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Get me intoooooo hereeeeee! Our mini adventure around Gwrych Castle, home of I'm a Celebrity 2020

Get me intoooooo hereeeeee! Our mini adventure around Gwrych Castle, home of I’m a Celebrity 2020

Location: Llanddulas Road, Abergele, Conwy, LL22 8ET

Web link: https://www.facebook.com/gwrychcastle/

Attraction type: Historic buildings and gardens 

Cost of admission: £5 for adults, £2.50 for children, £15 for a family pass (two adults and up to three children).

Car park: Free (all weather parking)

Prebook: Not essential but prebooking is available.  

Opening times: Open daily from 10am to 5pm with last admittance at 4pm.

Wheelchair and pram accessible? Limited wheelchair access. There are multiple steps so a sling would be a better option. However, we saw several families with prams carry them up the steps.   

Walking difficulty: Moderate. See review below.  

Dog friendly: Yes dogs on leads are more than welcome.

Suitable for cyclists: N/A

Toilets: Yes

Food: No food for sale on site at present due to covid regulations so bring a picnic. Food will be available for purchase in the future at the Castle Tea Room and there will be bookable Cream Teas e.g. for Mothers Day. Catering is often present for event days.

Estimated visit duration: In its present condition around 60 to 90 minutes. When the events resume, you could easily make a full day out here.

Covid update: Please use the sanitiser provided around the site and maintain social distancing. One way system in place. Due to covid regulations and the fact the castle is a ruin, there is no entry into the building at present. Restored rooms will reopen with exhibitions and to showcase the work when they are able to do so. The grounds are extensive so plenty to do in the meantime.

Introduction

I don’t know about you but have you ever travelled down the infamous A55/Welsh Coastal Road and wondered about the impressive and imposing looking medieval castle tucked away in the hills? Fortunately for us, the answer was solved when Gwrych castle re-opened to the public in August 2018, after having been purchased by the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust. Since it’s re-opening, we visit a couple of times a year to help support this fantastic charity who are working tirelessly to restore this beautiful grade I listed country house in order for it to be enjoyed by visitors for generations. 

Gwrych Castles impressive  and imposing exterior from the car park area.

Yes you read that right. We were surprised to learn about this on our first visit too but Gwrych is technically a country house and not a castle, though it is built on an ancient site and once did have a Castle and Roman Fortress. Gwrych was actually one of the first attempts in Europe to replicate a Medieval Castle and had we not been informed, we never would have guessed based on its exterior.

The replica castle is set within 250 acres of gardens and woodlands and boasts impressive views over the former parkland and out to the Irish Sea. Gwrych Castle as it stands today was built between 1812 and 1822 by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh as a memorial to his mother’s ancestors, the Lloyds of Gwrych, with the design based heavily on the romantic movement. Back then it was fashionable to build homes that appear like castles. The original house on site was demolished but all parts had to be used in the rebuild.

Staff are very knowledgeable and passionate about the castle so on prior visits we learnt how the castle changed hands, about its use through the war (refugee camp for Jewish children), why the castle appears as it does today, how the charity secures funding for the restoration work, and the castles future plans. Currently, as well as restoring the main buildings, many pathways, 9 miles in fact, are being restored back to how they were originally.  Currently it is estimated that it will take 10 years and up to £50 million to fully restore. If you are interested in making a donation, please see the end of this review.

Formal gardens, Gwrych Castle

So what can you expect when you arrive?

Enter the estate under the castellated archway at the junction of Llanddulas Road/Tan y Gopa Road, Abergele and travel to the top of the long lane where you will be met by friendly staff in the car park. You can purchase your admission using cash or card and they will give you a handy map outlining the main areas of the castle and a description as to what each area was previously used for. The all weather car park is enormous and is now closer to the castle compared to on previous visits and so now you simply walk up a little bit of a steep hill and this leads you straight into the gardens. Alternative access will be possible in the near future.  Disabled parking can be arranged if you enquire with the staff. Email before attendance and a few days ahead.

Touring the castle grounds….

We entered via the garden entrance into the Gardener’s tower, based on the water tower at Rhuddlan Castle. This brought us to the formal gardens which have amazing views out to sea. There are some benches dotted along the walls for families to enjoy the view. Our little girl loved the water feature and smelling the flowers.

The remains of the cast iron windows from the what was once the conservatory at Gwrych. 

After exploring the gardens and monkey puzzle trees, we paused for photos outside the cast iron windows of what would have been the conservatory. We then followed the one way system up the steps along Lady’s walk before heading up more steps to some really impressive views over the estate and the exterior of the main part of the house. She loved all of the stone stairways, referring to feeling like she was in a Disney Princess’s castle with comments such as ‘ooo what’s going to be around here?’

At the top of the castle, as mentioned we soaked in the stunning views of the Irish sea. We also imagined that we were touring a real castle, pretending to protect it from invaders coming in from the sea. If you are worried about tired legs, there are a few benches dotted around for a sit down. 

No, this is my castle. Naughty!!!!

Climb up is now done so we headed towards the remains of the chapel and outdoor theatre before heading under the archway to Nanny’s most anticipated section; the area where they filmed I’m a celebrity’ in 2020. Nanny enjoyed casting her mind back to the show, trying to match up the buildings to what she saw on TV. 

We made it to camp!

Our little girl headed up the steps to the outdoor ‘privy’ and naughtily went under the rope. She soon ran a mile when we told her what it was. Served her right! There is also the old telephone box left behind in Coach House Court. What we loved was that the castle has not overly commercialised the TV show.

Mummy you are joking? EWWWWWW GET ME OUTTA HERE! The Privvy used in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Outta Here, Gwrych Castle. 

Unless you watched the show, you wouldn’t know which structures were used because obviously the aim is to restore the building, and not turn it into an I’m a celeb Museum. Of course Gwyrch do realise that we are all fans of the hit TV show and are proud that Gwrych was selected and so there will be guided tours plus Im a celeb events to celebrate all the hard work that went in to adapting the site so the show could still go ahead but on Welsh soil.  However this will not deter from the beauty of the castle.

Themed xhibitions are planned when it’s safe to do so and you’ll see the Jester, Costumes from the Show and many of the props left behind by the Contestants.  We then headed up to the brewery, again for impressive views. 

She then begrudgingly went into one of the nooks where the dairy cattle would have been kept so mummy could get a photo. She was less than pleased. Still miffed over the loo and not happy she’s now a cow! 

We passed the old stables and saw the site where the I’m a celeb contestants would have picked up their goodies on the odd chance they won the challenges, before following the path past the ice tower towards the main part of the house.

Stables, I’m A Celebrity Get Me Outta Here
Area around the Ice Tower

Although the main house is yet to be restored, it is still a beautiful piece of architecture and its great to stop and really take in and imagine how the house would have looked upon its creation.

Gwrych Castle, Main house and exterior grounds

We then decided to enjoy the space within the ground and simply read a book, throw a frisbee etc before heading home. There is also a popular route with dog walkers to Emily’s tower within the woodland but we didn’t venture along this today as it is currently closed.

Is Gwrych Castle Dog friendly?

The site is also very dog friendly with water in barrels provided so that you can re-fill your own containers. There are plenty of seats carefully placed to admire the amazing coastal views, stop and have a rest, or simply enjoy a picnic. Take a picnic blanket and head for the East Lawn.

So besides from the walk, what is there specifically for families?

On top of the kids touring the castle grounds and using their imaginations to play Knights and princesses in the open spaces, Gwrych is working tirelessly to make the attraction more appealing to families. Once covid restrictions ease, their family events will resume and there are quite a few in the pipeline. Previous events included a hidden fairy and naughty troll trail, and their sell out Victorian authentic and traditional Father Christmas which runs every year at Gwrych Castle, This year planned events included Easter dragon egg hunt, and Medieval family days but these had to be postponed due to covid.

We joined Gwyrch on a Medieval family day and can confirm that they do go all out to make the experience fun for little ones. They had ponies pulling carts, people dressed in medieval attire, lots of tents selling a range of goods, the option of face painting and glitter tattoos, reptile handling, birds of prey, knights battling, medieval story telling and more. We spoke to several visitors by chance who all reported that their families had an amazing time and the entrance fee was great value for money given all of the activities on offer. As parents, we loved the ‘buzz’ and excitement generated.

Recently Gwrych has started deploying themed trails for visitors to follow around the castle. The recent White Rabbit trail for Easter, when the castle reopened, saw lots of families tirelessly hunting for glimpses of the little rabbits hidden about the gardens. A VIP guided tour of the castle was the prize on offer for the lucky eagle-eyed guests.

 

For May Bank Holiday the Gwrych trolls will be returning with little fairies. Visitors will be encouraged to spot them lurking about the castle grounds and to engage with the progressing story dotted about the trail. Due to Covid restrictions trails must remain non-tactile for the present time, but in future the interactive element of them will grow.

Plans for future events include Disney Cosplay days where the children will be encouraged to dress up, celebrity themed days when some of the restored buildings can re-open, exhibitions and educational projects that aim to inform children about the importance of heritage and conservation of not only key landmarks but conserving wildlife too. For example, Gwrych are working with Hedgehog Rescue on such a programme.

 

The next trail is a hung for Nature/History and features around the Castle grounds which will include places not pointed out before and will have a learning/fun point, alongside free raffles for all attending children. The ghost hunts will be resuming once able as well. These are all pre booked and take place on weekend evenings and have previously seen very spooky goings on.

To conclude...

We enjoyed our visit today. It was great to explore an open space, using our imaginations to envisage how the castle looked, what life was like here and of course, our little one imaging Disney princesses as discussed and ghosts. All visitors bar one were respectful of social distancing so we felt nice and safe. Gwrych have worked hard to ensure that the site is covid secure, with lots of space for social distancing and so we wouldn’t hesitate to head back at some point in the near future.

We look forward to monitoring the restoration works and the upcoming events as there is so much potential for the future. We think its fantastic that they are open about the reasons why the public can not access certain buildings due to the stage of restoration and enjoyed reading about their plans for each part of the site. We wish them the best of luck in their restoration.

How can we support Gwrych Castle?

As a charity, Gwrych Castle rely on your kind donations. You can donate directly on their

website or GoFundMe page via the links below.

Support

https://uk.gofundme.com/f/gwrych-castle

Terms and conditions:

*Events mentioned are just a selection and are subject to change annually based on covid restrictions and of course funding for restoration projects.

*Although renovation works are underway, the main building is still a ruin so there is currently no public access.

* Although there are steps, the pathways/walkways are well maintained. For people with mobility issues the main building is becoming more accessible in listed building terms and walking is flat in most of the main building region.

*You could combine your visit here with a trip to Manorafon farm literally down the road on the Gwrych estate.  

*If you are interested in the history of Gwrych, buy the Guide Book by Mark Baker on arrival or online. The book is a comprehensive, factual and colour plated keepsake and very informative.

* Gwrych Castle supports the local Town, schools and also Pensarn and Promenade. Many Volunteers are connected locally.

* Twenty four hour security and CCTV remains in place…. a great way to teach the children about the demise of a beautiful place and location.

*Although we were gifted tickets to write an honest review, we feel confident that our experience is a factual and accurate reflection of what you can expect on your visit. However, please do bare in mind that different people can have different perceptions of the same experiences so please regard this review in the way it is intended I.e. for advice and a feel for what the attraction has to offer and not a recommendation.

An additional note from the team at Gwrych:

A few photographic memories included from many events.  Too many events to list here but restoration continues and so does the dedication of the hardworking teams saving this listed building the grounds and taking the responsibility very seriously to rescue this beautiful building and location.

Previously in private hands in the past for property development. Thanks to a hard working dedicated team that preservation is assured for the future and it is commendable to see what has been achieved given the mass vandalism of past years. Not one slate left on any roof, totally stripped bare and used as a rat run for anyone and a lot of crime.

Children are now learning about conservation and rescuing the environment for the future. 

Listed Buildings need help and support. Imagine the whole place at Gwrych Castle, collapsing with trees growing into the building from all sides. Gardens all collapsed and no clear definition of building or garden, so overgrown and unsafe.

Take a longer view embrace what has been done and teach your children to learn from the work done here. It’s absolutely outstanding and ITV clearly feel the same way. A disney/film location in the hillside of Abergele. Now the Celebrity Town of North Wales. 

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