Ancient horrors, including lost love and a ghost ape, haunt the ruins of Carew Castle in Pembrokeshire, says RICK HALE
Nestled in the rugged wilds of the Pembrokeshire countryside is Carew Castle, an imposing Norman structure as old as the land itself.
Although the castle was built in the 12th century, it’s believed the bluff upon which it stands played a strategic role dating back 2000 years.
This is evidenced by the discovery of a defensive wall built some time during the Iron Age.
Early History of Carew Castle
The present castle was completed in 1100 CE by Gerald de Windsor after being made Castellan of Pembroke castle by Arnulf of Montgomery, not long after the first Norman invasion of the region.
The following years saw several additions to the original keep making Carew Castle a formidable stronghold.
The namesake of the castle, the de Carew family took up ownership. And they maintain that ownership to this day.
Regrettably, the Carew clan and their castle fell on hard times as the black death cut a swath of death and destruction across the United Kingdom.
And when the Carews could no longer care for the castle, it fell into the hands of Rhys ap Thomas. A man who made a great deal of money after switching sides and supporting Henry Tudor.
For his, what some might say treacherous act, Rhys was awarded a knighthood and gifted Carew castle.
The Civil War
In 1607, after changing hands several times, the Castle was once again in the hands of the Carew family.
During the Civil War, the castle was retrofitted by Royalist forces despite the area being loyal to Parliament.
It was at this time the castle was severely damaged and the east wall was torn down. It would be years before the castle was repaired.
Around 1686, the castle was abandoned until 1984 when it was leased by the Carew family to the Pembrokeshire National Park Authority.
A large sum of money was invested in the hopes of returning the ancient castle to its former glory.
What the Authority didn’t know was Carew Castle was home to two very frightening ghosts.
The White Lady
Perhaps the castle’s most famous ghost is the white lady of Carew Castle.
In life, the white lady is believed to be Princess Nest, a young woman whose beauty was celebrated throughout the realm.
Her beauty was said to make men fight and even kill to gain her favour. And this may have led to her forever wandering the corridors of the castle.
According to historical record, Nest married Gerald of Windsor and he acquired the land as part of her dowry.
When they finished building the castle in 1109, Nest and Gerald settled down with their five children.
All was not well and Nest’s beauty began to draw the attention of admirers regardless of her being a married woman.
One night one of Nest’s admirers, Owain ap Cadwgan climbed the walls of the castle and once he was inside, started a fire.
During the ensuing confusion caused by the fire, Gerald managed to escape the fire with the children. Nest got left behind.
It would seem Nest was abducted by the interloper and some might say she went willingly.
It’s been theorised that Nest and Owain were carrying on a secret affair and Nest was in on the ruse. All so she could run away and be married to the man who nearly killed her family.
After a long life, Nest passed in 1136, leaving behind several children from 3 different men.
And that wasn’t the only thing she left behind. Nest still lingers in the castle long after her death.
Even before the restoration of the castle began the apparition of a woman in a white gown was seen floating through the castle and the grounds.
The apparition is believed to be Princess Nest, forever cursed to roam the castle out of guilt for her betrayal of her husband, Gerald of Windsor.
Eyewitnesses say she makes no noise but the look of pain is deeply etched on her face. And she gives off a feeling of regret.
A Most Vicious Pet
The white lady isn’t alone in haunting this ancient Norman castle.
Something else lurks in the shadows of Carew Castle. Something brutal and animalistic. A great black ape.
When Sir Roland Rhys was lord of the castle in the 17th century, his son committed a grievous act against his family.
The young man ran away with the love of his life, the daughter of a Flemish merchant named Horowitz.
When Horowitz paid a visit to Rhys, the Lord of Carew flew into a rage and sicced his pet ape on the merchant.
After suffering an horrific mauling Horowitz managed to escape but not before cursing Rhys.
Horowitz predicted that soon the ape would turn on it’s master and murder him in his sleep.
When Rhys heard the curse, he laughed it off and fell asleep with his faithful pet sitting in the corner of his room. Without giving the merchant’s words a second thought.
Later in the night, a scream of anguish awakened the castle. The scream came from Roland Rhys’ room.
When the servants finally managed to break the door down, they found a grisly sight best left to the realm of nightmare.
Laying in a puddle of blood was Roland Rhys with his throat torn out and the lifeless body of his pet ape laying next to him. The curse of Horowitz came to pass and both lord of the castle and his beast were dead.
According to visitors and locals, the ghostly form of an ape is seen ascending the stairs to the castle’s battlements.
There it lets out a great roar that echoes throughout the region. It then vanishes only to do it again the following night.
Believe it or not after many centuries the Carew family still owns their ancestral home.
However, maintaining the castle and its restoration work is handled by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Carew Castle is open to the public and upon visiting you can tour the castle as well as it’s walled garden.
Have you seen a ghost in Carew Castle? Tell us in the comments section below!