Our ‘Castle Of The Week’ feature has been so popular amongst our Twitter and Facebook followers we decided it was high time to commit a full-length article to the subject. And boy what a castle we have chosen! Our Operations Bee, Jenna, explains more…
Castell Coch. Simply stunning…
This, my dear readers, is Castell Coch (or, the ‘red castle’ to our Welsh friends). And by no means is it a conventional building. It was neither constructed to house a great King or to keep out the English. It wasn’t even built as a present to a long gone Princess. This wonderful, imposing structure was in fact built during the late 1800’s, as a rural retreat for the 3rd Marquess of Bute.
ITV: Britain’s Secret Homes
My inspiration for choosing Castell Coch came from the new ITV1 mini-series, ‘Britain’s Secret Homes’ (if you haven’t watched it, you are missing out. However, please disregard Micheal Buerk, he is rather embarrassing!).
ITV1’s Britain’s Secret Homes
As a massive fan of Marie Antoinette, this stunning building really captured my imagination in just the same way as Hameau de La Reine. The notion of ridiculously wealthy people building extravagant adult-sized playgrounds really floats my boat. Basically, I live vicariously through their opulence!
Back To Coch…
Castell Coch was in fact built on the site of a 13th Century castle; constructed by Welsh chieftain, Ifor Bach (or ‘Little Ivor’). Sadly, this structure fell into disrepair after it was severely damaged during a period of Welsh rebellion in the 1400’s.
In 1871, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, John Critchon-Stuart, decided to revamp the site and employed architect William Burges to reconstruct Castell Coch. His aim was to create a:
‘dazzling architectural tour de force of the High Victorian era, [a] dream-like castle which combines [s] sumptuous Gothic fantasy with timeless fairy tale’
Hats off to both the Marquess and Burges, between them they designed and brought to life a quintessential ‘medieval’ castle, which to this day boasts an imposing exterior and an equally dazzling interior. To ensure it was as true to life as possible, Burges insisted on a functioning drawbridge, complete with ‘murder holes’, should Castell Coch come under attack.
By now I think you can gather he was quite the ‘eccentric’!
The lavish interior, fitted with beautiful paintings and expertly crafted wood, decorate the walls and ceilings whilst bespoke furniture kits out the rooms. Outside, the three conical towers add a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the otherwise very British landscape!
Fact Alert! – The castle was never actually intended to a home for the Marquess and his family. For one thing, there aren’t any loos! At least Hameau de la Reine had agricultural uses, if nothing else.
Although Castell Coch is nowhere near as old as Dover, Edinburgh or the Tower, it is by no means less spectacular! It is testament to one mans dream and imagination, and another mans commitment to bring his masters dreams to life.
Visit Castell Coch
Castell Coch is looked after by Cadw – the Welsh Government’s historic environment service. The service has an extremely important remit in conserving Welsh heritage signified by its very name – Cadw means ‘to protect’ in Welsh!
The castle is situated on a steep hillside, above the town of Tongwynlais, just outside of Cardiff. Recognised as a Grade 1 listed building in 1963, the admission price is just a meagre £4.50 to get in, and trust me it’s worth every penny!