No school holiday is complete without a visit to a good castle. We were drawn to Kidwelly Castle in Carmarthenshire for several reasons. It is just down the road from where Huw’s parents live, so we pass signs for it all the time. And then there’s the name. Huw’s surname is Kidwell. So is Millie-Mae and Toby’s (I just couldn’t be bothered with the faff of changing mine when we got married). So, the Kidwell’s regularly visit Kidwelly … and on this overcast day, we decided it was finally time to make our claim on it!
Armed with a toy rubber dragon and a poundshop special caps gun, we were surprised at how easy it was to walk over the bridge and through the impressively tall gates … all we had to do was pay a nominal entrance fee! On the day we visited we had the place to ourselves.
The castle has a commanding presence over the Estuary and the river Gwendraeth, as would be expected. When built by the Normans in 1290 it was the height of defensive technology with concentric defensive walls. The castle comprises a square inner bailey defended by four round towers.
These oversee a semi-circular outer curtain wall on the landward side, with the massive gatehouse next to the river Gwendraeth. Despite its strength and dominance, it did however change hands several times due to Welsh revolts and the untimely deaths of some Norman lords.
Of course, during our visit the children’s imagination worked overtime … one ruined space was converted into a cinema, another into a sunken swimming pool.
A tall turret room (once renovated by Toby) would be a Harry Potter-esque sweet shop with ridiculously tall ladders reaching jars of sweets high up. They imagined where the guests would sleep, and where the BBQ would go! All pending the necessary planning permission of course! (Well it IS their castle!)
Kidwelly Castle: What to See
The castle is in a remarkable state of preservation considering it is over 700 years old. You can climb all over the battlements and towers, go down in the dungeons and look at some of the restored rooms of the keep. There is also a very comprehensive history provided by CADW in the form of a guide book and an audio tour if preferred.
Kidwelly Castle was actually used as a location for the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, appearing in the very first scene after the titles. So, if you are a Python fan, this is another reason to visit.
To get into the castle (as a family of four) a family ticket is the best value at £11.90 (price valid until March 2018). The family ticket is valid for two adults and up to three children under 16 (under-5s go free). Also, dogs are allowed to visit the castle on a lead.
The castle is open until 4pm in the Winter (1 November – 28 February) and 6pm in the Summer (1 July – 31 August). In addition, just outside the gatehouse is a memorial to Princess Gwenllian (Wales’ answer to warrior princess Boadicea). She died in battle in 1136 not far from Kidwelly fighting the lord of the castle, Maurice de Londres, to save Deheubarth – south-west Wales – from the Norman invaders.
Disappointingly there is no known connection between the Kidwell family and Kidwelly Castle; it’s just a quirky coincidence that the family live close by. So alas, for now, we remain castle-less …