POWYS is known for its peace and tranquility today.

However remnants of its bloody past can still be found across the countryside.

Wales is known as the land of castles and today the legacy of war with Anglo Saxons and Normans – as well as centuries of civil war – is never far away.

However such was the destruction wrought during the Middle Ages that very little remains of some.

One such place is Carreghofa where only traces of earthwork survive of a castle which endured a short but turbulent existence.

It was built in 1101 and stood for just over a century before its demise in 1226.

The name of the castle offers a suggestion why the castle stood so briefly.

Carreghofa, or ‘Stone of Offa’ was named for its location between Blodwell Rock and the river Tanat and just yards away from Offa’s Dyke, the much fought over border between the Welsh and Mercians.

Though it had been the Normans who built Carreghofa.

William the Conqueror gave the district to Roger De Montgomery and Alan Fitzalan to rule and the barons set about building fortresses to assert their rights and defend against Welsh tribes.

Not all the barons had been loyal to the new king, Henry I.

Robert de Belesme, Earl of Shrewsbury, allied with Welsh princes and rebelled in 1101 and built Carreghofa and Bridgnorth castles only to be betrayed by his allies and forced into exile.

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A country lane in Carregofa. Picture by Richard Law/Geograph.

The Welsh claimed the castle in 1163 when Owain Gwynedd allied with Owain Cyfeiliog of Powys and his cousin Owain Fychan but two years later King Henry II camped in Oswestry as his forces reclaimed the castle.

The Powys princes allied with King Henry II though had shared the same lust for power.

Owain Fychan was permitted to retain Carreghofa Castle for the next 30 years and Owain Cyfeiliog had called upon the aid of the king to reclaim Caereinion from the Princes of North and South Wales who had united in their hatred of the Powys princes for their alliance with the English king.

However resentment also grew between the cousins.

In 1187, Gwewynwyn, prince and son of Owain Cyfeiliog, joined his half brother Cadwallon ap Owen in a night raid on Carreghofa and killed their father’s cousin and now rival, Owain Fychan.

Gwenwynwyn’s loyalty was rewarded with possession of Powis Castle in Welshpool after it fell to Hubert, the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1195 and two years later the Prince of Powys took up residence.

Gwenwynwyn had also been an ally of Maelgwyn, the disinherited heir to the throne of South Wales and captured his rival Rhys ap Gruffydd after a bloody battle in Aberystwyth.

Gwenwynwyn handed ap Gruffydd to the hands of the English in exchange for Carreghofa Castle.

Gwenwynwyn inherited these lands and allegiances in 1197 upon the death of his father with the castle used as a base for silver mining in the area which had seen King Richard I visit and a stone wall built around the castle to improve its defences.

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The trail near the site of Carregofa Castle. Picture by John Haynes/Geograph.

The Wolf of Plinlimon and Torch of Pengwern expanded his authority, claiming the lands of Arwystli by force of arms and by 1202 he had forged an alliance with Llewelyn ap Iorweth, Prince of North Wales.

Gwenwynwyn was jailed in Shrewsbury for attacks on Marcher lordships and by 1208 had lost much of his lands which had either been confiscated by the crown or seized by his former ally, Llewelyn ap Iorweth whose marriage to Joan, an illegitimate daughter of King John, had briefly brought peace.

In 1210 a falling out between Llewelyn and King John saw Gwenwynwyn restored to power in Powys.

However by now the Welsh princes had come to be united in their resentment toward the English king and in 1212 Gwenwynwyn allied with Llewelyn once again.

Carreghofa Castle was claimed by Robert de Vipont after the Welsh lost a battle near the castle in that same year with the English also seizing Mathrafal in Meifod - Gwenwynwyn’s ancestral home.

Llewelyn and Gwenwynwyn laid siege to Mathrafal with the English forces rescued by King John himself as the ancient seat of the ruling home of Powys was destroyed.

Gwenwynwyn and Llywelyn fell out soon after and the Prince of Powys died in exile in 1216.

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The remains of Mathrafal Castle in Meifod. Picture by Jeremy Bolwell/Geograph.

Llywelyn destroyed Carreghofa during his campaign across Powys and the Marches in 1226 when Brecon, Oswestry, Clun and Powis Castle were also laid to waste.

The castle and its bloody history disappeared under the earth until 1871 when workmen digging a drain struck through the roof of a vault and further excavation led to the discovery of the remains of a horse and a man.