An old legend tells about a castle on a hill that once belonged to a Samogitian king. Years ago, the Swedish army decided to lay a siege upon the castle. However, the Russians were also interested in the treasures that were hidden behind the castle walls. The armies fought against one another at the foot of the hill. Standing high in the tower of his castle and watching the ongoing battle, the Samogitian commander called out to his warriors, “Look, there is war over there!” (Lith. “Veizėkiet, karė tenā!”). Ever since then, the location has been known as Kartena.
The name of Kartena (Cartine) was first mentioned in old written documents back in 1253. The wooden Kartena Castle is believed to have been built on a hillfort described in the previously told legend sometime between the 8th and the 10th century. Kartena Hillfort is well protected by natural obstacles, such as the Minija River Valley and deep pits. The fortifications of the hillfort show that Kartena was an important defensive and administrative center for the local people back in the 8th and 9th century, who resided in these historic lands of Ceklis belonging to the Curonians (Samogitians came here only later). The Kartena Castle withstood many sieges and enemy attacks until it was presumably burned down by the Teutonic Order in 1263.
Kartena Hillfort is protected as an object of national significance and is sometimes also called by other names, such as Pilis (Castle) Hill, Švedai (Swedish) Hill or Lūžtis (Breakpoint) Hill. The historical and archeological complex includes the hillfort, the village, the mythological stone named Laumės Kūlis (Stone of the Fae) with an imprint of a cow’s hoof (or, mayhap, the devil’s himself) and the nearby Kartena Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes that is famous for its spring of healing water. People believe that the Grotto was built in the former place of pagan rites and religious ceremonies.
Kartena Hillfort and its surroundings were renovated and adapted for tourism by the initiative of Salantai Regional Park using the financial aid from the EU funds during 2012–2013.