Local legend tells us that Hay Castle was built in a day - an amazing feat even for the best Norman castle builders. Not only that, it was also built by a woman called Matilda, a giantess who hurled a stone across the Wye on completing her 24 hour construction marathon. Whether Matilda did or didn't build Hay Castle quite that quickly, her name has remained forever associated with the site and we are proud to continue the tradition of telling her story.
The original Norman Keep is indeed thought to have been built during her family's reign during the late 12th century - she was married to the mighty William de Braose, a wealthy and powerful baron who was renowned for murdering his enemies in a Game of Thrones style.
This part of Wales was known as the Welsh marches at that point and was hugely important as a buffer zone between Norman occupied England and the princedoms of Wales. Norman Lords were very keen to gain land into Wales and so the whole of the borders were lands of battles, fortification and defence. This meant plenty of castles and from the top of our tower you can spot a half dozen sites if you know where to look.
If you come and visit our keep you can also see archaeology in action in the cellar, where we have revealed the early original arched gateway that predates our 13th century gateway to the side of the keep. In 2017 archaeologists unearthed a stone trebuchet ball which was probably fired at the castle in the 13th century. We have named it Colin and you can find him on the first floor of the tower.
You can also get up close to our ancient gates which have seen quite a lot happen in Hay as one side dates from about 1340. The other side is a bit more modern as that is only 350 years old!