Llandovery Castle ruins
Llandovery Castle ruins

All that remains of Llandovery Castle is a ruined tower on the hill of a motte, built sometime around 1100. The castle was created by sculpting a natural hill to create a small bailey and a stone fortification. The first castle at Llandovery was probably the work of Richard fitzPons, beginning in AD 1116 or a bit earlier.

FitzPons, a Norman lord, put a Welsh constable in charge of the castle, which might have been a dangerous choice, but his constable fiercely defended Llandovery from Welsh attack.

It then passed to Walter Clifford, but it was captured by Rhys ap Gruffudd in 1258. Rhys rebuilt the fortifications. Unfortunately, after Rhys's death his four sons fought over his lands, and Llandovery changed hands five times in only four years. In 1277 it was taken by John Giffard, who held it for King Edward I. Llandovery was briefly taken by Dafydd ap Gruffudd in his 1282 revolt, and again in 1287 Rhys ap Maredudd.

Llewelyn ap Gruffudd Fychan
Llewelyn ap Gruffudd Fychan

It was briefly garrisoned against Owain Glyndwr, and in 1401 perhaps the most sombre event in the bloody history of Llandovery took place when a Glyndwr sympathizer named Llewelyn ap Gruffudd Fychan was executed in the presence of Henry IV. Llewelyn's offence was to deliberately mislead Henry's troops. A striking statue of him stands on the castle motte (the stainless steel of the memorial striking a rather peculiar note beside the medieval castle ruins, it must be said).

On the top of the motte are remains of a tower and fragments of masonry walls. You can also see the foundation walls of a shell keep.

Access is easy; the castle rises immediately above the town parking area, just off the A40. The parking area and castle are well signposted. You can view the castle ruins from the parking area, but in order to actually explore the ruins you have to go through the gate to the neighbouring playground and climb a set of rather steep stairs to the top of the motte.