Whether you see built heritage as an example of architectural styles, a reminder of a rich and varied past, or telling a story of past generations, it has its part to play in keeping history alive for current and future generations. Among the historic attractions that lie along the Gower Peninsula, are a series of castles that attract thousands of visitors between them each year.
The Welsh Government describe Oystermouth Castle as one of Gower’s finest, and one that they are aiming to turn into a first class visitor attraction. Around 5000 tourists already visit here each year, attracted by the views over Swansea Bay, and the story of how it played its part in ‘Lords of The Southern March’, a story of land acquisitions and control in South Wales during the period 1066-1410. Work on the castle has also opened up new attractions, such as Alina’s Chapel and a new visitor centre. Greater accessibility for the disabled and community events add to the appeal here, with Oystermouth Castle acting as a gateway site to other castles in the area.
The ‘other’ castles along the Gower Peninsula include Weobley Castle, notable as one of the few remaining fortified manor houses in Wales. With a view over North Gower marshland and mudflats, and excellent craftsmanship, the substantial remains of this property, hint at its past as a desirable residence. Elegant family the De La Beres were residents here until the 15th century, while other high society owners included controversial character, Rhys Ap Thomas, and former Oxwich Castle owners The Mansels.
Oxwich Castle is another heritage site that boasts outstanding views, this time over Oxwich Bay, from its position on a wooded headland. The Mansels in effect owned a Tudor Manor House, although there are elements in the building style, such as the mock-military gateway and battlements, that have led to it being named a castle.
These three castles are the best preserved of those remaining along the Gower Peninsula, though there is evidence of others which were either destroyed, or abandoned and were eventually little more than ruins. One of the best surviving examples is Pennard Castle, a ruin which overlooks Pennard Burrows and Three Cliffs Bay along the Gower coastline. Surrounded by myth and legend, the castle was abandoned by the early 1400’s, due to its vulnerability to sand flow. Walkers and history fans alike will delight in these points of interest that help keep the history of the Gower Peninsula alive.