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Castle of Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth Castle; Peter Glyn, CC BY-SA 4.0

Aberystwyth location

Aberystwyth Castle is an Edwardian fortress in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Mid Wales. SN 579815.

Aberystwyith Panoramio by Tanya Dedyukhina

Aberystwyth Castle: Tanya Dedyukhina, CC BY 3.0

Gilbert de Clare

The Norman Lord, Gilbert de Clare, built an earthwork enclosure on a hill at Aberrheidol some 2 km south of Aberystwyth town, at SN 585790, in c. 1100. A Marcher lord (Welsh: Barwn y Mers) was a noble appointed by King Edward I of England to guard the border (the Welsh Marches) between England and Wales. 

Traces of where the timberwork of de Clare’s earthwork enclosure can be seen today. These are deduced from post-holes and imprints found during excavations. The castle, which was on a motte, was raised by Gilbert FitzRichard in 1100 and attacked by the Welsh in 1116, 1136, 1143, 1162-64, and again in 1208. 

Llywelyn Fawr

Llywelyn Fawr

Llywelyn the Great (Welsh: Llywelyn Fawr) rebuilt it, after which there are no records. He was a King of Gwynedd in north Wales and eventually Prince of the Welsh (in 1228) and Prince of Wales (in 1240). Using war and diplomacy, Llywelyn the Great dominated Wales for 45 years. He is the one who built Dolwyddelan Castle.

East view of Aberystwyth Castle
Aberystwyth Castle plan

A hall might have been located between this gatehouse and the south flanking tower of the inner curtain. Other gates were at the NW in both curtains. Not a lot remains of these curtains today, just stretches. A few of the towers have some height, but there is much left of the great gate. It is possible that a third bailey was to the NW beyond the outer curtain, which the sea has since claimed.

One hundred and twenty masons and the same number of carpenters were hired from the West Country of England to construct Aberystwyth Castle. They arrived at Carmarthen from Bristol and journeyed to Aberystwyth, where further artisans joined them.

Rebuilding Aberystwyth Castle

The building of the fortification needed to be revised, with a sudden attack by the Welsh in 1282, when the nascent castle was destroyed. After that, Master James of St George, who was working at Rhuddlan Castle at the time, came along and left the construction of Aberystwyth Castle in the capable hands of his buddy, Master Giles of St George. Rebuilding lasted until 1290, with several interruptions.

For the next 113 years, the castle did its work. But time heals, and in 1403, Owain Glyndwr captured and held it until 1408. During those years, he made a treaty with Charles VI of France, with the treaty signed in the captured Castle.

In 1409, the eldest son of King Henry IV, Prince Henry of Monmouth, recaptured the fortification. However, it then began to crumble somewhat through lack of maintenance.


One hundred fifty years later, after the second Civil War, when Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentary forces went on a castle-destroying spree, Aberystwyth Castle was blown up. That’s why today’s visitors, and all those since 1652, see piles of stone heaps.

Had Cromwell thought about the future and how profitable castles would be for the tourist industry, he might have protected the best ones. But those days were horrible, and destroying these objects of war was part of the strategy to finally defeat the Royalists and prevent a third conflict.

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