Cardiff is the capital of Wales and one of it’s most well known cities, and a likely starting or ending point for your weekend getaway or perhaps longer trip exploring the many nooks and crannies of this part of the country.
One of the highlights to Cardiff, though, isn’t just its shiny new waterfront, or the many shops and stores that line the cities shopping arcades. It’s actually the castles – some older, some newer (new being a relative term, of course), but all stunning and beautiful. Here are the three most popular – they themselves are pretty enough to inspire a trip to Cardiff.
One of, if not the, most popular attractions in Cardiff is the amazing Cardiff Castle. It sits right in the centre of the city, surrounded on one side by shops, restaurants, bars and cafes, and behind it a wonderful city park, which stretches on for a couple miles along the river that runs through town.
This site started off as a Roman fort, because of its protected seaside location. The Normans who followed decided this was indeed a great spot and made a few additions and renovations, but by the mid 1700s it passed into private hands, and it remained with various members of the Bute family through the 1930s, who decided to give the castle – and neighbouring Bute Park – to the city.
Be sure to opt for one of the castle tours, where you are given access to some special areas of the castle not always available – for example, our tour took us up to the roof where there’s a secret hidden swimming area! It was just beautiful, and there are many of these quirky and unique rooms throughout the castle.
Pictured above, Castle Coch (the “red castle”) is often called Cardiff’s fairytale castle, because from the moment you first spot it – tucked away in some trees up on a cliff – and then you’ll feel a bit like Robin Hood, flitting between the lavish rooms and the interesting passageways that curl around the open central courtyard.
The Castle is relatively modern in terms of its construction – it is supposedly an early 1800s rebuild of a castle that was here in the 13th century, but the details are somewhat fuzzy on what exactly it is a reproduction of. Two of the castle towers date back from the early 1200s, and you can definitely tell by looking at the construction at to what era each bits are from.
The Castle is easily reached via a short train or bus ride out of town.
Caerphilly is a rather famous castle and known as one of the great medieval fortresses of Europe. Its massive walls and gigantic tower, now leaning, have been depicted by many artists and photographers over the years. It was built in the late 13th century as a modern marvel, and it’s so large it is the largest fortification in Great Britain after Windsor Castle itself.
It’s worth spending the time to do a full walk around the entire fort, as well as take the tour inside. The castle is bare, just a few reproductions to help you understand the daily functions inside, but otherwise, it’s just rock and mortar. Some of the best views come from walking the moat, and on a sunny day it’s a pleasant stroll.
Caerphilly is a small village just north on the outskirts of Cardiff – a short train ride away.
Photos by: pjo18, Andy Hayes
Posted : Monday, December 19th, 2011 at 11:00
Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.