Carreg Cennen Castle

Carreg Cennen is a haunting, atmospheric castle that appears to spring out of legend and fairytale.

Carreg Cennen Castle never ceases to amaze. There are few castles in Wales which can boast a more spectacular location. Its stout, weatherbeaten ruins crown a sheer limestone crag overlooking the remote Black Mountain (Mynydd Du) and the River Cennen in the western corner of the Brecon Beacons National Park, around four miles southeast of Llandeilo.

An attack on the castle must have been a daunting prospect. Ingeniously adapted to its rocky hilltop, its core is a high walled, strongly towered enclosure, protected by a succession of pits, drawbridges and gatehouses. Approach from the other direction is impossible, for the castle tiptoes on the edge of a sheer 100m cliff.

History

Carreg Cennen castle has many layers of history. The first castle on the site was probably a wooden structure built by the Welsh Prince Rhys Ap Gryffydd in the 12th and 13th centuries, though there is some evidence of earlier prehistoric and Roman occupation. One legend suggests that the original fortress dates back to the Dark Ages and belonged to the Welsh Knight Urien Rheged and his son Owain during the reign of King Arthur.

The stone castle that you see today was built by John Giffard and his son around 1277 and was in English hands for much of its history. The castle was damaged by Owain Glyndwr’s rebellion and later during the Wars of the Roses in 1461, becoming a ruin.

Though a quiet and peaceful place today, the castle was hub of activity in medieval times. There would have been many stables, workshops and kitchens keeping the castle going day to day. Smells of baking bread and banquets being prepared in the castle kitchens would mingle with smoke from the workshops’ fires. The clang of the blacksmith, the clatter of the horses, the music drifting from the Great Hall out to the courtyard below, and the shouts and chatter of the people that lived and worked here would make Carreg Cennen castle a noisy and bustling place to be.

Guards on duty in the gatehouse were ready to defend the castle and drop buckets of water and stones on the head of any intruders that made it past the castle’s other defences, the cliff on which it is built and a succession of large pits and drawbridges.

What there is to see at Carreg Cennen Castle

The castle, although damaged over the centuries by warring forces and the elements, is charged with a sense of the past. 

Imagine the skills and ingenuity required to build a castle here, and all the men who toiled over hundreds of years in its construction and maintenance. After the steep walk up to the castle, as you take in the spectacular views, think of this castle as a defensive stronghold and what a formidable task faced any medieval army that hoped to capture it.

If you have a torch, take a trip down the underground tunnel to see the natural cave in the rock under the castle. This cave was used as a storeroom but was also the castle’s dungeon; imagine how it must have felt to be held captive within this rock prison.

By a quirk of history, Carreg Cennen is one of the few castles in Wales in private ownership. It includes a special chapel licensed for marriages.

Visiting Carreg Cennen Castle

The castle is privately owned by Carreg Cennen Farm and managed by Cadw. Admission charges apply.

How to get there

The castle is located and signposted from the village of Trap, Ammanford (3 miles) and Llandeilo (4 miles). Bus route 280/281, Carmarthen to Llandeilo/Llandovery. National Cycle Network route 47.

Nearest town or village

Trap, Ammanford, Llandeilo

OS grid reference

Explorer Map OL12 or Landranger Map 159 - SN669019

Opening times

Summer, daily 9.30am–5.30pm; winter, daily 9.40am–4pm

Contact

Carreg Cennen Castle, Trap, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire SA19 6UA, tel 01558 822291, www.carregcennencastle.com

Facilities

Guidebook and audio tour available. Guided tours can be arranged in advance. Torch hire available for the cave. There is a shop and cafe in a converted barn and several picnic benches next to the car park.

Parking

There is a large tarmac surfaced car park with cycle stands 400m below the castle.

Toilets

Toilets, including a disabled access toilet, are located in the car park.

Accessibility

The path from the car park, which runs past the shop and café, is a mix of flagstones, uneven stone-dust and tarmac with mixed gradients leading up to the base of the castle. The castle ruins can be accessed up a reasonably steep, grassy slope. For those unable to reach the castle itself there is a stone-dust, 1:12 path close to the car park entrance, which leads to a small picnic area by the meadow with fine views of the castle.