Pembroke Castle and Carew Castle are probably the finest castles in Pembrokeshire. Pembroke Castle is an enormous oval castle, mostly surrounded by a serene mill pond. Extensively restored in Victorian times, it’s dominated by the complex gatehouse on the outside and the huge circular keep once you’re inside. The walled town of Pembroke which grew up around the castle also contains many ancient and interesting Norman buildings.
Established by Roger Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury in 1093 as a timber structure. The first stone structure was erected by William Marshal after he became Earl of Pembroke in 1189. His third son, Gilbert, was responsible for enlarging and strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241. The castle then passed into the hands of William de Valence, a half-brother of Henry III through his marriage to Joan, granddaughter of William Marshal. Valence family held the castle for 70 years, strengthening it by building the walls and towers around the outer ward. They also fortified the town, creating a ring of walls with three main gates and a postern. On the death of Aymer, William de Valence’s son, the castle passed through marriage into the hands of the Hastings family.
In 1389, the castle reverted to Richard II. It was granted out in a series of short tenancies and began to fall into disrepair. In 1400, the castle was attacked by Owain Glyndwr, but escaped a siege because the Constable at the time, Francis а Court, bought off Glyndwr with the Welsh equivalent of danegeld.
Eventually Pembroke Castle passed into the hands of a new Earl, Henry VI’s half-brother Jasper Tewdwr. He was the first to make it more of a home than a fortress. In 1457 Henry Tewdwr was born in the castle. He later defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field to become the first monarch of the Tudor dynasty, Henry VII. In 1648, Cromwell laid siege to the castle during The English Civil War. Pembroke Castle remained an ivy-covered ruin until 1880 when a Mr J R Cobb of Brecon spent three years restoring what he could.
Nothing further was done until Major-General Sir Ivor Phillips of Cosheston Hall acquired the ruins in 1928 and started an extensive restoration of the castle, restoring the walls and towers as nearly as possible to their original appearance.
Impressive 5 storey central keep with intact domed roof.
A complex gatehouse that dominates Pembroke’s Main Street.
Historical displays in the gatehouse rooms.
Wogan’s Cavern, a large subterranean cave under the castle, accessed by a tight spiral staircase.
A maze of tunnels, stairs, towers and battlements.
Circular path around inside and outside of the mill pond.
The castle has a shop, a brass rubbing centre and café. Park next to the Tourist Information Centre on The Common. It is open all year around.