It’s been a long time since I’d been inside Cardiff Castle. When I was young, my parents took me there as they tried to find new ways to entertain me during numerous school holidays. I have particularly fond memories of getting up very early one Sunday to see hundreds of giant hot air balloons take off from the castle grounds. But since then Cardiff Castle had become one of those ‘places that’s just there’ for me – yes it’s pretty and a great tourist attraction, but I never really paid much attention to it.
A few years ago I went to see The Lord Chamberlain’s Men’s performance of Much Ado About Nothing inside the Castle. The performance was wonderful, but the evening also made me realise how beautiful the castle actually is. Perhaps it’s due to seeing the place through adult eyes, or the atmosphere at the play, but I vowed I’d come back for a proper visit soon.
Then, when a friend pointed out that visiting Cardiff Castle is free for people who live or work in the city, I could resist no longer.
So on a sunny afternoon last summer, my other half and I took our filled-out forms, passport photos and our proof of living in Cardiff (council tax bill was fine) and claimed our residents cards.
The card entitles you to free entry to the Castle, grounds and an audio tour. We spent a lovely few hours listening to the BBC’s Huw Edwards guide us around, using what looked like a mobile phone circa 1996 to listen to his facts.
The card also allows you entry to the opulent Castle apartments, which were vastly refurbished in the Gothic Victorian style in the 19th Century and just breathtaking – all gold and marble ceilings and ornate carvings.
However, my favourite part of the Castle is the Norman Keep in the centre of the grounds. Not one for the faint hearted, the steep steps are worth negotiating for the fantastic views of Cardiff from the top. The masthead at the head of this blog was actually taken from the top of the Keep during our visit.
The outside of the Castle is also wonderful, and well-worth a closer look if you don’t have the time to go inside. The lavish decor of the Clock tower is actually rather breathtaking and the iconic animal wall outside is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s also currently under refurbishment, so expect the animal collection to start looking even better soon.
Now is a perfect time to visit the Castle, with the autumn colours of Bute Park in full fire. Have a look at Lee Smith’s blog for some wonderful images of the Castle in Autumn. Or, if shopping or eating is more your thing, Cardiff Castle has the benefit of being right in the heart of the city centre. What’s not to love?