Historic Pembroke Castle, the great Welsh fortress where Henry VII was born, is now the site of one of the country’s most innovative visitor experiences. A suite of exciting digital and graphic enhancements is crowned by ‘The Great Map of Wales’, a large-scale representation of the country’s medieval heritage. At over 1100 sq m, larger than two tennis courts, Pembroke Castle’s Great Map is thought to be the largest painting in Britain.
A castle character waits to surprise visitors at Pembroke Castle
The new experience is connected to the Castles and Princes project, and is part of Cadw’s Heritage Tourism Project, partially funded by the European Regional Development Fund in collaboration with Carmarthenshire County Council.
The outdoor mural is larger than two tennis courts
The map forms part of a wider programme designed to engage visitors through interactive, innovative experiences
Graphic and exhibition designers, Hotrod Creations, were commissioned to imagine and deliver exciting visitor experiences to bring the ancient castle and the medieval period to life. The three main concepts are designed to engage school groups and sightseers: a giant outdoor map showing the castles and abbeys of Wales; audio and video encounters with five of the Earls who held Pembroke through times of national turmoil; and an innovative, interactive smartphone web tool which allows visitors to hear ‘first hand’ personal accounts from the castle’s medieval occupants about their daily lives.
The huge outdoor map was painted by famous British muralist, Peter Barber. Visitors can walk over the map to trace the routes and fortunes of the invading Norman barons, the independent Welsh princes and the Plantagenet royal conquerors. These intertwined stories left Wales with its particular landscape, containing the highest density of castles in the world. Hotrod Creations also delivered multimedia experiences in the towers and chambers of the castle, including actor Robert Hardy, playing Pembroke’s Earl William Marshal, the man who helped negotiate the Magna Carta (coming up for its eighth centenary in 2015).
The mural forms part of a larger enhancements programme designed to engage visitors through highly interactive and innovative experiences. The most forward-thinking experience installed into the castle is a web platform by City-Insights that allows visitors to connect directly with Pembroke’s rich history and past inhabitants. By holding up their smart phone or tablet to life-size depictions of the castle’s former inhabitants, from servants to soldiers, visitors can discover their stories. The web platform also includes maps, downloadable pictures, and additional stories and fun facts, and is available via free on-site Wi-Fi.
Castle manager Jon Williams said of the project, “The interpretation that has been put in place leads our visitors to every corner, nook and cranny of the site, and there is something of interest now wherever you wander, which is great step forward for us.”