Wales has more castles per head than anywhere else in the world, there are actually more than 600 castles in the country. Some have been lived in continuously for a thousand years, while others are romantic ruins. Most of them are native Welsh castles, built by Welsh royal dynasties, often in very beautiful places. One of them is Gwydir Castle situated in the Conwy Valley, roughly a mile to the west of the ancient market town of Llanrwst.
Widely regarded as one of the finest Tudor houses in Wales Gwydir Castle is part of the Gwydir estate, originally owned by the Coetmores who built the hall range, the earliest surviving part of the house. It was built by the illustrious Wynn family ca. 1500. Descendants of the Kings of Gwynedd, the Wynns were one of the most significant families of north Wales during the Tudor and Stuart periods.
Further additions and rebuilds were carried out in later years such as the Elizabethan Porch and garden during the 1590’s. Katherine of Berain (cousin of Queen Elizabeth I), Inigo Jones, Lord Leicester and the translator of the first Welsh Bible were just a few of the historical figures that have links to the estate.
The Gwydir Castle is open to the public, and there is a good chance for interested individuals to walk through the halls of 16th-century fortress retracing the steps of many historical figures and view the house through their eyes.
The house is full of hidden corners and historic rooms that seem to grow organically one from the other, unfortunately it is not allowed to take photos inside the house, it seems to be the owner’s main concern (we have been warned few times at the entrance).
The gardens which are Grade 1 listed are like stepping back in time, it feels so old, historical, I can think of no better way to describe it. There are many fantastic trees and original features.
The gardens, now home to several peacocks, were used to grow quinces and citrus fruits in the Elizabethan period.
Castle is open for visit April through October, entrance fee £6.00 for adults and £3.00 for children. Official website: Gwydir Castle
One of the most haunted houses in Wales
Stories relating to Gwydir’s various ghosts were recorded already in the 19th Century.
Perhaps the most significant, and certainly most widely reported of the ghosts is that of a young woman who haunts the north wing and the panelled corridor between the Hall of Meredith and the Great Chamber. In the nineteenth century the room behind the panelling was called the ‘Ghost Room’. A white or grey woman was said to have been frequently seen in the room and the adjoining passageway, accompanied by a foul smell of putrefaction. Whilst the apparition has not specifically been seen in recent years, its presence continues to be felt and some have claimed to have been touched on the shoulder whilst at the same time experiencing a considerable drop in temperature. In addition, the extraordinary smell associated with the sightings continues to be experienced, always in the same part of the passageway.
Sir John Wynn ranks amongst the many other reported ghosts. He has been sighted on a number of occasions on the spiral staircase leading from the Solar Hall to the Great Chamber; his portrait hangs in the Lower Hall.
There is also a ghostly monk, reportedly trapped in a tunnel leading from a secret chamber.
Although the place has the reputation for being one of the most haunted houses in Wales we didn’t have a feeling like being troubled by the ghosts, so I would admit it is all quiet on the ghost front now. Needless to say my wife and I were the only visitors so we got a chance to feel a very different atmosphere which raised our expectations. We enjoyed spending time walking in the gardens which are equally mesmerising with their authenticity to the period, it makes a visit here very special indeeds.
Photography © Gurcan Sarisoy