Dryslwyn Castle

Dryslwyn Castle stands in ruins on a rock hill overlooking the Tywi Valley between Llandeilo and Carmarthen in Wales. The site is free to visit. The 13th-century medieval castle was the site of sieges and changed hands often between the Welsh and English rule. The castle was burned and abandoned in the 1400s.

Visiting Dryslwyn Castle


Visitors may find shaded parking by the river on the other side of the B4297 just before the bridge over the River Tywi. There are 15 parking bays for visitors approximately 800 m (2,624.67 ft) from the castle grounds. 


This monument is open and free to visit, with no pre-booking required.


1 April - 31 March

Daily 10am–4pm

Last admission 30 minutes before closing

Closed 24, 25, 26 December and 1 January

Location & Access

Road B4297, from the A40(T) or the B4300

Postcode SA32 8RW

Dryslwyn Castle


SA32 8JQ

You will find the castle on a rocky hill, about halfway between Llandeilo and Carmarthen in Wales. From Carmarthen, proceed 10 mi (16.09 km) west on the A40 until you reach the turn off on the Dryslwyn Village outskirts. Look for a crossroads and community shop on the left, and you will see the castle on your right, a mile along B4297.

Know Before You Go

  • Castle access is via a steep and uneven footpath through farmland, so sensible shoes are a must when visiting the site.
  • The castle is arranged on several levels, so it is difficult for disabled access.
  • There are no dedicated disabled parking bays in the parking area.
  • Dogs are allowed, but owners must keep them on a leash.

History of Dryslwyn Castle

Dryslwyn Castle is a fine example of a medieval castle and is unusual in that it contains three wards. Parts of the castle date back to the 12th century, with modifications and extensions until the 1400s. The castle changed hands often in the Anglo-Welsh conflicts of the time.

Time Line

-Prehistoric Settlement

Although it has yet to be definitively supported by archaeological evidence, the Dryslwyn Castle likely stands on a much earlier fortification. 

-13th Century

Rhys ap Gruffydd held a peaceable reign over the Welsh kingdom of Deheubarth until he died in 1197. After his passing, his three sons began internecine battles for Lord Rhy's substantial inheritance, including the site of Dryslwyn Castle. The Anglo-Normans took advantage of the political instability and began to infiltrate Deheubarth, prompting the castle's construction proper.

-1220s (Stone Building)

The stone castle was built at this time, likely by one of the Princes of Deheubarth, particularly Rhys Gryg. Dryslwyn Castle and its neighbouring Dinefwr Castle were crucial to the security of the Welsh kingdom.

-1233 (Inheritance Conflict)

Perhaps after Rhys Gryg's experiences of inheritance conflict, he left a castle to each of his sons on his demise in 1233. Unfortunately, the division still prompted family rivalry, where each son contested the extent of their territory.

-1246 (Siege)

Ancient chronicles made mention of a siege by the Seneschal of Carmarthen.

-1250s (Rebuild)

Llywelyn ap Grufford decided to intervene and sided with Maredudd ap Rhys, the younger of Rhy's sons. Even the Anglo-Normans tried to exploit the instability of the time, but their army suffered defeat at Cymerau. After reconciliation, Maredudd rebuilt the castle's middle ward in stone. 


After the demise of King Henry III in 1272, the Anglo-Welsh relationship began to sour, prompting King Edward I to commence the First War of Welsh Independence against Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1276.

-1273 (Modified)

The south and east fell to the English, prompting Rhys ap Maredudd to seek terms with the King. He was allowed to retain his estates, and in the years that followed, he made modifications to Dryslwyn Castle. During this time, he constructed the middle ward with its projecting square tower. 


Relations became strained between Rhys and Robert Tiptoft, Justiciar of South Wales, as Rhy's resentment of the English grew stronger. Ill was rewarded for his early capitulation to the Crown, as Rhys eventually openly revolted against English rule.

-1287 (Bloody Siege)

Rhys rebelled against English rule and seized Carreg, Dinefwr, Llandovery and Cennen Castles. The English retaliated by a show of significant force with an army gathered from three territories. This large army convened on Rhys at Dryslwyn and besieged the castle. The numbers were substantial for the time, with 11,400 men under the command of Edmund, the Earl of Cornwall.

The attack was a tempestuous affair, with the English making use of trebuchets to hurl projectiles at the castle walls. Trebuchets were usually constructed on-site, made of wood, and utilised a counterweight system to launch large projectiles. Rhys surrendered in 1287, and was disinherited after his escape. 

-1292 (Execution)

Rhys managed to evade capture until 1292 when he fell into enemy hands. Royal forces transported Rhys to York, where they tied him for treason, convicted him, and executed him.

-13th Century

Dryslwyn Castle remained firmly in the hands of the Crown for most of the 13th century, and the English repaired and conducted minor reconstructions of the castle. Again, the castle was the site of an attack during the Welsh uprising in 1316 but did not suffer substantial damages. 


King Edward II granted the castle to Hugh Despenser, who was held in low esteem by his countrymen. The English lords attacked the castle in 1321 in rebellion against the widening power of the Despensers. 


The Crown again took control of the castle after the defeat and overthrow of Edward II and the Despensers. 

-1403 (Attack)

Owain Glyndŵr seized the Dryslwyn Castle, prompting the English to take the castle back by force. The English decommissioned the castle, blocking off access routes, walling the gatehouse, and even removing the treads from the stairwells. Later, the remaining buildings were burned, and the site plundered for its stone.


Dryslwyn Castle is a Grade I listed monument and regarded as one of the best examples of a medieval defensive castle built for a Welsh Lord. The castle is designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument CM030. 

Dryslwyn Castle Occupants


  • 1197: Rhys ap Gruffydd ruled the area, the site of the later stone castle.
  • 1220: Rhys Gryg began construction of the stone castle overlooking the Tywi Valley.
  • 1250s: Maredudd ap Rhys, the younger son of Lord Rhys, occupied and modified the castle.
  • 1317: King Edward II granted the castle to Hugh Despenser.
  • 1403: Owain Glyndŵr occupied the castle.

Images of Dryslwyn Castle

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Dryslwyn Castle Dryslwyn Castle

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Dryslwyn Castle Q&A

Did Anyone Die in the Castle’s Sieges?

In the English siege on Rhys ap Maredudd at the Dryslwyn Castle, the castle was the scene of a fierce attack. The 11,400-strong English force used trebuchets, a form of counterweight catapult that could hurl a 50 kg (110.23 lbs) projectile to a distance of 120 m (393.70 ft). 

The English also used mining to bring down the castle defences by digging down to their foundations or exposing their foundations, placing them on props, and burning them. Several knights lost their lives while inspecting a mining operation when the wall collapsed on them, which was well documented

The knights who lost their lives included: William de Montechesney, Nicholas Baron of Stafford, Gerard D'Lisle and John de Bevillard.

What Remains of the Original Castle?

Not much remains of the once-mighty castle. Much of what visitors see today was revealed by archaeological excavation. A small part of the middle and outer walls still stand, and one may see the polygonal plan of the castle to fit the shape of the hilltop. The inner ward holds remnants of the south-west construction and traces of the middle and outer wards to the northeast. 

One may find a garderobe (medieval privy) on the eastern side and the foundations of a 13th-century gatehouse in the north-east. The Round Tower remains on the south side, and the foundations of Rhys ap Maredudd's great hall still survive. 

Today, only the south-west corner and south wall remain, with arched windows and parts of a four-sided tower that once held a chapel. The remaining buildings show mostly their foundations, although some walls still stand a few meters high. Archaeologists conducting excavations of the site uncovered much of what much of the ruins we see today.

Location of Dryslwyn Castle

Rhys Grug built the original Dryslwyn Castle in a strategic position looking over the Tywi Valley. He located the limestone structure on a top of a hill for easier defence with high and steep slopes protecting the castle on the southern side. Part of the north and much of the western side of the fortification were also inaccessible, diverting potential attackers to take the less steep hill in the northeast. 

Over the subsequent centuries, holders of the castle extended the fortification further up the sides of the slope, and added further stone protective walls and larger residential structures. Today, only the southwest corner of the south wall still stands with windows, and remnants of the four-sided tower and chapel. Only the foundations of the higher structures are visible from the later extensions.