One of our favourite days out is to Llawhaden to visit the Castle and Church. It’s a perfect place to explore grand ruins and blow the cobwebs away. Llawhaden Castle is actually more of a fortified mansion than traditional castle as it was one of the three Great Bishop’s Palaces built in Pembrokeshire for the Bishops of St Davids to reside in as they liked their home comforts. The other Bishop’s Palaces can be found in St Davids and Lamphey and are all managed by CADW. Take a look at our visit to Llawhaden Castle:
The village of Llawhaden can be found just off the A40. Follow Sat Nav Postcode SA67 8HL to reach the small free car park. There are only a few spaces but they are usually enough and we’ve always managed to park (and more often than not, we’re the only cars there).
Llawhaden Castle is open all year round (apart from 24, 25, 26 December and 1 January). It’s open between 10am and 4pm, after that the gate is locked. It is free to enter. Lamphey Bishop’s Palace is also free to visit but there is a small charge to visit St David’s Bishop’s Palace.
In the car park the kids noticed one of the “Two Minute Clean Up” boards (originally Two Minute Beach Clean Ups) and it actually had the litter picker available (at busier places we find they’re always being used) so they were excited to clean up the litter at the castle (not too much thankfully).
Next to the car park there is a lovely picnic area which is also a great enclosed space for playing games with the kids to burn off some energy before heading back home in the car.
Llawhaden Castle is just a short tarmaced walk (250m) from the car park. The walk is quite pretty, passing quaint houses and wild flowers.
Llawhaden began as an earth and timber castle in the 12th century, built by the first Norman Bishop, Bernard the year he was appointed. Over time, Llawhaden underwent several alterations as different bishops left their mark. Like many castles, this one sat high atop a hill. A deep ditch and earthen embankment formed the earliest outer defences. They still give the castle a sense of power. Like many earth and timber castles, the defences were refortified with stone, in this case, in response to a siege led by the Welshman, the Lord Rhys, in the late 12th century.
In 1930, George Lansbury, then First Commissioner of Works in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, organised a party of 1,300 previously unemployed men for six months to do renovation work on several castles. Lucky for us, Llawhaden Castle was among those worked on, with several tasks undertaken including digging out moats and ditches, as well as removing ivy and undergrowth. Today Llawhaden Castle, is owned by Lord of the Manor of Llawhaden (a bought title) and managed by Cadw.
We walked through the impressive gatehouse and began exploring the courtyard.
The castle well (safely covered of course!) is now mainly used as a place to rest while admiring the castle. Interestingly the water well was often the most costly and time-consuming element in the building of a castle.
Next to the Chapel tower is the most distinguishing feature of this wing – a five-storied tower-porch, which can still be climbed (by those brave enough) and towers high above the other structures inside the castle. This unique structure not only functioned as an observation tower- it still offers amazing views today but also was a sign of the bishop’s “superior” status.
As the sun shines through the gatehouse it emits a beautiful light over Llawhaden Castle.
Lower parts of the castle can be climbed upon. Take care both for your safety and the preservation of the castle.
Rebecca and her Aunty Ceri! Behind them would have been the bake house.
Izzy and Caitlyn exploring. I find as soon as the kids enter castle grounds their imagination wakes up and they immediately play lots of make believe games together. In nicer weather, it’s a good idea to pack sketch books and pencils to encourage them to look carefully at the details of the castle.
Views can also be observed from what was once the under-croft kitchen. The principal rooms were all on the first floor over storage cellars.
Looking across, we spotted Jo in what was the Bishop’s private chamber (it’s no longer very private!).
This was the central great hall.
Reflections through the windows.
Some of our group walked up the tower to enjoy the view. I stayed on ground level to take photos.
The dungeon is located in the Basement of the Chapel Tower.
As well as exploring the features of the castle, we found signs of wildlife such as this hatched egg that Cerys found and kindly gave to Izzy to look after.
It’s such a great place to play hide and seek and to run about (carefully!).
Between the gatehouse and the chapel tower you will find the private apartments of the castle.
After exploring, we sat and ate our picnic.
The exterior of the apartments.
Rebecca dancing on the castle walls!
Before we left, we took some family photos.
Then everyone ran away and left me! Haha!
They thought they were hilarious! Well, I did say castles make great places for hiding!
Eventually, everyone came back!
We then walked on to St Aidan’s Church, Llawhaden, but I’ll write a separate post about that as I’ve already filled this post with photos.
Llawhaden Castle is great either as a quick stop while travelling on the A40 or as a day out if you pack a picnic, games and also visit the Church and river. Wiston Castle is nearby too,
Have you visited Llawhaden Castle? What did you think?
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