History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
The princes of Deheubarth then lost Kidwelly to Rhys ap Gruffudd in 1159, and again in 1190 and yet again in 1215 when iit was taken by Rhys's son Rhys Gryg. In 1220 it passed to Hawise de Londres, who managed to resist the attacks of Llewelyn ap Iorwerth in 1231. Hawise's sons Pain and Patrick de Chaworth rebuilt much of the earlier castle, creating in the process the striking fortress we can see today.
In the late 13th century Kidwelly passed to William de Valence, uncle of Edward I, but when he died in 1296 it devolved to Henry, Earl of Lancaster. It passed through Henry's granddaughter Blanche, wife of John of Gaunt, into royal ownership. Sometime in the 14th century the grand gatehouse was added, and Kidwelly began to be used as an administrative centre for the powerful Lancaster family.
Though repairs continued over the subsequent centuries, the castle was no longer needed for military purposes, and fell into a gradual decay. Unlike many Welsh castles, Kidwelly played no part ion the Civil War. It was eventually purchased by Earls of Cawdor, but in 1927 it passed into government care.
Kidwelly Castle has an inner ward with four round towers that provided domestic rooms. Later it was added onto and become a concentric castle with walls within walls. A hall block, chapel and outer stone curtain wall were added. A twin-towered gatehouse guarded the entrance. Guardrooms, a dungeon and other rooms were located here. In the 1500's more rooms were added in both the inner and outer wards.
Its a bit of a mystery that Kidwelly Castle is not better known; it is one of the most striking and imposing medieval castles in Wales. The more we explored the ruins, the more impressed I became. You can ascend stairs to the top of the parapet and walk a section of the walls, with excellent views over Kidwelly town. Even better views can be had from the top of several towers, and this helps to get a really good idea of the layout of the site and the various buildings within the high walls.
When we visited the chapel was fenced off pending renovation to stabilise the stonework, but the rest of the site was open to explore, including two subterranean storage chambers beneath the gatehouse. A short walk from the gatehouse is the last remaining gateway between the town and the castle precinct.
Do take the time to stroll into the old central section of Kidwelly from the castle; it takes about 5 minutes by way of the medieval bridge, or you can take a riverside walk below the castle. Either way gives wonderful views over the river, to where the spire of Kidwelly's medieval church soars high over a belt of trees. It is well worth taking the time to explore the church, which contains a 14th century statue of the Madonna and Child in a niche by the altar.
About Kidwelly Castle
Address: Castle Road, Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire, Wales, SA17 5BQ
Attraction Type: Castle
Location: Off the A484
Website: Kidwelly Castle
Phone: 01554 890104
OS: SN409 070
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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