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I am certain that Wales was the inspiration behind the elvish language and names dreamt up by Tolkien in his timeless saga The Lord of the Rings. Does the script in the picture above not remind you of the inscription on the ring to rule all rings? Just wait till you hear the words spoken by a Welshman – a more melodious language I have never heard. In case you were interested, the words on the photo are from the second stanza of the Welsh national anthem, and translate very accurately as, “Old mountainous Wales, paradise of the bard.”
While I was living in the UK, I was lucky to spend a considerable amount of that time in Wales, surrounded not only by their beautiful language and accent, but also by enough castles to satisfy my “princess syndrome”. There are 3 must visit castles within easy reach of the Welsh capital, Cardiff.
Cardiff Castle is, as its name suggests, situated right in the heart of town. The site includes expansive lawns dominated by a motte-and-bailey Norman keep and surrounded by remnants of a Roman wall dating back to the 50s AD. The elaborate and fantastical Gothic style castle apartments are a must see.
Open daily except 25, 26 Dec and 1 Jan
Summer (Mar-Oct) 9am-6pm
Winter (Nov-Feb) 9am-5pm
Tickets: Adults £12 +/- additional £3 for optional house tour, children 5-16yo £9 +/- £2
Castell Coch is an even more whimsical study in Gothic fantasy, situated approximately 11km northwest of Cardiff. It boasts a working portcullis and drawbridge, a brilliant red balcony that winds up and around a circular central courtyard, and sumptuously decorated apartments housed within 3 conical towers. I shall let the pictures speak for themselves.
Getting there: Bus 26 or 132 from Cardiff to Tongwynlais
Open daily except 24-26 Dec and 1 Jan
Summer 9.30am-6pm, spring and autumn 9.30am-5pm, winter 10am-4pm, from 11am on Sundays in winter
Tickets: Adults £5.50, children under 16yo £4.10, free entry with CADW membership (£40/year for adults) and Explorer Passes (£17.50/3 days for adults, £26/7 days for adults)
Caerphilly Castle is not only surrounded by a moat, but also rolling hills. A proper medieval castle! It is situated approximately 12km north of Cardiff, and is a fun day trip not just for the castle itself, but also the picturesque village around it and the pastoral scenery. Allow time to walk around the concentrically laid out ramparts, taking in the views as you go.
Do you agree that Tolkien must have been inspired by the Welsh language (elvish), landscapes (hobbits), and castles (humans and dwarves)? What other castles or sights would you recommend visiting in the area?
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