About Castell Coch
Castell Coch (Red Castle) is a Victorian-era folly that was built on top of the ruins of a 13th century castle thought to have been owned by Ifor Bach, a local Welsh ruler. Located in Tongwynlais in the north of Cardiff, Wales, it is a lavishly-decorated castle and as such is frequently voted as the Welsh’s favourite building in the country.
History of Castell Coch
The first castle on the site was built by the Normans after 1081 to protect their newly-conquered territory of Cardiff. It was abandoned shortly afterwards. The foundations were used by Gilbert de Clare as the basis of a new stone fortification which was built between 1267 and 1277. The castle was possibly destroyed in the native Welsh rebellion of 1314.
In 1760, the castle ruins were acquired by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, as part of a marriage settlement. In 1848, John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute, inherited the castle. As one of Britain’s wealthiest men, he employed the architect William Burges to rebuild the castle as an occasional summer country home. It features a lavish interior and a vineyard just below the castle that continued producing wine until World War One.
Its exterior, consisting of three stone towers, is relatively authentic. The interiors are elaborately decorated and feature specially-designed furniture and fittings, and designs that draw upon classical and legendary themes. It is fairy-tale like; historian David McLees described the castle as ‘one of the greatest Victorian triumphs of architectural composition.’
In 1950, the 5th Marquess of Bute placed the castle into the care of the state, and it is now controlled by Welsh heritage agency Cadw.
Castell Coch today
Today, the castle is open to the public for tours year round, and is frequently very busy. The woods above the castle are also popular, and are regularly used for walking, mountain biking and horse riding. A nine-hole golf course is now located on the site of the former vineyard.
Getting to Castell Coch
From Cardiff by car, take the M4 (Jct. 32) then the A470. The castle is then well-signposted. The 132 bus stops close by. The closest train stations are Coryton and Taffs Well.