Technichally a fortified palace, Llawhaden Castle was founded in 1115AD by Bishop Bernard of Saint David's Cathedral. Built to protect the surrounding church lands, it was initially a simple earth and timber fortress.
The castle was captured in 1192AD by Lord Rhys. It was quickly retaken however, and the work of converting it into a more resilient stone fortification was soon underway. A stone curtain wall was erected, protected along its length by semi-circular towers. The circular keep also dates from this period.
Towards the end of the 13th Century, Bishop Thomas Bek was responsible for substantial improvements at Llawhaden Castle, adding the hall block, undercroft and ornate bishop's chambers. He also expanded the village, turning it into a substantial market town.
In the late 14th century, bishop Adam de Houghton raised the height of the southern stone curtain wall, protecting it with impressive towers and a substantial gatehouse. A lavish range was also added to provide accommodation for visiting guests.
Following Henry VIII's dissolution of the religious houses in around 1535AD, Bishop Barlow stripped Llawhaden Castle of its wealth and abandoned it. In 1616AD, Bishop Milbourne was granted a licence to demolish the castle, and it subsequently fell into complete ruin.
Today, Llawhaden Castle is tucked away in a quiet corner of an unremarkable but picturesque Welsh village, well off the beaten track. The shell of the gatehouse survives to its full height, and is easily the most dramatic feature. The southern wall also survives in good condition, but there are few other remains of note. Despite this, the location makes this a rewarding site to visit, and the lack of visiting crowds offers the opportunity to explore the ruins undisturbed.