From the base of Llandovery Castle, visitors readily sense just how imposing the stronghold was in its heyday.
Though simple in comparison with other castles in Wales, Llandovery's placement atop a rocky hillock overlooking the River Bran still intimidates anyone approaching its footings.
In 1116, the Norman Richard Fitz Pons began construction of the motte and bailey, then known as the "castle of Cantref Bychan." Shortly thereafter, the Welsh, led by Gruffydd ap Rhys, attacked and destroyed the outer bailey. However, the Normans retained control of the castle until 1158, when the Lord Rhys successfully seized it from owner Walter Clifford. Over the next several years, control of Llandovery Castle not only alternated between the Welsh and the English, but the heirs of the Lord Rhys (including Rhys Gryg and Maelgwyn) also fought each other for command of their father's possessions.
In 1277, Llandovery Castle finally fell to Edward I, and the English monarchs continued to control the stronghold until its demise, with the brief exception of a few months in 1282 when Llywelyn the Last captured the castle. Much of Llandovery Castle's surviving masonry dates to the refortification that occurred after Llywelyn's death. Then, Edward I encouraged John Giffard to strengthen Llandovery Castle in order to secure it from further Welsh attacks. Giffard added a stone curtain wall (of which little has survived) and the impressive D-shaped tower which, although greatly ruined, still dominates the site.
The tower retains a garderobe (latrine) at first floor level. Traces of a twin-towered gatehouse are also visible, as are the grass- covered foundations of other structures , probably domestic buildings like a hall or the kitchen range, which dominated the bailey.
After 1282, little else of historic consequence occurred at the castle. Though neglected from then onward, Llandovery Castle was strong enough to be targeted by Owain Glyndwr during his rebellion in the early 1400's. But, after Cromwell's victory in the English Civil War, the aging stronghold was slighted and rendered completely useless.
Today, Llandovery Castle steadfastly guards the River Bran and its attractive village. It is freely accessible at all times, and makes an enjoyable stop on any drive across South Wales.