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Visiting Kenfig Castle, Wales: Medieval ruins near Kenfig Burrows nature reserve

Updated on June 3, 2011
Flag of Wales
Flag of Wales | Source
Kenfig Castle
Kenfig Castle | Source
Kenfig Burrows
Kenfig Burrows | Source
Map location of Bridgend, Wales
Map location of Bridgend, Wales | Source

The sand dunes succeeded where Medieval Welsh attacks did not

These 12th century ruins were once the centre of Norman administration over a wide area. They were successfully excavated in the early 20th century, after being neglected for centuries.

Some history of the castle

Kenfig Castle (Welsh: Castell Cynffig) is situated near Bridgend (Welsh: Pen-y-Bont), Glamorgan (Welsh: Morgannwg).There are records of a castle at Kenfig in the 11th century, although it is believed that this may refer to another structure, which has not survived.

In the Middle Ages, Kenfig Castle was attached repeatedly by Welsh warriors. Specifically, these onslaughts came in the 12th (two recorded attacks), 13th (three or four recorded attacks) and 14th (one recorded attack) centuries.

Then came the 15th century.

And everything changed.

So, more attacks from Welsh warriors? Actually, no. The attacks came gradually, in an encroaching fashion and unstoppably. These attacks were from the surrounding sand dunes.

So successful was the encroaching sand, in fact, that strategic location or not, the castle was abandoned some time in the 15th century. Sand dunes thus nullified its military usefulness.

Truly, then, the competition between the encroaching sand dunes and Welsh Medieval warriors was a localized version of the tortoise versus hare analogy.

Some features of the sand dunes at Kenfig Burrows

For their part, the sand dunes are still there. Nearby are situated Kenfig Burrows, a great sand dune expanse of sand dunes, reckoned to be among the largest in Europe. They have been designated a National Nature Reserve. A visitor and interpretation centre receives many visitors.

A large, natural pool attracts birdwatchers. One rare sighting which is possible here is of the bittern.

Having trudged along Kenfig Burrows' paths, and passed Kenfig Castle many times, I can certainly bear testimony to their status as remarkable sites.

Some local associations

Nearby Sker House features in the novel by R D Blackmore, The Maid of Sker (1872). Blackmore's Lorna Doone (1869) is a more widely known work.

The local Kenfig Society promotes the study of the history and natural history of the area.

Also worth seeing

Caerphilly Castle (distance: 47 kilometres); an enormous, moated, Medieval castle, with a leaning tower, which attracts many visitors.

Castell Coch, Tongwynlais (distance: 39 kilometres) is a 19th century restored castle, prominent on a hillside.


How to get there: Continental Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport , from where car rental is available. London Heathrow is 258 kilometres from Kenfig. There are also rail (from London Paddington railroad station) and bus links to Bridgend and Port Talbot. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check for up to date information with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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