Celtic Myths and Legends
Welcome to God’s own country – CROESO I GYMRU
If you do not yet know what CROESO I GYMRU means, let us introduce you to the ancient and original language of the British Isles, spoken as far north as the English border countries and as far south as Cornwall long before the Engels and Saxons invaded Britain bringing with it its Anglo-Saxon language, now known as English.
Brace yourself for a whirlwind trip around some of South Wales’ most sought-after and beautiful locations. We will take you back in time from a visit to Cardiff Castle with its Norman Keep and Roman ruins, to the mesmeric magic of the fairy tale Castell Coch or Red Castle, rumoured to house some real fairies and to ancient Caerphilly Castle.
While resting on ancient foundations, Castell Coch (Red Castle) is relatively modern, the by-product of a vivid Victorian imagination, assisted by untold wealth.
The Middle Ages fascinated the Victorians as much as the Victorians fascinate us today. High Gothic was the order of the day.
The ‘eccentric genius’ William Burges was given free rein by his paymaster, John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd marquess of Bute, to create a rural retreat to complement the opulence of his main residence, Cardiff Castle. He didn’t hold back. Dazzling ceilings, over-the-top furnishings and furniture were liberally applied.
Cardiff Castle is one of Wales’ leading heritage attractions and a site of international significance. Located within beautiful parklands at the heart of the capital, Cardiff Castle’s walls and fairytale towers conceal 2,000 years of history.
From being originally a Roman fort whose Roman walls can still be seen today to the famous Norman Keep, which re-used the site of the previous Roman Fort.
The Castle passed through the hands of many noble families until in 1766, it passed by marriage to the Bute family. The 2nd Marquess of Bute was responsible for turning Cardiff into the world’s greatest coal exporting port. The Castle and Bute fortune passed to his son John, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, who by the 1860s was reputed to be the richest man in the world.
Cardiff Castle Continued – William Burges
From 1866 the 3rd Marquess employed the genius architect William Burges to transform the Castle lodgings.
Within gothic towers he created lavish and opulent interiors, rich with murals, stained glass, marble, gilding and elaborate wood carvings. Each room has its own special theme, including Mediterranean gardens and Italian and Arabian decoration. The 3rd Marquess died when he was only 53 in 1900.
Despite huge death duties on the estate, the 4th Marquess completed many of his father’s restoration projects including the reconstruction of the Roman wall. The Bute family continued to stay at the Castle throughout the 1920s and 1930s, although they had sold off many of their business interests in south Wales.
The fortress sprawls over a huge area making it the largest castle in Wales.
Like the famous cheese, the castle has long been synonymous with Caerphilly. It dominates. Hogs the limelight. Think slumbering giant awaiting a call to arms. It’s also a great backdrop for TV and film. It secured a starring role recently in the popular BBC TV series Merlin.
This stone behemoth, surrounded by a series of moats and watery islands was the brainchild of Gilbert ‘the Red’ de Clare, a redheaded nobleman of Norman descent. He also built the original Castell Coch, ‘Red Castle’, located the other side of Caerphilly mountain.
Gilbert de Clare and Llywelyn ap Gruffydd were contemporaries at war and early attempts by Gilbert to build a castle were thwarted by the Welsh prince whose raison d’etre was to unify Wales against the English. Gilbert, however, eventually won through and built a mammoth stronghold using the concentric ‘walls within walls’ system of defence. He also made sure there were large and comfortable rooms to live in.
However, once the threat posed by Llywelyn was quelled by Edward I, the raison d’etre for this massive fortress changed. The castle’s condition worsened until late in the 19th century when the third marquess of Bute began preservation work. We have a lot to thank the Butes for in South Wales!
An ethereal and truly entrancing location, beguiling in its beauty and oft visited by Turner the English landscape painter and Wordsworth who were both entranced and captivated by its almost other-wordly vistas.
Originally, founded by Cistercian monks in 1131 AD in the reign of Henry 1,Tintern as it is fondly referred to locally is situated adjacent to the village of Tintern in Monmouthshire, on the Welsh bank of the River Wye. The site is beautiful, with the tidal river frequently changing from a very low flow during Summer low tides to a raging torrent when Winter floods add to the high tides surging up the Bristol Channel.
The hills around the Abbey are covered with woods, changing colour with the seasons. The land upon which the Abbey is set makes the most of the sunlight, the Abbey receiving the benefit of the last sun shining down the Angiddy Valley. The Abbey was badly affected by the Black Death and was dissolved under the reign of King Henry VIII as part of the dissolution of the monasteries.
BIG PIT NATIONAL COAL MUSEUM
If you fancy discovering more about the heritage and in particular the growth of South Wales to become the largest industrial coal exporter in the world during the 19th century, then you need to absolutely visit this national treasure – an industrial heritage museum which is not only dedicated to preserving the Welsh heritage of coal mining which took place during the Industrial Revolution but will take you down into the mine shafts themselves, clad in your own personalised mining gear, protective head wear, overalls, and lamps.
The tour will take you deep into the bowels of the earth and you will relive mining as it was day to day, an experience sure to stay with you for a long time to come.
One word of advice: make sure you have’t just eaten, as the contents of your stomach may well re-emerge on the gravity-defying trip down.
Perhaps one of Wales’ best kept secrets, the castle at Caldicot sits on an ancient site. Restored to much of its original outstanding condition, it is a lovely place to spend the day.
The castle contains all the elements of the typical medieval fortress, and has been lovingly cared for by its present owners, who have opened it to the public.
One of the best ways to enjoy this marvellous structure is to make use of the self-guided cassette tour which allows you to explore the castle at your own pace. But however you travel around Caldicot Castle, you will find yourself transported back to the Middle Ages, and tracing the development of castle-building in South-eastern Wales.
Everything’s great about this place, from its great tower, which evokes memories of earlier fortresses like Caernarfon, to the great gatehouse, which ‘wows’ the visitor just as its owner intended. If, as they say, an Englishman’s home is his castle, then William Herbert’s Raglan is the Welshman’s equivalent.
Built for show rather than with battle in mind, it still held off parliamentarian forces for thirteen weeks in one of the last sieges of the Civil War. The castle was eventually taken and was systematically destroyed by parliament. Enough remains to still impress.
Intricately carved wooden panels were de rigueur and Raglan’s very own lost (and found!) Tudor panel is on show in our visitor centre.
The Buttery which is located behind the Great Hall has reopened to the public. Come and see where an episode of BBC’s Merlin was filmed.
Embrace your inner inventor as you experience new installations, exhibitions and creations at the grandest castle ever built by a Welshman.