Ruinous for centuries: An adventurous journey through nature, history and legends

Bojan Ivanov
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Although Ewloe Castle has been ruinous for centuries, it still has many captivating stories to tell. Any imaginative visitor can easily picture the castle’s layout and visualize the turbulent events that happened in the area in the distant past.

This hidden pearl is placed within Wepre Park, near the village of Ewloe in Flintshire, northeastern Wales. The atmospheric ruins are nestled on a hilltop above two small brooks in charming surroundings; they remain well-camouflaged and hidden away amongst the dense forest. The site is free to enter and provides many great photographic opportunities.

The east wing of Ewloe Castle/ Author: Peter Craine – CC BY-SA 2.0

When approaching the ruins from the car park, one can enjoy a magical 10-to-15-minute walk on a woodland footpath. Apart from the main Wepre trail, there are also several other routes through the woods on unpaved dirt paths.

Although the castle is fairly modest in size, its surroundings make the site well worth a visit. On its far side is an enclosed modern stairway that leads right up to the top of the east wing of one of the towers. This vantage point offers magnificent views of the woods, accompanied by the babbling brooks and other natural sounds.

It is believed that the castle was built in the 13th century/ Author: JThomas – CC BY-SA 2.0

The historical details of the birth of the castle remain a mystery. There is a generally accepted opinion that it was built by the Welsh.

A large number of well-known castles in northern Wales were erected by the English King Edward I, but Ewloe Castle is a fine example of a typical Welsh castle, with a characteristic D-shaped tower known as the “Welsh keep.”

It was a typical Welsh castle/ Author: Pjposullivan – CC BY-SA 4.0

The castle was erected by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (the last Prince of Wales) in 1257, but by the end of the 13th century, it was already in a ruinous state.

The remote location was most probably chosen because of its closeness to the waterways and the River Dee – situated only a mile away – as well because of its close proximity to the Wales-England border. The location was also ideal for guerrilla warfare against the English.

The castle was abandoned at the end of the 13th century/ Author: Rept0n1x – CC BY-SA 2.0

In 1157, the nearby Ewloe woods witnessed the Battle of Ewloe. During the battle, the English monarch Henry II was lucky and closely escaped death; however, he could not escape humiliation. He and his many troops were ambushed in the dense forest by 200 Welshmen led by the king of north Wales, Owain Gwynedd.

This action stopped the movement of the English army and they were forced to change the route of their campaign, which planned to enforce English dominion over Wales. Instead of this being the case, Owain and Henry II signed peace. Henry tried to invade Wales again in 1165 but, at Berwyn Hills, his army was stopped by bad weather.

There are still debates among historians about whether or not an earlier earthwork fortification existed on the site of Ewloe Castle or somewhere nearby. These doubts have arisen because the terrain would make it very difficult to construct such a structure here.

Parts of its interior/ Author: Rept0n1x – CC BY-SA 2.0

Ewloe Castle was captured by the English king Edward I in 1277 during the Invasion of Wales, but the English never used it for military purposes and it soon fell into a decline. The nearby, newly-built Rhuddlan and Flint castles were much preferred at the time because they were logistically more suitable and could be more easily supplied by sea.

Throughout the years, parts of the stones and other useful materials were taken away from Ewloe Castle and used for the construction of other buildings in the region.

The castle is part of the Wepre Park/ Author: Peter Craine – CC BY-SA 2.0

The ruins of the castle and its surroundings are connected with a couple of local spine-chilling legends. One of the legends tells that the site is haunted by the ghosts of marching men and another says that the surrounding woodland area of approximately 160 acres between Connah’s Quay and Ewloe is the wandering place of Nora the Nun.

A view from inside/ Author: Rept0n1x – CC BY-SA 2.0

This shadowy female figure is reported to have been seen several times in the Wepre woods in the last century. Some paranormal investigators believe that the ghost is Gwenllian, the only child of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and therefore the last Princess of Wales.

After the execution of her father and the death of her mother, who died during her birth, the young princess was at the mercy of Edward I. He held her captivate as a nun for her entire life in a priory in Lincolnshire.

The Welsh castles were not built to withstand a siege, but to be well camouflaged for guerrilla warfare/ Author: Eirian Evans – CC BY-SA 2.0

She was not only the daughter of the Prince of Wales, but King John of England was her mother’s great-grandfather. As she was a woman of two royal bloodlines, Edward I wanted to hide her from the world to avoid the possibility of her becoming a symbol of rebellion.

He also wanted to make sure she would never marry and thus ensure that there would not be any potential heirs to the Welsh rule. Although she neither died or was born in the area, paranormal investigators assume that the emotional connection would be enough for a disturbed spirit to appear at a certain location.

Gwenllian has never truly met her father; maybe her spirit still tries to find and to connect with her father’s spirit.