Do you love learning about history? Are you after a day out while staying in Tenby? Then, this article is for you. Pembrokeshire has a great history of castle building, from early motte and bailey castles to grand bishop’s fortified palaces. Here are 5 castles near Tenby for you to discover.
Let’s start with Tenby Castle, which stands on the headland above Tenby. What remains of the castle dates back to the 13th century. However, there are mentions of it from as early as 1153. It is a Grade II listed building in a prominent position that connects to the mainland by an isthmus.
The Normans founded Tenby castle during their invasion of West Wales in the 12th century. They built the stone tower on the highest point and protected it with a curtain wall. There was a gateway in the walls and several small buildings on the landward side. A lesser sea wall surrounded the remainder of the site and the beach area to the west.
Maredudd ap Gruffydd and Rhys ap Gruffydd, the sons of Gruffydd ap Rhys, captured and destroyed the castle in 1153. The Welsh besieged the castle in 1187 and again in 1260 when Llewellyn the Last sacked the town during his campaigns.
The D-shaped barbican was added in 1328 to defend the gate. The D-shaped towers north and south of the entrance were also added during this time. The moat ran outside the walls where St. Florence Parade is now and was widened to 30ft in 1457. At this time, the walls were heightened, and a second, higher series of arrow slits were built and reached by a new parapet walk. Royalist rebels held the castle for 10 weeks in 1648 but were starved into surrendering.
Unfortunately, there is not much remaining of Tenby Castle today. Just one tower and stretches of the castle walls remain. On the north, a short span of the wall has arrowslits and embrasures. On the south, there is a similar length that lies adjacent to the gate and barbican. It’s a steep walk up. However, the view from here is incredible of Tenby and the surrounding beaches. It’s free to visit and worth it to enjoy the castle grounds, which are well maintained.
Just 15 minutes from Tenby is Manorbier Castle. The castle occupies a prominent position that overlooks the stunning Manorbier Beach, leaving its pretty village nestled behind. This is a great castle to explore and spend a whole day enjoying and learning.
The Anglo-Norman de Barry family founded Manorbier Castle in the late 11th century. The castle was part of a mesne lordship controlled by the medieval Earls of Pembroke. The castle itself has curtain walls and round and square towers. The castle’s domestic areas, such as the kitchens, apartments and great hall, were completed in the 1140s, and windows replaced the arrowslits. A chapel with elaborate vaulting and plaster work was built around 1260.
The castle was attacked twice; both were minor attacks. Richard de Barri assaulted Manorbier due to a dispute over family succession in In 1327. During the English Civil War, 300 years later, the castle was seized by Parliamentarian forces and then slighted. This was in order to prevent further military use by the Royalists. Manorbier began to decay. Until 1880 when J.R.Cobb partially restored the castle. A tenant who made repairs to the buildings and walls.
Today you can spend the day touring the castle, it’s grounds and gardens, then stop for a break at the café. Well behaved dogs on leads are very welcome too. The castle is also available for weddings; if you don’t want to leave, you can also stay over in their stunning rooms.
Carew Castle and Tidal Mill is just 15 minutes from Tenby and has a rich and diverse history spanning over 2,000 years. It is set in a perfect location that overlooks a 23-acre Millpond and is one of Wales’s most architecturally diverse castles.
A lot of what remains of Carew Castle today was the work of Sir Nicholas de Carew, who died in 1311. The castle boasts a mixture of architectural styles as modifications have been made to the structure over successive centuries. The castle today is constructed almost entirely from the local Carboniferous limestone that replaced its earlier stone. However, some of the Tudor architectural features, like the window frames, are made from imported Cotswold stone. The Carew family has owned Carew Castle for more than 900 years and is now leased to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
You can visit the castle and even take a guided tour. They run events and tours throughout the year, such as Garden Tours, Welsh Tours, Secrets of Castle Construction, Ghost Walks and Evening Tours. Make sure to check their website for more information on upcoming events. After your tour, there is a tearoom to relax. On the site is the only restored Tidal Mill in Wales, a Medieval bridge, plenty of picnic areas to relax, and a circular walk boasting incredible views.
20 minutes from Tenby is Pembroke Castle. It is a substantial oval castle, surrounded mainly by a mill pond. It was extensively restored in Victorian times. It is a fantastic place to visit today.
Pembroke Castle’s history is fascinating. It was established in 1093 by Roger Montgomery, the Earl of Shrewsbury and was a timber structure. William Marshal erected the first stone structure after he became Earl of Pembroke in 1189. He was responsible for the keep here, a cylindrical tower with an unusual stone dome. It is almost 80ft high.
The castle was passed through families and marriages until 1389, and the castle reverted to Richard II. After that, it sadly fell into disrepair. The castle was attacked in 1400 by Owain Glyndwr but escaped a siege, and famously during The English Civil War in 1648, Cromwell laid siege to the castle. After this, the castle again lay in ruin.
Major-General Sir Ivor Phillips of Cosheston Hall acquired the ruins in 1928 and restored the walls and towers to as close as possible to their original appearance.
Today Pembroke Castle is a major tourist attraction and a great place to enjoy a day out. They offer guided tours, host well-loved events and hold weddings. You can enjoy various delicious homemade meals, cakes and lots more at the Castle Kitchen and a gift shop.
Narberth Castle is a rectangular castle near Tenby with a tower on each corner. It’s a fairytale, and we love its myths and legends. This castle is closed to the public; however we had to mention it as it is so beautiful to see and is viewable from the roadside.
The exact origins of this castle are a little bit of a mystery! It is believed that the castle may have been occupied by a palace spoken of in the Mabinogion. This is an ancient collection of myths and legends. It was supposedly the home of the Prince of Dyfed, whose adventures make up one of the four branches of the book.
The current stone structure was raised in the 13th century by Andrew Perrot. In 1404 Thomas Carrewe was rewarded with the lordship because he defended the castle during the Glyndwr rebellion. However, Sir Edmund Mortimer forfeited the castle when he resolved with Glyndwr after he was captured earlier that year. By courtesy of Henry V, the lordship of Narberth reverted to Edmund Mortimer, but he died childless in 1425. Narberth returned to royal possession. In 2006 the castle ruins were renovated and opened to the public.
Although the castle is closed to the public today, there are plenty of local walks leading to it, public toilets and interesting craft shops, galleries and cafes in the town. So visiting this castle can still be a fun and exciting day out. In addition, there are information boards near the castle where you can learn more and imagine how the castle would have looked.
Have you ever visited any of these castles near to Tenby? Which one is your favourite to visit? Let us know in the comments, as we love to hear your opinions.