Pembroke is a small town on the south Pembrokeshire Peninsula only 25 minutes from the county town of Haverfordwest. Its castle ruins occupy a prominent position on a hill jutting out into the river Cleddau. Woodland and arable farmland surround the town and there are interesting beaches and attractions close by.
The Castle and History
The original 11th century earth and timber fortification of Pembroke Castle was progressively strengthened over the next 150 years. The first stone structure on the site as well as the town walls date from the mid-13th Century. Henry Tudor (V11) was born here whilst his mother was a guest at the castle; he went on to become the founder of a dynasty which affected the course of history far beyond the border of Wales.
The formidable strength of Pembroke Castle was put to the test during the Civil War when, in 1648 the Mayor of the town and his sympathisers came under attack by Cromwell’s men after they declared for the King in spite of strong local support for the Parliament.
In the Middle Ages, Flemish immigrants are credited with bringing a thriving woollen trade to the town due to their skill in setting up water powered mills, but by the 16th Century this industry had declined.
The Industrial Revolution brought the standard gauge railway from Tenby in 1863 and then it was connected with one of the arteries of Brunel’s broad gauge Great Western Railway at Whitland a few years later.
The Town Today
You can visit the Pembrokeshire Adventure Centre at Pembroke Dock, with its range of land and water-based activities.
Pembroke Leisure Centre is to be found in the grounds of Bush School. There’s a swimming pool (free to under 16s and over 60s) as well as fitness suite and other indoor sports. See the Pembrokeshire County Council website for opening times and timetables for public use.
A 10 minute drive to the west from Pembroke, you come to Pembroke Dock, where The South Pembrokeshire Golf Course has now been extended to a challenging 18 holes and has superb views across the Haven.
Mornings at the Town Hall
At the town hall, you’ll find a Country Market every Thursday and the Farmers' Market every first and third Saturday of the month, where you can buy all sorts of local food produce and crafts or sit and have tea and cake. Note that both markets are open 9am to 1pm so don’t leave your visit till the afternoon!
In the same building, the Old Court Room houses the Pembroke Museum: a display of memorabilia, historical photographs and artefacts. Open Tues, Thurs and Fri 10-12.30.
Making good use of 700 square feet of wall space in the foyer and upper landing, a fabulous mural has been created over the last few years depicting scenes from the history of the town. Open 9am to 1pm Monday to Friday.
Manorbier beach is a great attraction here both for bathers and surfers. The castle was begun in 11th century by a Norman knight and the great hall, built in the 1140s, today remains the “oldest stone building surviving at any castle in west Wales.”
Many ancient stone tools (microliths) have been unearthed in this area and there are various bronze and ironage remains. It’s worth visiting the King’s Quoit cromlech which dates back to around 3000BC.
The village is famous for being the birthplace of the twelfth century chronicler, Gerald of Wales, who called Manorbier “the pleasantest place in Wales”.
Bosherston and Barafundle
From Bosherston you can visit the amazing St Govan’s Chapel as well as Broadhaven beach, and the famous lily-ponds on the Stackpole Estate are most accessible from here. It's worth making the time for a long walk along the wooded paths and bridges which cross the serene lakes and continue to the cliff path. The geology is varied and interesting as is the flora and insect life. Ponies graze with their foals in summer and it’s altogether idyllic.
The village of Lamphey has a very English feel to it with church overlooking the cricket ground. You can visit the ruins of the Bishop's Palace and even catch an open-air performance of a Shakespeare play in the summer.
This castle is a bit different in that it’s situated on low-lying ground and was originally next to a crossing point of the river - a strategic position in the days when the river was navigable.
Through the ages, the castle progressed from an earth and timber structure to a grand Elizabethan house, evidence of which remains in the stone mullioned windows.
There’s a great variety of events at Carew over the summer, including drama, knight schools, battle re-enactments, country fairs and concerts.
The water mill is one of three restored tidal mills in Britain, and adds to the interest of this historic site with its original machinery and exhibition.
Some of the best things to do in and around Pembroke
Have a meal at The Old Point House in Angle - charm and character plus large beer garden. Dogs and children are welcome
Follow our links to see the castles' own websites giving calendars of events.
Take the National Trust's recommended circular walk from Bosherston around the Stackpole Estate, across the cliffs and down to Barafundle Bay
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