THE ruins of Carew Castle are a popular place to visit for the people of Pembrokeshire and visitors from further afield.

The castle, which was built in the 12th century, is leased to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. It is said to be one of the most magnificent castles in Wales.

Here we look at the history of the building.

Carew Castle was initially built around 1100 after Gerald of Windsor married Princess Nest and inherited the land as part of her dowry.

Western Telegraph: Aerial view of Carew CastleAerial view of Carew Castle

It has been found that prior to Gerald of Windsor’s build, an iron age settlement was located at the site, which was found following an excavation and it is believed there was even Roman or dark age settlements on the site too.

Gerald of Windsor’s castle was initially built using earth and wooden stakes, historians believe as a ‘branch’ castle to Pembroke Castle which Gerald was a steward of.

However, the castle that stands today was mainly built by Sir Nicholas de Carew before his 1311 death and is believed to have been built in the late 1200s.

In 1212, the castle was seized by King John when he passed through Pembroke on his Irish expedition. Sir Edmund Carew handed the castle over to Rhys ap Thomas in 1480.

He had fought for Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth and his popularity in southwest Wales grew as a result of this.

While the castle was in his hands in the early 1500s, it underwent a thorough renovation to be turned into a home fit for a Tudor gentleman of influence.

One of his influences that remains today is the gatehouse leading from the bailey to the outer ward of the castle.

In 1507, the royal family attended a tournament held at the castle – and on the porch of the castle is the arms of Henry VII, his son Arthur, prince of Wales and his wife Catherine of Aragon (who later became the first wife of his brother Henry VIII).


The castle was due to be passed down to his grandson Rhys ap Gruffydd, however, he was executed for treason on the orders of King Henry VIII, so in 1558 it was given by the crown to Sir John Perrot who built the north wing, the last major addition to the castle.

He was convicted of treason in 1592 and died of natural causes in the Tower of London.

The castle was returned to the Carew family and Sir George Carew declared it for King Charles I during the Civil War.

During the Civil War, the castle was garrisoned and occupied by both the royalists and parliamentarians, where it changed hands four times, with at least one of these occasions coming after a fierce assault on the castle.

Western Telegraph: Carew Castle 1855-60. Picture: National Museum of WalesCarew Castle 1855-60. Picture: National Museum of Wales

Following the Civil War, the Carew family remained at the castle until it was abandoned in 1686. It was left like this until 1983 when the National Park Authority gained a 99-year lease, and a long programme of restoration and conservation began.

The castle is now a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and in 2013 the main works to restore the castle were completed, this also included creating a new visitor centre and shop.

Nest Tearoom was added to the walled garden area in 2018, with the area going under more redevelopment in 2019.

According to Richard Jones’ book Haunted Castles of Britain and Ireland, two ghosts haunt the castle. The first is Princess Nest who is said to appear as a ‘White Lady’ drifting through the corridors, passageways and stairwells of the castle.

The second is a more exotic ghost of an ape. The ape belonged to Sir Roland Rhys who is said to have taken up tenancy of the castle in the 17th century. A recluse, he holed up in the northwest tower with his pet ape – from the Barbary Coast of Africa – for company.

Sir Roland’s son eloped with the daughter of a Horowitz, a local Flemish merchant, who, angry at the marriage, confronted Sir Roland at the castle. Sir Roland is said to have set the ape onto the man after a heated argument, leading to a savage mauling, with Horowitz just managing to escape alive. He is said to have cursed Sir Roland as he left, wishing the same fate on him.

That night, servants at the castle rushed to investigate screams coming from the tower and found Sir Roland dead, with his throat ripped open and the ape lying dead beside him. It is said that the ghost of the ape mounts the stairway and climbs to the battlements of the northwest tower, emitting a loud howl.

You can find out more about visiting Carew Castle here.