Saturday, July 15, 2006

Cardiff Castle

We were up and about fairly early today and, after breakfasting at the on-site Little Chef, we drove on into Cardiff and parked-up. Cardiff Castle was our tourist attraction of choice this morning. [Pictures here.] It’s a lovely space in the middle of town; most of the buildings are of nineteenth century construction and it pretty well fits the description that Wikipedia gives it; a ‘fairytale residence.’ The Disney architects couldn’t have done a much better job; there is an ancient ruined Keep on a very prominent mound in the centre of the site. The mound is surrounded by a deep moat which is still filled (something which I don’t think I’ve seen elsewhere, usually they are drained!) The historical castle and its grounds have been walled around with fanciful battlements and a gatehouse and on one side is a big mock-gothic confection which was a home to the Bute family until the middle of the last century, and is a testament to how you can go totally over the top in decorating your home if you have enough money. (The builder, the 3rd Marquis of Bute, was pretty much the Bill Gates of his day.) Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the interior, but if you are ever in Cardiff, it’s worth a visit!

While we were there, there was a faire set up in the grounds in front of the keep; lots of roman-period historical-re-enactment folks done up in homespun clothes showing you the trades and wares that were available in late Roman times. There were even a couple of guys hacking at each other with short swords.

We left the castle around midday to drive out to our hotel and have lunch. We were staying at the Cardiff Copthorne, which is located in the middle of a very unprepossessing retail park to the west of the city. Nevertheless the hotel itself was lovely; it sits on the edge of a landscaped canal with ducks and a heron in residence and is shielded from the surrounding bustle by a well-placed screen of trees. The interior is done in an understated Edwardian style; lots of dark wood and regency green and is very well appointed for the price we paid. I’d stay there again.

They also made a very good lunch for us; everything seemed to be freshly cooked, rather than just reheated prêt à manger meals. We ate in the lounge overlooking the landscaping and the canal in all its hot summer's afternoon beauty.

After that, and a brief interlude ironing costumes, we headed back into Cardiff ready for our show.

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