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Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle
Why does Wales’ most famous fortress look like something from a fairy tale?
A dorned with elaborate sculptures, covered walkways and dominated by a striking clock tower, Cardiff Castle looks almost too good to be true. But it’s real alright, and absolutely breathtaking. Built sometime after 1081 over the ruins of a Roman fort by the Normans, who were then expanding from England into Wales, Cardiff Castle was extended in the following centuries, notably in the early-15th century, where the keep took shape, and in the 18th century, where it was embellished with a Georgian mansion.

In 1848, Cardiff Castle was inherited by John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the third Marquess of Bute– then still not six months old – and its story soon took an unexpected swerve into the past. “My luxury is art”, wrote Bute later. “I have considerable taste for art and archaeology, and happily the means to indulge them.” Armed with his father’s wealth and an eclectic taste in history, religion, art, literature and even the occult, the 18-year-old Bute struck up a friendship with famously eccentric architect and designer William Burges. The two began to rebuild and decorate Cardiff Castle to fit their dream view of how a medieval castle should look.
Extensively remodelling the interior with cheeky carvings, stained glass, angelic statues and vaulted ceilings, Burges dwarfed the original building with Bute’s new apartments in a 40-metre (130-foot) high clock tower decorated with the various symbols of the Zodiac.
Sadly, Burges died in 1881 before his finest work yet – the breathtaking Arab Room, inspired by his travels to Sicily and Turkey– was complete and Bute paid tribute to his “soul-inspiring” friend in marble, carving both of their names where they can still be seen amid the fairy-tale fantasy of Cardiff Castle by stunned visitors today.

Cardiff Castle, John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, William Burges