Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Castles: a tour de four - 6 May 2007

Kidwelly CastleKidwelly Castle really appealed to us although it is now an extensive ruin. It has an especially impressive gatehouse with double layers of defence and the slots for the portcullis and murder holes etc all still well defined.

Picton Castle is a very different type of castle: rather than the ruins we had been visiting this castle has been occupied for the last 850 years by direct descendants of the original builder. The castle was extended in the Regency Period, and the result is a splendid residence that is open for guided tours. Picton CastleWe started the tour in the library, which has been made in one of the round towers, saw some of the other 'great' rooms and then the 'below stairs' area where they have an amazing collection of kitchen, laundry and domestic household items . The gardens are, once again, a rhododendron showplace, being home to several hybrids that were bred here and are unique to Picton.

The forecast rain had not arrived, so we decided to visit Tenby, via the Lamphey Bishop’s Palace. Flower at Picton CastleAlthough this is now a ruin and not really worth a detour it does hint at the style to which the mediaeval church fathers thought they were entitled and the power that they wielded. As one visits Bishop’s Palaces around the UK one wonders were they saw any justification for their excesses and extravagance in the words and teachings of Jesus.

Tenby is a busy little town full of tourists and tourist tat. The tourists flock here, as it is a perfect relic from the past: the town walls and entrance arches have survived well; unlike the castle, which is no more than a ruin.

TenbyThe harbour is very sheltered and surrounded by gaily-painted houses. Hidden behind the front row, is a Tudor Merchant’s House, furnished in period furniture. One of the room stewards was a font of information and we learnt the derivation of expressions such as “left on the shelf”. One only graduated to a bed once one was married, until then you slept on the floor, as close to the fireplace as possible. Pride of place went to the eldest daughter who could sleep on the shelf (or hearth as it is known today). So, clearly, if the daughter never married, she was “left on the shelf”.

Carew CastleThe Tidal Mill

Carew CrossAs the rain was still holding off we stopped at one final village, Carew. This small village is well worth a visit, and on a sunny day would look even better. As well as the large castle, (closed by the time we arrived) there is an impressive, and rare (one of only three in Wales) C 11th Cross; and the only restored tidal mill in Wales. The mill dam and a medieval bridge at the village provide a 1 mile loop track which we walked in the intermittent drizzle.

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