Castell Coch, Glamorgan
5 miles north of Cardiff City centre
Off A470 (Junction 32 M4)
Castle Coch was built in the thirteenth century by Gilbert the Red, Earl of Gloucester, to guard the plain of Cardiff to the south and the narrow Taff gorge against the Welsh. It's site is a classic one - a natural stone platform on the steep slopes above the gorge, protected to the south and west by cliffs falling away to the valley, to the north by the slight depression separating the platform from the summit of the hill, and approached from the east by a path through beech woods.
Some time in the fifteenth century Castell Coch - the Red Castle - was destroyed by mines and fire. The ruins remained standing for the centuries that followed. By 1850 all that remained were the foundations, from which the ground plan could be worked out, and a few meters of walls to the south-west tower. In 1871 Lord Bute, at the time the richest man in the world, arranged for the undergrowth to be cleared so as his architect could begin surveying the site for construction to begin four years later. It was completed in 1891.
~ History ~
1081 ~ The Norman's erect a timber castle to protect an crucial strategic route across the Taff Gorge and important newly conquered town of Cardiff. It formed one of eight fortifications intended to control Glamorgan against the Welsh.
1093 ~ The castle is abandoned following constant attacks by the Welsh.
1267 ~ Gilbert de Clare builds a stone castle on the site of an earlier Welsh & Norman timber castle, as part of an overall program of fortifications to protect his lordship of Glamorgan and his newly acquired Welsh lands of Senghenydd from its native rulers.
1268 ~ Further building work is undertaken at the castle.
1307 ~ Upon Gilbert's death the castle passes to his widow Joan and later to his son and heir, also names Gilbert. The castle is referred to as Castrum Rubeum, or Red Castle.
1314 ~ Gilbert is killed at the Battle of Bannockburn by Scottish forces led by William Wallace. The castle is later destroyed during a serious Welsh uprising, and later still abandoned.
1536 ~ Antiquarian John Leland visits the castle and describes it as "all in ruin, no big thing but high".
1760 ~ The castle ruins are acquired by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, as part of a marriage settlement that brought the family vast estates in South Wales.