Despite being a small country, Wales has over 400 castles, but this one is unique, as it is right at the heart of its capital city, Cardiff. In fact, it is the main landmark.
A castle has stood on this site since around 55AD, but was a much smaller fort back then. It was originally a motte and bailey castle, probably nothing more than a lookout fortress. Over the years, it has been extended and new modifications added.
Eventually, the motte was abandoned, and a Georgian mansion popped up. The wealth increased for owners within the coal industry, and that shows in the fine rooms you see today. The castle passed through the hands of the Stuart dynasty, who lived here for centuries.
The castle was always built to protect, and that became a reality when the outer walls of the castle were used as a public air raid shelter, complete with kitchens, bedding areas and places to sit during bombing raids over Cardiff.
These tunnels were already existant before the war, possibly built for the possibility of an escape route should the castle ever get invaded. These tunnels made it possible for 1800 people to shelter inside during the war.
A strange man is said to follow people in these tunnels, but does not get too close…almost as if he just wants to watch to see what you are doing. Nobody knows which era he comes from, but one theory is that he is the same soldier that once defended this castle, and is regularly seen around the castle grounds also.
In the Georgian section of the castle, there is a large tower. This was known to be a popular place for Victorian style seances to be conducted.
Another ghost often seen in the castle is John Crichton-Stuart, 2nd Marquess of Bute. He developed the coal and iron industries across South Wales and built the Cardiff Docks. A statue of him still stands in the dockland area of the city. He died on the 18th March 1848 at Cardiff Castle.
After eating a large meal, he went downstairs into a small drawing room behind the library, where he collapsed and died. Today, that room is now a chapel, and a bust to the Bute currently stands on the exact spot where he died.
Many people have seen him. He has been seen walking from the library, through the fireplace (which did not exist when he was alive) and to the chapel.
In 1977, a man called Keith from Birmingham claims to have seen the Marquess standing at the top of the stairs outside the library with a scowel on his face. He recognised him as the man in the paintings on the wall.
Another young couple claimed to experience an “incredibly rude man” pushing them out of the way, as they left the chapel.
In 1975, castle custodian Derek Edwards was cleaning up after a dinner party in the banquetting party when he noticed a man starring at him. The building was closed to the public, and he should not have been inside the castle, so Derek approached him to ask him to leave, only for him to vanish into thin air.
Derek’s children also claimed to have seen the same man starring at them as they played, while waiting for their father to finish work.
Lady Sophia Rawdon-Hastings, the wife of the 2nd Marquess, is also said to haunt the castle.
The banquetting hall is said to have a female ghost who rearranges items over night. It is unknown whether this could be Lady Sophia or not.
One of the most chilling stories comes from the 1960s when a college student named Barbara rented out one of the upper rooms to practice music lessons in. She would play the piano in here. Whilst playing, she heard the door click shut, and a woman in 18th century clothing walk across the room, then vanish through a window. When she walked over to see where the woman went, she saw her standing on the edge of the roof looking towards Cardiff, before fading away. Barbara described feeling sudden sadness after this.
The most famous legend is that of the horse and coach, seen at the main entrance of the castle, usually before a member of the Hastings family dies. The legend was started when John Boyle claims he heard the coach on the night his cousin, Marquis Hasting died.
The legend popped up again in 1956 when a local chef called David Bricken was working late one evening. He claims he heard a coach being pulled by horses. When he looked, he saw the coach going through the castle gates, despite them being closed.
This would become one of my favourite buildings I have ever investigated, and I am dying to go back.