Carreg Cennen Castle near the River Cennen has been in a ruinous state since 1462 and is now in the care of Cadw, the Welsh Government historic environment service.
Human remains found at the site date human activity here back to prehistoric times. The site may well have also been an Iron Age hillfort. Roman coins from the 1st and 2nd century have also been found, although it is unlikely the Romans occupied this site on a permanent basis.
The first masonry castle was probably built by the Lord Rhys, who died in 1197. In 1277 it was captured by the English, recaptured by the Welsh in 1282 and in English hands again the following year. In 1283 Edward I granted the castle to John Giffard, the commander of the English troops at Cilmeri where Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (The Last) was killed. Giffard was probably responsible for the remodelled castle we see today.
In early July 1403 Owain Glyndŵr, together with 800 men, attacked Carreg Cennen, but, although inflicting severe damage to the walls, failed to take the castle. It was defended against Glyndwr's forces, who laid siege to it for several months, with Owain himself present, by a man who was to marry one of Glyndwr's daughters just a few years later, Sir John Scudamore of Herefordshire.
The damage was repaired in 1409. However, in 1461, during the Wars of the Roses, Carreg Cennen became a Lancastrian stronghold. A Yorkist force subsequently captured the castle and set about demolishing it with a team of 500 men.
Today, the castle remains privately owned by Margaret and Bernard Llewellyn, daughter and son in law of the late Mr. Gwilim Morris. The castle is now maintained by Cadw. It is open daily.
Carreg Cennen Castle consists of a strongly-walled and towered square court. There are six towers, all of different shapes, including a great twin-towered gatehouse on the north side. A range of apartments on the east side of the inner court, or ward, includes a hall, kitchens, chapel, and the so-called 'King's Chamber'. This chamber has a well-carved stone fireplace, and traceried windows, one facing into the courtyard, the other outwards commanding impressive views to the south. These date from the late 13th or early 14th century.
The castle is protected by limestone cliffs to the south and rock-cut ditches to the west. To the north and east there is an outer ward, and within that a barbican, gatehouse. Three drawbridges over deep pits protected the access to the inner ward. In the south-east corner of the inner ward steps lead to a vaulted passage and a natural cave beneath the castle, which leads deep into the hillside. A freshwater spring rises in the cave, which would have been a useful supplement during dry weather when the castle would have had difficulty harvesting rainwater in filling the rainwater cisterns. The castle is under the care of Cadw, who have stabilised and, to a limited extent, restored some of the remains. The castle is accessed via a steep climb up the hill from Castell Farm, which is near the car park. A large threshing barn has been converted to tearooms and a shop, whilst the majority of the farm buildings, around a traditional farmyard, retain their agricultural purposes. Since 1982 these have been part of a farm park with rare and unusual breeds of cows and sheep. This castle did not have a keep as such; the gatehouse acted as the castle's keep because this was the tallest part of the Castell Carreg.References:
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