Perched, upon a small hill overlooking the Carew River, lies the haunting remains of Carew Castle. A picturesque ruin built in the 13th century, this castle offers romantic views, tales of knights, war and romance, beautiful walks along the riverside, crabbing in the shallows of the water and a beautiful water mill. I had intended to spend the morning here with my little boy before going onto Tenby. We ended up spending most of the day here as there was so much to see and it was just a lovely spot to wander around.
One of my favourite writers and broadcasters, Joyce Grenfell talked about the idea of magic. ‘My kind of Magic’ she called it – be it a place, a smell, an experience. I’ve loved a particular article she wrote about all the magic she found in life as it resonates so much with me. Carew castle exudes a kind of magic.
Although we went on a hot, beautiful sunny day in the midst of the UK heatwave, you can imagine the haunting beauty of this castle in all weathers. The coolness of the stone walls must have protected again the heat in summer, yet one can picture clearly the beauty of the silhouette as the sun rises and the morning mists rise off the estuary. The great fireplaces battling to warm the large stone rooms again the storms of winter.
It is a castle which has been painted and depicted by a number of artists including JMW Turner who positioned the castle surrounded by herds of cows and milkmaids creating a pastoral feel and romanticism to the ruins.
I have a beautiful early 19th century print of the castle obtained for £1 in a charity shop in Wales which shows the ruins, little different from today.
The original Norman castle was built around built by Gerald de Windsor. His son, William, took the name of de Carew and in the middle of the 12th century built an enclosure around the keep with a great hall inside. Around 1270 the castle expanded again in the hands of Nicholas de Carew and it remained in the family until the end of the 15th century. The de Carews fell on hard times and Rhys ap Thomas took it over, he had made his fortune by backing Henry Tudor just before the Battle of Bosworth. He extended the castle and added many luxurious Tudor features, including adding three coats of arms for Henry VII, his son Arthur and his new wife Catherine of Aragon.
However, as with all great Tudor stories, the relationship fell foul and Rhys grandson, was executed by Henry VIII for treason in 1531. The castle then fell to the crown. Sir John Perrot took over the castle but he too fell foul of the Tudor family, being imprisoned by Elizabeth in the Tower of London, dying in 1592.
The castle reverted to the crown and was finally repurchased by the de Carew family in 1607 who remained despite the Civil War until 1686. It was then abandoned and fell into decay. Much of the castle was looted for building stone and for lime burning.
In 1983 the National Park Authority leased the castle for 99 years and they began an extensive programme of restoration to conserve the buildings an improve the setting and allow better public access. The castle is now designated a Site of Specific Interest (SSSI) due to the bats that live in the castle and several local and regional rare species of plants.
The tidal mill is the only tidal mill to have been fully restored in Wales. Although its original date is uncertain there is evidence to suggest it was there around 1542. The current building dates from around the early 19th century and one of the mill wheels carries the date of 1801.
This is fascinating to walk around, and there are hands on activities for children to keep them occupied but also to teach them about mills. We had a go at grounding our own corn to make flour and Will relished grinding the stones together.
He lifted sacks of flour on different pullies to see which pully was best and afterwards we enjoyed crabbing by the wall across the estuary. Although no crabs were actually caught, I was assured there are lots there. I just think we’re not very good at crabbing.
Beside the mill is a tiny little building selling refreshments reminiscent of small village fairs in the 1920’s. Hosted by a really lovely welcoming lady, hot tea and homemade cakes was just the order of the day. There is also a small café in the visitor centre and shop at the castle.
Visiting Carew Castle – Information
The Castle was a winner in 2018 for Best Visitor Attraction with the Pembrokeshire Tourism Awards.
It is open from the end of March to the end of the October half term, but closed in winter. Opening times vary on the season but generally it opens at 10am and closes between 4.30 – 5.00pm, but check the website before you go.
Tickets are £5.50 for adults and £3.50 for children and concessions are £4.50. There are also season tickets available. Parking is very easy and right beside the entrance and is free. It takes about 5 minutes to walk into the castle precinct from the car park. To access the tidal mill you go down a small lane between the car park and castle entrance and it takes about a 15 minute leisurely stroll to get there.
There are also a number of events going on throughout the year and in the October half term, 2018, they are running a number of Wizard and Witch events for Halloween including a zombie trail. Full details are on their website.
Website- Carew Castle