Castell Coch – The Red Castle

Posted on April 26, 2012 by

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Spur of the moment decisions sometimes work out just fine. Take New Year. Son phones. In bed. Death’s Door. Terrible cold. Can you babysit? Kids need feeding. Oh dear. Now. There are grandmothers who can’t wait to turn off The Chase and hurtle down the A1, M25 and M4 to get to their little darlings. Then there’s me. Me, who planned to spend New Year’s Eve in a Cardiff Curry House with Himself, Bruv – over from Oz – and my mate Rosie. The fact that not one of them knows of my plans is neither here nor there. Far more pressing is: How do I get out of this one and come up smelling of roses? How can I engineer Life so that on the day after the night before, New Year’s Day, I am flavour of the month instead of The Wicked Witch of the West? So that I, in short, manipulate everyone to get my own way? Himself is Easy Peasy Lemon Squeazy happy as long as he can take photographs. Thinks. He’s always wanted to photograph Castell Coch in Tongwynlais – ‘Ton Gwin Lice’ to the uninitiated – near Cardiff. The Sleeping Beauty fairy tale castle on a hill above the Vale of Glamorgan is dramatically silhouetted against beech woods. Kids love it. Son lives off the M4. Sorted. Pop in on the way, scoop them up and Bob’s your uncle. Get on to Late Rooms. Family suite,  two double bedrooms, kitchen, the lot all for tuppence. After all, who wants to book into a hotel the night before New Year’s Eve? As it turns out. No-one. No-one except us that is. Son will be ecstatic. Or not. Er – embarrassed – thanks all the same but I like to see the kids on New Year’s Eve. Oh dear, say I sweetly, we’ve booked a suite practically overlooking Castell Coch. The kids will love it. Sometimes my Machiavellian skills astound even me. Aw thanks, appreciate the effort but am feeling a lot better. So am I son. So am I.

Roads empty on way to Tongwynlais. Only one vehicle in the car park. Ours. Hotel Marie Celeste. We are the only living beings there, except for the staff (debatable). Vast suite is Arctic. Tiny heater gave up the ghost long ago. Complain. Chap brings panel heater. Still warm. He’s clearly been sitting on the only spare. Can’t find teabags say I. Dressing table drawer, says he. Of course. Silly me. Now. Phone Bruv and Rosie. They will be surprised. And pleased. Or not. Oh dear says Bruv. Short notice. I’ve made arrangements. Can make it in the morning. No can do say I, Castell Coch awaits a photographer. We’ve got a special prez, I wheedle, a DVD of our family tree (emigrants love family trees). I’ll wait in says he. One down one to go. Phone Rosie. OOOhh! Where you phoning from? Tongwynlais. TONGWYNLAIS!! What you doing THERE!!?? Long story. On for New Year’s Eve? No. Sorry. In bed. Death’s Door. Terrible cold. Get out of bed say I. Run across the road to Curry House. Book a table. You’ll feel much better. She laughed. You don’t change. Saw Bruv. Brill. Saw Rosie, Brill. Had Curry. Brill. Himself took loads of photographs. Brill.

As for Castell Coch. Brill. Can you imagine being so rich, the richest man in the world in fact, you pay an architect to reconstruct a mediaeval castle, a folly, just for the hell of it? If you haven’t seen it, do go.  It’s nothing short of magnificent. Eyes out on stalks time. Beautifully looked after, no beady eyed wardens in every room, ace caff with ace Welsh Rarebit.  As for son. He recovered well enough to go out on New Year’s Eve! Now there’s a surprise! We wished all our loved ones Happy New Year from Reading Services and watched the Trafalgar Square fireworks as we bombed along a deserted motorway. All in all a result. By the way. Guess how many castles there are in Wales? Four Hundred!!

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