We are lucky in Pembrokeshire to have our very own Iron Age Fort, Castell Henllys. It’s a really fun place to visit and educational too. I love learning the history of our ancient ancestors. Here’s what we got up to during our most recent visit and some information if you’d like to visit too:
Visiting Castell Henllys
Castell Henllys is located in North Pembrokeshire, between Newport and Cardigan. The Sat Nav Postcode is SA41 3UR and there is free parking for visitors.
The original spiral trail (that we used to walk around to “go back in time“) is no longer here but the visitor facilities have been modernised making a day trip to Castell Henllys more comfortable and accessible for all (once up on top of the fort you are firmly back into the past with only basic facilities – so make sure you use the loo before you walk up the hill!).
A walk from the car park bought us to information boards and a photo opportunity, transforming us into a family in Celtic times.
Then we went inside to get our tickets. As well as a ticket office there is also a shop and restaurant which sells delicious hot food (a welcome treat after a cold and rainy day on top of the fort- more on this later). In my last post I mentioned that it would be a nice touch if visitors could hire the Celtic cloaks that are used during school trips. I’m pleased to say that these are now placed in a basket in the visitor centre for all to enjoy (and to be returned when your day as a Celt comes to an end). This meant the kids really felt in character as we prepared to start our adventure.
There is also a new Interactive Exhibition which gives visitors an understanding of life in the Iron Age before they embark on their Celtic adventure.
The Riverside Walk
We began to make the trek up the hill as we prepared to go back in time.
It’s such a pretty walk alongside the river Nant Duad. In Celtic times we may have been met by Celts rolling rocks down the hill onto us or shooting arrows but there’s a far more friendly welcome nowadays and even a play park along the way.
Danny likes to get right into the river of course.
The Barefoot Walking Trail
Another recent addition is the barefoot walking trail (similar to the one we experienced on our day out at Conkers in the National Forest).
The Castell Henllys Barefoot Walking Trail is the first of it’s kind in Wales and gives visitor the chance to walk in the footsteps of Celtic Warriors. So it was off with our shoes and time to continue the journey (remember to pick your shoes up and take them with you- we saw some families have to walk back for theirs!).
The trail includes eight different surfaces for walkers to feel with their shoe-less feet, from crunching flint gravel to squelching clay, from tree stumps to wood chips.
The kids loved it and I find walks like this very refreshing and stimulating.
At the end of the walk they washed their feet in the river and shook them dry (I‘ll have to pack a towel for future visits).
Up the Hill
After a quick stop by the river we continued our walk.
The Sacred Spring
Along the way the kids spotted hanging braids and decorations.
There were also “gifts” of skulls, sculptures and flowers.
We had found a natural Spring Water Shrine.
Celtic Herb Garden
Further up the hill we came to the Celtic Herb Garden.
The herb garden had many uses- herbs could be used for food, medicine and dying clothes.
An Iron Age Farm
Celts grew vegetables to eat and also kept animals such as pigs, sheep and cows to eat and for materials to wear and use in life.
The Celtic Village
We passed the chevaux de frise, upright stones positioned to slow down the advance of charging invadors.
The last defence before entering the village used to be the holding gates but we were welcomed on this visit.
Arriving at the top of the fort and seeing the roundhouses is breathtaking, especially on quiet days when you can just take in the view, close your eyes and picture the place 2000 years ago.
The roundhouses at Castell Henllys are the only ones in the UK that have been built in precisely the same way as the original Iron Age dwellings. They are in their exact original positions too.
This is the granary, it’s raised to keep the corn safe from mice, rats and fox. It also prevents it getting damp too.
This is the forge roundhouse where the blacksmith would sit by the fire to make and shape the iron tools, ornaments and weapons used during this time.
Faces Painted With Woad
There are four roundhouses and the Granary at Castell Henllys. In the Chieftain’s roundhouse the kids had their faces painted using woad (Celts would mix wee with woad to obtain the blue colour).
As she paints their faces she tells them which God or Goddess they have been blessed with the power of.
In the meeting house there was, as usual, a fire roaring. On wet days it’s a nice place to sit and eat our packed lunches in the warm. I love listening to the Celtic stories around the fireside too.
Grinding Corn and Making Bread
The Cook’s Roundhouse is currently being rebuilt but you can still see the process of making bread from the corn in the granary in the Chieftain’s house.
There are two types of grinders on display. My kids love grinding corn to make flour.
During some visits we’ve actually made the bread, it’s been cooked in the oven and we’ve collected it at the end of the day.
Weaving Cloth and Making Clothes
We also saw how the sheeps wool gets carded, spun, dyed and then weaved into cloth for the Celts clothes.
Shoes were made by sewing simple shapes of leather.
A selection of plants used to dye the yarn.
Rebuilding the Roundhouses
As I mentioned earlier. The roundhouses are in the process of being rebuilt. The work is now coming to the end so they may be completed by the time we next visit.
Making a Wattle and Daub Fence
There is always wattle and daub available for the kids to have a go at making a fence. Daub used to be made from clay, soil, sand and dung. Kids either love getting messy during this part (there’s just a shared bucket to have a swill of the hands after) or avoid it- mine always get right in!
Leaving the Fort
It was time to leave the fort and make our way downhill once more.
Cafe and Shop
The shop is full of lovely things to buy. The kids like the iron age weapons and crystals. I like the books, ornaments and soaps. We were excited to spot Elen’s Island by our friend Eloise Williams.
At the time of our visit Caitlyn was learning about Celts at school. She planned to make a leaflet to persuade people to come and visit Castell Henllys for the day. I give her full marks for persuasion as she persuaded me to buy her a hot chocolate so she had a nice picture to stick on her leaflet in the “Cafe” section…
We usually bring a picnic but on impromptu days out we have eaten in the cafe and do recommend it- the kids like the picnic boxes and they do vegan jacket potato options for Rebecca and myself.
Castell Henllys Opening Times
Autumn/winter opening times
10 February -25 March 2018
Open every day 11am-3pm (last admission at 2.15pm).
|Concession||£3.50 (those aged 65 and over or students with a valid student card).|
|Family||£12.50 (two adults and two children).|
Spring/summer opening times
Monday March 26 2018 onwards
Open every day 10am-5pm (last admission at 4.15pm).
|Concession||£4.50 (those aged 65 and over or students with a valid student card).|
|Family||£15.00 (two adults and two children).|
Young Archaeologist Club members go free when accompanied by a paying adult.
Season tickets start from £12.
There are often events organised at Castell Henllys, expecially during the school holidays. Keep up to date with events here.
Read about our previous Visit to Castell Henllys here. It’s such an organic resource that ignites the imagination rather than being too over stimulating.
We love Castell Henllys and always have fun there. Have you visited Castell Henllys- what did you think?