With a castle and its very own legend, Wolfscastle Country Hotel has a fascinating past. It stands on a promontory above the confluence of the Western Cleddau and Anghof rivers next to the Norman motte-and-bailey castle from which the village and hotel take their names.
The castle was one of a chain of fortresses that were built along an old frontier that's known as the Landsker Line. Like other such fortifications, the castle was built by the incoming Anglo-Normans to protect their South Pembrokeshire colony.
A Welsh landowner from what is now Denbighshire called Owain Glyn Dŵr declared himself Prince of Wales in 1400 and fought a war that saw his forces control most of Wales for a number of years.
After his defeat Wales's great rebel leader became a fugitive and disappeared from historical record after 1412. What actually became of Glyn Dŵr remains a mystery, but there are plenty of stories and one suggests Hill Field alongside the Wolfscastle Country Hotel as his last resting place.
Folklore also makes a connection between Glyn Dŵr's birth this part of Pembrokeshire. He is said to have been locally at Little Treffgarne, where his mother's family held land.
In the beginning...
Recent discoveries have suggested that an Iron Age fort probably pre-dated the motte-and-bailey castle in the grounds of the hotel, so Wolfscastle may date back many thousands of years.
You'll discover an interesting burial chamber at Garn Turne Rocks a couple of miles to the east of the hotel (Grid Reference: SM97932725). Travelling from Wolfscastle, the rocks are on the left hand side of the road. There is a small lay-by and a well-hidden gate gives access to the site.
This Neolithic site dates from approximately 3500 BC and was built by some of the first farmers in the area. It includes the remains of a huge chambered tomb; the large capstone eventually caused the chamber to collapse. The ceremonial forecourt where pre-Christian rituals took place can be seen.
The Celts arrived in Wales during the Iron Age, bringing with them their culture. It included the ancient language of Welsh, one of Europe's oldest, which is widely spoken in this area today.
The hillfort on top of Great Treffgarne Rocks is thought to be Iron Age. The crags are incorporated into the settlement, which appears to have had several small satellite defensive enclosures nearby, which makes it very unusual. It is one of the most important prehistoric sites in Pembrokeshire.
When the Romans arrived they appear to have remained on peaceful terms with the local tribe, known as the Demetae. Originally historians believed that the Romans did not venture this far west in Wales, but simply traded with the local people. However, in 1806 a farmer discovered the remains of what appeared to be a Roman villa - to date, the only archaeological example of Roman architecture this far west in Wales.
Saints and princes
The Romans brought Christianity to Wales and the new religion flourished in the Celtic countries long after the end of Roman administration. The period known as the Age of Saints began during the 6th Century AD.
Monks, teachers and missionaries left organised communities to live simple lives of prayer and personal communion with God and to found new communities, inspired by the traditions of the Holy Land and Eastern Mediterranean.
South West Wales was right at the hub of sea routes that criss-crossed the Irish and Celtic Seas, inter-linking the Celtic peoples and their wandering saints during this Celtic golden age.
St. Davids was a major spiritual centre during this period, with the Wye Valley and Ergyng, now a part of Herefordshire, being other major centres before the arrival of Germanic tribes from the east.
The Irish influence in this part of Wales was incredibly strong as evidenced today by the many Irish place names and Ogham Stones - Ogham is the name of the Irish script inscribed on the stones, most of which are thought to have been raised in honour of local chieftains and other notables.
This Irish inheritance of the area may be explained by an Irish tradition that tells of the en masse migration of Deisi tribe to this area around the start of the 5th Century AD, led by their chieftain Eochaid Allmuir. The Irish saints who settled here, from St. Aidan to St. Brynach, appear to have made a great impact.
Even our local St. Dogwell is said to have been educated in Ireland. The saint's name appears spelled in a number of different ways, including St. Dogmael, St. Toel and St. Dogfael. The name of the local parish and main Anglican Church here in Wolfscastle is St. Dogwell's.
An Ogham stone can be seen in the village at St. Dogwell's Church. It stands in the churchyard and has inscriptions in both Ogham (OGTENLO) and Latin (HOGTIVIS FILI DEMETI). It probably commemorates a local Irish noble.
Further afield, the ruins of St. Dogmael's Abbey, on the site where St. Dogfael founded a religious community on the Pembrokeshire/Ceredigion border, is open to the public and includes a visitor centre.
Castles and Bishops
The late Dark Ages and Medieval period were times of turmoil for Wales, with invaders slamming into the country from all directions together with a great deal of internecine strife.
It is thought that many Vikings eventually settled in the south of the county. Later the Normans arrived and established a huge colony, with the town of Pembroke at its heart. A string of castles, from St. Davids in the west to Laugharne in the south east, protected this new settlement, which is now known as the Landsker. Pembrokeshire is said to have the more Norman castles than anywhere in Britain.
These days it is more of a linguistic and cultural marker than a political frontier. Most areas to the north of the Landsker are traditionally Welsh speaking, with Welsh patterns of settlement, while the south remains more anglicized in speech and character.
The motte-and-bailey castle at Wolfscastle is one the Landsker fortifications and was built during the 12th Century. It's not known what, or who, the 'wolf' in Wolfscastle was, but it may be a reference to the Norman invader who built the first castle.
At least one corn mill has been located in the Wolf's Castle area since the early 14th Century, from when Nant-y-Coy Mill, in nearby Treffgarne Gorge, is thought to date.
Pope Calixtus II, who died in 1124, gave his official blessing to pilgrimages to neaby St. David's and decreed that two pilgrimages to St. Davids were equivalent to one to Rome. St. Dogwell's Church in Wolfscastle is on the 'Bishop's Road' pilgrim route between the Bishop's Palace in Llawhaden and St. Davids Cathedral, a route marked by Holy Wells, churches and inscribed stones.
Pilgrims would worship right along the Bishop's Road and stayed in hostels as they made their way to and from St. David's shrine.
Sealyham and The Tuckers
The Tucker and Edwardes families were the most prominent local families in Wolfscastle for centuries. The first Tucker moved to Sealyham in the 1300s and members of the family were tenants-in-chief of Sealyham Manor until the 1770s, when the Edwardes of Treffgarne Hall inherited through marriage. Members of this family both built and lived in much of what is now the hotel.
The local slate quarries were developed by the family, yet they struggled despite advisors having been brought in from North Wales to make improvements and eventually they were closed down.
In 1777 the heiress of the Tucker family Mary Tucker married John Owen Edwardes and their grandson, squire William Tucker Edwardes, built much of the current hotel as a home for his wounded brother (see hotel history) and founded the school at Wolfscastle in 1834, which is still across the road from the hotel.
Today, Wolfscastle includes the part of the village here at the top of the hill and Ford, which is down in the valley below. The local economy centres on tourism and on dairy, sheep and beef farming on the fertile grasslands surrounding the village.
As well as its school, Wolfscastle still has a post office, pub and several places of worship, helping the village keep its sense of community in these fast changing times.
Sealyham Mansion can still be seen, and is now home of Sealyham Adventure Centre. Ask reception for directions.