Gwrych Castle

Sep 16, 2014 by

Gwrych Castle is a 19th century Welsh folly near the small village of Abergele, overlooking the Irish Sea.

This fairytale castle was last open to the public in 1985 and has been a derelict property since that time.  Gwrych Castle is now being renovated as a luxury hotel and will be opened to the public for one day, September 21, 2014, for the first time in thirty years.

According to local history, the first castle built at Gwrych was erected by the Normans in the 12th century.  After seizing the timber castle in 1170, Welsh prince Rhys ap Gruffyudd rebuilt the fortress in stone.  Cromwell’s army destroyed the stone castle during the English Civil War in the 17th century.

The current castle was built as a Gothic folly between 1812 and 1825 by industrialist Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh. In 1878, Hesketh’s granddaughter Winifred (sole heir to the estate) married the 12th Earl of Dundonald, a Scottish nobleman, and Gwrych Castle became home to the Dundonalds until 1924.  It was an arranged marriage and the couple spent most of their time apart-he in scotland, she at her family home in Wales. When Winifred died in 1924, her will stipulated that Gwrych should pass to King George V and the Prince of Wales; the gift was refused and the castle was then given to the Venerable Order of Saint John, a royal order of chivalry.

In 1925, Winifred’s husband, the Earl of Dundonald, bought the castle back. Unfortunately, he had to sell all of the contents of Gwrych Castle to cover the cost of the purchase. The Earl sold the castle in 1946 and it was opened to the public for the next 20 years. Gwrych changed hands several more times, and was once used for medieval festivals that included jousting:

The castle was closed to the public in 1985 and was purchased by an American businessman in 1989, who planned to turn it into a hotel. His plans failed and the property was vandalized and looted until the Gwrych Castle Trust facilitated the sale of the castle to Clayton Hotels in 2006. In 2009, the developers went bankrupt and the castle was sold to yet another hotel developer, which is now working with the Trust to restore Gwrych and open it as a five star hotel.

On September 21st, the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust will hold public tours to show recent renovations to the castle, as well the future plans for the site. This historic event will give visitors a chance to see the inside of this once proud manor home for the first time in 30 years.

If you cannot attend the public festivities, you can still help save this unique Welsh landmark by joining or donating to the Gwrych Castle Trust — click HERE.

 

Gwrych Castle, which once had 128 rooms, beautiful stained glass windows and a magnificent 52 step marble staircase, deserves another chance at glory.   It truly is one of the most splendid castles in Wales– hopefully, it will soon return to the ranks of outstanding Welsh places to visit.

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Old Welsh Dog Proverb

Aug 29, 2014 by

 

Many a promising romantic relationship has ended because one partner just cannot tolerate the other partner’s pet. Statistically speaking, the offending creature is usually a cat, but dogs can also be a problem. Perhaps that’s why the Celts of Wales created this old Welsh dog proverb to prevent any misunderstandings about who would or would not not be welcome at the family hearth.

Welsh-dog-proverb

Old Welsh Dog Proverb

The folklore  behind the old Welsh dog proverb says that the popular Welsh Corgi breed was originally a gift from the fairies to two wee Cymry (Welsh) who were herding cattle on royal lands. The children brought the pups home, thinking they might be foxes, but adults quickly corrected that misunderstanding. These small dogs, said the elders, are the mounts of fairy warriors, who ride them into battle. The wise men of the group showed the children the markings on the corgi, said to be evidence of where the fairies placed their saddles on the dogs.  Such dogs were considered honored guests in Welsh households and proved their worth time and again as herding dogs.   Anyone who refused to have such a magical dog in their household was surely destined for ill fortune.

The less mythical origins of the Corgi in Wales is that Flemish and Viking invaders brought their native dogs and cross bred them with the Welsh dogs, resulting in the breed we know and love today. The new breed proved adept at handling livestock and was quite loyal to its family. The Welsh dog proverb, however,  still applies.  Again, if forced to make a choice between keeping a dog who was helpful around the farm in so many ways versus a wife(usually) who didn’t want dogs dirting her home, I think the farmer was likely to heed the old Welsh dog proverb and give the boot to the wife.

After all, women are always available to a good farmer, but great farm DOGS are harder to come by.

 

For more info about the two Corgi breeds, the Pembroke and the Cardigan, click on these sources:

History of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi

Cardigan Welsh Corgi Rescue

Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America

Pembroke Welsh Corgi Rescue

 

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Spelunking With Bounce: World’s Largest Underground Trampoline Opens in Wales

Jul 6, 2014 by

In a world where elaborate projects designed to reuse, recycle and renew make headlines, Wales has just set a new standard by creating a whimsical underground trampoline in an abandoned slate mining cave. 

Blaenau Ffestiniog (roughly, pronounced Bly-nuh fes tin-yog) was once the second largest city in North Wales, at the height of the slate mining boom in the late 19th century. The market for slate tanked in the 1950’s and the area turned to tourism to survive.  The Llechwedd Slate Caverns, a slate quarry opened in 1836 and abandoned in the 1950’s, is one of the linchpins of local tourism, offering a Victorian Deep Mine tour via cable railway, a zip line said to be the longest in the world and now, Bounce Below, the world’s biggest underground trampoline installed in a huge, historic mining cavern.

 

 

Bounce Below, an underground trampoline experience in Wales (image from Colossal)

Bounce Below, an underground trampoline experience in Wales (image from Colossal)

As this news clip from CBS shows, a visit to the Welsh cave trampoline can be a fun and “amazing!” (from a thrilled child touring the caverns) underground adventure for all ages, one you’ll find nowhere else in the world except in beautiful Wales.

Think of it as one-of-a-kind  spelunking in Wales–with bounce!

 

Read more about the newly opened Welsh cave adventure in these links:

 

These Underground Trampolines Just Turned An Abandoned mine Into A Playground, Katherine Brooks, The Huffington Post

Is This Huge Underground Trampoline In Wales The Best Thing Ever?, Hannah Gale, Metro

Llechwedd Slate Caverns

Official Website of Blaenau Ffestiniog

 

 

Looking up at the world's largest underground trampoline, in north wales (image from Colossal)

Looking up at the world’s largest underground trampoline, in North Wales (image from Colossal)

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The Romantic Men of Wales

May 3, 2014 by

Are Welsh men the most romantic guys in the world? 

Whether it’s an imaginative proposal or a special video message for the bride, Welsh men seem to enjoy putting their all into romantic gestures.  I’ll let you decide for yourself  if the Welsh rank #1 in passionate gestures after you watch these charming videos created by men of Wales for their sweethearts.

 

Cariad is Welsh for Love From Mathew Hayes at  Welsh Word of the Day

Cariad is Welsh for Love
From Mathew Hayes at Welsh Word of the Day

 

 

The diners at The Cosy Club in Cardiff, Wales, got a big surprise when Mark Fury staged a flashmob serenade for his girlfriend, Naomi, as a precursor to his marriage proposal. He hired Sing & Inspire’s Llamau choir to perform a couple of upbeat love songs, then popped the question to a stunned Naomi. She said yes. Read more of their story HERE.

 

 

As a special treat for his new bride, Ceri, Steve created a video tribute starring some of her favorite showbiz and sports stars, including handsome Welsh rugger Sam Warburton, Scottish actor Kevin McKidd from Grey’s Anatomy (speaking with his Scottish accent, not the American one!), comedian Jonathan Ross and more.  Read their story HERE.

 

 

Go big or go home is the order of the day for this Welsh skydiver’s proposal!

 

 

 

 

Using words of faith and love from the Bible, Welshman Nathan proposes to his American girlfriend, Maegan, atop Margam Mountain, near Port Talbot, Wales. The ruins they are standing in are the remains of Hen Eglwys, a medieval church. Read the story HERE.

 

 

This isn’t a wedding proposal video, but it does feature a romantic Welshman, who is still going strong today. Don’t know too many Celtic women who’d turn down a kiss from Tom Jones.

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The St David’s Day Doodles of Google

Mar 1, 2014 by

 

Happy St David’s Day from Google!

For the past few years, the HUGE internet search company has honored Wales and its national holiday on March 1st by decorating their unique doodle of the day, an artistic logo for their homepage search box, with famous Welsh emblems.

The 2014 version features Y Ddraig Goch, the fierce Red Dragon of Wales, politely having tea with a woman wearing the betgwn (bedgown) and iconic Welsh stovepipe hat of rural 19th century Wales.

 

 

 

2013’s doodle features the Red Dragon of Wales breathing fire that magically transforms into daffodils, the national flower of Wales.  He also bears a green and white leek, another iconic Welsh emblem frequently seen on St David’s Day.    Read my recent post on St David’s Day to learn why Wales is one of the few countries to have a patriotic  national vegetable.

 

 

 

The 2012 Google Doodle for Dydd Gŵyl Dewi  again features the Red dragon, this time daintily sniffing daffodils while he reclines against a castle turret.

 

 

 

The Google Doodle for 2011 is the only one of the four to not feature the noble red dragon; instead, the G in the Google name is transformed into a Welsh lady in national costume, complete with black conical hat, shawl, goffered mobcap and daffodil.

 

 

 

To learn more about the history of Google’s Doodles, try their info page here.    Any suggestions for the 2015 St David Day’s Doodle?  Feel free to pass them on to the talented doodlers of  Google–who in turn pass on our rich Welsh heritage to the world.

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Dydd Gwyl Dewi Dedwydd! Happy St David’s Day!

Feb 28, 2014 by

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Dedwydd!  Happy St David’s Day!

March 1st is the feast day of Saint David, otherwise known as Dewi Sant, a Celtic monk and bishop who became the patron saint of Wales.   In Wales, St David’s Day, or Dydd Gŵyl Dewi as it is known in Welsh, is celebrated as a national holiday, and symbols  of Welsh pride are proudly displayed throughout the country.

 

 

David was born in Wales—the only one of the four main UK saints to be born in the country he represents– near the end of the 5th century, possibly in Pembrokeshire.  He was a member of the royal Ceredigion family, the son of Sandde, Prince of Powys, and Non, daughter of a chieftain of Menevia, now the town of St David’s.   He founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosin (The Vale of Roses) on the western headland of Sir Benfro, at the spot where St David’s Cathedral stands today. In addition to being the patron saint of Wales, David is also the patron saint of doves; in almost all depictions of the saint, you’ll find a dove somewhere in the image.   Legend holds that a white dove alighted on David’s shoulder while he was preaching, thus marking him as blessed by God and forever a protector of the peaceful bird.

 

 

 

 

 

One well-known tradition associated with St David’s day (and one of my favorites) is the wearing of daffodils, the national flower of Wales, and a colorful symbol of the return of Spring.  Daffodils supposedly grew around the walls of St David’s monastery, and the flowers are also known as cenhinen pedr, “Peter’s leeks”.   More about leeks in a moment…

Many Welsh people (Cymry) dress in traditional attire, such as the conical black hat once worn by Welsh farm women or miners’ helmets and lamps representative of Wale’s long history of mining.

 

 

 

 

Another plant worn proudly on St David’s Day is the patriotic national vegetable of Wales, the humble leek.     Leeks are wonderful cooked in soups and stews and breads, but why would you WEAR one? 

Well, the custom allegedly came about because St David ordered his soldiers (who were also probably monks) to wear leeks on their helmets as they went to battle against the pagan Saxon invaders. Or maybe it was King Cadwaladr of Gwyned who ordered the soldiers to strap on the leeks before the battle against the Saxon foes. It’s even possible that adoration of the leek pre-dates St David, stemming instead from ancient druidic practice in Wales, when the medicinal properties of leeks would have been highly valued.  According to Shakespeare, King Henry V wore a leek in honor of his Welsh heritage; soldiers in modern Welsh regiments carry on the tradition by pinning leeks pinned to their uniforms as a symbol of national pride. 

   Whatever the source of the tradition, the leek is firmly rooted in Welsh hearts and attire as their national allium.

 

 

If you don’t want to wear the leek, try cooking it in this recipe for cawl, a traditional Welsh soup served on St David’s Day. I usually add lamb to mine, but it is just as tasty without any meat.

 

 

 

St David has his own flag, a gold cross on a black background, which you’ll likely see flown alongside the national Welsh flag, with Y Ddraig Goch, the red dragon of Wales, emblazoned on a green and white (leek colors) background.

 

 

 

Want to learn the national anthem of Wales, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Old Land of Our Fathers) but worried you won’t know the correct pronunciations? This video has the lyrics for you in Welsh, phonetic Welsh and English:

 

 

 

Wishing you a wondeful St David’s Day, beautiful Celtic people–CYMRU AM BYTH!** WALES FOREVER!

 

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**Cymru am Byth is pronounced KUHM-ree ahm BITH

 

Sources and more info about St David’s Day and Wales:

St David’s Day, Wikipedia.org

St David’s Day National Parade, stdavidsday.org

www.walesonline.co.uk

The Leek: National Emblem of Wales, Historic-uk.com  and St David

Saint David, Catholicsaints.org

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Welsh Humor

Feb 23, 2014 by

 Welsh humor pokes fun at  its own customs and sayings. Whether the target is rugby, the Welsh language and people, or Wales’ English neighbors, it’s all in good fun.

So, go on, then–be Welsh and laugh now in a minute!

Welsh humor

In Wales, rugby is the national pastime, and no opponent is more vilified than the English national rugby team. There’s NO Welsh humor when it comes to beating the English.

 

Need a cwtch, dear?

Need a cwtch, dear?

Cwtch is a wonderful Welsh word that means a hug, a cuddle, and a warm, safe place, all rolled up into one.  It’s roughly pronounced coot-ch; rhymes with gooch or hooch. 

Even the language seems to have a sense of Welsh humor.

Here’s a short video with Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert  on stage, poking fun at his own homeland.

The national symbol of Wales is the red dragon, Y Ddraig Goch, a mighty beast that is not overly fond of yielding to cars. 

He’s not overly fond of Welsh humor, either.

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If you carefully [ pronunciation hint] search the internet, you’ll find that Caerphilly refers to a town in Wales, a medieval Welsh castle, and a hard, white Welsh cheese

  Caerphilly also makes for a tasty bit of Welsh humor.

Welsh Humor from Scribbler

Welsh Humor from Scribbler

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