Dragon Hunting at Chepstow Castle

Although BattleKid and I had visited once before, we had never been dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle until earlier this year. When my nephew and Dad were visiting when BattleKid was 4 months old, we took a drive to Chepstow Castle. However, I couldn’t explore the castle as BattleKid was so small and I had his buggy. Fast forward three years and we, as a family, finally visited this wonderful castle on the banks of the River Wye.

Our sole intention this time was to not only explore the castle, it being BattleDad’s first visit, but also to do a spot of dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle. We were sure there must be a dragon lurking inside as we’d found dragons in other Welsh Castles like Carreg Cennen.

Chepstow Castle is an amazing castle which sits on the banks of the River Wye in Monthmouthshire, Wales. It is the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain and is a castle not to be missed. The castle also boasts the oldest castle doors in Europe. Over 800 years old, the wooden doors hung at the main gateway until 1962. They are still on display in a special exhibition.

Construction began in 1067 and continued well into the 18th century. It has four baileys, or courtyards, each added during its long history. Perched on a clifftop along the bank of the River Wye, Chepstow Castle overlooks an important crossing point on the river which was a major artery to Monmouth and Hereford. It is a Cadw site, open to the public, and was even used for filming of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary programme.

When you arrive at Chepstow Castle, there is a car park at the bottom of the hill upon which it is located. I have been very lucky in that both times I have visited I’ve been able to get parking in the car park. I’d imagine on busy days it must fill up quickly. BattleDad, BattleKid and I parked up, used the public toilets beside the car park (as there are none in the castle itself) and up we went to show our Cadw membership cards before entering through the gift shop.

dragon hunting at chepstow castle
Chepstow Castle

We entered through the Outer Gatehouse and started our dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle in the Chamber Block and Kitchens. Checking all the nooks and crannies as we moved though, we just didn’t find any sign of a dragon hiding out. What we did stumble upon was an amazing cellar. The stonework and ceilings were stunning. BattleDad and I could just imagine it being filled with wine, grains and other assorted food for the inhabitants of the castle. But no dragon.

dragon hunting at chepstow castle

Next, we moved onto the Great Hall and although we saw no sign of a dragon, we did enjoy the amazing views from the balconies overlooking the River Wye.

From the Great Hall, we moved from the Lower Bailey into the Middle Bailey. There weren’t many places a dragon could be hiding in the Middle Bailey but our dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle took us into the Great Tower. BattleKid and I actually had a lot of fun running from one end of the Great Tower to the other. One gentleman inside must have thought we were mad. We searched high and low for the dragon but decided he must have been hiding further in the castle.

From the Great Tower we passed through the Gallery, again with lovely views over the River, into the Upper Bailey. There were lots of places in here a dragon could be hiding. We checked around the knight in the bailey, behind some trees, under the bridge that leads to the Barbican and a gorgeous wooden door at the very end of the castle. Our dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle was taking some time.

dragon hunting at chepstow castle

We knew he wasn’t in the lower end of the castle and eventually found him hiding in a hole in the wall in the Barbican near the South Tower. Finally, we had found the Chepstow Castle dragon, albeit a small one.

dragon hunting at chepstow castle

BattleKid was thrilled and even offered the Chepstow Castle dragon some flowers to eat. Hmm. Not exactly what you’d call dragon food. As our successful visit dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle was nearly at an end, we made our way back to the Lower Bailey where we took a few family selfies and checked in a well, just to make sure there weren’t two dragons in the castle. You never know these days!

We finished off our visit to dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle with a spot of roly-poly down the hill outside the castle walls. And yes, I joined in. We were also very lucky to be leaving just as the rain rolled in. All-in-all a successful visit dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle.

Things to note if you go dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle

  • Chepstow Castle is a Cadw site as mentioned and is open every day from 9.30am to 6pm from the 1st July to the 31st August. Between 1st September to the 31st October it is open from 9.30am to 5pm. From 1st November 2017 and 28th February 2018, the castle is open between 10am and 4pm from Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sundays*.
  • Last admissions are 30 minutes before closing and costs £6.50 per adult, with children, senior citizens and concession tickets costing £4.20. Children under 5 years of age enter free. As Cadw members our admission was included in our annual pass.
  • There are no toilets on site, although there are public toilets located beside the car park.
  • The castle has some benches but there is no coffee shop.  There are also no baby changing facilities at Chepstow Castle.
  • The courtyards and walkways are mainly accessible to buggies and wheelchairs. Upper levels are not accessible.
  • There is a car park at the bottom of the hill of the castle, and it is a pay-and-display car park.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle and can recommend it as a place to visit if you are in the Chepstow or Monmouth area. It is quite a big castle, with plenty of rooms are areas to explore, and dragon hunt if you wish. Chepstow is a lovely little town and has plenty of cafes to grab a cuppa and a cake after your visit. And dare I say it, dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle was more fun than our dragon adventures at Abergavenny or Tretower Castle. I’d love to take BattleKid dragon hunting at Conway Castle one day after seeing some amazing pictures of it in post by Sassy Probinsyana.

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 chepstow castle dragon hunting at chepstow castle

 

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

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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
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