THE WALES of medieval times must have been a stunning place with castles dotes all around.

Today we can only see the remains of these once-magnificent structures, although the ruins can still be an imposing sight.

Here we take a look at Cilgerran Castle and its life over the many centuries.

The Cilgerran Castle we have today – or what is left – was built by the Normans, but it stood on the site of an earlier structure.

The first castle was built by Henry I to strengthen his hold on south-west Wales and the lordship was given to then lord of Pembroke, Gerald of Windsor. Gerald was married to Princess Nest who has a storied history of her own which we will touch upon.

It is not known exactly when the first structure was built but the castle was attacked in 1109 by Owain ap Cadwgan, Nest’s cousin who was infatuated with her, who kidnapped the princess and they had an affair. During the attack, Gerald escaped by jumping through a chute into the castle’s cesspit (he would go on to kill Owain a few years later).

Cilgerran was captured by the Welsh when Lord Rhys took the structure in 1164, but his reign was to last less than half a century as it was retaken by William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke in 1204.

When the castle was retaken, William built a round stone keep.

The castle was taken by the Welsh again under Llewelyn ap Iorwerth in 1215 but by 1223 it was back in the hands of the English as William Marshal II retook the fort.

Tivyside Advertiser: Picture: Bill Boaden via Creative Commons Licence reusePicture: Bill Boaden via Creative Commons Licence reuse

It is this William who took on a rebuilding programme, turning the castle into a masonry fortification inside the earlier structure. He added two large drum towers to the curtain wall and created a new outer gatehouse.

The castle had passed through the hands of the Marshal’s by marriage to the Cantelupes and the Hastings.

Unlike many of the castles which were used for a number of centuries before falling into disrepair, Cilgerran was barely used, falling into disrepair by the late 13th century.

Edward III refortified the castle in the 1370s after the threat of a French invasion. In 1389, the castle was placed in the crown’s possession after the Hasting family died out.

The castle was badly damaged in 1405 during the Owain Glyndwr uprising, where it may have been briefly recaptured by the Welsh but it was known to be in the hands of the crown and Henry VII would give it to the Vaughan family who occupied the castle until the early 17th century, but it was allowed to fall into a ruinous state after they left to live in a nearby house.

Today the castle has two wards. The outer ward has a small gatehouse and the stone foundations of a rectangular building. The ward would have been the home to a number of ancillary buildings including stables.

There is a deep ditch which is crossable by a timber drawbridge to get to the inner ward’s gatehouse. The east and west circular towers remain and there is a parapet walk linking the two. There would have been ancillary buildings in the inner ward such as a kitchen and lime kiln. The remains of a set of steps are visible that descended to a sally port and there is a sally port at the base of the east tower.

Some of the north tower remains are still in place.

The ruins - which have been described as one of the most spectacularly sited in Wales - are now under the care of Cadw.