We love visiting Castles. All that history and tradition and a way of life so different to that we now know today is fascinating. The boys enjoy visiting them too. They love discovering the labyrinth of tunnels, climbing up the steep towers and delving into the deep dark dungeons. Not to mention of course that they get the chance to pretend shoot out arrows from within the castle walls. No surprise then, that on our recent trip to Pembrokeshire, a visit to Pembroke Castle was a must.
Now I have visited Pembroke Castle, it is definitely up there with the most spectacular castles I have seen. Not only is it pretty impressive in terms of its stature and views, but it is also steeped in history. Did you know it was the birth place of Henry VII?
Visiting Pembroke Castle with the kids
So typically visiting museums with the kids means that we don’t always get to read and digest as much of the information as we would like to. So to make sure we could make the most of our visit we bought a handy guide in the gift shop at the entrance of the castle. The small booklet outlines the key historical facts and provides a useful outline on how best to tour the castle. We didn’t stick to the tour, we just let the kids guide the way. But we did find the guide really useful to read and refer to during and following our visit.
Just after the main entrance is a small room where you can watch an informative introductory video which gives a brief overview of the castle and its history. This is well worth a watch and an easy way to at least absorb some of the history.
One of the first things you see when you enter, is the huge 1000 sq.m floor map of Wales. This map shows all the castles, cathedrals and landmarks of Wales. Did you know that Wales is sometimes referred to as the Castle Capital of the World? Not surprising really, due to there being over 100 castles still (or partly still) standing.
Whilst we have visited many castles within Wales, it was eye opening to see just how many we haven’t yet ventured to. We tried to spot all the castles we have visited such as Castel Coch, Oystermouth and our local Ogmore Castle.
Pembroke Castle – The Great Tower
One of the highlights of our visit was the Great Tower or Keep. This tower is twenty five metres high and sixteen metres in diameter. This makes it one of the largest of its kind in Britain. In its day it had five floor levels.
Now, with the floor levels removed, you can stand on the ground floor and look up to the huge heights of the tower. Be warned, there are some birds circling above, with their flapping wings echoing and a clear threat of being pooped on.
Bird poop free, we headed on up the tower. There were 100 steps or so (or more accurately 96, as counted by my eldest) to climb to the top of the tower. The climb rewarded you with the most amazing panoramic views from the top of the tower across the town and waters of Pembroke.
From here you could also peer down into some of the rooms and ruins of the original Pembroke castle structures and the map of Wales below.
Pembroke Castle – The Wagon Watergate
Heading from the highest point to the lowest, our next stop was the Wagon Watergate. Here some steep winding steps took you down into a vast natural cavernous cave. It is thought that this was used for storage and may have doubled as a boat house. I was fascinated to learn that the cave was once a shelter for cave dwellers during the Ice Age!
Pembroke Castle – The Birthplace of Henry VII
One of the towers, aptly called the Henry VII Tower, is reportedly where Henry VII was born. Unlike the majority of the castle, this room is furnished. It also has life sized statutes of baby Henry with his mother.
Pembroke Castle – Sources of Information
As the castle was mainly unfurnished you had to use your imagination for how it may have looked in its day. But there are also many points throughout at which you can find out additional information. All of this helps to bring the castles history to life.
Throughout our exploration of the castle there were plenty of helpful Earls of Pembroke. By pressing a button they will tell you about their story. You can then enter their room which has a video projected onto the internal castle walls with more historical tales. Scattered around the castle there are also people to find from centuries ago. You can use your smartphone to find out more about their lives.
On top of this there are also the exhibition rooms. The exhibitions have sculpted figures and paintings recreating some of the most important scenes in the castle’s history.
There was certainly plenty of information provided to make the history of the castle come to life for both adults and kids alike. Unlike other Castles, Pembroke Castle runs free tours. It is worth calling ahead to see when these run as we arrived and had just missed one. According to many reviews on trip advisor the tours are well worth doing.
We found that on our visit, there was also certainly lots to see. Plenty of winding spiral staircases leading to tall towers with wondrous views which kept our boys very happy.
Even though we went on a wet, foggy and windy day the views were amazing. It would of course be even more impressive on a sunnier day. We enjoyed our visit so much that if we were back in the area we would most probably visit again.
Additional Information on Visiting Pembroke Castle:
For more information visit: www.pembroke-castle.co.uk
Pembroke Castle is dog friendly
Due to the nature of the steps, narrow tunnels and uneven surfaces, it is not buggy or wheelchair friendly. There are also plenty of dangerous drops and slippery steps, so not ideal for toddlers.
There is an onsite cafe with toilets and baby changing. The amenities of the town are also on its doorstep. Parking is a short walk away within the town in the pay and display car parks.