Of all Wales’ castles, this is regularly voted the most ‘dramatically situated’ and the most romantic ruin. It’s found within the Brecon Beacons National Park in a spectacular position – standing proud above a limestone precipice, the 295-foot drop forming a natural defence. Despite this, the Welsh rebel Owain Glyndwr took the castle in the 15th century, and the Yorkists later destroyed it during the Wars of the Roses to prevent its use as a Lancastrian base. Despite being in a ruinous state since 1462, it is still an impressive sight. It was originally an Anglo-Norman stronghold, designed to repel Welsh advances. Today it still has six towers of differing shapes, including a great twin-towered gatehouse on the north side and three drawbridges over deep pits. The inner court comprises a hall, kitchens, chapel and the so-called ‘King’s Chamber’. Be sure to check out the passageway cut into the cliff which leads to a natural cave beneath the fortifications. A freshwater spring rises in the cave, which would have been a useful supplement during dry weather when the castle had difficulty collecting rainwater to fill the cisterns. The castle is under the care of Cadw, who have stabilised and, to a limited extent, restored some of the remains. You need to be fit to enjoy it though – it’s accessed via a steep climb up the hill from Castell Farm, which is near the car park. A large threshing barn has been converted into tea rooms and a shop, while the majority of the farm buildings, around a traditional farmyard, retain their agricultural purposes. Since 1982 these have formed part of a farm park with rare and unusual breeds of cows and sheep. Photo credit: © Crown copyright (2015) Cadw
Facilities – at a glance
- Parking onsite
- Facilities: Portable induction loop, audio tour
- Accessible toilets
- Open all year
- Opening Times: Open all year, daily Apr-Oct 9.30-6; Nov-Mar, 9.30-5. Closed 25 Dec. Note whole site is closed and car park locked at 6.30
Also in the area
About the area
Carmarthenshire is the largest of the historic counties of Wales, and known to have been inhabited since prehistoric times. Carmarthen, its county town, with its Roman fort, claims to be the oldest town in Wales.
Carmarthenshire was a heavily disputed territory between the Welsh and the Normans in the 12th and 13th centuries, and many of the castles and forts dotting its landscapes date from this period. They include ruins at Carreg Cennen, Dinefwr, Dryslwyn, Laugharne, Llansteffan and Newcastle Emlyn, as well as the slightly better-preserved Kidwelly Castle. Carmarthen Castle, meanwhile, saw further fighting during both the Wars of the Roses and the Civil War, when it was captured twice by the Parliamentary forces, and ordered to be dismantled by Oliver Cromwell.
In these more peaceful times, the economy of the county is mainly agricultural (the 19th-century Rebecca Riots, in which local farmers and agricultural workers protested against higher tolls and taxes, started in Carmarthenshire), and its fertile farmland is known as ‘The Garden of Wales’. A more literal garden, the National Botanic Garden of Wales, opened in 2000.
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