We have just had a long weekend away to celebrate GOS’ birthday. Not wanting to travel too far in the limited time I booked an hotel in North Wales – or rather Ruthin Castle which was transformed into a hotel in the 1960’s. We motored up in thick fog and we were beginning to wonder if it had been such a good idea. However, after a brief comfort stop at Powis Castle and coffee, the fog cleared to sunshine and we motored on through the country roads edged by mountains and wooded valleys.
I don’t think I have lain my head anywhere quite so significantly historic! (At least we didn’t see the ghost which reputedly wanders the grounds.) The original castle, built by Edward I, is just a ruin which adjoins the “modern” castle built in 1826. It survived various onslaughts, the most significant being the attack by Owain Glendwr in 1400, but it was finally ravaged by the Parliamentarian forces in 1646 and partially dismantled 2 years later.
The current building is very much “done out” in a heavy Edwardian style because of it’s strong associations with Edward VII who at the turn of the late 1800s was having an affair with the then owners wife, Patsy Cornwallis West. (Her son was to later become the second husband of Lady Randolph Churchill – Winston’s Churchill’s mother). It is worth looking up Ruthin if you are at all interested. The place now looks a bit “tired” and could do with some TLC – sort of place I guess you could sink millions into! The staff were lovely, the restaurant excellent and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay.
The castle sits atop a hill above the medieval town itself and the ruins are incorporated into gardens within which peacocks wander about. They were looking a bit cold and fluffed up when we were there – poor old things. I did have time to to do a quick sketch whilst himself was having a massage in the Spa.
We spent our Saturday at Bodnant Gardens which spans 80 acres of hillside on the Conwy estuary. Another “must” – even if you are not a gardener. The views across the estuary were stunning for one and that on a cloudy January day. GOS is by no way particularly interested in gardening but even he was impressed!
There was, of course, little in bloom at this time of year, but that hardly detracted from the scene. Witch hazels, daphne, viburnam and, I think, some winter honeysuckle type plants were flowering and the scent was overpowering. The variety of plants collected there is staggering.
We are blessed in the UK with numerous such places created by the wealthy victorian industrialists, avid plant collectors and many of them great philanthropists. A visit like this always reinvigorates my love of gardening . . . . on hold at the moment as now we are home it has snowed again and I seem to have picked up a heavy cold. . . . .hey ho!