Welsh Owl Garden and Zoo

Snowy Owl in flight Credit: Welsh Owl Garden & Zoo

PICTON CASTLE GARDENS, Pembrokeshire’s finest stately home, is surrounded by 60 acres of some of the most beautiful woodland gardens and grounds in west Wales, and is the setting for the Welsh Owl Garden and Zoo.

Located along the bluebell walk at Picton Castle, the Welsh Owl Garden houses a large selection of owls, with daily flying displays and intractive sessions and is regarded as a great day out for all the family.

In addition to having around 30 species of owl and exotic birds on display, the zoo is also home to many other mammals and reptiles – including famous otters River and Freddie!

Picton Castle is an unusual ancient building as it is a fully developed medieval castle that was transformed into a stately home in the 18th Century.

From the outside, with its four symmetrically-spaced half-round towers and gatehouse entrance flanked by two narrower towers, it is based upon patterns of Irish castles of the period and is the only one of this type on the British mainland.

The castle was constructed in 1280 at the behest of Sir John de Wogan who was Justiciary of Ireland circa 1295-1313. It was the centre of his estates.

The castle and lands went by inheritance to the Dwnn family and the estate devolved upon one Joan Dwnn ‘The Golden Daughter’ in the 1460s. In 1491, Joan married Sir Thomas Philipps of Cilsant in Carmarthenshire.

Freddie the otter, a resident at the Welsh Owl Garden & Zoo Credit: Picton Castle

Thus, since the 1490s, Picton has been the centre of the Philipps family’s estates. In 1611, James I wanted to raise money to meet the cost of keeping his army in Ireland and he hit upon the idea of selling baronetcies. Sir John Philipps bought one at the cost of £1,095.

Throughout the 17th and 18th Century the Philipps’s of Picton Castle were the most powerful family in Pembrokeshire, exercising great political, social and economic influence over all aspects of local life.

They had vast estates, were prominent philanthropists and patrons of the arts. For generations they supplied Pembrokeshire with Sheriffs, Justices of the Peace, Lord Lieutenants and Members of Parlaiment.

The castle remained the centre of the Philipps family’s operations in Pembrokeshire up until the end of the 20th Century. The Honourable Hanning Philipps and his wife Lady Marion Philipps were the last members of the family to live in the castle and gifted the castle, its collections and gardens to The Picton Castle Trust in 1987.

The Old Bridge, spanning the River Cleddau, was gifted to Haverfordwest in 1726 by Sir John Philipps. It was constructed over the ford of Haverfordwest that Henry Tudor crossed, with his army, after landing at Dale in August 1485.

A large monument in St Mary’s Church, the civic church of Haverfordwest, is one of several relating to the Philipps family of Picton Castle.

When Pembroke’s small but unique Museum of the Home closed its doors to the public, its entire collection was re-housed at Picton Castle. This fascinating collection is housed in the old Butler’s Pantry area and can be seen by visitors when joining a guided tour of the castle.

(sources include: Picton Castle visitor information, tripadvisor)