Castell Henlys, Pembrokeshire

Last weekend we were once more in Pembrokeshire and one day we had a change from our usual activities and joined the tourist trail and visited this reconstructed Iron Age Fort at Castell Henlys.

Round House Reconstruction

Round House Reconstruction

We walked up from the carpark past a stream where Brian saw a goldcrest flashing through the trees with a group of other small birds; the verges along the path were aglow with cowslips, dandelions, emerging violets and early campion.

On the hilltop plateau swirls a curve of thatched Iron Age roundhouses; from small Zeb-sized ones, to massive ones where you can imagine how to cook, spin and dye, weave, snooze, mill grain, tend the stew pot and, work with iron age tools, share meals, talk and dream. The learned guide on site was utterly charming, she wears clothes she had made from her own weavings on her warp-weighted looms. However when I asked her about Iron Age underwear she laughed and went off to talk to some children.

When you are tired you could climb onto one of the beds and fall asleep. Outside you can turn your eyes skywards and watch red kites patrolling and swallows diving, there are little hairy piglets (a cross between ancient wild boar and a Tamworth) to talk to and woolly sheep ( a small old breed).

While we were there there was a falconry display with a collection of birds from a small merlin to a Russian Steppe Eagle. I had the dogs with me so we didn’t stay for the display as an eagle swooping low over your curly ears might not have been Zeb’s idea of fun. While this has been envisaged primarily as an educational open air museum and interactive site for children, there is  something for everyone to enjoy here and there is a new turfrooved visitor centre in the last stages of being completed which will I am sure enhance the experience for visitors later this year.

If you are visiting with children in the summer, it sounds as if there is a wealth of activities to participate in and enjoy. You can find out more about Castell Henlys from their website. dogs welcome on leads, and if you are curious how an Iron Age Roundhouse was constructed there is a fun animation to watch on the BBC website and a short piece you can read about Iron Age living here which lasted in Britain for about 800 years (from c.750 BC to AD 43). As you may know the Romans moved in shortly after that and stayed for a while.

Here is a gallery of some of our photos, a mix of Brian’s camera and my iphone to give a flavour of the place. Not the easiest of places to take photos in so I hope you get something from having a peek at them!




22 thoughts on “Castell Henlys, Pembrokeshire

  1. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    What a wonderful place! I clicked on every photo to have a better look. The roundhouse amazed me – it’s straight out of Sam Neill’s Merlin – and thatched roofs are such an interesting design. Huge fire hazard, I’m sure, but so elegant and structural. Beautiful Steppe eagle, and I’d never heard of a bird of prey called a merlin, so I’m off to google for more info! Thanks darling.. :) xxx

    1. Joanna Post author

      I am delighted it gave you some fun, I don’t thnk I have ever loaded so many snaps into one post, but I had a convo with WordPress about how images appear on phones and devices. I hadn’t realised till recently that even if I set them to medium size they display (relative to the text) at full size on a device, something to do with the theme being ‘responsive’ and a Happiness Eng. suggested trying the gallery option.

      As I was doing this I had a sudden flashback to being about nine years old and modelling a village on a large board one holiday as a school project. I thnk my parents did most of it. They were both excellent at doing homework when I stsrted to get hysterical about how I couldn’t do it…. It might have been a Stone Age village…

      As to the merlin, Small falcon, also known as the Ladyhawke, as it was lighter to carry on your gauntlet while riding. Hard to tell them apart when they are juvenile as their plumage is less distinctive, but Brian is pretty sure (his photo) that this is one and not a kestrel.

      The houses are really tall in the middle, andthe one with the fire going was not so very smoky inside, maybe there was always someone tending the pot?

  2. ardysez

    Very interesting post, Joanna! Thanks to Brian for the photos, too. We noticed when we were traveling around the UK last year how many of the castles and gardens did have a picnic area or an area for children, very progressive thinking. xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      I will thank him on your behalf – I love outdoor museums, though I haven’t got into the re-enactment thing, it is very popular here in the UK. People do jousts and battles and immerse themselves in costume and period living. We are big on the past, one of our cultural industries :)

  3. heidiannie

    I love when you go visiting- you always share the best information and great pictures.
    I am surprised how many places are open to dogs- I don’t think this is true here in the States.
    Although I don;t go to many places like this or have a pet- so perhaps I am wrong.
    I chuckled at your Iron age underwear query- inquiring minds want to know- and she left you unanswered, Perhaps she didn’t know the answer.

    1. Joanna Post author

      No you are right, lots of places say guide dogs only, and it is always sad when they do, especially when they could say ‘well behaved dogs on leads’ and ask you to toilet them before they come in. Maybe there are sites like and in the States that help you find the dog friendly places? I think the guide thought I wasn’t taking her seriously, or maybe didn’t want to confess to wearing Marks & Spencers under her robes :) :)

  4. hotlyspiced

    It’s lovely how there are animals at the site as well. Looking around the ‘house’, I’m very glad I wasn’t born back there. You wonder how they would have survived the winters. It’s lovely that you can bring dogs to the exhibition. It looks well worth a visit – fascinating xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      It would have been pretty warm in the house, central fire, blankets, well insulated under that thick thatch, and one could always cuddle up with a piglet or your family. I think people cuddled more then :)

  5. narf77

    How exciting that you have somewhere like that so close to where you live complete with stately birds of prey and that delicious pig that obviously wanted to go home with you. Lovely photos and how did you stop yourself touching all of those wonderful hand made tools and pots etc. (if, indeed, you did ;) ). SUCH fun even sans underpants ;)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Brian was doing his piglet charming thing, he is a bit of a Dr Doolittle, they always come to talk to him. I think they have a lot of interactive days and events where you can learn stuff, I thought Clever little Celts sounded like good fun and burning the wicker man :)

      1. narf77

        My daughters were most enamoured of Christopher Lee burning the wicker man. Glad they burned the wicker man and not the piglet! Kudos to Brain for charming pigs ;)

        1. Joanna Post author

          Chickens fall at his feet and whisper sweet nothings to him, horses neigh softly and canter across fields, poodles kiss him, I get wildly jealous… :) :)

  6. Mal

    Hey Joanna, What a nice surprise. We return to Pembrokeshire this year after a gap of a few years. (It’s a hell of a drive from Edinburgh). The Castell Henlys project is fascinating. No danger of fire with the central fire and the pot on the metal chain. (Also they get plenty of rain around Fishguard.) The recreation does a great job of “taking you back in time”.

    1. Joanna Post author

      The internal ceilings were quite blackened, seasoned in the larger ones, but I am sure they don’t burn down when used properly :-) We find it drier there than other parts of Wales but maybe we have been lucky on our visits. It is a long way from Edinburgh, are you returning to live there Mel?

  7. Karin Anderson

    How nice and interesting! I love those kinds of museums, you get a much better idea of how people lived than just seeing some artifacts in showcases. I took my kids to a reconstructed bronze age village in Denmark, where during the summer volunteers lived a bronze age life. And on Öland, a Swedish island, we saw a viking village.

    1. Joanna Post author

      They are fun aren’t they? I remember going to a huge open air museum in Denmark as a kid and learning how to weave a bit and things like that. Much more vivid for someone like me who is not very good at imagining buildings from old stones. Though I do like earthworks and barrows if they are interpreted for me.

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