This year, we managed to book a weeks holiday (last week) to coincide with one of the hottest, driest weeks of the summer so far. We stayed at a cottage close to the South Wales coast between Carmarthen and Llanelli. For anyone who has never been, the coast of South Wales, from the Gower peninsula, west of Swansea, right around the southwest coast into Pembrokeshire and up the west coast to Aberystwyth and beyond have some of the most beautiful beaches anywhere. Unfortunately, as the region enjoys some of the highest rainfall in the British Isles, being southwest facing, you have to make the most of the good weather when it's available. As we have a 4 year old, we therefore spent most days at the beach, which gave him the chance to run off his pent up energy and let me take a look at all the interesting geology. However, we did manage to squeeze in a visit to one of the Norman castles in the area, Kidwelly Castle.
Kidwelly Castle lies in the heart of the town of Kidwelly, which lies on the east side of the estuary of the Rivers Taf and Towy, on the banks of a small tributary the Gwendraeth Fach. Excavations of the earthen base of the ramparts indicate a Norman Castle, built of wood, on the site, probably as early as the first decade of the 12th Century. However, extensive upgrading in stone during the Middle Ages, has resulted in the superb D-shaped castle seen today. The straight edge runs along the river bank while the curved wall swings inland to enclose the castle wards. Originally, the Medieval town was enclosed by a wall, which effectively formed the outer bailey of the castle. The castle as it appears today is effectively the town keep, with an outer and inner ward.
The impressive gatehouse from the small car park by the entrance, completed in 1422 when the roof was finally leaded. The monument is in the care of Cadw and there is a charge for admission, but well worth it and as it is "off the beaten track" it tends to be much quieter than the better known castles.
So, all in all, a great place to spend an hour or two if you're in the area. Not as large or grand as Pembroke or Caernarvon, but still impressive, with an interesting layout and the added bonus that it was fought over several times in the period between 1100 and c. 1450AD. If you're interested in castles of the Middle Ages, Wales is a fantastic place to visit. Along the South Wales coast are Oystermouth, Kidwelly, Llanstephan, Carew and Pembroke (birthplace of Henry VII), while in North Wales are Caernarvon, Rhuddlan and Flint, as well as many others. Add the Roman fortresses of Caerleon and Chester and you can wander around 1400 years of fortifications.