Cardiff Castle; an Interesting Journey Through Time

Our final trip in the UK was to Cardiff, because we simply couldn’t leave without seeing Wales. There are lots of amazing castles and landscapes in Wales that, sadly, we weren’t able to visit due to our transportation limits. But we did see many interesting things during our trip to Cardiff.

Our first stop was, as always, the local castle. It was originally a motte and bailey style castle, built in the eleventh century by Norman invaders. It may have been commissioned by William the Conqueror. Most of the medieval buildings at Cardiff Castle were either destroyed by siege or fell to ruin over the years. Eventually, most were removed by the nobles who held the land. Today, the only remaining medieval structure is the Norman Shell Keep, which once served as a watch tower and guard post. Much like the remains of the castle in York, there were once wooden structures inside, but all that remain are the holes in the brick where the wooden buildings would have been attached.

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Despite its diminished state, Cardiff Castle is still as impressive as any other castle ruins, especially considering the well-kept grounds on which it sits. There is a lot of space here and it has clearly been turned into an area for family activities. There’s even a play area for children, including a giant chess set.

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On our way down from the keep, we encountered one of the castle’s falconers. The staff of Cardiff Castle keep several birds to chase off various pests. The one we got to meet was a gyr falcon named Bullet and she was absolutely gorgeous.

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We followed the falconer to the pen where the castle birds are kept. Each has their own perch and a sign nearby with their name. The smallest are pocket owls, which were just about full size even though they were young. The largest was a Eurasian eagle owl named Hector. He was very vocal at his displeasure, apparently because new birds had come to the pen and they were not properly intimidated by him. He spent the whole time we were there squawking, though the keepers gently chided him.

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The main attraction at Cardiff Castle is the house, which was originally built in 1439 by Richard de Beauchamp. It was rebuilt in the 1570’s and rebuilt again in the 1770’s. But the house you can visit today was remodeled in 1848 by the third Marquess of Bute. It’s an impressive residence, to say the least.

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Each room is ornately decorated in its own unique fashion. My favorite was probably the Arab room which could be used as a guest quarters. The ceiling is absolutely spectacular. Another highlight is the grand library, which was even featured in an episode of Doctor Who (Journey to the Centre of the Tardis).

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Our final stop on our castle tour was into the outer walls of Cardiff Castle. This area was used as an air raid shelter during World War II. Today it is set up to display how it looked during the war. There is a counter near the entrance which offers food and drink. On display are musty old tools and bottles and a sign with the offerings and prices. Most of the tunnels are empty, save for a simple wooden bench and war posters which would probably have hung there at the time.

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As you walk through the area, music and radio broadcasts from the time play in the background. It’s easy to imagine what it would have been like to huddle there with everyone else in the city, waiting for the danger to pass, though it’s difficult to imagine the sound and the terror. It’s a haunting reminder of what life must have been like during the war and it illustrates how many of the UK’s largest heritage sites have been relevant to different periods throughout history.

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(This mantle piece depicts the five integral forms of ancient writing. Can you name them all?)

Have you ever experienced a weird juxtaposition of historical sites?

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