Castle of Dreams – Week Five

Hello again, and welcome back to my series Castle of Dreams.

My own Kenilworth Castle, the home of my magical world within worlds, and Leah’s refuge, is looking wonderful in this wintery weather.  Seeing it in the several inches of snow we’ve had,  it looks incredibly peaceful  – but it can also be a dark, gloomy place, especially during a thunderstorm.

In an attempt to highlight the beauty and drama of castles, I have asked fellow authors to submit pieces to this series – we’ve already heard from Paul Freeman, Katrina Anne Jack, AFE Smith, and Lindsey Parsons, all with very different views on castles from very different perspectives.

This week we have Will Macmillan Jones, author of the Banned Underground series, writing from his snowbound home where I believe today there is over a foot of snow!

Will Macmillan Jones live in Wales, a lovely green, verdant land with a rich cultural heritage.  He does his best to support this heritage by drinking the local beer and shouting loud encouragement whenever International Rugby is on the TV.  A fifty something lover of blues, rock and jazz he has just fulfilled a lifetime ambition by filling an entire wall of his home office with (full) bookcases.

 

Castles of Dreams

 

 Castles have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. My father had just finished a history degree before WW2 broke out, and so every holiday we ever took at some point included a trip to a castle.

 

 I’ve stood on ruinous Tintagel’s ramparts, looking down at the angry seas below and imagined Ygraine waiting for her lover, Uther, whilst the wind flecked her hair with salt spray.  I’ve scaled the heights of MaidenCastle, and marvelled at the sheer determination of Vespasian’s troops to assault such a strong place against desperate men fighting for their homes and their liberty. 

 

 I’ve visited stately Warwick Castle, now more a genteel home and museum rather than a place for fighting men to lay their heads, and seen The Tower of London: still imbued with the grim aura of its time as a place of power, pain and execution. My close friend was married in a ceremony at Castell Coch, a Folly whose ability to withstand a siege by three men and a dog would be non existent, yet whose romantic allure is self evident.

 

 This story is both still more romantic than Castell Coch, and yet tinged with a very Celtic sadness.  Close to where I now live lies Dryslwyn Castle.  It’s almost perfect.  Driving to the castle you leave an ancient pathway beside the river Tywi (now a ‘B’ class road) drive along a narrow lane across the remains of a railway line -a victim of that rabid destroyer of the railways, Doctor Beeching whose very name should be cursed for all eternity- and there opens before you an idyll.  A wide, river mead stretching from the forested rise at Dynefor to the East, and reaching the drowsing, ancient and myth haunted town of Caermyrddyn to the West.  Beyond the fields the ground rises to meet the Roman Road to their garrison at Moridunum.  And immediately before your gaze, growing from the banks of the wide but gentle river, there rises a lone hill crowned with the ruins of the castle.

 

 Dryslwyn is a rarity amongst castles.  Most were built by the all-conquering Norman barons, or by King Edward and his successors to help hold the lands they had seized by force.  Dryslwyn was built by Welsh lords, to protect the lands and the peoples they and their ancestors had ruled from earlier times.  Not a fortress built to intimidate, to overawe and control, but to welcome and serve and protect.  Standing in the remains of the gatehouse, even an aging unfit guy (like me!) could throw a tennis ball across the whole length of the castle wards, and out across the hillside to roll down to the river.

 

 Of course ultimately the fortress was put to the test, and a few hundred welsh archers and villagers failed to defend their strong place against a force 11000 strong, raised by the English Senechal of Carmarthen and collected together from as far away as Chester and the Marches.  Stormed, slighted, dismantled, the castle drifted from history.

 

 Go there now on a summer day and you can take your ease on the green slopes cropped close by the friendly sheep.  Sit where countless other poets, writers and dreamers have paused, and feast your eyes on the crystal blue waters of the river Tywi as they drift past on their way from the hills to the waters of Carmarthenshire Bay.  Feel the strong sense of ancient purpose still lingering, drifting like the rooks who nest in the hills across the river.  Warmth, kindliness and succour to a weary traveller survive in the very bones of this hill, and the ancient stones are generous in their welcome.  No haughty reception here from frowning barbican, no warlike aura persists to awe and chill.  Just the gentle sounds of the sheep grazing as they did on these same slopes a thousand years ago reflect the real history of these lands of ours, of which we are such a little part.

 

 Dryslwyn dreams in the sunshine

 

Thank you Will, that was inspiring.  I went to University at the then University of Wales, Aberystwyth, (now independent from the U of W) and this piece has made me a little nostalgic for the wonderful mountains and scenery…

 

To find out more about Will and his writing, see the links below.

His major comic fantasy series, released by Safkhet Publishing, can be found at:

www.thebannedunderground.com

 

and information on his other work and stuff in general at :

http://www.willmacmillanjones.weebly.com

www.thebannedunderground.com

 

and information on his other work and stuff in general at :

http://www.willmacmillanjones.weebly.com

Next week I am hoping, timescales permitting, to feature a piece from a friend and fellow author from “across the pond”. 

What other authors/castles would you like to see featured?  Comments below, and I may even ask you to write your own guest piece!

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5 Comments

  1. What a poetic little soul! Who would have known that THAT was lurking beneath that wonderfully anarchic wit?! A truly lovey piece.

    Tintagel for me is a very special place. Visited it a lot as a kid and later as a teenager and celtic loving loner. Magical ruins, Merlin’s Cave, perilous falls and nothing but blue…a wonderful place.

    Will have to check out Will’s Dryslwyn Castle and the beautiful Carmarthenshire countryside. 😀

    Reply
  2. Emily Jackson

     /  January 19, 2013

    Wills words are inspiring indeed …. I haven’t visited Wales for a few years but they have made me want to return at the first opportunity!
    A book that I love and return to occasionally Lady of Hay which evokes the mystery and myth of Welsh legends and Castles. It is based loosely on a real life ladyvMatilda de Braose who ended her days at Corfe Castle. Now thats one I’d like to see featured Andrea!! …. as the first glance you ever have is awe inspiring!
    I too have a passion for castles and have instilled this in my eight and six year old … A Castle usually features somewhere in our holidays too!
    Kenilworth where Andrea has set Leah’s wonderful story is on our doorstep and the mystery is something that inspires my children and I hope it passes to future generations …. I can happily lose a day in an historical novel!
    Thank you to Andrea, Will and all the other authors who entwine their stories in castles, myth and mystery and who evoke such passion ….. Keep imagining xxx

    Reply
  3. Reblogged this on willmacmillanjones and commented:
    Andrea kindly invited me onto her Castle of Dreams blog. My castle of dreams is here.

    Reply
  4. Very nice article, totally what I was looking for.

    Reply
  1. Castle of Dreams – Week Five « willmacmillanjones

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