Tuesday, March 13, 2012

a ruined castle–wales day 1

IMG_7936Since (as of last Thursday) we finally have a car that will get us somewhere, we decided to go somewhere .

To take the car, and the kids on a maiden voyage across this small island (which feels rather large when driving with four kids!). 

After deliberating about where to go (and spending way too much time on the internet researching where to stay and what to see – ug, I hate the internet sometimes) we decided to take off on Saturday morning to Wales.  Despite all the hours I wasted on Friday researching, the only thing we really knew before we left was where we were going to stay – in a little bungalow in a town called Angel at nearly the very western most point of the Wales.  We weren’t sure what we were going to see, or even what we wanted to see.  We just wanted to see something beyond London. 

We packed a change of clothes for each kid, toothbrushes, some diapers, peter’s little sleeping tent and the Beco and we were off.  Off to see this big island. 

And it felt good.  We didn’t even break down on the M25 (a first for us).  The further we got from London the happier Jeff and I were feeling as green valleys cut up by hedgerows stretched before us for miles.  We drove through some amazing patchwork hills and valleys spotted with daffodils and baby lambs, past Bath and Bristol and into Southern Wales. 

We decided to visit a random castle that was on the way to our little bungalow and we put the address into our GPS.  The kids and I decided that our GPS lady (who we have named Ruthie Gonzalez) has quite a sense of adventure because the roads she took us on to get to the castle were crazy.  They were unlike anything I’ve ever driven on.  Tiny and built up on both sides with hedgerows so tall and wide that they were scrapping the sides of our car.  And then, at one point, there was suddenly a small river that we had to drive through, I’m not kidding, a small river!   On most occasions I might have been a little annoyed at Ruthie for taking us such a precarious and round-about way, but all of us were on the edge of our seats as we drove, smiling at the thrill of it all.  


IMG_7962(look closely, that’s a river)

Finally we reached the castle of Carag Cennen and that thrilling feeling swelled inside us all as it crept into view.  An old ruined castle perched on a cliff smack in the middle of the most beautiful hilly farmland you’ve ever seen.  I almost cried as we walked up the slope towards the castle, the beauty of it all was that much to take in.  The sun was just squeezing through the layers of fog, bathing the hills in a glowy green light.  The landscape was all craggy and moorish with bouncy grass.  IMG_7637

IMG_7639There was a small wedding going on and the bridesmaids wandering the grounds in their ethereal white gowns just added to the dreaminess of the scene.  As you can see, I took way too many pictures.  I just couldn’t help myself.


IMG_7682The castle itself was a ruin.  No “do not touch” or “no access” signs, no wax figures or replicated rooms, no plaques to read, no guides or welcome centers -- just a big open castle begging to be explored.  As we all (peter on my back) began to run free, climbing up old broken spiral staircases and exploring dark rooms I felt a part of me wake up.  My thrill seeking side that, for the past 7 1/2 years has been meagerly fed on adventures in motherhood, like childbirth and adding a new little soul to an already crazy mix of kids.  Now, don’t get me wrong, those things are ‘thrilling’, but they’re hard thrills, more like challenges and they take a toll.  

But this castle?  It brought back all those thrilling feelings from my pre-motherhood days of exploring and discovering and I felt remote corners of me suddenly start up again - all tingly with life.  Having my children share in the discovery and adventure made it all the more exciting.  I could see the delighted twinkle in Hazel and Charlie’s eyes, the seeds of adventure being planted and it made me realize that the older they all get the more chances I’ll have to wake up those dormant parts of my soul and bring them in.  And that thought was almost as exciting as the castle itself.

For the most part, I’ll let this pile of pictures tell the rest of the story.  But please keep in mind that these pictures don’t come close to doing this place justice….I wish I could have captured the way the air felt and smelt and the way our hearts and imaginations jumped into life as we roamed free in this place. 

IMG_7625IMG_7643IMG_7646I think this picture should be a McClearan ad.  This is about as far as the stroller made it though.  I think Peter was pretty happy to be let loose on that soft grass -- till his pants got too soaked and muddy and he got captured by the Beco.IMG_7649IMG_7651IMG_7654IMG_7658IMG_7653IMG_7660Emmeline insisted on bringing Lamby to the castle.  I think she knew he fit in there with all those sheep grazing pastures around.IMG_7665IMG_7667Here is the poop hole….the place where all the sewage was drained from the castle.  The kids, of course, loved that part.IMG_7673Emmeline is really into making poses when I take pictures.  You’ll see a lot of these poses on the blog, I think they are fantastic.IMG_7675IMG_7680IMG_7683Seriously, I could not get over the light at that place.  Everywhere I looked begged me to take a picture.IMG_7686IMG_7689IMG_7695Here we are inside the castle.  IMG_7699The lord’s chambers.IMG_7700IMG_7701IMG_7705view from the courtyards.IMG_7709Emmeline and Hazel are going places.  Love those struts.IMG_7715IMG_7733

The whole castle was built on top of a cave and you could take your torch and descended down this old walk way and down some steps into a pitch black cave. It was slick and spooky and we made our kids go down with us. They were pretty darn brave and only complained once we got into the belly of the cave and Jeff went ahead with the flashlight to check out how far back it went. The kids and I huddled in the dark and sang some primary songs. With the exception of Emmeline who slipped on the way back up, everyone emerged from the underground adventure feeling brave and strong. Like they’d conquered something. I love that feeling.


IMG_7726IMG_7736After exploring the cave, at Hazel’s insistence, we played “villages,” a game where you each declare a certain place to be your home, you set it up and arrange what is where and then you visit each other.  This game is kind of painful for me……but Hazel convinced us all to play for a little while.  This (above) was Hazel’s house.  She fed us all a feast around that table.  It was delicious.IMG_7830IMG_7734Here is Charlie in his “house” which was really an old fireplace or oven. IMG_7753IMG_7757And Peter, who kept trying to climb the rocks (successfully in some scary cases) was confined to his dungeon where he couldn’t climb out.  IMG_7793IMG_7804Emmeline had to poop, so she found a little house for her and her Lamby with seats in it and invited Hazel over for tea.  I think this picture (above) is one of my favorites of the day. IMG_7831IMG_7759IMG_7842IMG_7825IMG_7746Awesome, and very fitting expressions on these kids faces. IMG_7855IMG_7860IMG_7865IMG_7871Before leaving Hazel convinced us all to play villages outside in the crags.  IMG_7880IMG_7891Emmeline had other ideas.IMG_7893

Peter tried his hand at rock climbing. 

IMG_7902Charlie posed for some pictures (miracle of miracles).  I only got this kind of smile out of him when I mentioned Mila (Amy’s little girl his age….they are like two peas in a pod).IMG_7915IMG_7925IMG_7928Don’t worry, this is an illusion, he’s not really climbing up the face of a cliff.IMG_7930Even peter’s sense of wonder and discovery was sparked.IMG_7932IMG_7937IMG_7941IMG_7944We met a cool little Welch kid that Charlie made friends with, or rather, he made friends with Charlie.  His name was Leo and he was super friendly and had a killer accent.  IMG_7945IMG_7948IMG_7950IMG_7952IMG_7958IMG_7960

Thank you Carag Cennen for the thrill and beauty.  For sparking up the joy of thrills and discovery in my children and for quenching my thirst. 


  1. i have a few comments:
    1. hazel's style is the bEST. i don't know how much of that is you and how much of it is her but her outfits are always spot on.
    2. peter's hair! seriously?! he is so big, i can't stand it.
    3. this place is pretty rad, good job.
    4. i feel you on the gps with a personality. remind me to tell you a story about a gps and ireland.
    5. you can follow me on pinterest by first of all getting a pinterest account, then searching "charity eyre" and then clicking follow. pretty neat!
    6. some really, really extraordinarily awesome photos here.
    7. did emmeline actually poop inside the castle? please say yes.
    8. the welsh kid is hysterical.
    9. you got bangs!!! haha

    love you!!!

  2. Too much pictures? Not even possible. I loved this so so much and want to run away to England right now. Like this second. Where do I sign up?

  3. Love this! We went to Savannah last week and I had some of the same feelings of having that exploration-hungry side of me fed again as we wandered around a new (and really beautiful) city. And I haven't been a mom nearly as long as you! Glad you're getting to have such adventures. xo

  4. wow Sayds how awesome is this. What a grand adventure. LOVE the photos you took. What an eye for true beauty you have. I LOVED the fact that it was just you guys there. It makes it all so much more magical when there aren't hundreds of people all around you. The LIGHT was amazing. Love those serendipidous moments and LOVE you all.

  5. Samantha4:19 PM

    I loved reading your post it was like going on the adventure with you. I am feeling like I am just Mum at the moment and want that excitement, something different from the same old everyday! Really want to go travel so badly but thanks for the excitement I felt it so much through your post.

    Never commented before but love your blog and look forward to more of your adventures in the UK. My husband is from there and we often go back and forth if we should move back. For the now I will enjoy following your adventures!!

  6. "But for Wales Richard!" what sweet kids and i am so happy that you've finally got a car that works and some torches to explore the castles.

  7. how do i call you? my phone wouldn't pick up

  8. oh, this world is so beautiful isn't it?! thanks for sharing.

  9. Saydi - I wish I could post your pics in this post for the whole world to see. They are so breathtaking! They make me want to fly over the pond right now and have an adventure with you. Cute Hazel with her toothless smile. I wish she and Eliza were able to explore those green hills together. They have such similar hearts. I am still floored over all that you're experiencing. And the grace with which you do it. Wish you were here so we could discuss our "imperfect mothering" - what you probably see as imperfect, I see in you as a strength. Your ability to see through the stuff that doesn't matter for what does. I'm slowly realizing we ought to be more patient with ourselves, carry less guilt. You're amazing. And I love you dearly.

  10. Thank you for all of the beautiful pictures. Also, thank you for articulating the way I have always felt when I venture out into the wide world with these children of mine. Rediscovery thru them. Renewal of my own sense of adventure.

  11. I love this post! You seriously capture everything so perfectly. I want to live your life! Love you

  12. Saydi, I finally have a moment to catch up on your amazing London adventures but this was my favorite by far. Pastoral countryside is by far my favorite. I love castles and I love them when I we don't have to stand behind a barrier but can run free like you guys did. Thanks for the gorgeous pictures.

    We're off on a fun adventure in May. We're headed to Nicaragua and Costa Rica for six weeks while Geoff works on a project. Surfing and rainforests call us! Very different from France, should open the girls eyes up WIDE.

    Keep up the blog posts. You'll look back on them with intense fondness.

  13. Oh wow Sayds, not only are these pictures breathtaking, but so is the way you tell the story. Your writing is so rich and beautiful and oh what I wouldn't give to be there on those craggy moors with you with our children and cameras in hand. What a glorious adventure. Love you so much!

  14. I have such great memories of visiting ruined British, Welsh and Scottish castles as a kid. My Dad loves them, so we visited them a lot. I always used to imagine myself back in time and living in them :)
    If your pass includes Highclere Castle it would be worth seeing.(Have you seen Downton Abbey?) I think it's only about an hour and a half west from London (if your car makes it.)
    Also, we LOVED visiting the Tower of London last time we were there and got some of the best dress ups for the kids there.



Related Posts with Thumbnails