We visit two Castles in one afternoon of exploring. Why not join us as we venture a 14th century manor house hidden inside the woodlands of Merthy Mawr and explore around a beautiful Norman stone castle with the river Ogmore flowing around it? Starting off with our first venture, we visited Candleston Castle, even though the name suggests it was a castle, it’s more a fortified manor house that was built in the 14th century by the de Cantelupe family. The place was inhabited for nearly 500 years, abandoned relatively recently in the early 19th century,it  is now ruinous and overgrown and lacks roofs and upper floors, yet it is interesting and atmospheric and a hidden gem.

The location is rather remote inside beautiful woodlands, as you approach the ruins you see the most imposing section of the ruin, which is the tall walled square based tower, the tower consists of a dark and damp basement, an upper floor that’s linked by a short stairway and As you first step in, you wouldn’t normally come in through the original entrance, it would have been further north on the whole of the site, but you enter through what is thoughts to be the under croft underneath the main hall, and if you look above you can see the beautiful  grand fireplace and a doorway as well. Behind, at the centre of the castle, is the hall range, originally two-storey, and connected to the more recent west range. The whole structure is bordered to the west by a grassy courtyard enclosed by a D-shaped curtain wall, now overgrown and mostly hidden.

You can head up the demolished and broken down set of stairs that takes you above to the upper chamber, as you enter inside the stairs you will see a gated doorway that would have been part of the under croft, but as you wander above and into the upper chamber you can see the south side of the tower and possibly a Garderobe too. The earliest sections were the hall and the curtain wall around the courtyard, soon followed by the tower on the south side. The hall was substantially modified around 1500, by which time the castle had passed by marriage to the Cradock family. The west range was added in the 17th century and the mansion remained fully occupied until the start of the 1800s, the final modification being the addition of a stable block, on the east side of the tower. There are plenty of masonry remnants that indicate a  high standard of construction, and the surviving walls are thick and sturdy, most rising to or near their original height.

Showing past grandeur it can really fire the imagination and give you a sense of life here in centuries past. The hall still has its heart and the windows look out on the trees where previously it would have been cleared with perhaps views across at Ogmore castle. This castle is known to be haunted, with plenty of paranormal investigators heading here to find out if and who still occupies the manor with many claiming very odd and eerie feelings and sightings of ghosts. One thing for sure, I wouldn’t enjoy coming here in the evening alone, but that’s just me, if you are interested in the paranormal this could be great to come and investigate.

Now we are off to visit the beautiful, grade 1 listed castle ruin known as Ogmore Castle, what’s lovely and most appealing to most visitors here at Ogmore is the ancient stepping stone river crossing that you can do to head into the castle, although we headed a different path and came in the more traditional way. Located in the village of Ogmore-on-sea, this extensive ruin is settled along the grasses watered by the river Ewenny.

Ogmore has such a gorgeous and romantic setting surrounding the castle, it’s not so hard to believe just how popular this castle ruin is especially when the suns out. It’s a great place to explore. Interestingly a trio of castles were built to protect and guard Glamorgan from the north to the west, along with Coity and Newcastle nearby, we are here entering Ogmore castle and the first building we enter is the courthouse, built in a rectangular shape on the outer bailey. On the corner of the court house is a late 13th century lime kiln, recognised by its circular foundation walls. It was rebuilt after heavy damage was sustained during Owain Glyndwr’s reign, but repairs were made and the court house was occupied until the 1630s.

The Normans made their claim to this area as early as 1116, when William de Londres, one of the semi-mythical Twelve Knights of Glamorgan established the first castle here. Which was a ring work at the site and the surviving earthworks encompassed an inner ward with a ditch that filled during high tide curving all the way round the south and east sides of the castle. Entry to the inner ward is via a wooden bridge over the ditch, leading to an arched passageway and the surviving part of the gatehouse.

Not surprisingly, the earth and timber fortification was quickly reinforced with stone, and included a great keep, to which the remains may still be explored. Situated next to the entrance into the inner ward, this rectangular great tower was probably built by Maurice de Londres, William’s son, soon after his father’s death in 1126. Once rising three stories and 40 feet high, the structure is extensively ruined, but impressive nonetheless and said to be one of the oldest Norman keeps in Glamorgan. The first story contained the great hall, with an ornate fine fireplace and elaborates windows and a staircase led from the hall to the floor above, which served as apartments for the lord and his family. a trap-door opened from the hall down into the basement and A well-preserved latrine tower adjoins the residential complex.

Across the inner ward and opposite the keep, stands another 12th century structure. Only the cellar of these building remains, consisting of several small rooms and a vaulted, arched entrance, once overlaid by other, residential room – the cellar would have been used for storage. More foundations can be seen to the south, and all the inner court is enclosed by walls up to 20 feet tall.

The stories surrounding this castle are still very popular locally.  William’s son, Maurice is notorious for having beheaded a Welsh princess after defeating her in battle and another story about Hawise, who was the granddaughter of William, for who the stepping stones were said to have been laid for her to cross the river to her lover. She was also credited with winning the common land that still remains to this day, so that common folk would have their own land to hunt on. More stories surround Ogmore, as do tales around ghosts and sprits here.

Ogmore Castle’s history is fairly uneventful, and by the later middle Ages, the castle ceased to have any real military worth. From the de Londres family, Ogmore and its surrounding estates passed in the late 13th century to the lord of Kidwelly. Now the care of the castle is in the hands of CADW who have made visiting here free and accessible with parking amenities at all reasonable times, it’s a great place to come for an afternoon, fly the drone, have a family with a picnic or just wander the area, it’s a great opportunity to switch off from the world for the afternoon and enjoy a great walk around. We love visiting Wales, whether its north or south there is just simply tons to explore and its fantastic to be able to get out and about in those lovely open spaces and get lost.

Till next time!