Dragon Hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle

One of the things I wanted to do with BattleKid before we left the UK for Portugal was to visit as many castles in South Wales as we could. We love nothing more than getting out and doing a spot of dragon hunting while we explore old castles and forts. So, while BattleDad was away one weekend, I did a search for castles in South Wales and came upon one which looked great from the picture. And so it was that we went dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle, just me and the boy.

Carreg Cennen Castle

Carreg Cennen Castle, located near Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire, is perched high on top of a hill. Originating somewhere in the 12th century, it has been ruinous since the 15th century when it was vandalised during the War of the Roses. It dominates the skyline of the area around the River Cennan and surrounded by mountainous farming land.

Although quiet and peaceful today, it would have been a hive of activity at the height of its time with stables, workshops and kitchens keeping the castle going on a day-to-day basis. Carreg Cennan Castle is now a part of Cadw.

After visiting a friend in Swansea, BattleKid and I drove the 23 miles from Swansea past Ammanford to start our dragon hunting at Carreg Cennan Castle. I kept looking out for it but it didn’t come into view until we were only a few minutes from it. The closer we got, the more spectacular it looked. I can only imagine what people must have thought back in the 13th and 14th centuries as they approached the castle.

We parked in the car park and walked to the gift shop/restaurant to show our Cadw membership cards. And then it hit me that we had to walk up the hill to get to the castle. I genuinely did not think BattleKid would manage it. There is no way you will get a buggy up that hill. Considering he had not long turned 3 when we visited, I was sure I would hear “Mummy, up” half way up the hill. However, whether it was the promise of seeing the castle or going dragon hunting, he walked the whole way up the hill. I was so proud of him and secretly thankful as I just about managed the climb myself while holding his hand.

As you approach the castle, the views across the countryside are spectacular and you can see why they chose to build a castle on this particular hill. To enter the castle, we climbed a few stone steps before crossing a modern-day steel bridge to the Barbican which led to the Middle Gate Tower, with stunning views.

From there BattleKid and I turned left and went into the area leading to the North-East Tower. We checked in holes in the walls and any other nook and cranny a dragon might use to hide in. But our first check in our hunt didn’t turn up a dragon. We continued our dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle by going into the Hall and Chapel Tower, but no matter where we looked, we couldn’t find the dragon.

We headed across the Inner Bailey to the King’s Tower. However, as it was closed off, we just checked the stairs that we could see but alas, no dragon. I must say, when we visited in January it was bright and sunny, but boy was the wind cold. Despite hats and gloves, we still felt the sharpness to the wind and I can just imagine how hard the inhabitants of the castle must have had it during winter in the 12th to 15th centuries.

But Carreg Cennen Castle is still very beautiful. We carried on across the Inner Bailey to check around the North-West Tower. Despite no sign of a dragon we had lots of fun jumping in puddles left behind by rain.

Then something caught BattleKid’s eye from across the Bailey and off he went running towards the Hall again. He had spotted something red and came back clutching his dragon, having found him hiding in a high hole in a wall. Dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle was a success and he was chuffed with himself.

Hunting and finding the dragon!

After some more puddling jumping, I decided we should start heading back down the castle to the restaurant to get something to warm us up. I was feeling cold and so were BattleKid’s hands. We didn’t do any roly-poly’s here as the ground was slippery and mucky but BattleKid did do some jumping off mounds in the grass.

Once we had descended the hill and passed through the Outer Gate, we went into the restaurant where I ordered a Welsh Cawl for BattleKid and me to share. And my word, was it amazing. Not only was it nice and warm, a very welcome thing, but it was extremely tasty. Certainly, the best Welsh Cawl I’ve ever had. And it wasn’t expensive either at £4.50 for the cawl, some bread and butter, and a chunk of cheese. BattleKid devoured most of it!

dragon hunting at carreg cennen castle
Hurray!

As we were having a nice day out, I took the long way home from Carreg Cennen through the Brecon Beacons National Park. A certain little boy slept most of the way home. I can safely say that our dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle was a resounding success and I’m so glad we visited it before leaving Wales.

Things to note if you go dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle

  • Carreg Cennen Castle is a Cadw site as mentioned and is open every day from 9.30am to 6pm from the 1st April to the 31st October. From 1st November 2017 to the 31st March 2018, the castle is open from 9.30am to 5pm*. The castle is closed on Christmas Day.
  • The whole site and car park are locked daily at 6.30pm.
  • Last admission is 45 minutes before closing, and it costs £5.50 per adult, with children, senior citizens and concession tickets costing £3.50. Children under 5 years of age enter free. As Cadw members our admission was included in our annual pass.
  • There are toilets on site, located in the restaurant or in the car park.
  • There is a restaurant and gift shop on site, and I can highly recommend the Welsh Cawl. There are benches available too.
  • Because the castle is located on a rocky hill, this site is not wheelchair or buggy friendly.
  • There is a car park at the bottom of the castle hill beside the farm and shop, is free and can hold approximately 50 cars.
  • Be aware, due to the location, mobile signal is poor, as I found out.
  • As the castle is privately owned (but managed by Cadw), there are livestock nearby. You are advised not to interact with them on your way to/from the castle itself.

BattleKid and I really enjoyed our time dragon hunting at Carreg Cennen Castle. It made a nice change seeing a castle further away from us rather then visiting Tretower or Abergavenny again. I can recommend it as a place to visit if you are in the Llandeilo area or are looking for a nice day out in South Wales. Be aware that, as it is situated on the top of a hill, you need to climb there to get it, but if 3-year-old BattleKid can manage it, anyone can. The views from the castle are spectacular and the descent down the hill is easy, although be careful if the ground is wet. And do stop off at the restaurant for a well-deserved break afterwards. The Cawl is well worth it.

Have you taken your children dragon hunting yet?

Thanks for reading,

Cath x

*Prices and visiting times correct at the time of writing this post.

dragon hunting at carreg cennen castle dragon hunting at carreg cennen castle

The Portugal Diaries #11

As mentioned last time, we had a trip inland pencilled in for the Wednesday of the first week of July. A good friend of ours from Wales and his fiancée were holidaying in Lisbon and he had asked if we could meet up as we haven’t seen him for a few years. We also would be meeting his fiancée for the first time, so BattleDad found a place that was roughly half way for us and we planned our meet up.

Little did I know that the reason BattleDad chose it was because there is an amazing castle in the town. We left our place and headed past Castro Marim towards Beja, taking the mountain roads inland. We passed through a town called Mertola, which also hosts a castle on a hill. We plan to visit that as it’s only an hour from us.

After almost 2 hours on the road we arrived in Beja and found the castle. I honestly did not associate castles with Portugal but you can imagine my delight that we managed not one, but two dragon hunts within days of each other.

my sunday photo
Beja Castle
my sunday photo
Beja Castle

M and P were running a little late so we walked along the outer walls and admired how beautiful the castle looked. Once our friends had arrived we went into the castle to explore and hunt out the dragon lurking within.

be in the picture
Selfie with my boy at Beja Castle

After an hour, we found a café for a sit down and catch up with toasties and a coffee. I have to say I’m a big fan of toasties since moving to Portugal. They aren’t afraid of using butter and the bread they use is really good. Unfortunately, we couldn’t spend the afternoon with M and P as BattleDad had to get back for a conference call at 3pm but we thoroughly enjoyed our catch up and were so grateful they took time out from their holiday to come see us.

We decided to head back to Tavira via the main motorway and we got a nasty surprise on our way home. We came across a set of tolls not far from Beja and I mistakenly thought we could use the fast lane. I’ve set up an online account for our tolls along the A22, the main motorway that runs along the South of Portugal. But alas, these electronic tolls are different to those on the other motorways.

There are actually 3 different types of tolls and unless you have a tag, which you can only get for Portuguese plated cars, you have to get a ticket and present it at the other end. We didn’t have a ticket and as a result ended up paying a fine of over €100 for a trip that should have cost less than €10. A costly lesson to learn! I’m just glad we had enough on us to pay.

On our way home we did pass the exit for Silves which my Dad reliably informs us has another castle. I really am surprised at how many castles there are in Portugal and how amazing they look. I had been wondering whether we would be able to continue our dragon hunting adventures but thankfully we can.

Later that week we spent yet another Friday evening at the beach. Someone fell asleep on the way there and woke up to discover himself at the beach. He and BattleDad had a whale of a time jumping waves and running away from them.

living arrows
Jumping the waves on Manta Rota beach

It’s an absolute joy to be able to nip to the beach of an evening and see the joy in our son’s face as he plays in the sand and sea, which is warm by the way. It makes us happy to know our decision to leave the UK for a life in the sun is paying off. We’re starting to settle in and find out feet but we’ve a while to go before I think it’ll truly feel like home. But so far so good.

Next time I tell you of more blogger mail that has winged its way to us here in Portugal!

To be continued…

Cath x

Read more about our Portugal Adventures at Portugal Diaries.

Living Arrows 28/52

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth

Kahlil Gibran

In the last week we have the pleasure of visiting not one but two castles here in Portugal. I had no idea there were so many in Portugal, let alone within two hours of us.

The first we visited was in a town 20 minutes from us called Castro Marim. Castro Marim has two fort-type castles on opposite hills, one which is open to the public and one which isn’t. We had a lovely time wandering around, looking for dragons of course, and imagining what it was like to live there hundreds of years ago.

my sunday photo
Just taking a break from dragon hunting

We also visited a castle in a town called Beja which is 2 hours drive from us. We were meeting up with friends from Wales who were in Lisbon on holiday and who kindly offered to meet halfway. It was so good seeing M and his new fiancee P, who is lovely, and we spent a lovely hour wandering around the castle, hunting for dragons, before having a bite to eat and a coffee. I was blown away by this castle. And guess what? We passed another one in a town called Mertola which we are going to return to!

Beja Castle
Standing in the courtyard of Beja Castle

We also spent last Friday evening at the beach after BattleDad finished work. I still can’t quite believe that this is our life now; popping to the beach after work on Friday while it’s still hot is still something dreams are made of.

living arrows
Jumping the waves on Manta Rota beach

Linking up with Donna of What The Redhead Said. If you’d like to take part or see some other Living Arrows posts, please click the badge below.

Living Arrows

28/52 My Sunday Photo: 09/07/2017

Last Sunday we ventured out and headed to a place called Castro Marim, as recommended to us by BattleDad’s aunt. She had told us of two castles or forts, one of which you could visit and she thought it would be a great place to go dragon hunting. And we weren’t disappointed.
The two forts are enclosed within walls. The one we visited had towers, castle-like buildings, horse stables, a beautiful church, various buildings and battlements you could walk on. Up there we saw great views as far as both Vila Real de Santo Antonio in Portugal and Ayamonte in Spain across the river. We visited the museum inside and saw some amazing artefacts. And if you are wondering, yes we did find a dragon but that is a tale for another day.
my sunday photo
The second fort of Castro Marim
my sunday photo
Looking out across the salt pans towards Ayamonte
my sunday photo
Just taking a break from dragon hunting
To see what everyone else is linking up this weekend to My Sunday Photo, please click on the badge below. Why not join in yourself!
Photalife

Dragon Hunting at Powis Castle near Welshpool

Powis Castle is one castle that was recommended to us by a work colleague of mine quite a number of years ago. While we longed to go dragon hunting at Powis Castle, it always remained slightly out of reach as it was a bit too far for a day trip from home, being situated in Mid Wales. However, last August bank holiday weekend, we were in Chester and thought it would be perfect to visit on our way back down to Wales. So that’s what we did!dragon hunting at powis castle

We left Chester and took the A5 down towards Shrewsbury before turning off for Welshpool and Powis Castle. Powis Castle is a National Trust site. It was originally built in the 1200’s and the Herbert family took ownership in the late 16th century and it has remained in their family ever since. A medieval castle, fortress and grand country mansion, it doesn’t resemble your usual castles in Wales. It is very much more a stately home and is extremely grand indeed, being the seat of the Earl of Powis.

When we arrived there was plenty of parking in the car park and we walked up the road and footpath to the ticket office where we paid to get in. As the castle didn’t open until 11am, we had 45 minutes to kill and so we found a seat in the courtyard and BattleDad got us some drinks and cakes to enjoy in the glorious sunshine from the courtyard restaurant. We really enjoyed our tea break and admired the grand home from our seats.dragon hunting at powis castle

Our plan was to start our dragon hunting at Powis Castle within the castle itself and if we were out of luck we would check the extensive gardens instead. We started in the drawing room but there was no obvious signs of our hiding dragon.  There was a very nice gentleman giving talks and information about the room and the Herbert family too. We moved upstairs towards the bedrooms, some of which were not open to the public for obvious reasons. In those that were, we saw no sign of the Powis Castle dragon.dragon hunting at powis castle

From the bedrooms we moved downstairs to the kitchen where there were two people giving talks about how the kitchen was run and still is today. Children also had the opportunity to dress up and partake in some activities there but we were on a dragon hunt so didn’t stop. We thought we spotted him in the games room where there was a large billiards table and the cabinets were full of stuffed animals, but, he either wasn’t there, or had managed to evade us as we wandered through the castle. We did, however, leave a message in the visitors book in this room.

dragon hunting at powis castle
The message we left in the visitors book at Powis Castle.

Having had no luck within the castle (of which you cannot take pictures inside as the Earl still resides there), we turned our attention to the gardens. However, dragon hunting is tiring work, particularly on a sunny day like this, so we paused at the courtyard for an ice cream before continuing our hunt. And I must say the ice creams were very good!

We started by taking a right from the entrance to the gardens and headed towards the lake that sits at one end of the gardens. We checked all the holes and cracks in the walls where a dragon might hide but still we couldn’t find him. As we rounded past the lake, and before we headed up a small hill to the side of it, BattleKid spotted him hiding at the foot of a rather magnificently big tree. He was hiding on the ground among the foliage.dragon hunting at powis castle

We had found him! However, a little boy just ahead of us wasn’t too impressed that our dragon hunting at Powis Castle was more successful than his, as I overheard him say to his mum “that boy has a dragon, I want a dragon”. Oops. Satisfied with our result, we took a short stroll up the hill and discovered the Ice Cellar of the castle. I had never seen one before and was quite surprised by it. You can only look through some gates into it and you cannot see the floor but it gives you an idea of what one from centuries ago looks like.

Our visit to Powis Castle was a success and it was a castle we had wanted to visit, so we could now tick it off our list.

Things to note if you go dragon hunting at Powis Castle:

  • It is a National Trust site. Cadw membership cards aren’t accepted.
  • It costs £12.50 for an adult and £6.25 for a child to visit the whole property (without GiftAid) and a family ticket costs £31.25. To visit the castle only prices are £6.35 (adult) and £3.17 (child), for the garden only £9.21 (adult) and £4.60 (child), and for the winter garden £6.20 (adult) and £3.10 (child).*
  • The Castle opens from 11am to 5pm, as does the museum, shop and garden shop. The gardens open from 10am to 6pm, with the garden coffee shop opening from 11am to 4pm. The restaurant opens from 10am to 5pm.
  • Parking is free, and there is ample parking. There are electric car-charging points in the car park and some spaces for disabled badge holders.
  • Dogs are allowed on the lead in the car park and courtyard only. There are strictly no dogs allowed in the deer park.
  • There are baby changing and feeding facilities on site.
  • There are toilets available on site.
  • There is a children’s quiz/trail and also games on the great lawn (although we didn’t see these as we didn’t visit that end of the gardens).
  • NOTE: the castle is not very wheelchair accessible, nor buggy accessible. The ground floor is, but that’s where it stops due to the historical nature of the castle. The garden has a step-free route which is highlighted in the leaflet available at the ticket office. For wheelchair users there is a virtual tour of the upper floor rooms available at the ticket office.
  • Guided tours are available.

We were glad we got the opportunity to go dragon hunting at Powis Castle and even better to combine it with a great weekend away. I am not sure we would have visited Powis Castle had we not been travelling back from Chester. We had glorious sunshine during our visit and the ice cream was most welcome and delicious.

I can highly recommend a visit to Powis Castle if you ever get the chance. We did not get to explore all the grounds as they are quite extensive, especially for little legs but it would make a great day out for the whole family. Maybe bring a picnic to enjoy somewhere in the gardens if you visit.

Thanks for reading the next post in our Dragon Hunting Series. I hope you enjoyed it. If you missed our previous ones you can find them in the Dragon Hunting Series. And if you’d like to have a sneak peek at Powis Castle, we filmed a little vlog of our day out dragon hunting at Powis Castle (below).

Cath x

*Prices correct at the time of writing this post.

dragon hunting at powis castle

dragon hunting at powis castle dragon hunting at powis castle