In the marvellous sweep of Cardigan Bay stand the ruins of one of Edward I's late 13th century castles. Of the seven major English strongholds he established in Wales, Aberystwyth has fared least favourably in the survival stakes. Now little more than a few fragmented chunks of masonry displayed in a well-kept public park, the castle has lost its imposing hold on the town.
At one time guarded by one of the largest Iron Age forts in West Wales, Aberystwyth has been a place of strategic importance throughout history. The first Norman castle, built on a site further south, was begun by Gilbert de Clare but this has long since disappeared, having been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times during 200 years of political and family feuding. When Edward I begun his castle in 1277, it was a magnificent lozenge-plan concentric building of two stone curtain enclosures, flanked by sturdy round towers. Each curtain had a twin-towered gatehouse, the smaller outer gate leading to a barbican, and the inner gatehouse a substantial fortress with domestic accommodation. Excavations have revealed that a great hall stretched from this gatehouse to the south tower of the inner curtain, some 60ft long (18.3m) and 42ft wide (12.8m).
In 1282 Aberystwyth Castle was destroyed in an attack from Welsh patriots, but it was rebuilt under the supervision of Master Giles of St George. Eventually completed in the closing years of the 13th century, there was no further major incident at the castle until 1403. During the next seven years, the castle was captured by Owain Glyndwr, restored to the Crown, re-captured by Glyndwr and finally regained by Henry of Monmouth. Subsequently, with more peaceful times, Aberystwyth became less significant and it was left to deteriorate, but there is evidence that a mint was established in the castle. Royalists held the position during the Civil War but, following a surrender in 1646, Cromwell ordered the castle to be dismantled.
Castle or defences