Cardiff Castle is right in the middle of the city centre, effectively sitting at the junction of the two main shopping streets. It is a mix of styles, featuring Norman and Victorian gothic buildings. I don’t intend to go into much of the history, as you can find that online easily enough, but I’ll pick out a few of the things I enjoyed or found interesting during our visit.
We began with a stroll around the walls. These are festooned with flags of European nations, and as I love flags it was a nice opportunity to test my memory.
On the corner closest to Queen Street, there is a sculpture dedicated to soldiers wounded in the line of duty. It’s modelled after Lance Corporal Dan Twiddy, a tanker who was injured in a friendly fire incident in Iraq.
The walls give an excellent view of the Welsh National rugby stadium, the Millennium Stadium.
You can also get a good panorama of the castle grounds from here.
But there is a lot to see inside the walls too. During the Second World War the owner of the castle converted some of them into air raid shelters for people to take cover from German bombs, and this is demonstrated with beds…
…and a replica canteen. There are also lots of wartime posters encouraging people to grow their own food and keep quiet about any secrets. One amusing note in this sombre part of the trip was when walking through the dark and spooky corridor, the silence was broken by a very loud recording of Churchill’s announcement to Parliament of the start of hostilities, making my fiancée jump out of her skin!
Back outside, we took a look at the clock tower. If you pay for a guided tour, then you can climb to the top, but we decided against that and moved to the most modern part of the castle.
In the nineteenth century, architect William Burges was employed to rework the living area of the castle. His work included the beautiful banqueting hall, with historical frescos and carvings, and a fireplace which refers to one of the original Norman builders.
He also designed the Arab room, meant to be reminiscent of middle eastern harems. Not something I have had the pleasure of seeing first hand, but they must be opulent.
There is also very striking stained glass throughout…
…and a well stocked library, assuming you like to read old records of Parliament in an attractive setting. It is actually very similar in style to many of the rooms in the Palace of Westminster.
Also in the library is this intricate carving of five ancient sages, holding representations of other alphabets.
For the last part of our visit to the main castle, we climbed up to the Norman keep. This is still reasonably intact, though not much of it is explorable.
I think I was a bit nervous about dropping my iPad off the roof, so managed not to get a shot of the view from the top; this is instead a glimpse of the Gothic building through a defensive slit.
The last part of the trip was to the Firing Line, a section devoted to the life of the Welsh soldier, which contains exhibits from two Welsh regiments (though now quartered in England) in the British Army: 1st The Queens Dragoon Guards and The Royal Welsh. This fairly small museum nonetheless has quite a number of interesting pieces including from the battle of Rorke’s Drift and also had a tour group being given a special learning session on British Army weapons over the years.
If you are in Cardiff, you shouldn’t miss it. It costs £12 for adults, £9 for kids, and £10.50 for concessions. If you live in Cardiff and can prove it, it is actually free! My guess is that is down to the fact the castle was given to the city by its owner just after the war. It is open from 09.00-18.00 (17.00 in winter), and last admission is an hour before close.
Address: Castle Street, Cardiff, CR10 3RB