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Visiting Pennard Castle, near Swansea, Wales: late 13th or early 14th century clifftop ruins

Updated on June 7, 2011
Flag of Wales
Flag of Wales | Source
Looking towards Oxwich from Pennard Castle
Looking towards Oxwich from Pennard Castle | Source
Pennard Pill, looking down the Pennard Valley to the sea, the ruined Pennard Castle is visible at the top of the cliff on the left
Pennard Pill, looking down the Pennard Valley to the sea, the ruined Pennard Castle is visible at the top of the cliff on the left | Source
Map location of Swansea, Wales
Map location of Swansea, Wales | Source

Standing watch since the Middle Ages

A castle and its setting are two distinct aspects. It is their combination, however, that can make for a really memorable impression.

Thus, few castles have such an advantageous setting as does Pennard Castle (Welsh: Castell Pennard), near Swansea (Welsh: Abertawe), Wales (Welsh: Cymru), situated on a clifftop, looking out to sea, in this case, the Bristol Channel (Welsh: Mor Hafren)(1).

Some history

The original castle at Pennard was a 12th century structure. The hand of Henry de Beaumont — the Norman nobleman also responsible for Swansea Castle — is seen as having been influential in its establishment. De Beaumont, among his other titles, was Lord of Gower; the Gower (Welsh: Gwyr ) peninsular is where the castle is located.

In the late 13th century or early 14th century, the castle acquired a stone permanence by way of limestone and sandstone, evidently obtained from local quarries. It is known that about this time the de Braose family held the castle.

Today, the hillside on which the castle stands is subject to erosion. In fact, this has apparently been the case ever since the castle was built. It is indeed thought that by the beginning of the 15th century the castle was for this reason abandoned. Thus, the castle became militarily redundant within about a century of the building of its stone walls.

It has therefore come about that the castle has been a ruin for most of its existence.

But I can think of few more scenic situations for a Medieval castle.

Some features

Parts of the castle surviving as ruins include the stone hall, the gatehouse and the tower. An archway on the east side is particularly well preserved.

Views of neaby Three Cliffs Bay are particularly striking from the vicinity of the castle.


(1) The Bristol Channel's Welsh equivalent, Mor Hafren , literally means the 'Severn Sea', named for the river, the estuary of which flows into it. Canadians may be interested to note that the Severn River has the world's second largest tidal range, surpassed only by that of Maritime Canada's Bay of Fundy (French: Baie de Fundy ). The term 'Severn Sea' is somewhat dated in English, the usual designation being the 'Bristol Channel'.

Also worth seeing

In Swansea itself, Swansea Castle, like Pennard Castle, dates from the late 13th or early 14th century. Oystermouth Castle, at Mumbles, is another Norman edifice.

Castell Coch, Tongwynlais (distance: 71 kilometres) ; most impressive, it dates from 19th century, on the site of an earlier castle.

Caerphilly Castle (distance: 78 kilometres) is a very large, Medieval castle, with an intriguing leaning tower and a long history.


How to get there: Continental Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport , from where car rental is available. London Heathrow is 291 kilometres from Pennard. There are also rail (from London Paddington railroad station) and bus links to Swansea. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

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

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