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Rhuddlan Castle (Denbighshire)

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Address: Denbighshire, northeast Wales SJ 024 779 / Type: Welsh Castle

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      07.10.2011 17:02
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      It'll take more than a lick of paint and a dollop of plaster to sort this one out i'm afraid

      Recently, well, over the 6 weeks school summer break, (which is 5 weeks and 6 days too long if you ask me), I've been trying to find thing to do to entertain the kids so that they wouldn't get too bored, and also to try and educate them in a stealth way so that they wouldn't know they were learning. So, I set about taking them to many fascinating places which were heaped with a little bit of history in the hope that they would take a few facts into their minds. So when a friend told me about a nice place that they had recently visited I decided to take a look myself, and the fact that it was only a matter of a forty five minute drive, plus it was only moments away from a seaside town that I knew my kids would love. The place I was told about, and decided to visit, is a Castle in North Wales and goes by the name of Rhuddlan Castle. ** BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CASTLE... In 1277 Edward the first ordered the building of the Castle and construction began, using mainly local lime stone, taking only five years to finish. The castle is technically a Concentric castle, which basically means that it has an inner wall which is higher than the outer wall, this makes it easier to defend if entrance was gained through the outer wall. Inside the walls are known as wards with the inner ward being watched over by twin towers, known as gate houses, with the outer ward having smaller towers to defend the castle. The inner ward was designed so that if the castle was surrounded then the occupants inside, like the Royals or lords, could remain in significant safety, containing such things as kitchens, private apartments, a stunning great Hall and even a chapel for prayer. In the outer ward, which was more for the 'staff' there were stables, storerooms, a granary and a blacksmiths. It has survived several attacks on Rhuddlan, including the Welsh Rising of Madog ap Llywelyn and the forces of Owain Glyddwr, unfortunately, after the English Civil war, when the castle was taken over by Parliamentary forces, the order to partially demolish it was given, leaving the Castle in as a ruin so no other forces could use it. Since then the castle was ignored, causing it to fall more into disrepair, until the Welsh Government took it on and, after making it a little safer, taking away unstable parts and stabilising other section, decided to keep it as a tourist attraction. These days the castle, which is kept by Cadw, the Welsh Governing body, is a ruin which you can walk around and also climb up the few steps that are safe to do so inside one or two of the towers, giving you a lovely view of the Welsh countryside and the River Clwyd. ** WHERE IS IT..? and how to find it..? Rhuddlan Castle is in North Wales and can be seen as you drive along the A525, A547, as if heading towards Rhyl. It is clearly sign posted as you approach from either the A55, the A525, A547 or even the A548 Rhyl Coast road. With the nearest railway station being in Rhyl, which is about 4 miles away, and there are buses which run more or less passed the Castle from Rhyl, Prestatyn and Denbigh. ** The cost to get in, (to date) is... * £3.20 Adult * £2.80 Children * £9.20 family which is 2 adults and 3 children under 16 The castle is open 10am until 5pm from April to October, with the last admission being at 4.30pm ** FACILITIES... There is a shop which stocks drinks and snacks, plus your typical souvenir such as pictures and leaflets of the Castle. There are also toilets near the shop which are well maintained and well equipped, including facilities for baby changing and disability access. ** MY OPINION... (my family day out there...) As Castles go this one isn't the grandest, mainly due to the fact that it's a ruin rather than a Castle, but it is still a remarkable construction to see. We drove towards the castle, with the signs directing us to the good size car park, which is almost in the shadow of the castle itself, making the initial impression as we got out of the car one of awe as we stared at the ruins ahead of us. To get into the actual castle grounds you have to go through the shop, this is where you buy your entrance 'ticket', but don't do any souvenir shopping on the way in as you'll have to carry it around you, it'll all still be there on your way out. Once through the shop we were in the outer ward of the Castle grounds, with the ruins seeming to tower over us, watching us with it's many jiggered holes as approached. We wandered over the moat which is empty of water of course, and for a brief moment I stopped and stared at the Castle ahead of me, staring in amazement at the massive construction with it crumbling body and almost eerie feeling as it stared back at me. The castle itself is a ruin, that's the only word for it, but I mean that with the utmost respect, remember, it was built between 1277 and 1282, which makes it over 700 years old, so you have to expect a few wrinkles at that age. There is no roof and the walls have all got holes in, so there's no chance of keeping the rain out and the heat in, but as no one lives there the heating bills are not a problem at all. Some of the walls look quite solid, with the window 'slits' being the only gaps as the solidly built walls have stood the test of time, but most of the castle walls and towers have crumbled away. And it's these 'crumbling' walls that make this castle look quite strange, although I'm guessing it didn't when it was first built, but now the lower sections of the walls look like they have been eroded away over the 700 years of Welsh wind and rain. The towers show this bests in the way that around the height of the first floor the stonework seems to 'strut' out, resulting in a remarkable looking structure to be admired, and a touch of sadness in the thought that this castle will no doubt crumble to the ground if something isn't done to preserve it. Walking under these crumbling walls is safe of course, otherwise the good old health and safety brigade would have knocked it down by now, or at the very least supplied the visitors which hard hats after a twenty minute lecture on what to do if you stub your toe. But even though I know it was safe I still got a slight feeling of nervousness as I wandered around underneath the rusty coloured stone work with what looked like a fresh attempt at bricklaying directly above my head. When I stood inside the inner ward, nest to the two front towers, looking up, I was amazed at the actual size of the castle, noticing the many doors that would have led to different rooms on different floors, trying to imagine how it would have looked with all the floor in place. You can climbed a few of the six towers, giving you access to the higher parts of the castle so you can enjoy the views, maybe taking a few pictures when you do so, but try not to get the metal railings in your shots when you do so. But even though you can climb the spiral staircase there are still parts of the towers that have metal grids covering them due to the fact that that area may be unsafe. I climbed one of the towers and walked along the short metal walkway, although my wife kept her feet on the ground with the kids as they seemed a little afraid of the climb up, even though I assured them that the steps were safe, but they didn't believe me. When I got to the top I was stunned by the spectacular views over the River Clwyd and the land beyond, so I took several pictures to show the wife and kids what they were missing. You can make out the way some of the rooms by the stones embedded into the ground and the strategically placed holes in the walls where the wooden joist would have been but have long since rotted away. This gives you an idea of how big some of the rooms were, such as the Great Hall which lies to the rear of the structure, and how small some others were, such as the store rooms. There are a few signs inside the ruins, giving a little information about where you are in the castle and what it was used for, which is quite interesting to read. Although no people live in the castle, and I've not heard of any spirits living there either, but there is a bit of a selection of birds living there, mainly seagulls, but others too. There are a few tunnel like structures, which all have a sturdy metal grid covering them, these are in fact either Wells or waste disposal chutes, so I believe. Most of the paths are pretty smooth, giving pushchairs and wheelchairs an easier run, but inside the ruins themselves there are a fair few cobbled areas which can become a bit of a stumble for wheels. But there is absolutely no chance of getting any form of wheeled devices up the towers at all, that includes those silly 'healies' that made the rounds a few years back. Walking around the edge, along the top of the moat, can be a bit dangerous under foot, especially as the drop into the moat is a bit on the high side and could hurt if you stumbled over the edge, which can be easily done if you lose concentration, or act a bit daft. But you can get into the moat safely by either walking around the castle until you see a set of stone steps near the rear, which lead you safely onto the grassed area below. The other way is to climb down one of the rocky areas which are scattered around the edges. There are more ruins in the shape of the outer ward wall, with a rather steep slope leading down to one of the outer wall towers which overlooks the river, but do be careful here as this grassy slope can be a bit trick and, in wet weather, is probably as slippery as a Teflon frying pan with a table spoon of oil in it. As for relaxing and maybe a bite to eat, well, we took a picnic with us as we didn't know if there was anywhere to get something to eat, plus, taking your own food with you saves an absolute fortune, and we discovered that there were lots of places to settle down to enjoy a bite to eat and a drink to quench our thirsts. There are many flat grassed areas to sit down and many rocks to perch on too, so there's no shortage of picnicking space or places to rest as you take in the history that surrounds you. In all, if you're ever near Rhyl, or just popping into North Wales, then take a detour to Rhuddlan castle and enjoy the peace and quiet whilst you take in the history of what was once a majestic Castle, but even now, even as the ruins is stand as these days, it is still a sight to savoured. You can spend a few hours there, relaxing with a picnic, or just spend a few minutes there, taking photographs to show your friends, but either way it is a spectacular part of History in a beautiful part of Wales.

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