Haunted histories: A spooky look at Cardiff Castle

Oct 29,2014

Cardiff Castle is steeped in history. In fact, its walls tell a story that spans back to around fifty-four AD. From Roman fort to Gothic masterpiece, the castle is now a site of international significance. And the fascination surrounding it goes further than historical interest. Legend has it that prior occupants of the castle still roam its opulent rooms, attracting visitors each year on spooky ghost walks. More than anything though, Cardiff Castle is the very heart of the welsh capital. Grand and imposing, historical and haunting; the city simply wouldn't be the same without it. So next time you stay in Cardiff, why not visit the grounds for yourself? That is, of course, if you dare.

Cardiff Castle: A brief history

Ghouls and goblins aside, the heritage of Cardiff Castle is enough to provide a thrilling experience. It all began with the Roman occupation of south Wales. Their first fort was built on this strategically important site in around seventy-five AD. Over the next three hundred years the fort was rebuilt and added to, acting as a naval base to protect the Empire until the early fifth century. We can't help but wonder if some of the eerie sights around the castle have anything to do with this time of savage war. Brrrrrr, did anyone just feel a chill?

It isn't until 1093 that the grounds' story picks up again, with many years being lost in between. The Normans were the next to make history, erecting a castle within the fort's remains. Concentrating on defence tactics they built a 'motte' (mound), which was forty feet high and surrounded by a moat. What was once a Roman fort became an impressive and formidable castle; one that would live on through generations of noble families.

From Gothic Revivals to ghostly sightings

Cardiff Castle has seen its fair share of life and death. Its occupants include the likes of the de Clares, with the first Gilbert de Clare being a baron of the Magna Carta. The castle was also home to members of the Tudor family. None, however, had as great an impact on both the castle and Cardiff as the Butes. The family brought power and prosperity to Cardiff, and were responsible for turning the city into one of the greatest coal exporting ports in the world.

It was the Third Marquess of Bute that transformed Cardiff Castle into the Gothic mansion it is today. In 1865 he invited architect William Burges to present a report on the state of the castle. It didn't take long for a momentous partnership to blossom. Working together over the next sixteen years, the two transformed Cardiff Castle into a Neo Gothic sensation.

Lord Bute employed the finest welsh craftsmen and local distinguished historians in his mission. Lavish and decadent interiors were installed within gothic towers. The castle was filled with murals, stained glass, gilding, marble and elaborate wood carvings. Within Bute's lifetime, it had become the perfect testament to medieval Gothicism. This was just what he had hoped to achieve. Cardiff Castle's restoration was part of the Gothic Revival of the Victorian era. In fact, it was only a few decades later that the gothic novel was published: Bram Stoker's Dracula.

The castle's eerie architecture and rich family tapestry give it a decidedly spooky appeal. At Halloween visitors flock to the castle to get their share of paranormal activity. But who are they likely to see in the ancient grounds? Legend has it that early morning activity takes place regularly in the stock room. Items are said to move around, unexplained, with a misty spectator standing nearby. And then there is the presence of the Second Marquess of Bute himself. The Lord has apparently been seen whipping past guests in a long red coat. Other stories include that of a phantom coach, and apparitions of various Bute family members.

Here at the Copthorne Hotel Cardiff, we've become accustomed to these eerie goings on. So that leaves us with one question: are you brave enough to walk the grounds of the legendary Cardiff Castle?

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