With medieval battles, tragic romances, betrayals of the crown, and civil war clashes – Carew Castle’s illustrious and colorful 2000-year history is like a fantasy book come to life.
The Castle is managed by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and open to visitors throughout the year. There are free guided tours of the castle, where the team do a great job of bringing history to life and making it fun for parents and children.
The Perfect Castle
The picturesque Norman castle, sits on the banks of a 23-acre mill pond, creating a breath-taking and romantic vision that has captured the imagination of artists for centuries. Don’t be fooled by it’s tranquil appearance, the castle’s position was probably chosen for it’s strategic importance and has been at the forefront of conflict from the clash of knights to wars that have torn apart the nation, down the ages. Diverse in its architecture, the originally Norman fortress has been altered and added to down by various owners, creating this unique and beautiful building that sits perfectly on the banks of the Carew river.
The original castle was built in 1100 by Gerald of Windsor, a Norman ruler, however it’s believed there was a settlement here long before this. Only one section of Gerald’s earth and timber castle remains today, the central tower. Much of what we recognise as the castle was added in the 13th century by Sir Nicholas Carew, who built the Great Hall, Inner Ward, Middle Ward and Outer Ward, with Sir John Perot adding the Elizabethan Mansion in the 16th century, that converted it into a palace.
While the castle is now a ruin, many of it’s most unique features remain. Leased from the Carew family by the Pembrokeshire National Park, over the past few decades it’s been painstakingly restored to reveal some of it’s secrets.
Myths and Legends
Carew is the subject of many tales and legends, most famously medieval Princess Nest, reputedly the most beautiful woman in Wales. The well-known version tale goes that in 1109 Nest was at the castle with her husband Gerald FitzWalter of Windsor, when it was attacked by Owain ap Cadwgan who was madly in love with her.
Nest is said to have encouraged her husband to make his escape via a lavatory chute, while she stayed to face Owain, who kidnapped her and her children. The abduction caused major uproar within both Welsh and English regions, but despite pressure from even his own family to release her, Owain would not relent. Eventually it felt to Nest to talk him round and he finally relented, letting her and her children free, while he was banished to Ireland.
Ghostly Goings On
That’s not the only dramatic episode, as Carew is also the setting for one of Pembrokeshire’s best known ghost stories. In the 17th century the castle was home to recluse, Sir Roland Rhys, who had a pet ape that lived with him in the castle’s northwest tower. The story claims that during an argument with a local man, Sir Roland Rhys used the ape to attack him.
It was so savage the local man almost died and as he made his escape, cursed Sir Roland Rhys that he might suffer the same fate. That night, staff in the castle were awoken by a fire in the Northwest Tower. When they rushed to the tower they found their master and the ape, dead.
On certain nights it’s claimed the ghost of the ape can be seen prowling the battlements and howling into the night.
How To Get There
Distance from Bluestone: 11 minutes/6.9 miles.
Location: Just a short drive from Bluestone, the castle is on the outskirts of Carew village. (SA70 8SL)
Parking: The carpark is directly adjacent to the castle, however if this is full there’s another directly across the road.
Visiting: Opening times vary depending of the time of year, please check their website before you visit.
The Castle grounds also includes access to the 19th century Tidal Mill. The only fully restored tidal mill in Wales it is just a short walk from the castle and an interesting stop during a walk around the grounds.
The site sits on the Carew river that’s part of the Cleddau estuary and there are several Coast Path walks close to the castle to enjoy. The charming Cresswell Quay and Lawrenny are just two beautiful, unspoiled spots along the east bank of the Cleddau that are worth a visit.