Visiting castles can be great fun in winter. The views are superb and the soft light creates special effects of colour. West Wales is surrounded by gorgeous castles all across Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. You could find yourselves alone on your adventure with storm clouds and even a rainbow in the distance. Even if you don’t have a great interest in history, the atmosphere of these ancient ruins has a certain allure. The bracing walk up a steep slope to the hilltop site is bound to give you a welcome boost of body heat. One of our favourites is Carreg Cennen Castle in Winter.
Carreg Cennen, perched 900 feet above its eponymous river. What joys awaits you in the form of views from every arrow hole and every section of the crumbling limestone wall, its grey stippled with bright white lichen.
The colours of the countryside are muted but delightful as if woven into a now-faded tapestry by ancient hands which spent painstaking hours selecting a range of dyes to exactly complement one another in their subtlety of tone. Winter landscapes are not just grey; they are rich rust, peach, mauve, beige, pistachio, buff, straw and gold. The textures are as varied as the palette: if you could stretch out your hand to grasp the distant delicacies of that landscape you would crumble the russet larch needles between your fingers; snap off a couple of crunchy silver birch twigs; stroke the velvet of the short-cropped winter fields, pulling a thread from each to line them up and wonder at the myriad tones of green.
The whole experience on a winter’s morning makes you feel as if you’ve been transported back in time or at least to the set of some film depicting the Middle Ages or even earlier. Four prehistoric skeletons and a cache of Roman coins have been dug up at the site suggesting that settlers made use of the craggy hilltop long before the Prince Rhys Ap Gryffydd and Edward I arrived.
There’s a wonderful vaulted passageway along one side of the castle leading to a natural cave into which you can descend if you’ve hired a torch from the visitor centre. The legend is that a young boy was killed as he was collecting water from a spring in the cliff, so the passageway was built to ensure that water could be accessed even when the castle was under siege.
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