportunity to embrace the wonderful history and culture of Wales, as well as fantasise about times gone by in which kings and knights of old called the fortified walls home.

The castle’s outer defences are comprised of domineering walls and turrets that were designed to repel any external threats from opposition forces, with the castle’s turrets boasting ostentatious spiralling staircases – many of which lead into rooms fitted with exhibitions portraying freeze-frames of historical activities, designed to deliver an insight into the lives of its royal occupants.

Standing atop of the turrets, clear days offer you the opportunity to take in breath-taking vista views of the picturesque town, surrounding countryside and Cleddau estuary, with the sharp-eyed able to see as far as Milford Haven.

The inner ward of the castle is dominated by a huge round keep, designed to protect the occupants in the event of an attack, as well as hosting sizeable grass lawns that offer an open area for children to play safely within.

Pembroke Castle also hosts many medieval re-enactments across the holiday season, affording children and parents alike the opportunity to step back in history and immerse themselves in the battles of the past.

“The castle has played a prominent role within the rich history of Britain”

The majority of the site was built between 1189 and 1218, however, a castle has existed on the site since 1093, when what is now the inner bailey was built on the site by Arnulf of Montgomery, in an effort to fortify the town against the Norman invasion of Wales.

Since this first rudimentary fortification of Pembroke, extensive efforts were made across the 12th Century in an effort to reinforce the defences with William Marshal, the 1st Earl of Pembroke, overseeing the building of the stone constructions that remain in place today.

Pembroke Castle has consequently played a prominent role within the rich history of Britain, with many significant figures that have defined the course of the nation having close associations with the location.

Most notable of the members of the nobility to be associated with the castle is King Henry VII, who was born on the site in early 1457.

Henry ruled the Principality of Wales until 29 November 1489 and was Lord of Ireland, before seizing power of the kingdom of England – defeating Richard III in the culmination of the War of the roses at the battle of Bosworth, a victory that saw the dominance of the House of Tudor during the Sixteenth Century.

It is believed that the actual house that Henry was born in may still be within the castle’s walls.

As Neil Ludlow of the Dyfed Archaeological Trust explains: “The geophysical survey carried out in Pembroke Castle, in 2016 showed a large, winged building that resembles, in plan, a late-medieval manor house.

“This is an unusual find within a castle, and has additional significance at Pembroke as the possible birthplace of King Henry VII.

“But this is still guesswork, as nothing else about the building is known. All we really know is that it was excavated in the 1930s without records. Thanks to the support of the Castle Studies Trust, some of these questions will be answered as well as learning more about later medieval high status living.”

Another significant moment from the castle’s illustrious history derives from the troubled reign of King Charles I when possession of the fortification was battled over by both Royalist and Roundhead forces, with the latter stages of the power struggles including an attacking force that was led by Oliver Cromwell himself.

“Pembroke Castle is one of the county’s prominent dog-friendly attractions”

Nowadays, the castle is fortunately no longer a site of violent power struggle and serves as one of the county’s premiere tourist attractions – with it hosting many activity days and events including live music performances such as Rock the Castle.

The castle also hosts a number of modern day amenities to facilitate an enjoyable day including a gift shop, café and a brass rubbing centre that is open across the summer months.

A dog friendly attraction, the castle is a fifteen minute drive from the Celtic Haven Resort and is well worth considering when visiting the county – opening hours and admission fees are available here.

The Heatherton Dog Agility Course: Pembrokeshire’s latest dog-friendly attraction 

Check out this amazing Sky Cam footage of Pembroke Castle!

Celtic Haven is one of Pembrokeshire’s leading spa and resort service providers, delivering boutique self-catering holiday cottages and expert spa and wellness treatments to all of its visitors.

Located just off the Pembrokeshire coastal path, the Celtic Haven Resort offers you the opportunity to relax and explore the best that this beautiful county has to offer.