A tour of Aberystwyth Castle, Ceredigion

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(The north-west gate tower)

The shattered remnants of Aberystwyth Castle give some idea of the splendour of this once mighty castle. Although overshadowed by its far better known contemporaries, such as Caernarfon, it is still an interesting site. Before taking you on a tour of the castle, I will begin with a brief overview of its history.

(The castle viewed from the car park)

Aberystwyth was founded by Edmund Crouchback, earl of Lancaster, brother of Edward I, in the late thirteenth century. It was one of four royal castles constructed in north Wales following the war of 1277 with Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. Construction work began on 1 August 1277, with the workforce initially including 120 masons and 120 carpenters from the West Country. By October 1279, more than 1,100 men were employed on working on the site. Yet considerable problems were encountered during the building of the castle, in part as it was located too close to the sea. Three years later, the castle and town of Aberystwyth were captured and burnt by the Welsh at the beginning of the war of 1282-3. Large sums of money were subsequently spent on repairing the castle after the end of the conflict.

In 1404, Aberystwyth was captured by the forces of Owain Glyndŵr. Henry Prince of Wales (who later became Henry V) attempted to regain the castle in 1407, but was foiled by Owain’s success in resupplying the garrison. This proved to be a temporary setback as the siege was resumed in the following year, with the English starving the defenders into surrender. Thereafter the castle gradually lost its military value. It was later slighted by the Parliamentarians following the end of the First Civil War in the 1640s and is now managed by Aberystwyth Council.

(External view of north outer ward wall)

Far less survives of Aberystwyth Castle than most of the other Edwardian castles of Wales (only Builth is in a worse state of preservation), yet the ruins are still well worth looking around. There is no entrance charge, with adequate carparking only a short distance away by the beach and nearby facilities in the town. The castle is concentric, with an inner and outer ward, and has a lozenge shape, which had a dry moat on its western side.

(External view of the outer gate from the south)

The castle is approached from the town via the outer east gatehouse, of which only part of the northern tower still survives. This leads immediately to the inner east gatehouse; whose southern tower is still largely intact.

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(External view of the outer gatehouse from the east)
(Internal view of the inner gatehouse with the D tower on the right)

Remnants of some of the buildings in the southern part of the inner ward also survive, as well as the northern and southern towers of the outer ward.

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(Ruins of buildings in the south-east part of the inner ward)
(Another view of the inner ward further west looking eastwards)
(View of ditch from bridge looking northwards to north tower)
(External view of the north tower viewed from the town)

The most striking part of the castle is the north-west gate tower, which stands to its full height and gives an impression of just how magnificent the castle was in its late thirteenth century heyday.

(The north-west gate tower viewed from the west)
(Internal view of the north-west tower viewed from the east)

I hope you have enjoyed my tour of Aberystwyth Castle. If you have any comments or suggestions for future tours then let me know in the comments section below.

Visiting Information

The site is owned and managed by Aberystwyth Council for more details see here.

Further reading

Aberystwyth: Understanding Urban Character (Cardiff: Cadw, 2013) [http://cadw.gov.wales/docs/cadw/publications/130812aberystwyth-understandingurbancharacteren.pdf, accessed 1 April 2018]

Dan Spencer, The Castle at War in Medieval England and Wales (Stroud: Amberley Publishing, 2018)

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