Welcome back everyone to our south wales walking tour series, we started our journey in the Pembrokeshire area for its abundance of history and welsh countryside and today we are at Llawhaden Castle. It is located around 8 miles east of Haverfordwest, just off the A40. Hidden amongst a narrow approach road in a small village that is quite secluded you would have no hint that the great bishops once took refuge here. The bishop’s castle takes a little effort to locate, but the short stroll from the car park is a nice surprise, lined with pretty flowers and charming homes.
The grand castle was founded by Bishop Bernard, which was originally an earth and timber ringwork on the border of the lands occupied between the welsh and Flemish regions in the 12th century. The castle acted as a go between and the centre of the bishops of st David’s estates, which had a combination of residence, a military fortress and also an administrative centre for the powerful bishops of st David’s. It was destroyed by the welsh in 1192 but then rebuilt in stone in the 1200’s and further reconstructed in the 14th century by Bishop Adam de Houghton who transformed the castle as a fortified mansion for the bishops.
Following Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, Bishop Barlow stripped Llawhaden Castle of its wealth and abandoned it. Unfortunately from this point on it was left in decay and ruin to what we see today.
The ruins include a very well preserved twin towered gatehouse, with its hollowed out interiors that you can see all of the different levels of floors which is quite unusual to see nowadays. You can wander the remains beneath of the great hall as well as an undercroft, chapel, bakehouse ,a prison and venture up the 13th century five storied round chapel tower that gives exceptional views, if it’s a good day you can see views for miles across the beautiful countryside.
The windows were finished in sandstone that would have indicated how well and lavish they would have kept the rooms – it also contained a fireplace, making it great accommodation and comfortable living for someone in that time. Its said that the tower was tall in height so that it would be a sign of the bishops superior status.
Just looking upon the grand apartments next to the tower it was amazing to see how whole the structure was and that you can roam and discover the hidden rooms and some of the diverse stonework on the doors and windows all over the castle. The great hall was impressive in size and used to make feasts and throw parties, meet guests and of course to hold important appointments. Not far from here you can walk through the kitchen, some identifiers are that you can see this by fireplaces for the cooking and the rubbish chutes in the bottoms of the walls from both the under croft and the main storey that flows into the moat below.
Under crofts are medieval storages buildings, often with vaulted ceilings and just to the left is the baking house, where just above they would have had the dining hall so it was conveniently placed and thought out.
In the basement of the eastern tower of the chapel was once a prison with vaulted ceilings. It is likely that the Entrance to the prison cell was through an unlit hatch in the ground floor.
the location makes this a rewarding site to visit, and the lack of visiting crowds offers the opportunity to explore the ruins undisturbed – we were the only people visiting here at this time, but after doing some researched im amazed at how Llawhaden isn’t discovered more but feel incredibly lucky to have been here.
On that note, if you are in the Pembrokeshire area and fancy going off the beaten track, please head to Llawhaden and enjoy a day out here. We have to say, this is one of the best places we’ve visited to date and we are so glad that we ventured here over some of the more popular visits.
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