Did you know at one time Wales had 600 castles and 100 are still standing? While most are only ruins, there’s a surprising number that are still in remarkable shape. Three are in Cardiff: Cardiff Castle, Castle Coch and Caerphilly Castle, well Caerphilly is in the town of Caerphilly, but it’s a short drive.
Located right in the heart of the capital, making it easy to see other sites within the city center.
Cardiff Castle has been built upon ruins from fortresses of the past, dating back 2000 years. The Romans (emperor Nero’s reign started it off), The Normans and a handful of men with nobility titles (passed down through marriage) have been owners of this prime real estate that is near River Taff and the Bristol Channel.
I’ve been in this castle twice. My first visit I was behind the camera and wasn’t able to take in everything the tour guide was saying. I walked away with my shots, but didn’t retain much told me. So the second time, I listened and kept all devices in my bag. I’m glad I did, the stories behind this, like all castles, has a remarkable history.
Pay for the guided tour. It’s only a bit more and well worth seeing rooms that are not open without a guide: the smoking room, dining hall, the nursery, lord Butes bedroom and the roof terrace garden.
During WWII more than 1800 city residents could take shelter in the tunnels within the castle walls during air-raids.
The Keep was originally made out of wood, constructed by the Normans in the 11th century. This building structure is known as a “shell” keep, because its outer walls provided shelter for buildings within. Today the wooden structures are long gone, but you can see square cut-outs in the circular rock wall where wooden beams once were; and what was possibly a fireplace.
Due to having an outer wall built to keep invaders out and that one time there had been a motte; this property classifies as being a castle. With the transformations that the Bute family made in the 19th century, it should be, in my opinion, considered a palace. Either way, it’s a dazzling estate and should not be missed on your visit to Wales.
Who owns Cardiff Castle now? Well, my friend does. Oh and all the other Cardiff residents. It was given as a gift to the city by the 5th Marquess of Bute.
One of my favorite castles that I’ve been to (so far that number is 9) is the 19th-century Gothic Revival Castle Coch. This luxurious romantic castle was built upon the remains of a 13th-century castle by the 3rd Marque of Bute (owner of Cardiff Castle) in 1870. It’s not that big, but it’s in perfect shape inside and out. If you are fans of the TV show Merlin, you will recognize it. Other shows such as Dr Who, The Worst Witch and Tracy Beaker have also been filmed here.
Take your time in each room, they deserve your admiration. It really irritated me when I was in a room for 20-minutes admiring the special touches and other people would literally walk in, gaze around then leave. Poof, gone in fifteen-seconds. How can you take in what you came to see in fifteen-seconds! Granted, you might not want to spend twenty-minutes, but give your brain enough time to register what’s in the room.
Following the fairytale theme of the nursery at Cardiff Castle, the drawing rooms murals were inspired by Aesop. It’s a splendid room, but the one to marvel over is Lady Butes bedroom.
Butterflies and mischievous monkeys painted upon tiles, certain ones were removed when being built though due to being a little to risqué. A gorgeous chandler hangs in the middle, above a bed complete with crystal balls. Along the east wall, the wash basin’s handcrafted dragon faucet and fish painted in the sink will have you wishing for one of your own. You can easily envision Lady Bute enjoying this room.
In reality, the Butes only came here six times and that was to entertain.
To complete your day, meander the woodland trails and discover wood carvings. The trails are easy to walk and range from forty-five minutes to an hour and a half.
Caerphilly is the second largest intact castles in the United Kingdom and definitely a fun one to visit. Entering from the drawbridge you come face-to-face with a dragon emerging from the ground. It’s a great photo prop for kids of all ages.
As part of his campaign to conquer Glamorgan, Wales, Gilbert de Clare had this castle constructed in the 13th century with a lake and not just one motte, but two. Inside the castle walls there was also more drawbridges.
The leaning tower of Pisa gets a lot of attention for its slant, well, the tower here at Caerphilly Castle leans more than 10 degrees, sorry Pisa, your 3.99 degrees loses (before restoration this towers lean was 5.5). The towers damage was caused by the 17th century battle between Oliver Cromwell and king Charles I. To make this site even more fun, a knight statue is posed as holding up the tower, but is only for appearance. His hands do not touch the tower.
Visiting this castle will take a few hours, pack a picnic lunch and enjoy your meal while sitting in the courtyard.
While you do have to use your imagination some, unlike with Castle Coch, Caerphilly ranks in my top 5, simply because of it’s “coolness.”
In the late 15th century the castle started to decline. The lakes had been drained and the walls robbed of their rock. In 1776 the Marquess of Bute acquired the property and begun restoration.
Here’s my video