Upon visiting Cardiff, Cardiff Castle is a site not to be missed.
In fact, you're very unlikely to miss it as the castle grounds are located in the heart of the Cardiff city centre!
Cardiff Castle, or Castell Caerdydd in Welsh, is a large and impressive attraction. It's origins date back as far as the 3rd-century when the Romans constructed a fortress. With an turbulent political history in Wales, the original fortress was expanded upon by the Norman invaders who, in the late 11th century built a motte and bailey castle on the grounds.
Additions were then made to the masonry and the castle was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century. Upon visiting the castle you will also note the grandeur of the defensive walls, which were erected during this time.
Further work was done to the castle in the 13th century amid conflicts between the Alglo-Nomans and the Welsh. In the 18th century the castle changed hands yet again, much of the original architecture was destroyed, the gardens were landscaped and it was used as a private mansion.
In the 19th century extensive renovations began under the watchful eye of well-known architect William Burges. In fact, construction and renovation on this ancient castle did not cease until 1947 when the castle was given to the city of Cardiff following the end of the second world war and the death of the then-owner, the fourth Marquess of Bute.
Cardiff Castle certainly has a checked history and the buildings within the fortress walls are notably varied in design and architecture - the best way to learn more about the history of the buildings is to visit the castle itself and follow along with an audio guide. Guides themselves are available from the second floor of the reception building or alternatively you can download the Cardiff Castle audio guide app for both iPhone and Android. Alternatively, tours with an expert guide are also available for an additional cost and tours differ from day-to-day.
The Battlement Walk is the best place to start your tour - from the reception building head left. Begin walk along the impressive fortress and take in the view of the city of Cardiff. Stop off and listen to the stories of the Wartime Shelters and the Trebuchet on your audio guide or app and discover how these were used during times of unrest.
If you continue to the other side of the fortress you will reach the North Gate which is notably different from the rest of the castle having been constructed much more recently.
Next, climb the stairs of teh Norman Keep. Be sure to brave the warning signs and climb the final set of steps once inside the keep. These stairs lead you to the top of the Normal Keep where you can admire the stunning panoramic views over Cardiff and into the Valleys. Although, hope for a sunny day or you won't be able to see much!
Head into the Castle Apartments and try your hand at pronouncing 'Rhandai'r Castell', the Welch name for the buildings. The stunning ceillings and artwork which adorns these apartments will leave you in awe of the time spent decorating the rooms. And, while you may not be able to issue a book, the library is certainly a sight not to be missed. Close your eyes and breath in the unmistakable smell of leather bindings and quill-inked paper.
Take a walk within the beautifully landscaped gardens before finishing your tour at the Roman Wall which dates back as far as about 55AD.
There is also a film show available should you wish to take a seat and learn more about the history of the castle while the gift shop is very well stocked with lots of Cardiff Castle souvenirs, postcards, and Welsh dragon stuffed toys. If, like me, you visit the castle on a winters day, be sure to warm yourself up with a hot cup of tea or coffee in the Cafe!
The castle is both child-friendly and disabled-friendly, with lifts and ramps allowing wheelchair access to all floors except within the Castle Keep and the North Gate.
The site is open from 9am daily and closes at 5pm, with extended summer hours until 6pm from March through to October.