Are you ready to delve into the rich history and captivating charm of Tenby? If so, get ready for a journey back in time!
Tenby Castle, also known as Castell Dinbych-y-pysgod in Welsh, is a Grade II* listed building situated on a rocky headland separated from the town of Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales, by an isthmus. The remaining stone structure dates back to the 13th century, although the castle has been mentioned as early as 1153.
Today, only a small tower remains of the castle, but it’s a sight to behold as it perches on top of Castle Hill, almost surrounded by the sea. As you climb up Castle Hill from the harbour, you’ll cross the path of the castle’s gateway. The town walls on the east side run uninterrupted all the way to The Esplanade, while the north side is partially complete. Don’t miss the ‘Five Arches’ gate, the main entrance on the east side. And be sure to visit Tenby Museum & Art Gallery, which is built on a medieval domestic building, possibly the castle’s hall.
The castle was built by the Normans in the 12th century during their invasion of West Wales.
A stone tower was erected on the headland’s highest point, which was protected by a curtain wall. The walls featured a gateway and several small towers on the landward side. A lesser sea wall surrounded the remainder of the site and the beach area to the west.
The Welsh besieged the castle again in 1187. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the prince of Gwynedd and son of Gruffudd ap Llywelyn, sacked the town during his campaigns to retake South Wales in 1260, but the castle was not taken.
By the start of the 14th century, the Tenby town walls were mostly completed, diminishing the defensive importance of Tenby Castle. In 1328, the town walls were further strengthened with a D-shaped barbican and additional D-shaped towers.
In 1457, Jasper Tudor, King Henry VI’s half-brother, refurbished and improved Tenby’s defences.
Improvements included widening the dry ditch along the outside of the town walls, raising the wall’s height to include a second tier of higher arrow slits, and adding additional turret towers to the ends of the walls where they abutted the cliff edges. A large D-shaped tower, named the ‘Five Arches,’ was built in the Elizabethan period in the mid-16th century.
In 1648, a unit of Royalists under the command of Rice Powell held a refortified Tenby for 10 weeks until they were starved into surrendering by besieging Parliamentarians during the Second English Civil War.
Today, only a few features of the medieval castle remain.
A path from Tenby harbour to the top of Castle Hill passes through the main square gateway. On the summit of the promontory is a small tower. A circular walk, laid out in the 19th century, follows the line of the original curtain walls. Tenby Museum & Art Gallery is built on the remains of the castle’s domestic building, which was probably the great hall. Although the north gate has been demolished to widen the road, the Tenby town walls on the north side are largely complete, while the eastern walls and towers remain intact.
While the castle may be the highlight of Tenby, the old town itself is equally enchanting. The town walls are remarkably complete and contain a maze of narrow streets that make up the picturesque old town of Tenby. Walk along the old town walls and enjoy stunning views of the town and sea. Be sure to visit the National Trust-owned Tudor Merchant’s House, located near the harbour.
There you have it! The fascinating history and features of Tenby Castle await your discovery.
So, if you’re looking for a unique and fascinating adventure, head to Tenby Castle and the Old Town. The history and charm will transport you to another time!