Thursday, 18 June 2015

Gwydir Castle - peacocks and yews

I visit North Wales often and I do like to find new places to explore whenever I can.  I had been aware of Gwydir Castle on previous visits and it was on the list of places I wanted to visit.  We set off on a warm sunny day, there have been few of them so far this year so the weather is worthy of note.  The castle is located near Llanrwst, my sat nav found it easily but wanted to take me on a route that involved a very narrow bridge that would only take one car going in one direction at a time so if something came the other way one of you would have to reverse.  I decided my reversing skills and stress levels were not up to that bridge so I went the possibly slightly longer, but definitely easier route up through Betsw y Coed.
You arrive to peacocks and a sign asking you to ring the handbell for attention.  I liked this.
There were many peacocks including this family with a peaclet called Des - Des was either Desmond or Desdemona apparently, gender is yet to be determined as it is still young.
The courtyard contains a rather fine knot garden,
that was largely planted with peacocks.
The castle itself was smothered in wisteria which apparently was first planted in 1828.  This makes it a true survivor as the history of the castle has not been a smooth one.  The castle itself dates back to the 14th century and has changed hands several times.  According to their website the house has associations with the Babbington Plot (1586) and the Gunpowder Plot (1605).  During the 1920s the castle was pretty much abandoned, fire destroyed large parts of it and it fell into disrepair.  It was bought in the 1940s by a family who did some restoration and then it was purchased in 1994 by Judy Corbett and Peter Welford.  They have been lovingly restoring it ever since including the purchasing of the Jacobean panelled dining room, purchased and removed from the castle in 1920 by William Randolph Hearst and taken to America where it was stored.  I was unable to take photographs indoors, but the dining room is worth seeing.  I can only assume that the dining room may not have survived the years of fire and neglect so its unusual history did save it.
The castle is apparently one of the most haunted houses in Wales, thankfully we had a ghost-free visit.
The gardens are also being restored, they have an equally interesting history and are Grade 1 listed.
These magnificent yews lined the lawn up towards the house.
There is the starting of a water-feature in this part of the garden.  I was unable to tell if it had original beginnings and was a restoration or a totally new addition.
Either way it looked really interesting and I am going to have to come back to see how it is progressing.
The garden has many fantastic trees.  Apparently it has fourteen pre-1700 yews and three surviving Cedars of Lebanon from twelve planted to commemorate the wedding of Charles 1st and Henrietta Maria in 1625.
The trees are showing their age,
Some are held together with ageing iron supports,
but the shapes and size of them make you just stop, take a breath and wonder with awe at all they must have seen in their life-span.
I really liked this avenue of pointy trees leading up to one of the sixteenth century garden arches.
and there are vistas out into the surrounding countryside and an Elizabethan causeway called 'The Chinese Walk' that goes out across the fields.  I am not sure if the picture below shows this, but it would explain why there were steps leading up to a wall that looked like it should be walked along.
We found these very busy bee hives.
The garden was like stepping back in time, it felt old/historical, I can think of no better way to describe it.  You could imagine and almost feel centuries of people walking around around the garden, looking at the same things we were looking at.
There were some ponds in the garden and the signs of water courses/features currently not there.  The castle does has a tendency to flood which means that the survival of the gardens is quite remarkable.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, I will be returning and I will be buying a copy of the book Judy Corbett has written describing their purchase and restoration of the castle:  Castles in the Air.  I can definitely recommend a visit.

3 comments :

  1. I love that knot garden "planted with peacocks." So pretty! Such an interesting history. Would love to read that book. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. It is daft that , although I have read the book and live quite close, I have never been to Gwydir. I shall have to remedy that. And if you come to North Wales quite a bit you must come and see us next time. We are on the Clwydian hills about ten minutes off the A55 so very much on the way to everywhere!

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    1. Hi Elizabeth thanks for your comment and yes I'd love to drop in. I do visit usually a couple of times a year so I will let you know when I am next around xx

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