When traveling along the North Wales coastline, it’s hard not to spot Gwrych Castle. Nestled above the town of Abergele, its sprawling design and numerous turrets stand out along a tree-lined hillside. While from afar it looks like a medieval ruin, it is not as old as it appears.
Though local history tells of an earlier castle in this location, the current Gwrych Castle was a 19th-century creation. Lord Hesketh started construction on the Gothic folly in 1819, with his son building up the 4,000-acre estate.
From 1894 to 1924, the castle belonged to the Dundonald family. It then passed through a succession of owners. During World War II, the British government used it as a sanctuary for 200 Jewish refugees. For 20 years after that, it was open to the public as “The Showpiece of Wales” before being used for medieval reenactments such as jousting and mock banquets.
But when an American businessman purchased the castle in 1989, things took a turn for the worse. As renovations plans fell through, the castle was extensively looted and vandalized. As a result, the castle was left a derelict shell, although it was used in 1996 as a backdrop for the film Prince Valiant.
Following a further failed plan to turn it into a hotel, the castle and its estate were sold to the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust. Restoration work is going slowly, with it now possible to walk the grounds of the castle. However, it’ll still be many years before the interior is restored to its former glory.
Know Before You Go
The castle grounds are open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day, with last admission at 2:30 p.m. The main building is a ruin, so there is currently no public access. Entrance to the park is £5 for adults.