Wales’ capital has a rich and interesting past which can be explored by paying a visit to the top historic Cardiff landmarks not far from Exchange Hotel in the heart of the city.
Being one of Cardiff’s oldest buildings, booking a stay at Exchange Hotel is like paying a visit to this interesting past. Our stunning grounds are set in what used to be the hub of Cardiff’s coal trade in the 19th century.
We’d like to explore one of Cardiff’s most prominent historic gems and help our guests do so by providing a detailed guide to Cardiff Castle, it’s history and what the building is used for today.
A Timeline of Cardiff Castle’s Residents
First came the Romans in 55 AD who set up camp where the River Taff neared the Bristol Channel. They built extensive forts and stayed until the early 5th century.
Next the Normans moved in and began fortifying the castle grounds by building the Keep.
The castle then began passing from family to family beginning with the de Clare’s in 1217. As Lords of Glamorgan both the older and younger Gilbert de Clare made the castle grounds strong by building the first defensive structures.
A dark spell at Cardiff Castle
A dark part of Cardiff’s history came next, a time at the castle that was filled with betrayal and death when the Younger Hugh Dispenser brutally murdered one of Cardiff and Wales’ most respected figures, Llywelyn Bren.
The revolt, led by Bren, came after an English administrator tasked with care of Cardiff Castle after Gilbert de Clare’s death, Payn de Turberville of Coity, began terrorising the people of Glamorgan. When Bren’s pleas to King Edward to stop the tyrant were ignored and threatened with trial for treason, he took to arms against English rule.
His fight was lost and he bravely turned himself over in 1316 with the condition that his men were spared. Then in 1318, a prisoner of war, Bren was turned over to the Younger Hugh Despenser who proceeded to execute him inside Cardiff Castle.
This blatant murder strengthed the resolve of local Lords and led to a baronial revolt in 1321 against the Despensers’ and King Edward II.
It wasn’t until 1326 that a successful rebellion led by Roger Mortimer led to the capture of Despenser and the eventual overthrowing of King Edward II. Despenser was exceuted in the same brutal fashion as Bren and the estates were all retuned to the control of Bren’s six sons.
By 1416, Cardiff Castle was still a stone version of the Norman Keep with battlements and interior walls surrounding it. After the disappearance of Owain Glyndwr in around 1415 the new occupiers of Cardiff Castle, the Beauchamps, decided to begin building a more comfortable residence in the style of Rose Tower in Windsor Castle.
The King of the Castle
In around 1480 Cardiff Castle became home to the future King of England Richard III.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester was made first Lord of Cardiff after marrying Ann Neville, daughter of Richard Wawrick who became known as “Wawrcik the King Maker”.
Richard Duke of Gloucester was the official protector of the crown until young Prince Edward came of age to take control of the realm. Before Edward came of age however, proof was provided that rendered his or his younger brother’s claims to the throne illegitimate.
A public vote was cast and in 1483 Richard, Duke of Gloucester became King of England.
The arrival of the Tudors at Cardiff Castle came after Richard III was defeated in battle. Cardiff Castle and the estates that came with it had been absorbed by the crown and were therefore not passed onto the Neville family heir but instead granted to Jasper Tudor, the King Cousin in 1486.
After this Cardiff Castle remained under royal control until the arrival of the Herbert’s in 1551. During this time Cardiff Castle was modernised and became a high class residence of the times. Civil War broke out in 1642 and Cardiff Castle sustained heavy damage and was abandoned as a home.
Passing through the hands of various heirs the dilapidated Cardiff Castle finally became Bute property in 1776, when the 1st Marquess of Bute took ownership.
Amazing Castle Apartments
It is because of the Bute family that Cardiff Castle is among the most impressive Cardiff landmarks in existence today.
With the Bute family came power and prosperity to Cardiff, the Butes are responsible for transforming Cardiff from a sleepy town into the thriving hub of world coal trade it became.
The Norman Keep and Roman Fortress became a fantasy Victorian Gothic dream palace we can all visit and enjoy today.
Together, the talents of architect Burges and the desires of the Marquess of Bute formed the extravagant interiors and welcoming grounds that have been preserved to this day.
Here we look at some of the most impressive apartments preserved and available to see on regular tours of the castle.
The 3rd Marquess of Bute had four children and in response to this architect Burges crafted a luxurious nursery within Cardiff Castle for the little Butes to play in.
As with other nurseries of the time the Cardiff Castle Nursery had a table and chairs to dine from and take lessons at, as well as modern toys such as elegant rocking horses. The rest of the room stands apart from the norm with intricate frescoes of popular children’s stories of the age depicted on the walls.
Perched atop Bute Tower are the stunning Cardiff Castle roof gardens. One of the most visually striking Cardiff landmarks in existence, the rooftop gardens were designed with inspirations from all over the world.
Iron columns, painted tiled walls and mosaic floors make Cardiff roof gardens a true feast for the eyes.
The Arab Rooms
Found inside the Herbert Tower, The Arab Room was built as a social space for the ladies of the house. Burges, perhaps unintentionally gave the apartment a distinctive harem feel.
The intricately carved ceiling is the rooms most striking feature yet the rest of the rooms décor is heavilly influenced by the architects travel experiences abroad and the Marquess’ extravagant tastes.
The Banqueting Hall
The Grand vaulted ceiling of the Banqueting Hall is adorned with gilded angels and complimented by marbled finishes and quirky turreted fire places.
Access to the stunning library can be gained by the impressive octagonal staircase, the only stairwell designed by Burges in the whole castle. Original furnishings include carved book cases that line all the walls complete with intricate details such as small animals, birds and insects.
Marquess of Bute’s Bedroom
In one of the latest extensions to Cardiff Castle lay the Marquess’ bedrooms. A lavish apartment decorated with precious stones and minerals at its theme to reflect the wealth of the Marquess through his success in the mining industry.
The mirrored ceiling and opulent furnishings made this rooms glint and gleam in the daylight and there is even said to be a clever installation in the ceiling mirrors which reflect the name John in Greek, for both John the Marquess and John the Baptist.
These are just a few examples of the extravagant details that lay within one of the most exquisite Cardiff landmarks and there are plenty of other rooms and hidden parts of the impressive castle to see on your tour.
What goes on today at Cardiff Castle?
Thanks to the luxurious interior of Cardiff Castle VIP events, dinners and tours are hosted here almost daily.
There are renactments of the stories and tales associated with the castle and it’s rich and interesting history as well as more modern events and occasions such as out door and underground cinema nights.
Other popular reasons to visit Cardiff Castle include the regular ghost tours of the castle grounds given by expert guides, music festivals such as the upcoming Depot in the Castle and recreated medieval jousts and battles.
During your stay at Exchange Hotel visiting the top Cardiff landmarks is easy and with this guide you can discover much more of Cardiff Castle’s long history before your visit.
Call and book a stay in Cardiff on 0151 601 8801 or email firstname.lastname@example.org we have plenty of fabulous accommodation offers that are suited to couples, families and groups of friends. So come along and explore some of Cardiff’s past from Exchange Hotel soon.