Impossible to miss, Cardiff Castle, with its ornate clock tower, high curtain walls (with the Roman foundations still visible), and glorious towers and spires, dominates the centre of the city. Since being built and rebuilt by the Romans from about 55AD, Cardiff Castle has had a great time transforming over the years from a Norman motte and bailey castle, to a medieval garrison complete with stone keep and defensive walls, to the victorian gothic fairy tale castle that we see today.
Last week, I embarked on my latest adventure, but this time I ventured out of Bristol and into the nearby, crazy-fun city of Cardiff. As well as enjoying/enduring a night out on the town (in high heels?????? I had no idea that was still a thing!), and eating some beaut food at the gorgeous “Milgi’s” (a vegetarian place with a fantastic list of cocktails and a heated yurt outside), I had a snoop around Cardiff Castle and for a place that has been knocking around since the Romans were on the scene, it’s seriously not too shabby.
Have a wonder around Bute Park outside the Castle and check out the scale of the surrounding walls and moat, as well as the drawbridge and big-ass gateways. Inside, you can pick up an audio guide (the Cardiff website proudly informs us that this is read by Huw Edwards…?? I think he’s a news reader maybe?) and have a look around! The motte that the Norman keep is built on is seriously big, with a moat surrounding it and the thought of scaling it in a siege made me feel a little queazy. But climb on up regardless and check out the beautiful panoramic views from the top. On a clear day you can see all the way to Castle Coch on the hills to the north and also all the way to the sea.
Hop on one of the guided House Tours, definitely worth the £3 extra. The 3rd Lord Bute teamed up with architect William Burges and basically pimped out the castle. It’s a fantastical gothic creation in the style of a feudal yet fairy tale castle from the Middle Ages, with stained glass windows, painted murals and gorgeous gilding and sculptures. The house tour takes
you around some of the more ornate rooms, including the Arab Room, with its INSANE decorated wooden ceiling covered in gold leaf, and the Day Nursery with tiling on the walls painted to depict a procession of heroes and heroines from fairy tales. The tour takes about 50 minutes, and a proud Welsh tour guide will point out things of note and will probably say “Ladies and Gentlemen” every second sentence.
Also to check out are the wartime shelters in the walls of the castle. During air raids in the second World War, the castle was opened up to shelter the public and you can explore these evocative shelters and see the wartime canteen, bunkbeds and warden’s office. The dampness and the cold in the tunnels made this experience all the more atmospheric.
If you do find yourself in Wales’s capital city and fancy an hour or two of history, Cardiff Castle is a must. Think of it as an old-age version of Cribs.
* Admission: £12.00 adults, £10.50 with a student card.
* House Tour (50 mins) an additional £3 or £2.50 for students. (The first tour heads off at 10am)
* Opening times: 9.00-18.00 (although the castle closes earlier at 17.00 during the Winter months)
* The Cafe is open until 16.00 with a selection of hot and cold drinks, cakes and snacky lunchy foods including paninis, jacket potatoes, soups and sandwiches.
* A small coffee – £1.80 (A vanilla latte – £2.70)
* Bring with you: Your Camera, Money for the gift shop!
* Cardiff Castle,
Castle Street, CF10 3RB