This is a tale based upon actual folklore.

It is set within the walls of St Donats Castle in Glamorgan, Wales, during the 16th century.

All the places mentioned within this tale exist.

Most of its characters existed, although they have been fictionalised for the purposes of the story.

It is up to the reader to decide for themselves how much of the following they believe to be accurate and how much they believe to be fiction.


The year was 1565. Anne stood in her parlour in the tower and gazed vacantly across the hanging gardens to the sea. A young maid entered.

"Dinner is being served, M'lady," she announced.

"Thank you, Ellen," replied Anne.

Dinner was nearly always a mundane affair. She and her husband would sit at opposite ends of the long, oak table in the banquet hall and engage in the same monotonously predictable conversation.

"How has your day been, Anne?"

"Very pleasant, My Lord," was always her reply.

But Anne would every evening return to her parlour at the top of the south tower of the castle and would stare out onto the sea. She imagined the vast amount of fish swimming freely beneath the countless waves and longed to be among them, to be as free as them.

She was lonely; desperately lonely after having been married to Lord Edward Stradling and living in St Donats Castle for over two years. She would spend her days either in her parlour or traipsing the extensive gardens and grounds. She had no company, as her husband was involved frequently in trade, and was often away for days at a time. She did not particularly care for his inane chatter and dull countenance anyhow. She felt the ache of solitude and isolation that came with a loveless marriage to a wealthy gentleman.

Anne had been a quiet girl living a quiet life in Firle, Southern England. That was until her father, Sir Edward Gage, agreed to a betrothal to a wealthy Lord in Wales. She had never met him; he was more than twice her age; and she would have to leave her beloved family home that she had known since birth, to join him in his home, a Castle in Glamorganshire.

So, at the age of eighteen, Anne had left England for the uncertainties of Wales, to begin her new life as Lady Edward Stradling of St Donats Castle. She had been overtly concerned that he would be unkind to her, the sort of vile husband that every girl her age would dread becoming attached to. But she was surprised at how agreeable and sympathetic Lord Edward had been upon her arrival. He was not particularly handsome, nor did he have any talents of any sort; but he doted upon his new bride and made every effort to ensure that she felt comfortable in her new home.

Anne was pleasantly surprised at how agreeable St Donats Castle had transpired to be. She had expected a grey, drab, dreary place; much as all the castles she had previously visited had been. But St Donats was different. It was situated directly by the sea on the Glamorganshire coast, overlooking the channel towards Devon and Cornwall. It was bright and pleasant, with extensive gardens and fabulous views. Anne had never known such beauty in a place and couldn't help but feel privileged to have fallen upon the fortune of living there.

Lord Edward bought her gifts frequently and took her to every important engagement he attended, no doubt to parade his stunningly beautiful bride amongst his envious male acquaintances. Anne could not help assume that he was more in love with the effect she had upon his social life than he was with her herself. She wept quietly into her pillow at night often, careful that she never awoke her husband while doing so.

Ellen, the maid, would sometimes act as a confidante of sorts, and would listen to Anne in her parlour as she confessed her melancholy and discontent.

"M'Lady, you should try to see the good that has come from your marriage to Lord Stradling. He is a good, honest man, and he treats you well, M'Lady. That's more that can be said for many gentlemen that young ladies of a similar situation marry nowadays...I hope that's not too bold, me saying so, M'Lady."

"Not at all, Ellen," replied Anne, always glad of a sympathetic ear.


That night, Anne awoke in their bed to find her husband absent from her side. This had happened fairly frequently in recent months and Anne had on occasion arisen to search for him, merely out of curiosity. She would search the castle grounds and had even climbed the tower to peer out over the gardens from her window in an attempt to spot him. But she had never happened upon him. But tonight, from their bedroom window, she saw a lantern light disappear around the corner in the quadrangle below. It headed in the direction of the south tower and the banquet hall, so Anne hurriedly put on her dress, lit a lantern of her own and decided to follow.

She rushed out onto the quadrangle and extinguished her lantern before reaching the outer castle walls, so as not to be seen by the castle guards on the rooftops. She entered through the side door into the tower and quickly ascended the spiral stairway to her parlour. At first, all she saw was darkness, but then the light appeared once more, moving at a steady pace downhill through the gardens and through the sea gate onto the beach. The light disappeared.

Anne remained at the tower window looking out in the direction of the beach for almost two hours, before the faint glimmer of the lantern reappeared and gradually neared the castle, ascending the stone steps that connected each section of the hanging gardens. As it reached the rose garden just below the tower, Anne quickly rushed down the spiral staircases, out onto the outer perimeters of the castle walls again and hurried back to her room. It wasn't long before her husband returned; making a great effort to mask the sound of his boots against the stone floor. Anne lay still in their bed, her face turned towards the opposite side of the room, attempting to give the impression she was sleeping. She felt him slowly slip into bed beside her and listened to his breathing slowing as he drifted to sleep.


The following morning, Anne watched her husband at the opposite end of the table during breakfast. As he gently plucked grapes from a rich bowl of fruit in front of him, she surveyed him intently, wondering with inquisitive interest what he had been doing the previous night; disappearing beyond the sea walls at such an ungodly hour with a lantern. With a boldness that very rarely captured her, she decided to broach the subject.


Stradling lifted his head immediately, pleased she had liberally used his Christian name, which she had seldom done since their marriage.

"Had you forgotten something at the beach when you went down there last night?"

His smile dimmed a shade. "Last night?"

" left our bed last night, and two hours had passed before you returned."

He looked at her for a moment, before letting out a slight laugh. He reached over and tapped her hand playfully.

"You're far more astute than I give you credit for, my dear. It was trade. I met a trader."

"A trader...during the night?"

"Yes, that's right."

Lord Stradling had intended that point to have been the end of the conversation, but on seeing his wife still observing him expectantly, he put down his fork and continued.

"Sometimes traders cannot deliver during the day...for various they arrange to meet me at night instead."

"What do they sell you, the traders that deliver on the shore? It's rather unusual isn't it?"

Stradling let out an uncomfortable laugh.

"My dear, please. So many questions so early in the morning are ever so undesirable. Let us continue with our meal."

He sent for more meat to be brought to the table and changed the topic of conversation to something dull and inconsequential. Anne smiled pleasantly and expressed amusement dutifully, but she was inwardly irked by his evasiveness. She desperately yearned to know what he had been doing.