Kidwelly Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Kidwelly Castle

Kidwelly, Wales, United Kingdom

Kidwelly Castle is a Norman masterpiece which still stands majestically in the calm Welsh countryside as a reminder of the tumultuous Anglo-Welsh past.

Lily Johnson

03 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Kidwelly Castle

Kidwelly Castle in Wales has overlooked the river Gwendraeth and the town of Kidwelly for almost 1,000 years, and today provides visitors a fascinating glimpse into medieval Wales.

Kidwelly Castle history

Kidwelly Castle was built in 1106 shortly after the Norman conquest, and was intended to defend Norman – and therefore English – rule against the Welsh. Though Kidwelly Castle fell several times during revolts in the 12th century, it stood firm when besieged in 1403 by Owain Glyndŵr, the Welsh prince who led a powerful uprising against English rule.

Kidwelly is also attached to one of Wales’ greatest heroines – Princess Gwenllian – who led an army into battle against the Anglo-Norman lord of Kidwelly in 1136. Though she was captured and beheaded at Kidwelly, her bravery inspired a subsequent rebellion that for a time swept the Normans out of West Wales, and it is said her ghost still 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 and was constantly adapted to deal with the various threats it faced.

The castle’s current form was principally developed between the 13th and 15th centuries, and has remained largely constant ever since. Originally a wooden fortification, it was rebuilt in stone and continually improved over this period, and still remains a much-valued fixture of the Welsh countryside and a fascinating insight into the country’s medieval past.

Kidwelly Castle today

Today Kidwelly Castle is managed by Cadw 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 remain in good condition, and visitors can see most of the walls standing at their original height, with their imposing nature best appreciated by walking around the outside of the castle. In fact, so well-maintained is the exterior that it was used as a location for the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail!

Nearby lies the battlefield where Princess Gwenllian fought in 1136, which is now named Maes Gwenllian (Field of Gwenllian). A spring bubbles from the ground there at the supposed spot where she died.

The town of Kidwelly hosts more sites of historical interest, including the 18th-century Old Malthouse and the Castle Mill of 1804, while visitors can also take in Carmarthen, which is just 9 miles away.

Getting to Kidwelly Castle

Kidwelly Castle is located in Kidwelly, and can be reached via the A484. Kidwelly train station is 2km away, while bus service X11/X12 stop around 100 metres from the site.

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