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Castell Coch

Visited May 2013

Location Tongwynglais, Glamorgan
Entrance Fee Yes- check website for details
Railway Station Nearby Yes-Taffs Well
Parking Yes
Facilities Tearoom, Shop, Toilets
Map

 

Castell Coch (or Red Castle in English) is a typical example of a fairy tale castle, complete with conical roofed towers which would please even the most discerning princess. Built high up on a wooded hillside, it was intended to be used as a summer residence for the wealthy Lord Bute, who bankrolled the creation of both this Victorian folly and the restoration of nearby Cardiff Castle, his main residence.

 


 

 


Review

 

Although the castle as we see it today is a Victorian fantasy , it is built on the foundations of a genuine medieval castle. Probably built by the de Clare family, it had fallen into disrepair and was a crumbling ruin when Lord Bute decided to use it to create his idea of a medieval castle. He enlisted the services of architect William Burges, and together they set about reconstructing  the ruin in the style of a European chateau. Burges incorporated what was left of the original castle into his plans- you can still see the difference in the stonework where the old castle walls give way to the new build on top. The conical roofs on the towers where controversial, as there were not many genuine examples of medieval castles with similar roofs in Wales to use as a precedent, but Burges argued that as no one could prove what the original roofs looked liked then his guess was as good as any.

 

 


 

 


 

The castle as we see it today is remarkably well preserved- it still has a working drawbridge and portcullis operated from the winch room. The gatehouse also has murder holes, in keeping with its medieval origins, although Lord Bute did add a door bell for his modern-day visitors . The castle was built around an internal courtyard constructed from the original curtain wall, and above it is a timber wall walk which gives views of the turrets. The well tower, which as the name suggests was constructed over the castle's well, also has a wall walk at the very top . This tower also contains a display of stained glass panels which were once part of the now-demolished chapel of the castle.

 


 

 

 


 

The combination of Lord Bute's money and Burges' creativity really becomes apparent once you step inside the interior of the castle. The fabulously painted ceilings and the rich décor showcase Burges' eccentric ideas on how a medieval castle should have looked. The drawing room is certainly the showpiece of the reception rooms, depicting scenes from Greek mythology and Aesop's fables. At the very top of the keep tower is Lady Bute's bedroom, with a heavily decorated vaulted ceiling, this sumptuous chamber is certainly worth the climb up the winding stairs. Ironically, Burges died before the interior of the castle was completed, so his team carried on the work based on his detailed drawings and plans. Once it was completed the Bute family never really stayed at the castle for long, and it was passed in the care of the state in 1950.

 

A visit to this castle is very pleasant, the surrounding woodland is perfect for walking, although we were told that it is often shrouded in mist and fog in the winter. This clearly did not put of the makers of 'Doctor Who'  who filmed at the castle in March 2008 & again in January 2010. Some episodes of 'Tracy Beaker' were also apparently filmed here, but the less said about that the better in my opinion.

 

All the usual facilities are on site- toilets, souvenir shop and a lovely, cosy café. There is also a dedicated children's room with a 3D model of the castle to take apart and re-build, paper and crayons and various other activities. (the 3D castle was surprisingly difficult to put back together)

 

NB- on the spelling of Castell- that is the Welsh spelling, not a mistake (as Dad first thought).

 

 

 


 

More info:  CADW Castell Coch

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