Denbigh Castle stands on a rock to the south of the modern town. When it was first built, it was one of the largest and strongest castles in Wales with seven towers defending the perimeter walls and a mighty gatehouse. It was an important link in Edward I’s chain of fortresses in North Wales.
It is surrounded by a large green area which would originally have been the bastide, the Edwardian town built alongside the castle. When the market and town moved outside the walls in the 14thC, this area became the outer ward of the castle. St Hilary’s Church was built outside the castle as the garrison church. All that is left now is the tower. A bit further down the hill are the remains of Leicester’s church, begun by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester to replace St Asaph’s Cathedral, when he was Lord of Denbigh.
The castle was built above the stronghold of Dafydd ap Gruffydd, the brother of Llewelyn, the last Prince of Wales. After his defeat in 1282, the castle was granted to Hugh de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln and one of Edward’s more trusted military leaders. He demolished all of the Welsh castle and started to build a state of the art English castle. The walls and towers were begun first, followed by the gatehouse and the town walls.
The partially built castle was captured by Madog ap Llywelyn in 1294 and was held by him for a short time, but was soon recaptured. Hugh de Lacy revised the plans and the curtain walls were refortified with thicker, taller walls. The main gatehouse was heavily buttressed with three octagonal towers and a drawbridge. Murder holes, portcullis, two doors and arrow slits completed the defences. One of the towers contained the porter’s lodgings. The other was a prison.
The Great Hall and the eastern domestic ranges including the kitchen tower, the pantry and the postern gate were completed.
De Lacy never completed the work. Local tradition maintains work stopped when his eldest son fell into the castle well and drowned in 1311.
The castle resisted an attack by Owain Glendwr in 1400.
In the 16thC the castle and Lordship of Denbigh was granted to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester who was effectively Governor General of North Wales.
The castle endured a six month siege during the Civil War before surrendering to the Parliamentarian forces. It was slighted to prevent further military use and was used as a prison for captured Royalists. It fell into ruin after the restoration of Charles II.
It is a short walk along a well made path from the car park to the castle with its massive gateway with three octagonal towers and the remains of a statue of Edward II above the entrance. Inside is a small shop and ticket office with some information about the history of Denbigh. It sells hot and cold drinks and there are tables outside.
It is a big castle with massive inner ward surrounded by the walls. On one side is the remains of the great hall with steps down to the cellars which have the remains of a sink and drain. The corbels which held up the vaulted ceiling have remains of carvings. Above the cellars were the Green Chambers, the private apartments of the castle governor. Near these buildings is the massive well.
The postern gate on the opposite side of the wall to the main gatehouse has steep stone steps with two dog legs providing extra defence as well as two portcullises and drawbridges. This was used when going out for a days hunting. It now ends in the dry ditch with views along the outside of the walls.
Steep steps lead up from the gatehouse to a short section of wall walk with views over Denbigh to the mountains.
There is a large free car park on the grassy area outside the castle with a well made path to the entrance. The inside is accessible and the inside of the castle grounds are mown grass. Ticket office, shop and small exhibition are fully accessible and there is a disabled toilet. Disabled visitors and a carer are admitted free.
This is one of the less visited Edwardian Castles. One of the earliest castles to be built, it lacks the impact of the others. Being on a sloping site, the walls fall away from you. It is however an interesting castle to visit and you won’t have to contend with large numbers of visitors. On a sunny day, the chairs and tables outside the ticket office are a very pleasant place to drop out and dream.