A short drive of about six miles south of Bluestone stands an imposing castle, its high walls and huge mullioned windows reflected spectacularly in the placid waters of its millpond.
This is Carew, (pronounced Care-roo and sometimes Carey by the locals but Car-roo by visitors), and it’s not just an empty ruin to be looked at, speculated on and passed by, for its guardians, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, have ensured it is very much a working visitor attraction.
The multiplicity of activities that go on in and around this magnificent 12th century pile is mind-boggling. Displays of medieval battle and sporting skills such as jousting, swordsmanship, archery, falconry and re-enactments by
costumed knights and warriors are staged on a regular basis, while many aspects of social history are demonstrated in an action-packed programme of events designed to entertain and instruct both adults and children.
Every castle is said to have its ghosts and Carew is no exception, one of its phantoms being a rather unusual animal whose macabre story, especially when related at dusk, is truly spine-chilling. This concerns a pet Barbary ape which the 17th century castellan, Sir Roland Rhys, kept chained up in the north-western tower. The legend goes that a Flemish tradesman called at the castle one night to complain that the Lord’s son had molested his daughter. In a drunken temper Lord Rhys let the ape loose and it mauled the Fleming almost to death. But he managed to survive and, after regaining consciousness saw that the castle was ablaze and Lord Rhys and the ape were locked in mortal combat, the Lord having dropped a lighted taper in the tower, which the ghost of the tormented ape is said to haunt.
This and other spooky tales are told during the popular “Twilight Tours” staged throughout the season and particularly at Halloween. Other features for visitors are “Castle Capers,” which give people a flavour of what domestic life was like in a medieval castle, tours and flint-knapping sessions with an archaeologist, bat-watching, bug-hunting and looking out for birds and blossoms. Budding ornithologists will find some interesting brds, such as barn owls adding to the ghostly atmosphere of the castle and herons, redshank and other waders along the banks of the millpond. The French tidal mill is also well worth a visit. The list of things to see and do at Carew is endless and details can be obtained from the National Park Authority’s widely circulated newspaper “Coast to Coast,” or on the Authority’s website at www.pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk or simply by ringing on 01646-651782.