One of the nearest castles to where I live is Ewloe. Unlike the great fortifications erected by the Plantagenet kings, this castle was constructed by the Welsh using their own design. On the border of Wales and England, the Welsh princes hoped to defend their territory using the castle, but instead they retreated further inland and abandoned the castle. The English preferred their coastal fortresses in Flint and Rhuddlan and let Ewloe fall into ruin, robbed of most of its stone.
Who built it? Much speculation for sometime and the theory is Llewellyn ab Gruffudd (how to say it: ll=l with a sideways hiss at the same time and dd=th) around 1257. This was the last Llewellyn prince, the grandson of Llewellyn the Great, who almost ruled over all of Wales (Wales’ tendency to split kingdoms between all sons, including illegitimate ones didn’t help unite Wales against the English). These princes, who battled amongst themselves as much as the English, are wonderful fodder for stories. My favourite series is written by Sharon Penman, the first is Here be Dragons.
As for the castle, it remains surrounded by ancient woodland and is a popular place for walking dogs….and children. The remains of the keep and tower are all but hidden until you begin to climb the steep embankment. My heart usually pounds as I climb the steps (a modern addition) whilst kids charge up with youthful exuberance. Due to the trees, there aren’t any great views, which must have influenced the decision to abandon the castle to its fate, but there is a sense of being on top of the world, even though the hill isn’t exactly a monster.
If there is one thing you find yourself wanting to say while admiring the treetops – I’m the king of the castle and you’re the dirty rascal – then Ewloe is probably the place to say it.