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A military fort turned garden and poetical inspiration


Castle and Gardens
Dylan Thomas' Gazebo
Laugharne is one of a string of castles that lines the south side of the Welsh coast. It has existed in some form since at least the 12th century, although back then it was little more than a narrow ditch and some wooden walls. It evolved over time, with new enclosures and halls popping up one by one.
Most of the stonework was put in place by the de Brian family, who held Laugharne through many generations. Confusingly, every single one of them was called Guy. Each successive descendent, from Guy I to Guy VII, made a little more progress, until Laugharne had become a tough, imposing fortress, where important guests could be accommodated in relative safety.
In 1584, Queen Elizabeth I granted ownership of the castle to Sir John Parrott, a court favourite who was rumoured to be the illegitimate son of Henry VIII. He converted the place into an extravagant Tudor manor house. Unfortunately, all this wealth and prestige caused Parrott to get a bit too big for his boots. He was caught making indiscreet remarks about the Queen, who promptly threw him in the Tower of London. In the end, he never left - Parrott died there, of "natural causes".
This was the beginning of the end. As soon as Parrott's guilt became known, thieves began taking anything that wasn't nailed down, and quite a lot of things that were. Glass, lead and wooden panelling were all illegally removed. When the Civil War came around in 1644, Laugharne was a spent force. Parliamentary soldiers damaged it with cannon fire, forcing the Royalists to surrender. The walls were then partially dismantled, ending the castle's life as a usable stronghold.
Laugharne has been falling into ruins ever since. Still, although its walls are crumbling away, its memories aren't. In the 18th century gardens were planted, which soon became a popular spot with people seeking a bit of peace and quiet. Recent restoration work has brought the lawns and flowerbeds back to their best. The gardeners made painstaking use of old writings and photographs, to make sure the reconstructed version of the castle grounds was as close as possible to the original.
One particular fan of their achievements was Dylan Thomas, the most famous English language poet that Wales has ever produced. He spent many hours here, in a gazebo built on the base of a medieval tower. While looking out over the estuary, he found the inspiration to write his book "Portrait of the artist as a young dog".
At the time Thomas was staying in Laugharne town, which spreads out beneath the battlements. His rooms were in Castle House, a place nobody ever has any trouble finding; it's three storeys tall and it's coloured bright pink. Thomas described the building as "the best of houses in the best of places". He wasn't alone in this opinion; Richard Hughes, another writer, also produced work while staying here.
Later, Thomas lived in the boathouse, overlooking the water. It obviously continued to provide inspiration, as he wrote many more famous pieces during this time. Nowadays the house is a heritage centre, dedicated to the life and writings of this influential poet.

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