South Pembrokeshire, Wales, has a rich history and many places of interest worthy of a closer look. One such place is the village of Carew, nestled in rural countryside a few miles east of Pembroke town.
Carew is an ideal place to spend a couple of hours to wander and explore. It offers a variety of interesting historical features which can be seen on a short walk. An easy going two mile walking route around the area provides a lot of interest, with a medieval castle, 18th century tidal mill, a Mill Pond and an 11th century celtic cross all to be found in a relatively small area. After a wander around the area taking in the rich history and beautiful landscape there’s the bonus of a fine welcoming country village pub, The Carew Inn where you can end a walk in customary style.
Carew Castle is widely considered to be one of Wales most picturesque historical sites and is open to visitors during the year for tours and family focussed events. Built by Norman lords in the early 13th Century at a beautiful waterside setting, further additions including a north facing window gallery in later centuries transformed the Castle to a grand Elizabethan mansion house.
In 1507, the castle played host to a wonderful spectacle as the last great festival of knights in Wales was held with a grand jousting tournament in honour of the owner at that time, Sir Rhys ap Thomas.
The Castle unfortunately fell into disrepair in succeeding decades and was eventually abandoned to ruin in the 1680s.
It’s now in the care of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and has benefitted from some necessary restoration over recent years. There are open grounds at the eastward side of the castle, used in the holiday season for medieval fun days and fairs but on the day we visited was being used as a grazing paddock for Shetland ponies. Although one appeared to have had his fill of grazing….
The walk begins at the visitor car park next to the castle grounds and follows a country lane leading around to the South side of the Castle.
There are impressive views of the 13th century substantial walls and towers. In this beautiful waterside setting above the Mill Pond the castle is a picturesque romantic ruin, it’s only residents now being rare greater horseshoe bats. This is a view that has captivated visitors through the ages and it was near here that the artist JMW Turner sketched his Carew Castle scene in 1795 on one of his travels through Wales.
At the western edge of the mill pond stands the French Tidal Mill, so named as the original mill stones were brought over from France. The building dates to the 18th Century and is the only remaining example of a tidal mill in Wales. The mill has been restored in recent decades and is now a museum so you can take a look inside at the mill workings. The Mill building stands on a causeway dam and used tidal energy from the river inlet to power the water wheels and machinery. The walk continues across the causeway to the far side of the Mill Pond.
On the North side of the Mill Pond there are stiles to access across fields and then along country lanes to a ridgeway. There are fine views across countryside of the Castle and Mill Pond. From this viewpoint both styles of construction are noticeable, the 16th Century Elizabethan mansion with large gallery windows alongside the original Norman built towers.
It’s a very scenic walk on the pathway around the mill pond directly opposite the Castle. In certain conditions it is possible to see the Castle perfectly reflected on the calm waters of the pond. At the eastern side of the pond is the ancient stone bridge which you cross to return to the castle grounds, however it’s worthwhile pausing to look to the marshy river to the left side as it’s possible to spot various birds including Kingfisher here, and we caught sight of a Heron in the river.
Just uphill from the bridge, passed the Carew Inn pub and through an old gateway, to return to the Castle grounds. Above the roadside stands one of the finest examples of a magnificent and intricately carved Celtic cross. It’s believed this is an 11th century memorial to a fallen Welsh king who is known to have died in battle in 1035. The cross is an impressive 4 metres in height with panels of exceptional Celtic knots and intertwining patterns topped by a superb cross head.
Standing alongside this iconic monumental stone cross, with its intricate Celtic designs carved by master craftsmen almost a millenium ago, really does give you a sense of the rich history encompassing this place.
Having wandered through this historical landscape, just across the road The Carew Inn beckons. With lots of character inside, traditional bar menu and local ales, it’s cosy bar is exactly the kind of place you’d hope to find at the end of a country walk.
Whilst Turner may have sketched Carew Castle over 200 years ago, the bar at The Carew Inn has played host in more recent times to some famous visitors. The walls of the bar are decorated with photos of well known persons who have dropped in, including the film actor Russell Crowe who held a memorable session in the bar one night after filming scenes for the Robin Hood movie nearby. If you ask the bar staff politely, as we did, they may tell you all about the famous night when a Gladiator entertained the locals!
So Carew is a wonderful place to visit and explore in all seasons, offering something to interest walkers, history enthusiasts and day trippers alike.