Cardiff, Wales, with its impressive castle, was the last stop on our whirlwind tour of the country. Many reviewers advised not to visit the city, but we found it to be charming with lots to do.
We had only given ourselves a day to see the most touristed sites, including Cardiff Castle. This castle is located in the middle of the city and is easily accessible via public transport or by walking if you are staying nearby. The castle has belonged to the people of the city since 1947 so every resident of Cardiff has free admission while the rest of us have to pay.
The castle has many parts displaying different periods and styles of architecture. The original structure on the site was a Roman fort constructed in 50 A.D. Parts of the Roman wall were incorporated in the Norman town walls with the difference in the two being very obvious once you know to look for the older, less finished stones of the Romans. Other Roman walls and ruins exist inside the Visitors’ Center.
The castle, unlike others in Wales, has been changed through the years to meet the needs of the residents and the community. It exemplifies the different ideas that restoration has taken over the years. A self-guided audio tour is included with the ticket price that explains the changes in architecture and gives many interesting stories. For example, the outer walls were fortified during WWII and used as an air raid shelter for 1,800 people. As you explore the walls, you can hear the sirens and read the step-by-step directions for using gas masks.
Standing high above the rest of the castle grounds is the twelve-sided Norman Keep. This towering construction provided shelter for the buildings within it. There are about 50 steps from the courtyard to the Keep and more steps, with a long drop on one side, to the top, but once you reach the top you are treated to a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.
We opted to take the House Tour, an hour-long escorted tour of the castle apartments that were renovated in the Victorian Gothic style. The intricacies and attention to detail are amazing. The children’s nursery has murals on the walls and metalwork on the lights depicting fairy tales. The Moorish architecture and art in the Arab Room is based on Arabian harems. The detailed ceiling is not simply painted gold. The entire ceiling is covered in gold leaf estimated to be worth more than $10 million.
Before leaving the Cardiff Castle, you should visit the military museum, the Firing Line. (Entry is included with the castle ticket.) Here you can see displays and hear stories of two Welsh regiments that have served the country for over 300 years.
The castle also has a café; however, there were so many options for lunch that we decided to cross the street and visit the arcades, glass-roofed alleys that run between buildings, for a quick bite to eat.
Cardiff Castle is only one of the 600 castles in Wales, but it is very different from others because of the renovations that have taken place throughout its long history. Have you visited castles in Wales? If so, which is your favorite?
– Candace Ahlfinger has loved traveling since she was little and has always been on the go whenever possible. Now she is retired and gets to do what she loves best… TRAVEL! Whether it’s traveling with her wonderful husband, or our children and grandchildren, traveling is a great experience that enriches her life. Because she always enjoys reading and hearing about others’ travel experiences, she wants to share her travels with the Ellis DownHome readers.