Dinefwr Castle

Dinefwr Castle

Dinefwr Castle

Dinefwr Castle

 

Dinefwr Castle (sometimes anglicised as Dynevor) is a Welsh castle overlooking the River Tywi near the town of Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, Wales. It lies on a ridge on the northern bank of the Tywi, with a steep drop of one hundred feet to the river. Dinefwr was the chief seat of the Principality of Deheubarth. The castle is a Grade I listed building.

The present castle is entered via a massive door protected by a restored length of battlement. The short path from the car park reveals impressive views of the Towy valley. The door admits the visitor to the main space enclosed by the walls, from which there are several stairs to the main battlements and towers. A narrow spiral staircase leads to a high tower, which gives extensive views of the deer park to the north and the Tywi valley to the south and west. The castle keep is entered via the cellar at its base, but access to the circular walkway at the top can only be made via the battlement walk. Details such as the well and several garderobes are visible in the structure. There is a path around the base of the main structure to the north.

 

Tradition relates that a castle was first constructed on this site by Rhodri the Great, but there are no remains from this period. Dinefwr later became the chief seat of Rhodri's grandson Hywel Dda, first ruler of Deheubarth and later king of most of Wales. Rhys ap Gruffydd, ruler of Deheubarth from 1155 to 1197, is thought to have rebuilt the castle.

Giraldus Cambrensis tells a story about a plan by King Henry II of England to assault the castle during a campaign against Rhys. One of Henry's most trusted followers was sent on reconnaissance, guided by a local Welsh cleric, who was asked to lead him to the castle by the easiest route, but instead took the most difficult route he could find, ending the performance by stopping to eat grass with the explanation that this was the diet of the local people in times of hardship. The planned attack was duly abandoned.

Rhys ap Gruffydd also built the spectacular castle at Carreg Cennen, about four miles away to the south. It is not visible from Dynefwr, but Dryslwyn Castle can just be seen on a hill blocking the Tywi valley to the south-west. Rhys also founded two religious houses during this period. Talley Abbey was the first Premonstratensian abbey in Wales, while Llanllyr was a Cistercian nunnery, only the second nunnery to be founded in Wales and the first to prosper.

On Rhys ap Gruffydd's death the castle passed to his son Rhys Gryg, and the earliest parts of the present castle are thought to derive from this period. Llywelyn the Great of Gwynedd was now extending his influence to this area, and Rhys, finding himself unable to resist, dismantled the castle. Llywelyn however had it restored and held it until his death in 1240.

In 1255 Llywelyn the Last gave Dinefwr to Rhys Fychan, then later gave it to Maredudd ap Rhys before later returning it to Rhys Fychan. Maredydd now allied himself to King Edward I of England, and helped Edward capture Dinefwr in 1277. Maredudd had apparently been promised Dinefwr in return for his help, but Edward did not keep his promise and had Maredudd executed in 1291.

The castle now came into English hands, though it is recorded to have been burnt during the rebellion of Llywelyn Bren in 1316. In 1317 it was given to Hugh Despenser, the king's favourite. It was unsuccessfully besieged by the forces of Owain Glyndŵr in 1403.

Towards the end of the 15th century the castle was held by Sir Rhys ap Thomas, who carried out extensive rebuilding. In 1531 his grandson Rhys ap Gruffydd was executed for treason and the castle was confiscated by the crown, though the family were later able to recover it. In 1660 Newton House was built nearby and the castle keep modified as a summer house. The remains of the large windows can be seen at the top of the keep, but it burned down in the 18th century. The castle is now owned by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and managed by CADW on their behalf.

The castle is now owned by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (who do not charge for entry) and is managed by Cadw but lies within Dinefwr Park, which is owned by the National Trust. Visitors who wish to see the castle and are driving there, may park in the town and walk up to the Castle using the free Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales access route. If visitors walk or park in the National Trust site and are not National Trust, Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales or Cadw members there is a site entrance charge. There is a small free car park near the castle for disabled badge holders, but it can only be reached by a rough track through a field. Permission can be gained at the National Trust office to drive over the field up to the castle, weather and conditions permitting.

 

Dinefwr Park National Nature Reserve is an 800 acres (320 ha) estate about 1.5 kilometres from the centre of Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire owned by the National Trust, with a mansion in the centre. The highest point is occupied by the ruined Dinefwr Castle, ancient castle of the Deheubarth kingdom. It is a grade I Historic Park and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

There are 22 known variants on the name, including 'Dynefwr' and the more anglicised 'Dynevor', but also, from the 13th century, Newton, or its Welsh equivalent, Y Drenewydd, being the new borough established by the Rhys family from 1297. Dinefwr in its various spellings, has an unknown origin or meaning, and both the park and the 18th century mansion have been known as Plas Dinefwr. The nearby medieval castle and the later mansion have both at times been called 'Dinefwr Castle'. Since the park and mansion were acquired by the National Trust, the terminology has started to settle towards calling the mansion 'Newton House', the medieval ruin 'Dinefwr Castle' and the park 'Dinefwr Park'.

The Park, along with Newton House in its centre, is owned by the National Trust and is open to the public. It is the only parkland national nature reserve in Wales, having been designate in 2007. It has over 300 trees at least 400 years old, plus ancient pastureland, landscaped valley views and a chance to see fallow deer and rare white park cattle throughout the year. The latter have been present in the area for over a thousand years, and make appearances in the laws of Hywel Dda. The estate slopes down to the level fields of the River Tywi floodplain, where small lakes lend interest to the landscape.

In 2003 the outlines of two overlapping Roman forts were discovered during a ground radar survey. Further investigation in 2005 revealed that the earlier fort was the larger site of eight acres which dated to the late 70s AD and could have housed up to 2000 men. The smaller, 3.5 acre fort was a later garrison fort. This also had a vicus near its north east entrance. The forts are dated to the latter part of the 1st Century AD (not long after the military conquest of Wales) and were abandoned early in the 2nd Century AD.

Disabled visitor and companion admitted free. Access is via steep farmland and woodland for nearest car park close to Newton House. Access for disabled visitors is via a farm track leading off from main lane to Newton House. Two sets of gates require opening and shutting. Steep gradient into castle grounds. 2 disabled spaces available 50 metres outside the outer castle ditch.

Dinefwr Park

Dinefwr Park

" If you take a handful of the soil at Dinefwr and squeeze it in your hand, the juice that will flow from your hands is the essence of Wales." - Wynford Vaughan Thomas.

Dinefwr Park is one of the most illustrious places in Welsh history, a stunning 800 acre estate on the outskirts of the old farming town of Llandeilo. A Sight of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the only parkland National Nature Reserve (NNR) in Wales, Dinefwr Park is a microcosm of Welsh heritage and natural history.

The estate slopes down to the level fields forming the Tywi floodplain where small lakes on the plain edges add more beauty and interest to the landscape. Dinefwr boasts a vast and diverse range of habitats and environment. From flower rich hay meadows to dense woodland, wide open spaces to bog woods and wet meadows. Each providing vital habitats for a range of species and playing a crucial role in Britain’s biodiversity.

Dinefwr Wildlife. Nature has been truly bountiful to this place. As well as a dense population of some of Britain’s most astonishing native and migrant birds, the estate is home to many of Britain’s most elusive mammals; some of which people live a lifetime without spotting, like otter, pole cat, voles, fallow deer and badgers.

The badger set, situated in the deciduous forest, never fails to entertain. Hidden in a wooden hide, just above the set, you can watch as they come out in the early evening. The National Trust badgerwatch evenings run between May and August. It’s a real treat to observe the private life of such an elusive mammal at such close quarters; it’s especially entertaining to see the juveniles wrestle in the open spaces.

Hundred acre medieval deer park. The estate holds a hundred acre medieval deer park. Roamed by a herd of over 100 Fallow Deer, you’ll witness the eerie, echoed bellows of the fallow bucks throughout the estate, as they lead up to the rutting season in October. You'll see the Corvidae (Crow family) helping with the grooming process by picking the moulting velvety skin from the beasts’ enormous antlers as we approach the rutting season.

The birds display the same behaviour with their White Park Cattle; picking off the loose hair as this pre-historic looking animal sheds its winter coat. This ancient and rare breed holds a lot of historical and genetic relevance to the property. Other folk law linked to the White Park Cattle is the legend of the Lady of the Lake and the famous Physicians of Myddfai.

Oldest trees in Britain. Dinefwr ancient woodland is home to some of the oldest trees in Britain. They have over 300 Oak Trees some that are over 400 years old, making them true veterans and providing vital ecosystems of diverse species. Even when the trees die or fall to the ground, they do not remove them. They stay where they fall to provide habitat for Dinefwr plant, wildlife and fungi species.

Bio-diversity is always at the forefront of the National Trust minds. They farm for conservation as opposed to mass production and, with the introduction of their hay meadow practices, they are setting themselves apart from other NT properties. During the Spring/Summer months, the landscape displays a fiesta of colour and aroma. The wildflowers provide a feast for the eyes and the nose. Perhaps the most impressive being the carpet of bluebells in the springtime.

Dinefwr Park wildlife walk

This 3-mile walk takes in some of the estate’s great wildlife-spotting places, as well as a fascinating medieval castle and 17th-century mansion. Classified as Easy and dog friendly, it should take about one hour.

Welcome Centre car park at Dinefwr Park, grid ref: SN615224. Turn right out of the Welcome Centre and follow the dragonfly waymarks (Dragonfly Walk) until you get to the pump house. Then, follow the heron waymarks (River Walk). Head downhill, past the pigeon house on your right (pigeons used to be a source of meat for the household). Mynachdy, an old gameskeeper's cottage, is soon passed on your left.

Fallow deer are best seen in the late afternoon and evening when they emerge into clearings. From Newton House, look down the deer park valley where you may see them wandering around the trees. Visit in autumn and you may see the deer rutting. Beyond the slaughterhouse (still with its old winches for lifting deer and cattle carcases inside), turn right through a gate into Bogwood and follow a boardwalk to the mill pond.

This historic woodland has a stream running through it and is mainly home to water-loving willow and alder. There are almost 300 trees more than 400 years old, which makes it a nationally important parkland. What is thought to be the oldest oak in the park started its life in the 14th century. The park has also become a hotspot in Wales for insects; there are over 25 nationally scarce insect species on the estate. Fallen branches are deliberately left as they are an important habitat for saproxylic, or 'dead wood invertebrates' such as beetles that depend on rotting wood for food and shelter.

Walk around this man-made mill pond. At the pump house, take signs for the River Walk. Mill pond wildlife. A great place for dragon and damselflies in spring and summer. Spot newts, frogs and ducks, as well as an occasional kingfisher (if you're lucky). The river Tywi forms the oxbow lakes which mark the southern boundary of Dinefwr. Follow the tree line on a path, with the ruins of 12th-century Dinefwr Castle towering above to your left.

Woodpeckers and wildfowl. All three British woodpeckers (the lesser, greater spotted and green) live in the woodlands. Summer and winter are the best times for watching wetland birds here. Wildfowl visitors in winter include teal, widgeon and tufted duck. With the river to your right, walk through the Twyi valley. Tree sparrows. Twyi valley hedgerows are home to a rare breeding population of tree sparrow (looks similar to the house sparrow but has a distinctive black patch on its cheek). The hedgerows are an important habitat for these small farmland birds which have been studied by National Trust volunteers for many years.

Turn left here on a path to Llandyfeisant Church. An important feature in the designed landscape, this church was largely rebuilt in the 19th century but actually has medieval origins. On the track back to the Welcome Centre, pass what would have been a large Roman fort over the hill to your right. Archaeological surveys show us it existed, but nothing is visible above ground. All that remains is for you to admire the long-horned white park cattle as you cross the parkland and return to your start point.

 

There is a tea-room serving delicious local produce and a shop selling local Welsh products. Parking, 50 yards (with narrow access). The visitor can taste local wines and beers overlooking the croquet lawn and stay at one of the National Trust's two holiday cottages. Suitable for school groups. All dogs welcome but on leads only.

There are Baby-changing and feeding facilities and pushchairs are admitted. There is a Children's quiz/trail.

There are adapted toilets in the house and at the visitor reception. Grounds are partly accessible. Long level boardwalk to mill pond. Drop-off point. Two wheelchairs are available, booking essential.

 

Location : Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, SA19 6RT

Transport : Llandeilo (National Rail) then 1 mile. Bus Routes : Bus services to Llandeilo.

Opening Times : Castle - Daily, 10:00 to 16:00

Opening Times : Park - Daily, Dawn till dusk

Tickets : Free.

Tel : 01558 823902