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Cilgerran Castle

 

 

Cilgerran Castle above a tree lined gorge of the Teifi

Cilgerran Castle stands above a gorge of the Teifi valley between Lechryd and Cardigan on the southern Pembrokeshire side of the river. Strategically it stands above the river at its tidal limit and at the confluence with the Plysgog stream. A village has sprung up along the cliffs but a steep, narrow road winds down to a sheltered car park and picnic area in the gorge.

The castle is a National Trust Property but is managed by Cadw.

The date of the castle is unknown, its first mention is in 1164 when the Lord Rhys of Deheubarth captured it. It may however have been the site of Cenarth Bychan Castle which was attacked by the Welsh in 1109 when Nest, the wife of Gerald of Windsor, became romantically involved with Owain, the son of the prince of Powys, giving rise to her being called Wales' Helen of Troy. Princess Nest of Deheubarth was a noted beauty and married Gerald of Windsor with whom she had two sons and a daughter, Angharad, the mother of Gerald of Wales, the monk who wrote a description of his journey through Wales accompanying the Archbishop of Canterbury who was raising volunteers for the Crusades and of the Norman invasion of  Ireland of 1185 when he accompanied the future King John. Nest was a cousin of Owain but how long she stayed with him is uncertain as she subsequently became a lover of King Henry I, among others.

The castle was retaken by the English in 1204 by William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke but again fell into Welsh hands in 1215, to be taken by William Marshall the son in 1223 and it was he who was responsible for much of the impressive stone building. Eventually, by marriage, the castle passed to the Hastings family which died out in 1389 and the castle passed to the crown. In 1370 the castle was reported to be derelict and was refortified under the orders of Edward III. Attacks by Owain Glyndwr damaged the castle, but after the rebellion the military significance of the castle ended. Henry VII granted the castle to the Vaughan family who used it as a home until building a house nearby in the 17th century. The castle then fell into ruin but the 18th century saw it become a tourist attraction as an icon of the romantic movement, with visitors travelling up river by boat from Cardigan. J W M Turner's watercolour of Cilgerran is on show at the Tate Gallery.

View of the Teifi from the ramparts

The twin towers of Cilgerran offered strong defences to the more exposed southern side of the castle. Outer walls were thicker than the inner walls.

The bailey of the castle, gardens now occupy the defensive ditch beyond the outer walls.

Each of the towers had three floors. The outer walls had only arrow slits.

Remains of the lime kiln within the inner keep

 

Remains of the outer gate

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Site and Photographs Geoffrey Davies 2008-10  Contact info@enchantedtowy.co.uk