Castell Coch, Tongwynlais, Cardiff, South Wales

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Castell Coch rising above the trees. Credit: gj from geograph.org.uk

You know the image of the castle with turrets which is the standard one on Disney films? Well, in the woods just outside Cardiff in south Wales, there is a castle that looks just like that. It is called Castell Coch (Red Castle) and can be found on a rocky ledge overlooking the Taff Valley near the village of Tongwynlais.

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The Gatehouse and Keep Tower, inside Castell Coch. Credit: Andy Dingley

The castle was built in the late 19th century, commissioned by John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the third Marquess of Bute. He was the paymaster, but the architect and designer was William Bruges who created a masterpiece of fantasy. The castle was built as a summer or temporary residence for the Marquess and his family as an escape from his other residence of Cardiff Castle. Both castles are arguably the best examples of Victorian mediaevalism in the UK.

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The Three Fates above the fireplace in the drawing room in Castell Coch. Credit: Caletero

William Bruges died ten years before the interior of the castle was complete, but his colleagues worked from his designs and the results are spectacular.

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Exterior walls (Victorian) of Castell Coch. Credit: KJP1

The castle was built on the ruins of a 13th century castle, first owned by a Welsh chieftain Ifor Bach (Little Ivan) and then by the Norman conquerors the De Clare family. It was destroyed, it is thought in the 14th century during a Welsh insurgency against the usurpers, the Normans.

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Detail of a wall decoration at Castell Coch. Credit:Caletero

Now you can see traces of this first castle in the outer walls, the stones are grey, whereas the Victorian castle stones are redder. The Kitchen Tower’s base is part of the mediaeval fortress, with walls more than three metres thick.

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Monkeys, pomegranates and grapes; details of the interior of Castell Coch. Credit:Caletero

You go into the castle (more of a folly really) across a drawbridge over a dry moat – it is dark because of the looming tower and the wood around the castle. You enter the Tower where ther is now a café and can continue into the rooms. These are spectacular with ceilings so ornate that when I took my daughter there – before modern technology made it easy to see, we lay on the thickly carpeted floor and gazed up at the ceiling for some time. Other visitors accommodated us and one American remarked that he wished he had the courage to join us!

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Lady Bute’s bed a copy of a meiaeval design with the addition of crystal balls. Credit: KJP1

Lady Bute’s bedroom looks as though it comes out of the ‘Arabian Nights’ as it has a Moorish feel to it with its paintings of pomegranates and monkeys on the walls and domed ceiling. That is very ornate with gold and mirrors as well as the paintings.

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More animal details in Castell Coch. Credit: Caletero

If you are feeling energetic after a visit to Castell Coch, you can explore the Welsh woodland where there are sculptures of a Welsh dragon, goblins, fairies and even a treasure chest! It’s a great walk for kids as they never know what delights of fantasy they may come across next! This walk is called the Lost and Found Trail.

It is said that Castell Coch is haunted, click here to find out more!

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Tower Colliery one of the last in south Wales. Credit: Kev Griffin from geograph.org.uk

If you consider how much the third Marquess of Bute spent on his folly (and Cardiff castle) then you should be able to understand how much his family had made from the process of industrialization in Wales. They owned vast tracts of land stretching across what are now counties, and they had their fingers in all industrial pies – railways, mines and iron works. No wonder this marquess built a fantasy castle to escape the nightmare landscape he and his family had helped to create!

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About lynnee8

I have travelled extensively both for business (I am a teacher and teacher-trainer of English as a Foreign Language) and pleasure. I have just come back from Pakistan where I lived for 4 years. I love Greece and have lived there for more than 10 years although not all at one time.
This entry was posted in South Wales, Travel, UK and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Castell Coch, Tongwynlais, Cardiff, South Wales

  1. cmsaunders says:

    I used to work as a teacher in China, and often used this pic in class to blow my student’s minds!

    Like

  2. Cadw says:

    Hi,
    Thank you for featuring a Cadw site on your blog.
    We have 128 monuments in total and we hope you are able to find and visit others that you find just as interesting as Castell Coch.
    For more information about other Cadw sites within the area please view our website:
    http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/castles-and-historic-places-in-wales/?lang=en

    or follow us on twitter @cadwwales @cadwcymru

    We look forward to seeing you soon!

    Like

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