Pembroke Castle is the birthplace of King Henry VII, the Lancastrian (on his mother’s side) who married Elizabeth of York and so interspersed red rose petals between white ones. But despite this significance, Pembroke Castle does not feel like the birthplace of a king or the wellspring of the Tudor peace. Instead you feel its remoteness, and remember that Margaret Beaufort was only thirteen when she gave birth to a Lancastrian-Tudor boy who must have seemed as far from the throne as western-most Wales was from London. This is the lonely fort of a distant challenger to the throne, grey-stoned and determined.
The building itself only compounds this impression, with thick walls, unfurnished rooms and a vast courtyard making it into a place of strength and emptiness at once. I had to walk backwards for what seemed like miles to fit the Great Keep into the (admittedly narrow) lens of my camera, and so the result is a mass of grey, and a mass of sky.
The Keep, like the walls, looms over you, but contains nothing but itself. And the sparseness of the castle is echoed below ground by an enormous cave used in the past as a storeroom, which after the tiny access staircase is astonishingly vast.
Pembroke Castle is not unbeautiful – though the owners have taken a stab at making it so, pouring concrete into the courtyard to make a jarring picnic area (not pictured – I’ve spared you). I hope my photographs show how majestic the fortified walls were in the September sun. But this is a castle with its teeth gritted.
And to undermine all of the above, here I am in the Great Hall with bright blue trousers and a grin.