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Llawhaden Castle and its pretty village are hidden down long narrow wild-flowered lanes, between Haverfordwest and Narberth. Its setting, on a hilltop high above the surrounding woods, farmland and village, adds to a sense of history and power.

In reality it was a fortified Bishop’s Palace once owned by the Bishops of St Davids, some of the most powerful men in Wales. Of their three palaces, only Llawhaden resembles a castle as we know it. The name is thought to derive from “Llanhuadain”, or “The Church of St Aidan”.

The Castle was first constructed as a 12th-century earth and timber defensive ringwork. Stone re-fortifications were probably a response to Lord Rhys of Deheubarth laying siege to it in the late 12th century. The 13th-century alterations included the Bishops’ Chambers under ownership of the church.

The 14th-century gatehouse, with its band of bluestone decoration, was built at the same time as the chapel, chapel tower and dungeons. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, the site fell into disuse, and was later used for stone quarrying.

Other monuments associated with the site include the chapel of Llawhaden hospital, built in 1287, and the nearby market square, church and a tenth-century cross. Surrounded by the gatehouse, remaining towers and hall, the peaceful green lawn of the inner castle with its central well is a perfect place for a picnic.

A modern walkway takes you up into the castle walls, and the five-story tower porch can still be climbed, offering far-reaching views out across the countryside. This was the tallest part of the castle and perhaps reflects the former status of the Bishops.

Free admission, with small car park. Some disabled access, however the route into the castle is uneven in places. Dogs are welcome on the lead.

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