Once upon a time, there was a city with a castle on every corner. Stories of knights, spells and battles still seem visible in its hills. Simultaneously, a city full of modern buildings made of glass and titanium also exists. Cardiff, the capital of Wales, claims to have some of the most castles in the world. A magical place, its fortress doors are always open. In fact, Cardiff means "the fort on the river Taff", which witnessed the epic battles between the Normans and the Welsh in the year 1000. That was when the castles started sprouting in this small region.
For families and children, it is an invitation to adventure. There are up to seven castles to visit, including the Cardiff Castle, Castell Coch (which means Red Castle in Welsh) and St. Fagans Castle, which is part of the National History Museum. All of them also offer activities for children. With over 2000 years of history, Cardiff Castle is a fantasy of colourful stained glass, gilded ceilings, marble floors. The Mediterranean gardens reflect different styles and the fortune invested by John (third Marquis of Bute) to transform the fortress into a fairytale is apparent. In the 19th century, Cardiff became the main exporter of coal in the world, and John Patrick Crichton-Stuart became the richest man on this land. A polyglot, he spoke 21 languages. The eccentric Marquis turned Cardiff Castle into one of the most luxurious in the UK.
Families can learn about its history through videos and audio guides. The castle also features routes like the Family Trail and the Animal Trail, in which adventurers must complete a set of tests guided by Gwen, the Celtic girl, or Banquo, the dog with no ears. The first one consists of a tour around the gardens, where you can discover the characters that inhabited the castle. In the second one, you find Banquo's hidden friends on the castle’s walls and ceilings.
There is more adventure in store for you in Cardiff. Another enchanting medieval castle, rebuilt in the 19th century by the same architect, William Burges, can be reached by bus or car. However, biking or walking might be much more interesting options. From Cardiff Castle, following the course of the River Taff along the Taff Trial, a five-mile wooded path gradually takes us into the world of Castle Coch (the Red Castle in Welsh). It has been the location for films such as 'Robin Hood' and 'The Black Knight'. The castle gift shop is yet another treasure, specialising in children’s toys. Is there anything more fun for kids than playing with bows and swords while the adults enjoy a picnic in the gardens?
St. Fagans Castle, a fortified 16th century mansion that is now part of the National History Museum, is notable for its elegance. In it, you will discover Welsh culture, from its costumes to its cuisine. During World War I, this castle was filled with beds for wounded soldiers. Nowadays, families can visit the village around the castle and participate in the rearing of sheep and in the preparation of different types of Welsh bread in the Communal bread oven.
Unfortunately, not all Cardiff castles remain intact. Some of them, like the Bishop's Palace, brother of the emblematic Caerphilly Castle in South Wales, only preserves its façade. Others like Twmpath Castle, were practically pulled out of the earth, although their foundations and a barrier of trees in the periphery remain. Most importantly, it is as if the castle’s spirit remained in place.