Two very different castles: Castel Coch and Caerphilly Castle
Bryn-y-Ddafad is a 10 minute drive from the M4 Junction 34. Leave the M4 at Junction 32 and take the A470 North signed to Merthyr Tydfil. Leave the A470 at the first exit and follow the brown signs to the Castel Coch which has its own car park.
Castel Coch, (Red Castle) has the outward appearance of a fairytale castle and was restored in the late 18C by the 3rd Marquis of Bute, reputedly the wealthiest man in the world. The ‘eccentric genius’ architect William Burgess was given free reign by his paymaster to create a rural retreat to complement the opulence of his main residence Cardiff Castle. Dazzling ceilings, over- the- top furnishings and furniture were liberally applied. High Gothic was the order of the day. The castle was not suitable for nor was it intended to be a permanent residence and the family's visits were infrequent.
Rejoin the A470 and continue North .Leave and follow the brown signs to Caerphilly Castle, situated in the middle of the town. There is a pay and display car park near to the Castle.
Caerphilly Castle, the largest castle in Wales and the second largest in the UK is a thick lumbering giant of a castle partly in ruins. Built by Gilbert de Clare, Caerphilly Castle was a stone behemoth surrounded by a series of moats and watery islands using the concentric walls within walls system of defence, which was the brainchild of Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, a redheaded nobleman of Norman descent. He also built the original Castel Coch located on the other side of Caerphilly Mountain. Caerphilly Castle has been used as a backdrop to many T.V. and film productions which recently have included Merlin.
Gilbert de Clare and Llywelyn ap Gruffydd were contempories at war and early attempts by Gilbert to build a castle were thwarted by the Welsh Price. Gilbert eventually won through and built a mammoth stronghold using the concentric 'walls within walls' system of defence. He also made sure there were large and comfortable rooms to live in.
The castle's condition worsened until the 19th century when the third Marquis of Bute began preservation work which was never completed. The leaning tower of Caerphilly in the image opposite is said to lean at a greater angle than the leaning tower of Pisa.
If time permits continue on your journey north on the A470 to the magnificent mountains of the Brecon Beacons.