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The old county town of PEMBROKE (Penfro) and its fearsome castle sit on the southern side of Pembroke River. Despite its location, Pembroke is surprisingly dull, with one long main street of attractive Georgian and Victorian houses, some intact stretches of medieval town wall, but little else to catch the eye.
Pembroke's history is inextricably bound up with that of its impregnable castle (daily: April– Sept 9.30am–6pm; March & Oct 10am–5pm; Nov– Feb 10am–4pm; £3.50; Web: www.pembrokecastle.co.uk ), founded by the Normans as the strongest link in their chain of fortresses across South Wales. During the Civil War, Pembroke was a Parliamentarian stronghold until the town's military governor suddenly switched allegiance to the king, whereupon Cromwell's troops sacked the castle after a 48-day siege. Yet despite Cromwell's battering, and centuries of subsequent neglect, Pembroke Castle still inspires awe at its sheer, bloody-minded bulk. The soaring gatehouse leads into the large, grassy courtyard around the vast, round Norman keep, 75ft high and with walls 18ft thick. The intact towers and battlements contain many heavily restored communal rooms; some of them are used to house excellent displays on the history of the castle and the Tudor empire.