I am fascinated by history. We are very lucky in the UK to have such a rich history and to have monuments and relics as tangible links to the past. Being an island much of our history is based on being invaded or fighting off invasion. Think of the Romans, the Viking raids, the Spanish Armada, countless wars with the French, including the Battle of Hastings where William the Conquerer lead the Norman Conquest against King Harold who was killed by an arrow in his eye, through to the Nazi threat of the Second World War. Even within the indiginous peoples - the Celts, Picts, Saxons etc., there were wars and border disputes. Castles are monuments to those turbulent times in the past and were built as defensible strongholds from which a Lord could govern and control the surrounding area.
Pembroke Castle was originally a Norman Castle and was used as a strategic base by them to launch their campaigns against Ireland. Originally a wooden structure, in 1189 the castle came into the hands of William Marshall who transformed the earth-and-timber castle into a mighty stone fortification.
First to be built was the inner ward with its magnificent round keep which is shown in the photo above. It has a height of over 22m and a remarkable domed roof. The original entrance was on the first floor seen on the right of the keep in this pic) and was approached by an external stair Later on, the present ground-floor entrance was inserted as is seen in the middle of this picture at the base of the keep.
Inside, the keep had four floors, connected by a spiral stair which also led to the battlements. The keep is open to visitors and you still climb the original spiral staircase that was used by the inhabitants of the castle over the centuries. The photo above shows the inside of the keep today. Of course the timber that was made up the floors has long since gone but you can see the holes in the walls where the timber joists slotted into the walls to hold the wooden planking. You can also see the domed roof in this picture and some of the deep windows that show how thick the wall of the keep is.
The large square holes on the top of the outside (which you can see in the first photo) were to hold a timber hoard, or fighting platform. When the castle was attacked, the hoard could be erected as an extra defence, outside the battlements but way above the heads of the attackers.
The last photo was taken from the top of the keep and is of the outer ward. From this you can see the curtain or outer wall with it's towers and the large fortified gatehouse with the town of Pembroke outside the walls. I love visiting these places and you get a real feel for the history while you are there that you wouldn't otherwise get from reading a book. I hope my last two posts have helped to bring Pembroke Castle to you and if you find yourself in the UK (or live here) I can highly recommend it.