Cardiff Castle and the Mediaeval Melée

There was a competition on in my office for the opportunity to win tickets for a family of four to the Mediaeval Melée at Cardiff Castle this weekend. And I won! So, off we trotted yesterday into town and had a lovely couple of hours wandering around the grounds of the castle. However, we actually had no need of tickets as, as Cardiff residents we are entitled to free passes into the Castle grounds. Apparently, Lord Bute left Cardiff Castle to the people of Cardiff and so anyone who lives or works in Cardiff can get a five year entrance pass for free. So, we picked up the neceessary forms and will fill them in during this coming week. As GG said, it would be a lovely place to spend your lunchtime break, rather than sitting in the office and looking at the same four walls.

Anyway, we didn’t have the passport photos to complete the application there and then, so we were grateful to have the complimentary tickets from work. As we entered, we were greeted by many interesting sights, including a mediaeval style encampment, a sword school, some sort of dramatic performance off to our right and a display from the Castle Falconry to our left. Some pictures, I think!

castle keep

This was our view as we entered the castle grounds. The hollow keep (which we ascended later at the insistence of Cheeky) is immediately in front of you, preceded (on our visit, at least) by a row of mediaeval style tents for the weekend’s events.

eagle owl

This is Ollie, the eagle owl. Isn’t he beautiful? He was the star attraction in the falconry display, flying from one handler to the other, across lying-down bodies of visitors at one point. He flew quite close to the ground, so it must have been a real thrill to see this bird of prey flying so close above your head, if you were one of the people lying on their backs on the grass. I got lots of pictures of him, but none captured the strength of his eyes like this one, where he appeared to be glaring directly at me as if to say, “did you ask my permission before taking my picture? Insolence!”.

motte, moat and north gate

In this picture you see the side of the Norman motte, part of the moat and the northern gate which leads out to Bute Park at the rear of the castle. The moat, as you can see, is heavy with lilypads which are adorned with many beautiful water lily blossoms.

castle grounds

Finally, this is the view of the castle grounds from the battlement walk. I really enjoyed walking on this part of the grounds. We ascended through the tower at the north gate, and were able to walk all along the eastern wall. I think this would be my preferred location for enjoying a quiet lunchbreak away from the office. I might even treat myself to that, once the kids are in school and I can get awayfor a couple of hours on my own. However, I will DEFINITELY be bringing my packed lunch with me.

We had such a lovely day, and yet the memory of it is tarnished in part, due to the bad experience we had when we decided to have lunch in the castle café. We had anticipated that it might be expensive, but not to this level. We decided to have the advertised Cawl (Welsh vegetable broth, with chunky vegetables and lamb) with a slice of cheese and a roll. This came to £5.50, each! And when you’re just looking for a quick lunch for a family of four, this together with drinks makes it a pricey decision.

We ordered this, went to a table and waited. Eventually the kids’ bowls of soup appeared, but we had to wait a further ten minutes for ours. This made no sense to me as it was exactly the same meal, with just a little more broth in the adult bowls. When it arrived, my cheese had obviously been sitting on the (hot) plate for a while longer than the soup bowl, as it was completely melted. Then I cut into my bread roll, only to discover it was frozen in the middle. GG’s was cold, but not quite frozen, while Cheeky’s was also frozen. So, the rolls went back to the kitchen. Not much in the way of apology was offered, and I had to wait a fair while for someone to find me a couple of fresh rolls. Lo and behold, mine was frozen again. I was extremely vexed by now, and stomped back off to complain one again.  Another fresh roll was produced, after a considerable delay, which I think had been put in a microwave for a few seconds, judging by the feel of it, to avoid the whole frozen issue.

My attention having turned to the soup, I was really disappointed. The broth part was flavourless and the vegetables were exceedingly nondescript, to say the least. Two chunks of vegetable (I’ve no idea what they were supposed to be, but they looked a little like swede) tasted to me the way I imagine wood would taste if it had been soaked for a very long time and rendered soft. I couldn’t eat them.

So, in conclusion, visit Cardiff Castle if you get the opportunity as the grounds are lovely and the buildings are very interesting. But avoid the café. It’s OK if you just want a cake and a drink, if you have money to spare, but I think that when I go again, I’ll take a leaf out of one lady’s book who I saw sitting outside, picnicking on the grass. I shall make a detour to the Subway across the road and buy a freshly made roll which is guaranteed to have triple the flavour for half of the Castle prices!

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6 Responses

  1. I love the pictures, especially the owl’s scary stare. I really hope I can visit the Castle one day. I’m sorry to hear about your ‘not-so-good’ experience at the castle café, though. =)

  2. Those are some gorgeous pictures!

  3. Wish I was there now!

  4. @Liv, it was a good day. I’ll definitely make the effort to get there more often. And, completely unrelated, but how on earth did the car on the bridge on your website not plummet off the bridge once it had risen?! I’ll bet the people underneath were a trifle nervous as well!

    @Aik and @spamwarrior, thank you for your compliments on my photography. I love my little camera, and never go far without it. I’ve had it 4 years now, and it never lets me down!

  5. We picked the forms up for those passes when we went after the St David’s day parade – they’re still in the drawer. Must get around to getting some passport sized photos done. We weren’t very impressed with he cafe either, it took forever to get served a coffee. It is a lovely walk along the top though.

  6. Hi,

    I am from India & had visited the Cardiff Castle in 2008 on a Business trip to Cardiff. The Castle is just beautiful with its grounds and I alsoi happend to see the Owls & falconry display. I was infact searching for the Owls name on web when I found this web site with Ollies name !!! Thanks for putting this post.

    I hope to visit the beautiful Cardiff city once again some day.

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