The ruins of Pennard Castle stand overlooking a majestic view over Three Cliffs Bay near Pennard on the Gower Peninsula.  Today the site is open and free to visit. The 12th-century timber ringwork was later rebuilt in stone in the 13th and 14th century by the Braose family. Although the position was a perfect choice for defence, encroaching dunes led to the castle being abandoned.

Visiting Pennard Castle

Parking

Linkside Drive

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Visitors may park in the side street opposite the golf course or the national trust park at Southgate and walk back towards the common and follow the white stone marked path for access to the site. One may also access the beach down the dune path at low tide.

Price

Free

Opening

Open year-round; visit at any reasonable time during daylight hours

Location & Access 

No postal code

Visors may find the castle on the western side of the Pennard Golf Course, reached by a half-mile path from the A4118;

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Visitors may access the ruins via the marked public paths through the golf course, taking care not to disturb the golfers. Alternatively, visitors may access the ruins from a broad but steep path from the beach, which is not suitable for those who are disabled.

Visitors may enter the ruins, which are unfenced and open to exploring; however, one should take care as the castle stands on a steep drop.

Nature

Botanists discovered the rare county flower of Glamorgan extensively on the castle site. One may only find this particular yellow alpine whitlow-grass at Pennard Castle or in the upper cliffs between Pwll Du Head and Rhossili. According to legends, the Parkmill route also has an abundance of Buckthorn, the favourite of the Welsh Faeries, or Lunantisidhe

Know Before You Go

  • The walk from the coastal path may be quite vigorous as the trail is steep with deep-sea sand. Sensible shoes are a must for the route to Pennard Castle.
  • Visitors should take care when crossing the Pennard Golf Course for golf balls in flight.
  • The castle site is perfect for a family outing; however, parents should supervise their children in the castle area.  

History of Pennard Castle

The ruins of Pennard Castle overlay an earlier Norman earth timber ringwork fortification. The cliffs on the north and west side offered strategic defences, and a stone castle was built in the 1300s. The castle changed hands from the Broase clan to the Mowbray, Despenser, and Beauchamp families.

Time Line


-The Early 12th Century (First Build)

King Henry I granted Henry de Beaumont, the Earl of Warwick, his lordship over the Gower area in 1107. Beaumont constructed the castle on a limestone promontory protected by the north and west cliffs. Originally, the structure was an oval ringwork, including a ditch and ramparts around a courtyard containing a hall.

-Early 13th Century (Stone Build)

In 1203, King John granted the control of Gower to the Braose family, and the family made a few modifications to the structure. Historians suggest William de Broase rebuilt the earlier timber castle in stone by the late 13th century. A trusted ally of Edward I and a prominent Marcher Lord, William soon came into conflict with John de Monmouth, Bishop of Llandaff.

As a show of force, Broase set to fortifying Pennard Castle with a twin-towered gatehouse in imitation of the larger gatehouse keeps erected nearby in Wales. He made use of the local sandstone of the area and built a stone hall approximately 18.6 by 7.6 m (61.02 by 24.93 ft). This structure replaced the underlying ringwork fort. 

However, the construction appeared more for show than natural defence as the structure had several strategic military shortfalls. The portcullis grooves did not reach the ground, and builders placed the arrowslits ineffectually. 

The local church called St. Mary’s was likely constructed at this time; the scant remains still stand east of the castle ruins. Archaeologists have found remains of a medieval village surrounding the area, which likely sprung up around the church and nearby holy well. 

-1320 (Be-Sanded)

Edward II confiscated Pennard Castle from William de Broase, claiming that he had given the castle to his son-in-law John de Mobray without royal decree. His unpopular ally, Hugh Depsenser, was likely behind the confiscation, as he soon took control of the castle and estates. 

However, the political uncertainties of Edward II’s reign soon saw the castle restored to the Broases before returning to the Despenser clan yet again. Eventually, the Beauchamp family took control of the castle, but by this time, unprecedented sand storms and coastal sand encroachment began to damage the castle structure seriously. 

-1532

St. Mary's Church was the last structure to be abandoned and left to the encroaching sands.

-1650 (Ruins)

Historical records refer to Pennard Castle as ‘desolate and ruinous’ and surrounded by sand.

-1741

The south castle tower suffered collapse, leaving the rest of the structure generally intact. Further structural instability led to further damage by 1795.

-1879

The south tower of the gatehouse began to show large structural faults and the wall partially collapsed.

-1922

The condition of the ruins raised serious concerns about the castle at this time, and due to the considerable cost for proper repairs, concerned parties opted to patch the castle in unsightly concrete.

-1960

Much of the southern wall collapsed, and involved parties conducted urgent repairs to castle masonry.  

-Present

UK law protects these ruins as a Grade II listed and scheduled ancient monument. 

Pennard Castle Occupants

 

  • 12th century: Henry de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Warwick or Henry de Newburgh, occupied the first timber and earthwork fortification.
  • 1203: King John granted control of Gower to the Braose family, and William de Broase rebuilt the castle in stone and occupied the site in the late 13th century.
  • The early 1300s: Braose granted the castle to his son-in-law John de Mowbray.
  • 1320: Hugh Despenser took occupancy of the castle under the King's decree.
  • Mid-1300s: The Beauchamp family took control of the castle. 

 Images of Pennard Castle

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Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Pennard Castle Q&A

How Large Was Pennard Castle?

Pennard Castle is relatively small compared to the other castles built in the time, and the masons built it rather crudely. The Normans built the original castle in a ring of earth ramparts protected by palisades of sharpened wood. The layout was roughly rectangular and surrounded an inner hall made of stone. The castle measured approximately 18.6 m (61.02 ft) by 7.6 m (24.93 ft) in size. 

Was Pennard Castle the Site of Any Battles?

Pennard Castle was built when the threat of Welsh wars had receded, explaining its impracticality as a genuine military stronghold. The primary function of the castle would be administrative for the lordship of Gower and partly residential in function. 

What Remains of Pennard Castle?

Remnants of the 14th century of the gatehouse still stand, having been built with extremely strong mortar. Parts of the curtain wall are also standing with a thickness of 1.1 m (3.61 ft) and averaging 5 m (16.40 ft) tall. 

Remnants of the defensive wall in the north have also survived, along with a short section in the south. There is also a ruined gatehouse and remains of the square tower. Visitors may access the ruins and the spectacular views for free during reasonable daylight hours. The ruins are now under the guardianship of UK law and listed as a Grade II listed building. 

Is Pennard Castle Haunted?

Pennard Castle is the site of more than one local legend regarding the Verry folk or the capricious Welsh faeries. 

One legend tells of the castle being built by a sorcerer to save himself from death from the invading Normans. He is said to have invoked a winged demon called Gwrach-y-rhibyn, who will not allow mortals to spend the night in the castle walls. Legends tell of her attacking anyone who tries to sleep in the castle with her claws and long blackened teeth. 

Legends also tell of the Verry folk punishing the castle lord who dared threaten them with his sword. The sandstorms and encroaching sand are said to be punishment for the lord’s ill-fated aggression. 

Location of Pennard Castle

Pennard Castle stands in Swansea on the bluffs above the Three Cliffs Bay on the southern side of the Gower peninsula. The original ringwork structure is a 12th-century build, of which only the footings of the hall and the west end of the courtyard remain. 

The present-day remains show the 13th-century build, with curtain walls and tower 36 m (118.11 ft) east by 28 m (91.86 ft) west. There is also a twin-towered gateway facing east and towers on the western wall, with rectangular internal structure remnants.