One thing that we are good at in Wales, excluding singing, rugby and football, are castles. There seems to be a Norman castle or fortified manor house around every corner and typically for us Brits, their presence is usually understated and even ignored. We could learn from the USA when it comes to marketing and promoting our history.
Saying that, Pembrokeshire National Park does make more of an effort than most to conserve and promote our ancient monuments. Within 20 minutes of each other there is Carew Castle, Manorbier Castle and the impressive Pembroke Castle. There are also ruins at Haverfordwest, Cardigan and Narbeth and at least another half dozen scattered around the area. Given all of these castles our ancestors were obviously quite a ‘rowdy’ bunch and needed to be kept in check. Mrs W can frequently show signs of her Wild Welsh ancestry especially when she finds out the dishwasher hasn’t been emptied!
We recently had the chance to spend a weekend at Bluestone National Park Resort. As Carew Castle was only 15 minutes down the road we took the opportunity to have a look around. I (Mr W) am a fan of ‘Time Team’, I could spend a good few hours watching Tony Robinson in a wet ditch looking at a bit of broken pottery however Mrs W is not so enthusiastic and did need a little persuasion to come along.
Luckily the weather improved, the rain stopped and the clouds lifted to reveal the picturesque setting along side the Millpond. The entry fee was £5 for adults, £3.50 for children and a family ticket was £13.50. We just missed the free guided tour although there is decent leaflet that has a map and a self guided route.
There was a strange story of a “Ghostly Ape”, yes seriously a ghost of an ape that haunts the battlements of the North West Tower. We didn’t spot him but did smell banana which may have been due to my lunch repeating rather than any supernatural presence.
It was good to be allowed to explore most of the castle including the undercroft, the vaulted chapel and the spiral staircases of the towers, just remember to wear some suitable shoes as these staircases are steep.
There is a mix of architecture with Medieval (drum towers and arrow slits) and later Tudor (large windows and the castle’s only gargoyle). The actual castle site has been important for thousands of years, Iron Age ditches are still visible on the castle green. In later years it was also the scene of many civil war clashes.
Carew Castle is an interesting place to spend 2 to 3 hours and is suitable for kids and adults. The ground floor and castle grounds are also accessible for disabled visitors. The fee includes entry to Carew Tidal Mill, just a short walk down a lane from the castle.
After her reluctant start Mrs W did enjoy the visit and she only left me in the stocks for a few hours.
Do you have a favourite place to visit in the UK, somewhere underrated or off the main tourist path then please let us know.