One of the most spectacular and romantic of all British castles has to be Carreg Cennan, in Wales. I still remember my first glimpse of Carreg Cennan, having driven West from relatives in Swansea, until suddenly we saw these amazing ruins on top of a daunting looking peak.
Most of the castles in Wales were actually built by the English, in order to subdue the conquered Celtic nation. However, Carreg Cennan was originally put in place by Rhys ap Gruffyd, the ruler of the kingdom of Deheubarth in South West Wales. The Lord Rhys, as he was known, built the castle some time in the mid 12th century, and made it the center of his kingdom, from which he held influence over most of Wales.
The castle did change hands, however. The English captured it in 1277. Although the Welsh took it back in 1282, the English once again got their hands on it in 1283. Thus, this very Welsh fortress became a stronghold of English oppression of the Welsh.
Carreg Cennan again saw action during the Welsh Wars of the early 1400s. In 1403, Prince Owain Glyndwr, the leader of the Welsh Rebellion, and claimant to the ancient title of Prince of Wales, took an army and laid siege to Carreg Cennan. However, he was unsuccessful. Even today, there is an underground passage from the castle keep out through the hill, and maybe this enabled the English to break the siege.
Today, the dramas of past wars are forgotten, and Carreg Cennan is a scene of tranquility, from the car park by the rippling stream, past the old barn tea rooms, to the long climb up to the fortifications, and the remarkable view from the wall over the cliff edge. But, if you listen carefully, maybe you can hear the battle cries of earlier eras, when this romantic ruin was the scene of violent conflict.