Morlais Castle, Mid Glamorgan
Track opposite Goitre Lane,North of Merthyr Tydfil
Off A465 / A470
On a limestone ridge above the Taff gorge and town of Merthyr Tydfil are the traces of a large and strong 13th century castle, built on the site of an iron age hill fort.
The road up from the town twists and turns until you get to an old disused quarry where you can park safely at the side of the road where a footpath will take you up to the summit and the castle.
The climb is well worth it as the views are spectacular and site is far greater than you would expect. Although the remaining walls are reduced to rubble, the outline of the castle is easy to see to get a rough picture what it would have looked like in its prime. Commanding far reaching views stretch out in every direction so its clear why a castle was built here. An unexpected find is a vaulted basement beneath a long lost tower that can still be accessed beneath the ruins to serve as a lasting reminder how spectacular the castle once was.
Impressive deep rock cut ditches now only defend the castle from the golf course that runs alongside one side of the castle, with horses now its only inhabitants.
~ History ~
1217 ~ Morlais is situated at the northern extreme of the Norman lordship of Glamorgan, under the control of the de Clare family.
1262 ~ The lordship passes to Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, who initially supported Simon de Montford against King Henry III but later changes sides supporting Prince Edward and Future King Edward I.
1265 ~ Gilbert de Clare and his army supporting King Edward I's royal campaign against de Montfort are victorious at the Battle of Evesham.
1282 ~ Gilbert leads an unsuccessful expedition into Southern Wales as part of the Second War of Welsh Independence. Defeated at the Battle of Llandeilo Fawr, he is relieved of command undermining his position as a Marcher Lord.
1287 ~ In an attempt to re-establish his position as the primary Marcher Lord, he builds himself a new castle above the Taff gorge bordering his rival Marcher Lord Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford.
1290 ~ A private war breaks out between the two Marcher Lords over bordering lands, culminating in the Battle of Maes Vaynor. At seeing two of his most influential and powerful Marcher Lords ar war with each other, Kind Edward I personally intervenes between the two rivals. Both are heavily fined following a period locked up in the Tower of London, on promise of future good behaviour in what are critical border territories for the King's invasion campaigns into Wales.
1294 ~ Welsh rebals attack under the leadership of Madog ap Llywelyn, capture and severely wreck the still incomplete castle. The remoteness of the site prevents the garrison being supported from other castles held by the English and with the surrounding rugged countryside in Welsh hands, easy for Welsh rebels to withdraw and return at will, laying siege preventing important supplies getting to the castle. The castle is soon abandoned by the English due to these facts, not fully appreciated when the site was chosen to build a stronghold.
1295 ~ The Welsh princes make peace with the English King. Following Gilbert de Clare's death in the same year the Crown retain ownership of the partly ruined and still part incomplete, but still considerable castle.
The castle gradually reduces to ruin over the following centuries in part due to its exposed location of disrepair against Welsh winters, accelerated by the removal of its stone by locals as the town of Merthyr Tydfil grows.