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Visiting Carreg Cennen Castle, near Llandeilo, Wales: remembering Medieval conflicts

Updated on September 29, 2014
Flag of Wales
Flag of Wales | Source
Carreg Cennan (now spelt 'Cennen') Castle, by Mansel Lewis
Carreg Cennan (now spelt 'Cennen') Castle, by Mansel Lewis | Source
Carreg Cennen castle
Carreg Cennen castle | Source

English fighting Welsh; English marrying Welsh; English fighting English

This ruined castle situated near Llandeilo, in West Wales, seems the archetypical Medieval castle ruin on a craggy hilltop, as if it would evoke stories of Medieval princes and sanguinary battles, and as if its monumental walls would still seem fearsome and imposing during bad weather conditions.

Well, such stories are indeed accurate about Carreg Cennen Castle (Welsh: Castell Carreg Cennen ).

And I can testify to its imposing appearance under heavy skies and driving rain, made all the more stark by its situation atop a limestone precipice.

Anyway, it is thought that a fort was here in the Iron Age. Furthermore, Roman coins have been found at Carreg Cennen also.

But it is in the Medieval period that the history of Carreg Cennen gets really interesting. Built around 1197 by the Deheubarth dynasty, the castle kept changing hands between Welsh and English for the next century or so. Baron Giffard, victor over the last independent Welsh prince, Llewellyn II, was granted the castle by King Edward I in 1283, and he is thought to have been responsible for the substance of the ruined structure of the castle seen today.

But in 1403, the last Medieval Prince of Wales Owain Glyndŵr (who corresponds with the Shakespearean character Owen Glendower) attacked the castle with 800 men. However, he failed to take it: tribute at least in part to its advantageous, well-fortified hilltop situation. Here the story takes an amazingly romantic twist. The constable of the castle at the time of this siege was Sir John Scudamore, and, despite successfully resisting the forces of Owain Glyndŵr, he later married Alys, his daughter. Politics? Love? You decide.

Less romantic activities resumed in a thoroughgoing way in 1461 when during the Wars of the Roses, Carreg Cennen was taken by Lancastrian forces, and then later by Yorkists. Thus, in the Middle Ages, English fighting Welsh; English marrying Welsh; English fighting English: Carreg Cennen saw it all.

The castle is now under the care of Cadw, the historic environment service of the Welsh Assembly Government, having passed at various junctures to the Vaughan and Cawdor families, and later to the British Ministry of Works.

Also worth seeing

Oystermouth Castle, Mumbles, Swansea (distance: 41 kilometres) is a Norman castle, now ruined.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport , from where car rental is available. London Heathrow is approximately 316 kilometres from Llandeilo. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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    • MJFenn profile image

      MJFenn 6 years ago

      It's the sheer ruggedness of Carreg Cennen which seems to be one of its most striking features.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi :)

      I have visited a lot of Welsh castles, so I was surprised to note that I hadn't even heard of this one! The setting looks spectacular. I shall have to try to get there :)


    • Naomi Rose Welty profile image

      Naomi Rose Welty 6 years ago from Savannah, GA

      Interesting article, and good photos! There is something compelling about the history of Great Britain.