Sofiero Castle was one of the Swedish royal family's country mansions. It was originally a Scanian farm called Skabelycke, bought in 1864 by Crown Prince Oscar of Sweden and his wife Sophia of Nassau. The first one-story palace was completed in 1865. It was expanded to its current size between 1874 and 1876, after crown prince Oscar had been crowned king Oscar II of Sweden and Norway.

In 1905, Oscar II's grandchild Prince Gustaf Adolf, future King Gustaf VI Adolf, and his wife, crown princess Margaret received the palace as a wedding gift. They renovated the palace and started the large Rhododendron garden for which the palace is known today. Prince Gustaf Adolf become king in 1950 and until 1973 Sofiero was his and his second wife Lady Louise Mountbatten's official summer residence. It was supposedly the King's favorite place and upon his death, which occurred in Helsingborg, he left Sofiero to the city of Helsingborg so that the general public could enjoy it as much as he had.

The main attraction today is the very large gardens with a wide range of local (and other) plant life, stretching to the shore of Oresund. The Rhododendrons are especially noteworthy, consisting of almost 500 different varieties. The park also holds a small collection of modern art. During the summer the large grass areas are sometimes used for large outdoor concerts with national as well as international stars. The castle itself is today used as restaurant, cafe and at times as a gallery.

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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Actual Counterfactual (4 months ago)
Pretty OK for being winter, I guess it will be much nicer in the summer time. It looked fairly well maintained for being late December, I expected it to be messier and forgotten, but was actually pretty decent.
Imagine 38 (5 months ago)
Unfortunately the castle is close in winter but you can still go there just to visit the park it's free during winter. The park is very well, great if you have children. You can see the sea !
Elena Konovalova (6 months ago)
I take away one star just because this year as we got to know they didn't decorate the whole park due to covid19, therefore the price for it doesn't really adjust to reality. Nice cafes around and very cozy time to spend with kids and friends. 30 minutes will definitely be enough in order to see the whole thing. If you are bored some evening, I would recommend to see it. Something is better then nothing!
Luciane Fortes (7 months ago)
It's a beautiful place to walk through in nature. Friends have advised me to come back in the spring for a much more impressive view. ?
Steve Christie (9 months ago)
Interesting gardens, the castle itself was a bit of a let down. Overpriced entry.
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Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle is a Norman castle, founded in 1093. It survived many changes of ownership and is now the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It was the birthplace of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII of England) in 1457.

Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied at least since the Roman period. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, Pembroke Castle resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years. The castle was established at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.

When William Rufus died, Arnulf de Montgomery joined his elder brother, Robert of Bellême, in rebellion against Henry I, William's brother and successor as king; when the rebellion failed, he was forced to forfeit all his British lands and titles. Henry appointed his castellan, but when the chosen ally turned out to be incompetent, the King reappointed Gerald in 1102. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as an important base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.

In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He had the castle rebuilt in stone and established the great keep at the same time. Marshal was succeeded in turn by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.

Later de Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern. Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.

Pembroke Castle then reverted to the crown. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was a place of peace until the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although most of South Wales sided with the King, Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops but was saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven. Parliamentary forces then went on to capture the Royalist castles of Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carew.

In 1648, at the beginning of the Second Civil War, Pembroke's commander Colonel John Poyer led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke on 24 May 1648 and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were even encouraged to disassemble the fortress and re-use its stone for their purposes.

The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay. It remained in ruins until 1880, when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until 1928, when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle and began an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses, and towers. After his death, a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke town council.

Architecture

The castle is sited on a strategic rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway. The first fortification on the site was a Norman motte-and-bailey. It had earthen ramparts and a timber palisade.

In 1189, Pembroke Castle was acquired by William Marshal. He soon became Lord Marshal of England, and set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive Norman stone castle. The inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with its domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside, a spiral staircase connected its four stories. The keep's domed roof also has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoarding allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.

The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. But only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of the wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were within the inner ward. The 13th century keep is 23 metres tall with walls up to 6 metres thick at its base.

In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward, including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral staircase was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which was created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, a barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred.

The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, a barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.

Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with great keep, it can be more accurately described as a linear fortification because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rocky promontory surrounded by water. This meant that attacking forces could only assault on a narrow front. Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are all concentrated on its landward side facing the town, with Pembroke River providing a natural defense around the rest of its perimeter.