Cilgerran Castle
Cilgerran Castle
Cilgerran Castle stands in a beautiful position at the top of a deep, wooded gorge, overlooking the River Teifi. The first castle on the site was erected by Henry I to strengthen his hold on south west Wales. Henry granted lordship of Cilgerran to Gerald of Windsor, already lord of Pembroke. Gerald was married to Nest, known to history as the 'Helen of Wales'. Nest was the daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, ruler of the Welsh kingdom of Deheubarth.

History of Cilgerran

In 1109 Cilgerran was attacked by Owain ap Cadwgan, later Prince of Powys. It seems that Owain and Nest were lovers and the attack was prompted by Nest who saw it as a way to rid herself of her husband. Gerald, however, escaped his attackers by jumping through a garderobe chute into the castle cesspit (the garderobe can still be seen today). Gerald had the last laugh, however, as seven years later he killed Owain in an ambush.

In 1164 Lord Rhys captured Cilgerran, but it was retaken by William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, in 1204, who built a strong round keep of stone. Once again the Welsh retook it, under the leadership of Llewelyn ap Iorwerth, and once again the English retook it in 1223.

William Marshall II launched a major rebuilding programme, transforming Cilgerran into a masonry fortification within the earlier earthworks. He added two large four-storey drum towers to the curtain wall, and created a new outer gatehouse (now vanished).

Cilgerran enjoyed only a short period of use, and by the late 13th century had fallen into disrepair. It was briefly refortified by Edward III in the 1370s to counter the threat of a French invasion. Cilgerran was badly damaged during Owain Glyndwr's rising in 1405, and shortly after it passed into crown hands.

Tourists used to visit Cilgerran by boating up the river from Cardigan, and artists like JMW Turner were drawn to paint the romantic ruins, which are now cared for by Cadw.

Do take the time to visit the nearby parish church of St Llawddog and see the 5th-century Ggham stone in the churchyard.