Dinefwr Castle

Dinefwr Castle’s history is shrouded in mystery, the exact origins of the castle are unknown but it is believed to date back to at least the 12th century and was built by Rhys ap Gruffydd, ruler of the kingdom of Deheubarth in Wales.  The castle is situated upon a high wooded ridge offering stunning views of the Tywi Valley below.

Built12th Century
OwnershipWildlife Trust of South and West Wales but maintained by Cadw
AccessPublic – Free
PostcodeSA19 6RT

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The find of Roman artefacts in the area have caused some to believe that Dinefwr was the site of an Roman fort, but no other evidence backs these claims up.  

According to legend, the first Dinefwr Castle was built by Rhodri the Great in the mid 9th century, but no archeological evidence has been found.  

The earliest historical reference to a castle at Dinefwr dates back to the 12th century and the castle is thought to have been built by Rhys ap Gruffydd, ruler of the kingdom of Deheubarth.  Rhys also constructed the nearby castle of Carreg Cennen.  During Rhys’s reign, King Henry II of England invaded Deheubarth. In response Rhys formed an alliance with Owain Gwynedd and quickly recovered his lands.  There is a tale that during King Henry II’s campaigns against Rhys, he planned to attack and seize Dinefwr Castle.  Henry sent one of his men to investigate.  The man consulted a local Welsh cleric to discover the easiest route to the castle but instead the cleric took the most arduous one and concluded the trip by stopping to eat grass explaining that this was the customary diet of locals in difficult times.  The planned attack on the castle was discarded.

Rhys ap Gruffydd made peace with Henry and a short time of harmony began, but following Rhys’s death in 1197 his sons fought over the succession.  Llywelyn the Great of Gwynedd took advantage of these troubled times, extending his influence into the area.  

In 1216, Llywelyn forced the division of the kingdom of Deheubarth between Rhys’s three sons.  Rhys Gryg inherited Dinefwr Castle but the kingdom of Deheubarth was divided and its status diminished.   It is even said that Llywelyn forced Rhys to dismantle the castle and then he rebuilt it.  Whether this story is true or not is unknown, but it was during the early 13th century that the castle was rebuilt in stone, the main addition being a strong round keep at the east end of the inner bailey.  

In 1255, Llywelyn the Last bestowed Dinefwr upon Rhys Fychan, only to later transfer it to Maredudd ap Rhys, and subsequently return it to Rhys Fychan. However, Maredudd, aligning himself with King Edward I of England, forged an alliance, and his son Rhys ap Maredudd aided Edward in seizing control of Dinefwr in 1277. Allegedly, Rhys had been assured ownership of Dinefwr as gratitude for his assistance, yet Edward failed to uphold his promise and had Rhys executed in 1291.

Dinefwr Castle was now under control of the English crown.  Following the Edwardian conquest repair works were carried out on the bridge, tower and hall. The ditches were cleaned out and a new gate was added along with various other small buildings which were constructed in the outer ward.  

In 1317 the castle was briefly given to King Edward II’s favourite, Hugh Despenser.  By 1403, the castle had fallen into a state of disrepair but it still managed to withstand a siege by Owain Glyndwr during his rebellion. 

Following the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, the deciding battle of the War of the Roses, King Henry VII granted Dinefwr castle to Rhys ap Thomas.  Rhys had raised an army to support Henry during the battle and remained loyal to Henry, supporting him in later battles.  In 1531 the castle and lands were again confiscated by the crown after Rhys’s grandson, Rhys ap Gruffydd was convicted of treason and beheaded by King Henry VIII.  

The family were later able to reclaim the castle but in 1600 the current Newton House was built nearby which became the family’s main residence.  The castle’s keep was modified and briefly used as a summer house but this was badly damaged in the 18th century and the castle was  left to fall into complete ruin afterwards.

Dinefwr Castle is currently being looked after by Cadw but is owned by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.  Admission to the castle is free but it lies within Dinefwr Park which is owned by the National Trust and car parking charges apply for non National Trust members.  

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