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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