An Englishman's holiday home is his Welsh castle
We couldn't stop giggling excitedly when we first arrived at Roch Castle. We were behaving just like kids let loose in a sweet shop.
Here we were with the keys to our very own castle. It could have been straight out of the pages of an Enid Blyton Famous Five adventure. Except there were just three of us, my wife, my oldest grandson and me.
You could see the castle for miles around. It's a dominant feature on the skyline along the Pembrokeshire coastline heading towards the ultra mini-city of St David's.
A quick push of the 21st century entrance intercom and the armorial iron gates of this 13th century home swung open and we swept up the drive to park beneath its battlements.
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Up the grand stone steps to the main entrance where the huge doors then swung open and we were greeted by Julie, the castle's local custodian.
It's quite a place on all fronts. Built between 1195 and 1210 by a Norman conqueror, one Adam de Rupe, it once formed part of a line of similar defences castles built to protect what was once known as "little England beyond Wales".
But the castle's latest guise owes its existence to the purchase and restoration, at considerable cost, by the Retreats Group to be used as exclusive holiday and wedding accommodation. And I can tell you it certainly succeeds on the holiday front.
Julie showed us around. There was a lot to see, winding turret staircases leading to various bedrooms, along with intriguing nooks and crannies such as a small gym and snug reading hideaways.
Our sizeable en-suite bedrooms were down more of those ancient castle steps from the grand entrance hall. But don't worry, inside these super-thick walls everything is honed to 21st century perfection and opulence.
Roch simply oozes quality from its bath taps to the built-in coffee machine in one of the two kitchens. The latter even excused itself in my presence for a minute or two, explaining it was "just de-scaling".
Inside or out Roch Castle makes for an astonishing place to stay. It stands on a rock solid foundation that's actually a huge bolt of volcanic stone.
In the entrance hall you can swing back a folding wall to reveal the lava stone which is built into one side of its walls. Astonishing.
But don't think this is a cold, unwelcoming place. Far from it. It has a really comfy, cosy feel, helped by a superb lounge, dining room and a stunning, yet discreet, roof terrace room which was my personal favourite.
The castle, as you'd expect, holds centre stage within the tiny adjacent village of Roch. From the parapets or the discreetly designed sun room, you can view the Prescelli Hills in one direction, towards Cardiganshire in the other, and out across Newgale beach to the open sea and some spectacular sunsets.
We loved it. And best of all we loved returning to it after a foray into the surrounding area. For on almost every occasion, someone was taking holiday snapshots of it, such is its iconic presence.
Around and about there's an abundance of things to do.
Newgale is all surfers and VW camper vans, with a great beach lurking beyond a stunning bank of shingle adjacent to the road.
Roch is roughly midway between the county town of Haverfordwest and the UK's smallest city, St David's.
While in between Roch and St David's lies Solva, squeezed into a cleft in the hills and cliffs running down to the sea. It's a great place to dawdle, especially at low tide when you can walk along the estuary sands.
A great place to eat, too.
But we chose the village pub in Roch one night and St David's on another occasion. We'd visited during the day to take in the beautifully set cathedral and ruined monastery which adjoins – and a walk through the town. Cwtch was our nighttime choice.
We headed for the beach, of course.
But be warned, Newgale is busy and the car park there fills up very quickly.
Thwarted in our plans we headed back along the road a bit to Broad Haven (the Haverfordwest route there is best by the way, the other involves lots of stopping, starting and squeezing by in country lanes).
This is a full blown thriving seaside village with a sizeable and decent beach, very generous car parking close by, pubs, cafés and ice cream.
But to be honest, although this area is a truly great part of the British coastline, we just couldn't wait to get back to our very own castle. It really is a special place and ideal for a truly special event or anniversary celebration, and, of course, weddings.
So, an Englishman's holiday home, as they say, really can be his castle. Even when it's in Wales!
FACT FILE Tim stayed at Roch Castle, Roch, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, SA62 6AQ. Exclusive use for up to 12 people costs from £4,000 per week and short-breaks from £2,800 (Friday-Monday and Monday-Friday). All rates include breakfast and daily maid service.
More details at www.retreatsgroup. com or call Julie Rogers on 07896 330869.