After the Norman Conquest of England during the 11th century a Norman knight named Odo de Barri received various pieces of land in South Wales as a reward for his efforts during the campaign, one of which was at Manorbier, a few miles from Tenby. He set about building a wooden hall surrounded by earthworks on the site. His son William later improved on his father's endeavours by building a stone castle with a large square tower. By the end of the 12th century, two high stone curtain walls and a gatehouse had been added. The De Barri family, who had taken their name from Barry Island which they also owned, and who counted among their number the illustrious priest and author Gerald of Wales, held the castle for over 250 years. It then passed through the hands of a number of successive royal owners.
The castle saw relatively little action during all of this time, the most dramatic episode having taken place in 1645, when it was seized by Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. However, most of the castle was derelict by the late 17th century, although what remains today is remarkably intact. The castle and gardens are open to the public for a large part of the year, and there is holiday accommodation available for rent on the site. Guests should keep their eyes peeled if venturing outside after dark, when they might catch a glimpse of the castle's resident ghost, a lady in black who has been seen walking purposefully towards the castle entrance before disappearing.
The castle is surrounded by the charming Manorbier village, with its Norman Church of St James, a contemporary of the castle. Down below there is a sandy beach served by a car park with an ice cream van during the summer. The beach is popular with surfers and families alike, although care should be taken due to the strong currents. The beach is backed by dunes and is crossed by a stream with pebbles containing crinoids and other fossils. On the headland south of the beach is King's Quoit, a 5,000-year-old burial chamber.