Kidwelly is a small town located about 10 miles northwest of the main Carmarthenshire hub of Llanelli. Lying on the River Gwendraeth above Carmarthen Bay, it was first established in the 12th century. Today its main attractions include the former quay – now a nature reserve – a Norman parish church and an industrial museum. Most important of all, however, is the impressive castle. Founded by the Normans in 1106, it is now a forbidding grey beast that rises above a pretty waterway. Its history has been tempestuous. It was Roger de Caen, the Bishop of Salisbury, who first put up earthworks on the site, some of which can still be seen in the semicircular ditch that curves around the present castle. In 1231, Llywelyn the Great attacked the Norman castle, causing considerable damage. It was rebuilt to withstand one further attack in the 1250s but most of the building that remains today dates from the 1270s. The main castle forms a rectangle, with great circular towers at each corner. A semicircular wall sweeps around one side and the site is protected by defensive earthworks. Unusually, the great gatehouse is not a part of the inner walls, but forms part of the outer walls. The most likely reason for this is that there was not enough firm ground inside the castle to support such a large building. Instead, the interior consists of many small rooms, chambers and interconnecting passages, all of which help make this castle a tremendous example of medieval architecture and style. Photo credit: © Crown copyright (2015) Cadw
Facilities – at a glance
Suitable for all child ages
- Parking onsite
- Access to upper levels of monument is limited to walkers
- Facilities: Portable induction loop, 1 dedicated disabled parking space
- Accessible toilets
- Opening Times: Open Jul-Aug, daily 9.30-6; Sep-Oct, daily 9.30-5; Nov-Feb, Mon-Sat 10-4, Sun 11-4 (last admission 30mins before closing). Closed 24-26 Dec & 1 Jan
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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