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Cardiff Castle may *look* ancient, but the vast majority of it is actually a Victorian mansion, the product of an industrialist family (the Butes) with more money than sense, and built on the back of King Coal. The old part is actually the small Norman keep in the grounds.
The castle is, however, truly beautiful. There's a guided tour, for those who are interested, and in the summer there are often concerts and open air theatre in the grounds. Over the past few weeks we've had a giant rugby ball embedded in the wall (I wonder how that happened.) World Cup rugby players clearly need to be more careful.
I personally love the peacocks that live in the grounds of the castle - but they do freak my mother the hell out. To each his own, I guess. The male peacocks are truly stunning, while the females (the peahens) are darker and brown. They often have babies with them in the spring and summer. They're pretty friendly, but I do advise that you avoid getting all that close to the babies, because you might upset the adults.
Largely though, the beauty of the castle is the inside. Made to look older than it is, it truly is a testament to the ridiculous state of affairs that allows one family to acquire *so* much wealth on the backs of poor labourers. That said, the furniture etc. is often a lot older than Victorian - and it is all fairly impressive to look at.
On our recent Welsh trip we visited a number of very special castles. This one in the city of Cardiff was a pretty impressive building with lots to interest and entertain us while we were there. Before we went we researched good and reasonable places to park so we didn't have to far to walk nor did we pay silly prices. We parked in a car park near the park just behind the castle and it was pay and display.
The castle is pretty much in the city and very close to the Millennium Stadium, in fact you could see the stadium from the castle once inside and higher up in the central tower.
OPENING TIMES AND PRICES
If you live in Cardiff and take proof you can get a 'key to the castle' for a fiver which is a lovely idea I think. For those of us who are only visitors from another country the charges are a bit higher.
Child (5-16 years*): £8.50
Family 2 Adult/2 Child: £35.00
Family 2 Adult/3 Child: £42.00
If you upgrade to a premium ticket you also get a guided tour of additional castle apartments. We opted for the Essential one as it gave us entry to all we wanted to see. We got all this for our Essential entry ticket; A selection of lavishly decorated Castle Apartments ,the Norman Keep, Battlement Walk, Wartime Shelters, the Interpretation Centre, including film show, an audio guide telling the history of the grounds, Battlements and Norman Keep, Firing Line: Cardiff Castle Museum of the Welsh Soldier and of course the cafe and terrace with panoramic views and gift shop. So as you can see it allowed you into most places and unless you have a particular interest in the apartments I would say this offered value for money.
Throughout the year the castle opens at 9 am, the castle apartments open at 9.30 and the first Premium tour begins at 10 am. The castle closes at 6pm from Mar to Oct and 5 pm at other times and the castle apartments close an hour earlier.
A BIT OF HISTORY
Really only a taster as there is so much but the castle has a 2000 year history . It was in the time of the Romans a major garrison for them, it became a Norman stronghold and then the Victorians beautified it into more of a fairytale castle. Today the Castle apartments are beautifully furnished and very fine while other parts are semi ruins.
The Castle was passed to many noble families and in 1766 the castle became the property of the Bute family. The 2nd Marquess of Bute is remembered because he made Cardiff into the world's biggest coal port. In the castle apartments lavish interiors were created and many can be still seen by visitors today.
After the death of the 4th Marquess of Bute death duties and spiraling costs helped the family decide to give the Castle and Bute Park, to the city of Cardiff. Cardiff castle is now one of Wales' most popular visitor attractions.
We arrived and paid up then went for a bit of a walk around the grounds inside before heading up to walk along the raised gallery towards the clock tower. We then decided we got better views of this rather beautiful clock tower from below so headed back down the stairs again. This is a truly beautiful clock tower painted intricately and it shines in the sunshine.
The Norman shell keep is accessed by a wooden staircase that is steeper than it looks but once up there there views are great. From here you get views of the Millennium Stadium that are hard to beat. It is worth the climb but is not for those with mobility difficulties.
The Castle apartments are sumptuous and like a stately home. With our ticket we were limited to a few of the rooms but if you pay extra you can have a guided tour of even more of these rooms. I find that once I have seen a few ultra exotic and OTT rooms I get stately home over load and so the few rooms that we saw were enough for me. I hink my favourite for complete over the top decoration was the ceiling of the 'Arab room which was like the inside of the most ornate temple in India or Morocco with gold and carvings that were out of this world.
We felt like a coffee after all this and made our way to the cafe and shop. I was looking through the books there and noticed that there was a wall with animal gargoyles along it and that became next on my list of things to see. First we went to have a coffee. We noticed a lot of people in military uniform and so I asked one what was going on. He informed me that there was going to be a 21 gun salute as in was prince Philip's birthday and that it would be in about twenty minutes so we sat and enjoyed our coffee and then made our way out to enjoy the 21 gun salute.
Neither of us has much experience of military pomp but this was fascinating. All the preparation, the band and the conductor who looked a bit like the Fat controller with a busby that covered most of his face, the dignitaries being escorted to their places and then all the lining up of the canons etc. The guns were loud but we were all given ear protecting foam things and they did help. The ground vibrated through us and it was not entirely pleasant, thankfully this was not a battle field.
We then went for a walk along the castle walls and into the WWII air raid shelters along the castle walls. During World War II, these air-raid shelter were created in the medieval walls and they could hold up to 1,800 peopleso were pretty huge. The walls gave a good over view of the castle but you couldn't see over the walls outwards very much so back down into the main castle area we went. And then made our way out to explore the animal wall.
This wall was wonderful. We took photos all along the wall of al the animals which were stone carved and some had glass eyes while the older animals had no inserted eyes. I love unusual things like this and the wall was one of my favourite things in this castle and I would certainly recommend seeing it. This is free as you can see it from outside the castle walls.
We were lucky in that the day were visited was a lovely sunny day. Seeing and hearing the 21 gun salute was a surprise bonus. There were many and different things to see in this castle from the newly exposed Roman walls to the WWII air raid shelters , the sumptuous castle apartments and the quirky animal wall. This is well worth a visit.
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