There is a wealth of reasons to make Camarthenshire your family holiday destination for 2017. The mighty mountains, lusciously green landscapes, golden sandy beaches and secluded, enchanting forests make for an excellent setting to explore and enjoy. The picturesque valleys and rivers provide a range of opportunities to get lost in the countryside and discover the magic of a region that is host to such a diverse and varied environment. The region is steeped in history, with myth and legend playing a large role in creating some of the most authentic and atmospheric castles in Europe. We’ve put together a list of a few of our favourite castles for you to visit whilst staying in our Camarthenshire holiday cottages for a fun day out the whole family can enjoy.
Carreg Cennen Castle
The story of Carreg Cennen castle is a long and complex tale of monarchy, battlement and betrayal, dating back to the 13th century at the very least. The castle sits some 900ft above the River Cennen, providing unparalleled views of the Preseli Hills to the west and the secluded Black Mountain to the south. The castle itself is somewhat of a spectacle, with a simple layout that helps you to imagine what life was like for castle-dwellers, while certain marks and trends prove the unsettled past of both English and Welsh ownership. The castle also boasts a natural limescale cave, making it fascinating to imagine how this may have been both an advantage and a disadvantage in battle, and is one of the only castles in the UK to host such an amazing natural phenomenon. Head out with the whole family for a small admission charge to appreciate all that this settlement has to offer.
Often associated with the princes of Deheubarth, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the history of Dinefwr castle is entwined with the rule of the Lord Rhys in d. 1197. The site sits atop a majestic hill above the Tywi valley, boasting views across the River Tywi, near the town of Llandeilo. The castle is also home to more than 100 fallow deer, making it a truly magical place, perfect for a picnic whilst you imagine the long and complicated history that accompanies the build. You and your family can come and explore the extensive grounds and views that the castle has to offer free of charge.
A small amount remains of this 13th century castle on the banks of the River Tywi which has survived the test of time. But this neighbour of Dinefwr is still well worth the visit. The castle was one of the last substantial stone castles in Wales to be held by a Welshman, until Rhys ap Maredudd was eventually captured and executed in 1292. The views of the river from the ruins are phenomenal, and its close proximity to this natural environment makes it a great spot to look out for river birds. A fantastic place to explore, and perhaps even embark upon some battle re-enactment?
A secret gem of the castle community in Wales, Kidwelly overlooks the River Gwendraeth and presents an accurate vision of medieval life which is far more complete than its more celebrated neighbouring castles. The most inviting aspect of this settlement is the remarkable way it has been preserved over the years, including an impressive gatehouse that was completed in 1422. Just outside this gatehouse stands a memorial which dates back to 1136, erected for Princess Gwenllian who was killed in battle. The castle itself benefitted from a forward-thinking concentric design, meaning there was one circuit of defensive walls set within another to ensure the safety of the castle when under attack. There is a small admission charge, but that’s a small price to pay for the spine-tingling, medieval atmosphere that surrounds the area.
The timeless town of Laugharne is so peaceful and tranquil today, you never would have guessed how much of a turbulent past it has. The sheer beauty of this impressive relic from ancient times will quite simply take your breath away, the likes of which inspired famous writers such as Dylan Thomas and Richard Hughes. The castle itself turned into a Tudor mansion, but did not fair too well in battle after being partially dismantled during the Civil War. Be sure to visit on a sunny day, where you can enjoy a stroll through the Victorian gardens before refreshing yourself at the watering hole of Mr Thomas himself. There is a small charge for entry.
An impressive stronghold that overlooks the Tywi estuary, the castle was able to take advantage of the existing earthworks of an Iron Age hillfort. Like others in this region, the settlement has a diverse history full of battles and many marks remain today telling stories of repeat attacks and capture by the Welsh. This castle is free to visit, and is a great excursion as part of a day out to the village of Llansteffan, which manages to encompass everything about a traditional Welsh community, giving you a great insight to the culture and lifestyle of locals, both past and present.
Newcastle Emlyn Castle
The remains of this castle sit on a grassy mound overlooking the River Teifi. Built in the 13th century, it was able to avoid involvement in the Welsh War of Independence, although it was embroiled during a rebellion in 1287, where it changed hands several times. The most prominent feature of the castle is the gatehouse, which took over 20 years to complete, starting during the reign of Edward II and wasn’t completed until 1349. Although not much remains in terms of a physical presence, the castle has much of a majestic feel to the place and you are able to imagine what life was like all those years ago, making it well worth a trip to explore.
So any lovers of history should certainly consider a trip to Camarthenshire in 2017. Why not use our pick of the castles as a bucketlist and try to see them all? Either way, we’re sure you’ll have a truly magical experience castle-hopping in Camarthenshire and learn all about the diverse history of Wales along the way!
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