Any self-respecting Welsh town or city has a castle, and Carmarthen is no different!
To give a brief overview, the history of Castell Caerfyrddin, as it’s known in Welsh, goes back to when it was first built in the 1100s by the Sheriff of Gloucester. Over the years, decades, and centuries following this, it was captured by Owain Glyndwr (the last Welsh Prince of Wales), captured by Parliamentary forces during the Civil War of 1642-1651, and was also the place where Henry VII’s father died in 1456. So it saw its fair share of action, until the castle was burned by Oliver Cromwell during a Royalist rising in south Wales in 1648. From 1789 to the 1920s it then became the site of the county gaol.
The castle is on one of the highest points in the town, overlooking the Towy river. Getting to it from the town centre below involves walking up an incline towards Notts Square, where there’s an entrance. It’s nestled in between the rather majestic council offices, and a commercial shopping area, providing a refreshing break from the noise and bustle of the town. This unusual modern setting also means that it’s not as spectacular as the many other castles dotted around the county, but it still makes for an interesting visit, and a glimpse into the town’s rich history.
It was only in 2003 that areas of the castle were opened to the public, back when I was 17. That was around the time that I got my first permanent job, as a sales assistant in the town, and I have fond memories of sitting on one of the benches just below the castle on my lunch breaks; looking over towards the river and watching the traffic go by.
Yesterday I decided to go for a walk after lunch as the weather was so nice, and I wanted to go outside and get some fresh air and a change of scenery. I headed up towards the castle, because it was an area I hadn’t really explored since moving back to Carmarthen. It was interesting playing tourist in my hometown, as it’s often the case that you don’t really appreciate the attractions in the area that you grew up. There were a few real tourists enjoying the view from the castle, which I was glad to see.