Ross-on-Wye....it's a smallish market town set on steeply sloping ground in Herefordshire. Part of it is down by the banks of the beautiful River Wye and there are some nice old red sandstone cliffs / cuttings on the road down to the river, so even I'd have to admit - and I count myself as no great fan of the place - the setting is pretty good all round. There are some all right, if a little municipal, riverside walks, though given the high level of public access and nearby pubs, not I suppose through the kind of parkland I would want to go anywhere near at night. Ross-on-Wye in general - it's pretty enough in its own way.
Then you come to the town centre itself. That nice, old red sandstone market hall centre-piece thingy they've shown you on the dooyoo illustration is hands-down the best thing about it, and gives an overall completely false impression of the niceness of the place.
The town centre has the usual range of nation-wide highstreet shops, (noticeably, slightly more of the downmarket-type ones) and more second-hand shops than you can shake a stick at. I find that you can really get an immediate measure of a place by looking at the donations people give to charity shops, and in Ross-on-Wye's case, the second-hand tat on offer is all practically shouting 'depressed rural area'. As if you couldn't tell that already by taking one look at the town centre; I haven't seen anything so dreary since I was last in Cinderford in the Forest of Dean. Or parts of mid-Wales. Or, so help me, on a drive-through downtown Lochore, which is about the most depressed ex-mining-town in the most depressed area of south Fife that's currently still in existance.
Other things I didn't like about Ross-on-Wye are that access to the place isn't great: it's only a hop, skip and a jump - as the crow flies - from places where people actually want to go, but you can only get to it via long and winding, steeply-gradiented - and frankly dangerous to drive on - country roads. (It's really very pretty countryside round there admittedly, but that's hardly the point.) They call it an 'A' road, the one that runs between Gloucester and Ross, but that's not fooling anybody; it's barely a few steps removed from being a dirt track.
The crowning delight of my bad day out in Ross when was I actually got thrown out of one of its up-its-own-behind, stuffy and overpriced second-hand bookshops by its up-his-own-behind, stuffy and censorious proprietor. Eight months pregnant woman! Thrown out of a friggin' second hand bookshop in Ross! And all because the sprog knocked the top book off one of the unstable and teetering stacks of mouldy old books he had set up as traps for the unwary all over the place.
So, while I can hardly present a balanced view of a town I only spent one hour and forty-five minutes in before I got in my car and happily set off home again, vowing never to return, I still can't really recommend Ross.
Castell Coch is situated in the village of Tongwynlais, just outside Cardiff (About 10/15 mins). The Castle is situated on a wooded hillside overlooking the Taff River - and, less fortunately, the M4 Motorway (The M4 isn't very noticeable from the castle, but you can get a nice view of the castle peeking out of the trees from the road.)
The castle is very beautiful inside and out. It is like something from a fairytale. There is an element of make believe in the real history of the castle, as the castle as it currently stands is a Victorian Folly, and was only built in 1891.
The site of the castle does have a longer history - The current castle is built on medieval remains. The site was occupied and castle's built on it from at least the 13th century. A stone castle on the sight was seriously damaged in a 14th century battle, and by the 1800's the castle was a picturesque ruin.
In 1871 the 3rd Marquess of Bute and his architect William Burges undertook a massive rebuilding of the castle into a fantasy medieval castle. The Marquess of Bute had transformed Cardiff Castle (his main home) into a fantasy 19th century medieval palace with Burges in 1868. Both Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch are regarded as masterpieces of later Victorian Gothic Revival design. The castle is small, consisting of three towers.
The castle has drawbridge, and turreted, tall conical roofs. The name Castell Coch means red castle in Welsh, and originally referred to the colour of the roof, although it is now a grey/green colour. Some of the original medieval castle can be seen on the ground level.
The Victorian Gothic style interior décor is amazingly intrecate and detailed. The Drawing Room and Lady Bute's Bedroom have highly decorative ceilings and wall paintings.
Castell Coch was never intended to be a permanent residence, and was instead a summer, holiday residence for the Bute family, who lived mainly in Cardiff Castle. Castell Coch was occupied for a short time in 1900. The Castle was placed in the care of the Ministry of Works in 1950. It is now administered by Cadw - The official guardian of the built heritage of Wales.
Castell Coch is a very popular visitor attraction, especially during the summer months. I recommend a visit in the autumn if possible, because of the beautiful autumn leaves in the surrounding forest.
Facilities at the castle include: parking, toilets, cafe, shop, and baby changing facilities. There is limited accessibility at the castle. There are narrow, steep, stone staircases in places, and visiting the inside is not suitable for people with mobility problems or children needing to stay in pushchairs. If you aren't very mobile you can go in and stay on the ground level - but this is the most basic area of the castle, and you might prefer to save the money and just admire the castle from outside.
Adult - £3.60
Concession - £3.20
Family - £10.40
Currently - Monday - Saturday 9.30 - 16.00, Sunday 11.00 - 16.00.
(Opening Times are usually extended for an hour during the summer months to 17.00. The castle is closed for conservation/cleaning for six weeks each winter.)
I think this represents really good value - the castle is not large, so you won't visit for too long - about an hour - but you can also enjoy the woods if the weather is fine. Young children might not have much patience to really study the intricate rooms, but they will certainly enjoy the overall fairytale impression and aspects such as the drawbridge.
Many people walk and cycle along the Taff Trail to the Castle. The ground can be accessed and enjoyed by everyone without purchasing a ticket.
For the ultimate fantasy wedding you can get married in this fairytale castle. Guest numbers, however, are strictly limited during the ceremony - you can only have 30 people in the drawing room, including bride and groom and registrars. The timescale is also strictly limited to 90 minutes. Your other guests can hang out in the castle during the ceremony, but they will miss the actual wedding. If you want a small, intimate ceremony this is perfect. Absolutely magical.
There are many castles in Wales, and most have a better historical pedigree than Castell Coch. In my opinion though Castell Coch has the most charm of any of them, and makes for the most fun and impressive day out. It's great for impressing International visitors with a fantastical, magical view of Wales.
Ross on Wye is such a quirky, quaint and pretty little town. It is mostly made up of lovely old buildings, giving a real period feel to it that is rarely experienced these days!
With beautiful old stone buildings and cobblestones to walk on , it almost like going back in time. And so preferable, in my opinion, to all the modern buildings and towns we see all too frequently nowadays.
A visit here is a must for antiquarian book lovers... who will be able to while away hours (and possibly days!) pottering around the old book stores. For those not so keen on books (is there anyone like that out there?) there are plenty of little nick nacks and souvenirs to be bought in addition to the usual shopping from high street stores.
This really is a lovely place for a visit set in beautiful Herefordshire countryside... a must for a trip if you are holidaying in Herefordshire.
If ever you are driving along the M4 in Wales, head for junction 32 and stop off to visit this fabulous castle. For a picture have a look at http://www.castlewales.com/coch.html Whilst the exterior building is reminiscent of a story book fairy tale castle, with round turrets and conical roofs, it is the interior which is the most surprising. William Burgess decorated each room with incredible detail. One room has paintings within wooden panelling of the entire flower and fauna to be found in Britain. Children will be delighted with this attraction, everywhere you look are carvings of animals birds and insects. Fables and stories adorn every wall. Most of which contain humour and surprises. The main courtyard is reached by a medieval drawbridge. From there you can explore the kitchens, opulent dining rooms and banquet hall. Don't forget to visit the eerie dungeon, nothing gory, but definitely creepy. Cardiff is nearby, where you can shop till you drop. There is also a new cinema and bowling complex just a short drive away. For those that like a simpler time, the grounds around the castle and the paths over the mountain on which it sits are totally excellent for just chilling out. All in all Castell Coch is an superb place to visit and to base a whole weekend on. If you like Castell Coch and want to see some more of William Burgess’s work, drive into Cardiff and see the capitals castle. The prices of entry to all Wales heritage attractions should soon be free, so no bar there then.