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Chirk Castle

Visited August 2018

Location Chirk, Wrexham, Wales
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby Chirk, 1 1/2 miles
Parking  Yes
Facilities Cafe, Gift shop, Toilets


Chirk Castle stands close to the border with England in the area that was once a battle ground between the two kingdoms. It was built in the 13th century, as part of a group of castles built in the reign of Edward I. King Edward was known as 'Hammer of the Scots' and but before he began hammering north of the border he had successfully brought the Welsh under his control, building many castles which created bases of Norman power throughout the country.






Chirk was one of these castles, and it was built on land given to Roger Mortimer as he was captain of the English army at the time of the Welsh conquest. He later fell foul of Edward II and was executed and the castle passed to the Earl of Arundel, Richard Fitzalan. He was also beheaded, on the orders of Richard II. In fact five of the castle's owners were beheaded for some misdemeanour or the other, so it would seem to have been an unlucky castle from that point of view. 


In 1595 the Myddelton family took ownership, and the castle remained the family's home for the next 400 years. The North range was built by the first Myddleton of Chirk, the next generation had the castle confiscated  during the Civil War and got it back in a ruined state. Eventually it was repaired and re-occupied, and is still lived in by the Myddletons- the only one of Edward I's castles to still be inhabited today.





The castle was originally built as a rectangle with towers in each corner. For some reason the towers were not built to their full height, and so they are no taller than the walls which link them, making the castle seem disproportionately stocky in stature. There is also no moat or outer curtain wall at Chirk, in comparison to many of Edward I's other castles. However it has five metre thick walls, a double portcullis and murder holes so its capacity to withstand an attack should not be underestimated. On the day we visited there was an archer up on one of the towers pointing his arrow at us as we approached, and even though he was part of a history event at the castle he still seemed pretty menacing to me, and I was glad when we moved away from his line of fire!


The castle gets very busy in the summer months, and so there are queues and tailbacks to visit the interior of the castle, especially  Adam's Tower which is open to climb. The most sumptuous rooms are those in the North range, including the saloon, state dining room and drawing room. There is also the King's Bedroom which was named in honour of Charles I's two night stay at the castle, although it is unlikely that he stayed in this exact room. Outside in the courtyard is a clock dating from the 19th century, it was designed by the architect Pugin who did some re-modelling of the castle at this time. The clock is still in working order.






The landscaped gardens are exactly as you would expect gardens of an impressive stately home to be, and there is plenty of space for children to run around. There are various toys and games provided for them to play with including jenga, lawn chess and hobby horses. Up towards the car park is a small play area with ride on cars, intended for very little children. Also in this direction is the path that leads to Offa's Dyke, an eighth century earthwork which was created as a border between England and Wales. The dyke runs through the Chirk estate, including right through the middle of a lake which was created on the estate in the 1760's, with no care for the preservation of the ancient monument which was inconveniently in the way of the landscaper William Eme's vision.


The sheer size of the castle and the grounds, and the fact that there is so much to see and do, with all the facilities associated with a National Trust property makes this a good family day out with something for everyone. When you have finally had enough, swing by the exit and have a look at the Davies Gates, the intricate iron gates made by local blacksmiths the Davies brothers in 1712. They have been moved from their original position several times, but today stand proud by the car park exit. There is a small pull in area if you want to get out and take a few photos.





More info:  National Trust Chirk Castle

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