Llansteffan Castle stands on a hill south of the village, overlooking the Tywi estuary. It was one of a chain of castles the Normans built to guard the river mouths in the early 12th century. But its history as a stronghold goes back much further, with the Norman castle taking advantage of the existing earthworks of an Iron Age hillfort. Like many other castles in the region its early history is marked by repeated attacks and capture by the Welsh. The first mention of the castle is in 1146 when it was captured by the three princes of Deheubarth.
Late in the 12th century the castle came into the possession of William de Camville. The de Camvilles held Llansteffan until 1338, and during this time converted the castle into the stone fortress that remains today. They temporarily lost the castle to Welsh attacks in 1189, 1215 and 1257, but managed to regain the castle and repair and further develop the defences between each attack.
The castle is divided into two wards. The smaller upper ward was the first to be defended by stone and comprises of a curtain wall, less substantial than that added later around the lower ward, a circular tower, with only its foundations now visible, and a two-storey square gate tower. At some point the curtain wall dividing the upper and lower baileys was demolished. The lower ward has a much thicker curtain wall with two D-shaped towers and a large gatehouse between them. The twin-towered gatehouse had both ends of its gate passage blocked during conversion to a Tudor house in the late 15th century. The current smaller entrance to the castle was built alongside the gatehouse at this time. The man responsible for this work was Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, who appears to have been the last Lord to occupy the castle.
- Take the B4312 from Carmarthen, the castle is on a hill overlooking the village of Llansteffan. Park in the beach car park and follow the pedestrian signs to the castle
- Llansteffan Castle, Llansteffan, Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire
- CADW. Free, open access at any reasonable time
- For further information visit cadw.wales.gov.uk
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