The south-facing gatehouse with distinctive bluestone banding in its stonework



IMG_20141002_154733Just to the east of Wiston Castle previously discussed, recently I visited Llawhaden Castle, Pembrokeshire, the ruins of a medieval bishop’s castle under Cadw guardianship. Originally a 12th-century ringwork of earth and timber, the Lord Rhys of Deheubarth captured and destroyed the castle in 1192. The site was later elaborated during the 13th and 14th centuries by stone buildings and fortifications, becoming a fortified mansion of the bishops of St Davids with impressive gatehouse with bluestone banding and apartment ranges with a chapel to the east.

Llawhaden was part of a well-preserved medieval planned settlement, with hospital, settlement and market square to the west and church to the east in the valley below where there is a tenth-century cross, perhaps hinting at early medieval origins to this later medieval high-status locus. Indeed, there are plenty of traces of pre-medieval activity in this landscape including hillforts and a Roman road which indicate a dense population and an artery of communication. Long before there was a bishop in St David’s, this might have been a route for pilgrims, merchants and others besides.

The post-medieval farmhouses, abandoned within the present-day village, are another component of the visitor experience worthy of note.

There are standard Cadw heritage boards – yet to be updated in contrast to other castles I have visited of late. However, the principal attractions for visits are the long metal staircase up to the chapel tower (which in the summer is swarming with bees) and the well in the centre of the courtyard.

Like most Cadw and English Heritage sites, memorial plaques are avoided. Hence, it was particularly intriguing to find a memorial bench. This isolated archaeodeath dimension to the site is carefully situated with east-by-south-easterly views and in a position to award the sitter with views of the ruins and the countryside beyond.

Adjacent to the castle is an old peoples’ home. The castle is therefore a heritage attraction, place for memorialisation and neighbour to the elderly.

The SE range with the chapel at the far end
Well and hall


The hall’s undercroft
The chapel


Abandoned cottage on track to the castle
The memorial bench in the castle ruins
A local woman is commemorated by the memorial bench – she is clearly commemorated, but the dedication is ‘to her friends and neighbours’


IMG_20141001_144449 The bench within the ruins
Heritage board plan of the castle
Artist’s reconstruction of the courtyard
View from the battlements
The wonderful metal staircase
Toby and the dungeon
Scaling the stairs

Heritage board in the village centre
Abandoned farm: Llawhaden