The Norman castle at Coity, a few miles northwest of Bridgend, seems to be relatively little known, despite its large size, interesting architecture and easy access, close to the M4. Although for most of its history the castle stood alone in the gently hilly countryside east of the Ogmore River, it now has a somewhat incongruous setting adjoining modern houses on two sides plus a church to the east - only on the north side is the land still open and undeveloped. The place is unstaffed, managed by Cadw and open all year.
The castle has a spacious outer ward to the west, fully enclosed by low walls, leading to an approximately circular inner ward on the east side, protected by much higher walls and containing a variety of structures including a 12th century keep, a 14th century domestic range and a 15th century chapel. The ruins are extensive, still on several levels though the surviving upper passageways, including a stretch of wall-walk, are not accessible to the public, being closed by railings for safety.
Built by local nobleman Payn de Turberville, the first fortification at Coity was a timber building surrounded by a ditch and embankment, erected towards the end of the 11th century; this was improved by his son Gilbert de Turberville in the 12th century, by enclosing the site with grey limestone walls and adding the keep, initially two stories high. The Turberville family held the site until 1384, when it passed, by marriage, to Lawrence Berkerolles who added the majority of the other buildings of the inner bailey; the final additions occurred in the early 15th century after transfer to the Gamages family who resided here until the late 1500s, after which the castle was left vacant and gradually became ruined. When in military use, Coity formed part of a definsive line of three closely-spaced castles, the others being Ogmore and Newcastle (in Bridgend).
The castle lies along Plas Road, the main street through the village of Coity, and is accessed by a short side road to a farm; at the entrance is a limited amount of parking space, this beside the main gatehouse, at the west side. The southern castle walls may be inspected from the main road, while the eastern end, facing the local church, can be seen by a short path along another side road, Heol yr Eglwys. This path leads to a field from where the exterior of the northern walls can be viewed, and a gate on the far side leads to the parking area. The walls of the inner bailey rise above a shallow ditch that extends all around, up to both sides of the outer bailey, and would originally have been filled with water.
Entrance to the outer ward is through the remains of the west gatehouse. Only the north side of this remains to any significant height; a rather unstable-looking section of wall, a little wider towards the top, where a short line of battlements remains. The enclosure within is approximately rectangular in shape, 100 feet wide and 170 feet long, protected by curtain walls which are highest along the north edge, a section that includes a square based tower. The southern walls contain another gatehouse, mostly just foundations, south of which is a short bridge over the end of the grassy moat. The wall segment linking this to the inner bailey includes a neat row of gunloops. The only other structure within the outer ward was a two room barn with porch, its footprint clearly evident from the low wall remnants.
By far the most spectacular section of Coity Castle is the inner ward, a roughly circular enclosure 150 feet in diameter, guarded by walls still up to 30 feet high. Around the perimeter are a circular tower to the south and a rectangular gatehouse to the northeast (originally protected by a portcullis, and a drawbridge across the moat), both of which project fully outside of the walls, plus a less prominent tower on the north side, this an annex to the adjoining keep. The far side of the keep links with the middle gatehouse, which controlled access from the outer ward. Along the east and south walls are the domestic ranges, from the 14th and 15th centuries, including a hall (above a vaulted basement), chapel, residential rooms, grand staircase, malting kiln, pantry, buttery and kitchen, complete with stone oven. The three floor keep is centred on a thick pillar bearing the remains of the eight ribs that supported the vaulted ceiling of the undercroft; above these the pillar is joined to the wall by a thin section of surviving floor.