Roch Castle

Pembrokeshire: Land of Legends

Roch Castle, built by Norman knight Adam de Rupe, has historic royal connections. Nowadays, with its panoramic views over St Brides Bay, it is let out for holidays and retreats.

Adam and the Snake

Adam de la Roche was a rich and powerful ruler who governed the land around Roch. He built Roch Castle, high on a rocky crag, with spectacular views over St Brides Bay.


Here he thought he would be safe if ever those unruly Welsh should think of attacking him. But it was not the unruly Welsh that Adam de la Roche should have feared. For there was an old woman, known to be a witch, who lived nearby and she was none too pleased with Adam.

One winter’s day he really upset her. In return, she cursed him. “Mark my words, Adam de la Roche,” she hissed. “There is a curse upon you, and before a year passes, you will die from the bite of an adder!”

Adam laughed and sent her packing. But her words had fixed themselves in his mind, and, since adders were quite common in the dry places round the castle keep, he became more and more worried that the prophecy might come to pass.

Soon he was so affected by the curse that he shut himself away in the topmost room of the castle tower, refusing to come down even when the weather was so bad that there would be no chance at all of him encountering an adder. All his food and clothing and firewood had to be brought up to him by his servants.

And so he lived the life of a recluse. Spring passed, then the summer and the autumn. Gradually he began to relax. Yet even after Christmas when the castle was buffeted by winter storms, he refused to come down from the tower.

Then, with just one day to go to the end of the curse, Adam declared that the witch was just a silly old woman who enjoyed frightening people. It was a bitterly cold evening, and as the light faded he ordered his old servant woman to bring up to his tower room a bundle of logs and kindling from the wood store below so that he could keep a good blaze going in his hearth overnight.

This the old woman did, and after stoking up the fire Adam moved his bed into its warm glow. In high spirits, he enjoyed a goblet of wine. Then he settled down and went to sleep.

But unknown to both the old servant and her master, an adder had chosen to hibernate in the bundles of sticks in the wood store, and it had been carried up into his room among the sticks the old woman had brought.

As the warmth of the fire spread into the room, the adder woke from its hibernation. And when the servants came up to Adamʼs room next morning, they found their master dead and cold in his bed, poisoned by the bite of an adder just as the old witch had foretold.

Credit – Brian John