Carreg Cennan Castle in Carmarthenshire, at the western end of the Brecon Beacons, is an extraordinary place. Faith and Mel took Mum and me to visit it while I was staying in Wales. It's just beyond a pretty little village called Trapp, where Mary, Mum's friend and neighbour (who died this year) was born.
Built in the 12th century and already a ruin by the mid 15th century, after the Yorkists had attacked it during the Wars of the Roses, the castle had been of interest both to Edward I and Owain Glyndŵr and had changed hands many times during that turbulent period.
It was a stiff climb up to the castle from the farmhouse at the foot of the hill. The farm breeds sheep and longhorn cattle and uses the meat from them in the meals you can buy in the "tea room," a former barn. We saw the animals on the hillside as we walked up, Mum clinging on to Faith's arm and managing well.
The castle ruins were impressive enough; it must have been a stately home in its day. But in the bedrock below the castle was something astonishing:
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 fresh water spring rises in the cave, which would have been a useful supplement during dry weather (Wikipedia)While Mum stayed in the courtyard on the surface, Mel persuaded me to go down those steep steps. I slipped and sat down once, in spite of the railing; no harm done. We had to watch our heads too, wearing head torches because the passage led beyond the light of day. The spring, surrounded by stalagmites, was rather beautiful down there, and the water very clean and cold. I had a taste of it, of course.
Another thing I had a taste of was the pie served at the "tea room" where we were kept amused by a party of elderly gentleman-cyclists at the next table, dressed in brightly coloured modern biking gear and boasting about their knowledge of computer apps. All this time, the weather was clearing up.
|Looking down from the castle hill to the farm and beyond|
We went for a walk recommended by the National Trust, that led to a tidal saltmarsh on the shore of the Loughor Estuary where ...
Wild horses were grazing there too. It was soggy underfoot on the path to the shore; before we struck across the dunes I enjoyed wading barefoot into the water with the seabirds. The wind was blowing the sea spray on the horizon and the views across the estuary were crystal clear. Then we found the track through the pine grove back to the village where we'd left the car.the vegetation is grazed by graziers with commons rights. Some of the lamb reared here is sold as 'salt marsh lamb'. The unique taste of this highly flavoured meat is thanks to the area's marsh vegetation.