It is inevitable that a country often afflicted with warfare, then ruled by the Normans, and with a geography that favors the guerilla fighter, should be the site of many castles and so it is with Wales. Carmarthenshire has a number; the two most important are listed here.

Carmarthen Castle

Carmarthen CastleThe Normans had a castle here as early as 1094. The present castle sits high above the River Towy. It started life as a simple motte but was extended in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to provide even better fortifications and raise the accommodation to a level that, while it would be rejected by the most abject modern Welsh family, was nevertheless the height of luxury at the time.

Owen Glyndwr (Glendower) captured Carmarthen town in 1405 and sacked the castle. Edmund Tewdwr (Tudor), father of the man who was to become Henry VII, owned it at one time but died in prison – which, strangely enough, is what the castle became in the late eighteenth century. The castle is now a ruin, but still worth a visit.

Kidwelly Castle

Separation of Church and State was unknown in the early 12th century; Kidwelly Castle was built by Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, who was made Lord of the whole coastal plain of south west Wales by Henry I. He also established a Benedictine monastery there and a town grew up around it; the town is the one now known as Kidwelly.

One of the regular Welsh revolts against Norman rule occurred in 1136 and Gwenllian, wife of Gruffddd (Griffith) ap Rhys, the prince of Deheubarth, led a Welsh assault on Kidwelly Castle while her husband was seeking military aid from princes further north. The Welsh lost and Gwenllian was killed.

Kidwelly was not done with fighting, and it changed hands a number of times in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In 1403, it came under attack by Own Glyndwr’s supporter Henry Don; although the town fell to him, the castle held out. Kidwelly, though now much decayed, remains impressive and well worth visiting.