When it comes to property, location is everything. We all want something to see out of the window, rooms with spectacular views. What is rare for a humble dwelling, is guaranteed for a fortified castle. Whereas houses are constructed on the plateau of fields or pastures, castles are mounted on bedrock. Cliffs are advantageous, rivers for water and moats, forests for access to wood. The list is long when building a castle. Carreg Cennen on the edge of the Brecon Beacons ticked all the boxes.
Built in the late 12th Century, Carreg Cennen makes good use of the rocky terrain, including a cave beneath it where pigeons roost. Used as a secret Lancastrian base during the War of the Roses (yes, somehow Lancaster and York reached as far as south western Wales), the Yorkist assaulted the castle not with great siege weapons but picks and axes. The slighted castle never recovered and fell into ruins.
As a child I read book by Ronald Welch – The Gauntlet, which tells of a boy in modern times who finds a gauntlet near Carreg Cennen castle and when he wears it he is transported back in time to Medieval Times. Lots of adventures ensue including jousting and banqueting. He buries his dagger in the grounds and when he returns to his own time, digs it up to prove what everyone thinks he dreamed.
For me this was my first great tale of time travelling where the person must integrate themselves into the past. Many have followed on – Diane Gabaldon, Barbara Erskine, Kate Mosse – to name a few. However, for me it is The Gauntlet that captures a child’s imagination. Mine too. I think it was the first castle in which I fell in love.