If there is one thing that gives you a glimpse into the turbulent history of Wales it is the castles that litter the land. Many people will be aware of the huge ring of castles built by Edward Longshanks at Flint, Rhuddlan, Builth, Aberystwyth, Caernarfon, Conwy, Harlech and Beaumaris that he built to crush and control the rebellious Welsh but the bloody history of Wales means that there is barely any reasonably sized settlement in Wales today that does not show traces of fortification. I was staying down in West Wales over the summer and the little village of Cilgerran is a classic example of a small place that was once the scene of significant history as it was here in 1109 that Nest (the Welsh ‘Helen of Troy’) was abducted by Owain, son of the Prince of Powys causing a major conflict within Wales. The area was the scene of much conflict of the next few hundred years as Welsh clans battled the English invaders. The final rebuilding of the castle as you can see it in the ruins today dates from the 13th century and although it’s entrance is somewhat hidden in the village you can quickly see what a strategic setting it had, two sides being easily defended by the steep sided, and beautiful, Teifi gorge.
I’m no expert on castles but there were a couple of features that I thought somewhat unusual – first is that there was no keep, all of the living quarters were situated within the two huge towers. The second I discovered is that the architect of the towers constructed the spiral staircases the wrong way round which meant that it was easier for soldiers attacking (with swords in their right hands) than it was for the defending soldiers to defend.
It is a beautiful site in a lovely area and a reminder that you don’t need to go to one of the well known huge castles as there are plenty more dotted all over Wales to have a look at.