With its pedigree as the birthplace of Henry Tudor in 1457, and the fact that it is the biggest and most visited castle in Pembrokeshire and possibly West Wales, Pembroke Castle is one of Wales’s top ancient monuments.
Built by the Norman Knight Roger de Montgomery in 1093 it was given to William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke a century later, and he rebuilt it in stone in the form that we see today.
Its great bulk and imposing presence atop a high rocky promontory; its spacious courtyard and 75-feet high round keep, it is visible for miles, towering above the town and surrounded on three sides by its deep moat. The domed roof of the keep has several putlog holes which supported a wooden fighting platform on which the defenders would have been able to go out over the attackers’ heads.
One of the features that children love to explore is Wogan’s Cavern, a dank cave beneath the castle which probably served as a sallyport or embarkation point for boats and a landing stage for cargoes of food and weaponry. The outer walls are 16-feet thick in places
Pembroke Castle withstood several attacks by Welsh insurgents over the years, During the Civil War Pembroke declared for Parliament and was besieged by Royalist troops who were rescued by reinforcements from Milford Haven. However, Cromwell came in 1648, by which team Pembroke’s leading figures had changed to the Royalist cause, and, following a seven-week siege, the castle was taken and its destruction ordered. The castle was abandoned but in 1880, a three-year restoration was started but not finished.
It was not until 1928 that World War One veteran, Major General Sir Ivor Philipps, acquired the building and started an extensive restoration, which, after his death was carried on by the Pembroke Castle Trust and Pembroke Town Council.
A range of family-friendly activities and events go on in the castle today. It is open to the public every day all year round at times that vary slightly through the seasons and admission prices are graded according to status with children under five free. There are living history days, falconry days, storytelling days and various guided tours and a new feature this year called ‘Keepers of the Castle’ is peopled by characters in colourful period costumes demonstrating what life in the castle was like.
Years ago there was a spectacular Son et Lumiere display there which brought the castle courtyard and buildings eerily to life. Civil War and 13th century battles are fought by well-known costumed re-enactment companies and there are open air Shakespeare performances on summer evenings. From the lofty keep there is a splendid panoramic view over the town and surrounding area and from the ramparts one can look down at the streets, many with their period architectural features still evident.