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Visiting Kidwelly Castle: Norman monumentality in West Wales

Updated on July 12, 2011
Flag of Wales
Flag of Wales | Source
Kidwelly Castle from Castle Walk
Kidwelly Castle from Castle Walk | Source
Kidwelly Castle, engraving from Hanes y Brytaniaid a'r Cymry (1883) by Gweirydd ap Rhys.
Kidwelly Castle, engraving from Hanes y Brytaniaid a'r Cymry (1883) by Gweirydd ap Rhys. | Source
Map location of Carmarthenshire
Map location of Carmarthenshire | Source

Remembering the 12th century Welsh Princess Gwenllian

Kidwelly Castle (Welsh: Castell Cydweli), in Carmarthenshire (Welsh: Sir Gaerfyrddin), West Wales, dates from Norman times.

Some history

In its time it has witnessed a siege army at its gates. Much of the building work evidenced today was carried out between the years 1200 and 1476. However, the original castle is thought to have been founded in the 12th century.

For its age, it is remarkably well preserved.

In 1136, Welsh Princess Gwenllian (1097–1136) led troops into battle near Kidwelly, but was killed. (Some accounts have her dying in battle; others suggest she was beheaded by Normans at Kidwelly Castle.) Her example thereafter is supposed to have served as an inspiration to generations of Medieval Welsh warriors.

The castle's strategic location is underlined by the fact that it changed hands several times. By the time of the Civil War in the 17th century, it had largely ceased to have military significance.

Some features

Four round towers surround an inner bailey. An outer wall in the shape of a semi-circle. Near the Gwendraeth River (Welsh: Afon Gwendraeth ), there is a large gatehouse.

From its looming, monumental appearance even today may be deduced the forbidding appearance which it offered the would-be, Medieval attacker.

The castle is now in the care of Cadw, the Welsh Government's service which managed the historic environment.

Historic structures in Kidwelly town

This may be an appropriate point to refer to some other historic structures in the town of Kidwelly. These include a Norman church, with a tall spire.

In addition, the Town Gate has a well preserved archway.

Also worth seeing

Carmarthen Castle, Carmarthen (distance: 16 kilometres) has imposing castle ruins in the Downtown area.

Swansea Castle, Swansea (distance: 33 kilometres), has a ruined, Norman castle in the Downtown area.

Pennard Castle, Gower , near Swansea (distance: 36 kilometres); these clifftop ruins are impressive.

Tenby (distance: 57 kilometres); a picturesque seaside resort with an island fort.


How to get there: Continental Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport , from where car rental is available. London Heathrow is 334 kilometres from Kidwelly. There are also rail (from London Paddington railroad station) and bus links to Kidwelly, via Llanelli. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please 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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    • MJFenn profile image

      MJFenn 6 years ago

      Wales is certainly the place for castles galore.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi :)

      Great info!

      I haven't been to Kidwelly. Maybe I should try to change that!!

    • Leighsue profile image

      Leighsue 6 years ago

      I am planning a trip to the UK and want to see some castles.