Dinefwr Castle

Dinefwr Castle, Dyfed

~ History ~

1165 - Rhys ap Gruffudd (the Lord Rhys) 'takes Cantref Mawr and the royal castle of Dinefwr, holding them for his own'.

1171 - Following twenty years of conflict with the Marcher lords and the Crown of England, Rhys's position is finally recognised as prince of Wales by King Henry. During this period of non aggressive activity Rhys is able to take advantage of the peaceful and stable conditions to consolidate the security of his dominion.

1189 - King Henry dies. He is succeeded by Richard I. Rhys is forced to go on the offensive to counter new aggression. The campaigns are also used to divert his sons away from the damaging conflicts they have with each other.

1197 - The Lord Rhys dies. His heir Gruffudd ap Rhys's succession is challenged by his brothers, Maelgwyn ap Rhys and Rhys Gryg. Vigorous internal struggles ensue which sees castles, including Dinefwr, captured and recaptured over many years.

1213 - The continued struggle for power sees Rhys Gryg surrender Dinefwr to his nephew and rightful heir to Dinefwr, Rhys Ieuanc, grandson to the Lord Rhys. During this period the main beneficiaries are the English King, his Marcher lords and the native Welsh neighbours, all of which take advantage in regaining territory.

1216 - All the southern Welsh princes are summoned to settlement by the new powerhouse of Welsh politics, Llywelyn ab Iorwerth of the house of Gywnedd, the future Llywelyn the Great. Rhys Gryg, 'the Hoarse', is confirmed as lord of Dinefwr, under-lord to Llywelyn. Despite this, generations of internal struggles between ruling welsh families see castles and land, such as Dinefwr taken and retaken, with loyalties split between Llywelyn and the Anglo-Norman Kings.

1277 - With the death of King Henry in 1272, a less tolerant and patient King Edward I invades south Wales. By the summer resistance has crumbled. Rhys ap Maredudd, lord of Dinefwr being the first to seek terms with the King. He is allowed to keep his castles and lands, but not the symbolic castle of Dinefwr. Rhys's warring kin side with Llywelyn and are exiled to north Wales as Llywelyn's rule collapses. Rhys is now the only descendant of the Lord Rhys still in power in south Wales.

1283 ~ With Edward's war against Llywelyn won, Rhys is arrested and forced to renounce forever all claims to Dinefwr Castle, the object of his ambitions and reasons for siding with King Edward.

1287 - Rhys is soon involved in a series of bitter disputes with his English overlords and captures Dinefwr, Carreg Cennen and Llandovery castles. The constables are slaughtered. The English respond by amassing a huge army of some 11,000 men and retake the castles and lands. Rhys flees to continue resistance but is betrayed by his own men, captured and executed five years later at York.

1403 ~ Welsh forces led by Owain Glydwr surprise the nearby garrison of Llandovery castle, which offer little resistance to the 300 strong force.

They then move on to Dinefwr castle. Glyndwr is accompanied by his commanders Rhys 'the Fierce' Gethin and Rhys 'the Black' Ddu.

Theycamp overnight at the nearby town of Llandeilo, where they are joined by men from the Conway valley, Ceredigion and Kidwelly, The combined forces then march to Dryslwyn Castle the following morning, recruiting more men flocking to Glyndwr's golden dragin banner as they march. The gates of Dryslwyn castle are thrown open to the rebels.

The nearby castles of Carreg Cennen, Carmarthen, Newcastle Emlyn and Llansteffan also fall. The constable of Dinefwr castle Jenkyn Havard writes urgenty for reinforcements. The following day his castle is under siege, with Glyndwr arriving in person to plan the siege.

King Henry IV receives letters pleading for help, with the English towns of Llandovery and Newton now aflame. The Welsh forces have now swollentosome 8,000 men. Carmarthen castle has now also fallen and with it the English hold in South Wales now under total colapse.

Dinefwr castle holds out, with its constable writing 'a siege is ordained at the castle that i keep and that is great peril for me, and all that be within; for they have made their vow that they will all yet have us dead therein'.

If speedy aid is not forthcoming, Havard and his men plan to escape under cover of darkness to Brecon castle. 

News of Glyndwr's key English ally Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, move on Chester changes Glyndwr's own plans, providing relief to the stricken castle and its desperate garrison. Lord Carew, fresh from his own siege at Laugharne castle arrives to ambush the Welsh besieging Dinefwr castle. The threat for now is lifted.


1 mile W.        of Llandilo


off B4300


SA19 6RT

The ivy-clad silhouette of Dinefwr Castle stands at the edge of a river cliff, its defensive ditches cut from the solid rock. In its day it was the most important Welsh castle in all south Wales. It had been the seat of Howel the Good, long before there was a castle, and it remained the princely seat of Deheubarth, the premier kingdom of Wales.

Dinefwr castle was the principle seat of the Lord Rhys, one of the most powerful Welsh leaders of the twelfth century, who was able to withstand the Anglo-Norman lords and their King, Henry II.

Access to the castle is via a long but very beautiful walk through a deer park. As far as native Welsh castle's, this has to be one of the most important, complete and impressive. The castle itself is is a remarkably good state of repair with spectacular views in all directions.

A must see castle of South Wales.