Pembroke Castle is situated at the head of a limestone peninsular on the banks of the river estuary and surrounded on three sides by water and is located in the centre of Pembroke. Access and the fourth side is from the road. It was one of the strongest Norman fortresses in Wales. Today It is largely intact and has endless passages, tunnels and stairways to explore and it is said to be the largest privately owned castle in Wales.
To See and Do
Another large feature of the castle is it's gatehouse, which had a complex barbican tower and no fewer than three portcullises and great wooden doors reinforced with iron draw-bars, making it a mighty defence . There is also a battlemented flying arch inside the gatehouse. It formed the residential part of the castle, the rooms are large and were roofed with timber and lead. The western half of the gatehouse extends to form the By-Gate Tower which was rebuilt in 1934 and leads to a long chamber which is now home to a number of exhibitions. The ground floor has a guard room which provides access to a stone arched dungeon.
The Great Keep
This late 12th century structure stands 75 feet high and has a massive cylindrical tower with an unusual stone dome. The walls at it's base are some 19 feet thick, it is topped with a stone dome set as a centre-piece in a triple crown of parapet and turret. In good weather you are permitted to climb to the top from where the views of Pembrokeshire are great and the castle's natural defensive position on a rocky promontory overlooking Milford Haven is immediately apparent. The original main access point was on the first floor and the wide steps up are a reconstruction of the 14th and 15th century additions. All the rooms are circular and the main room on the second floor has two windows embellished externally by dog tooth moulding and a carved head.
The Chancery or County Court
Turning right out of the Keep there are the remains of a late 13th or early 14th century gabled building. It was the part of the castle that was used for the business of the castle such as keeping the accounts and where the county court of palatine was held.
The Norman Hall or Old Hall
This is believed to have been built at the same time as the keep. There is a large fireplace on the south wall and a large double latrine chamber to the south-east, although this was a later addition.
The Northern Hall
This impressive chamber has huge decorated windows which date from about 1280-1290. The chimney was shared by at least two huge fireplaces one above the other and the outlines of these can be seen. It is believed this was the living quarters. As you enter the hall there is a doorway on your left which leads down a long spiral staircase to this castles unique feature, of the Wogan Cavern.
Pembroke is also thought to be the only castle in Britain to be built over a natural cavern, a large spectacular limestone cave under the castle which overlooks the river and there is a spiral staircase that goes up into the castle making easy access to the river and sea. On some excavations there have been findings such as flint tools from the Middle Stone Age.
There are also a number of towers including:
The Dungeon Tower was added to the inner curtain wall. There are stairs into the tower and in the corner of the changer is an illuminated hole in the ground. This was an oubliette (a hole where prisoners were forgotten), there is no access other than this hole.
The Western Hall is near the remains of the inner curtain wall, and to it's right is the excavated ruins of the chapel. Inside there is a long vaulted changer with a large fireplace and a staircase to the roof. At the top you will see a stone chimney stack. From here you pass the Inner Ward to the Outer Ward on which there are a number of other towers. To approach the first of these you walk over the remains of the Inner Gatehouse.
Monkton Tower can be approached, along with others, either from the ground or by way of an upper walkway. There is much to be seen in the rooms and passages between here and the gatehouse. To see the rest of the tower you have to approach it from the other side. A short flight of steps leads into a small room which may at one time have housed prisoners. Some graffiti can be seen etched into the stone work.
Westgate Tower overlooks one of the town's fortified towers, the Old West Gate, which formed part of the walled town. This tower was severely damaged during the Civil War but restored in 1931.
Henry VII Tower so named because this is where it is believed the Henry VII was born. It is known that he was born in Pembroke, however it is not clear which room.
The Barbican Tower has walls 9ft thick. Today exploration allows you to see several rooms and from the top views of the surrounding area of Pembroke.
The Exhibition Room tells the history of the castle from it's beginnings to the present day, there are also various displays depicting various moments in the castles history, such as the birth of Henry VII. From St Anne's Bastion you can enjoy views of the estuary.
As well as the castle ruins there are also various activities taking place such as guided tours, brass rubbings, picnic in the castle grounds, and special events. For a full list of events taking place throughout the year take a look at their website under 'activities'.
It is also possible to walk around the medieval town walls and millpond and from the opposite bank of the river view the castle surrounded by the water.
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