Out National Trust membership comes in so handy and we love having the choice of so many amazing places to visit around the UK without having to shell out any more money – it makes for a cheap day out, especially with picnic in hand. As part of our North Wales tour, we headed to Chirk Castle for the day. To visit the castle itself and to explore the extensive ground and parkland around it.
The journey to Chirk Castle from my parent’s house on the Wirral was a quick and easy 48 minutes. The traffic was pretty good and the directions are east to follow. The National Trust also has lots of signs to direct you once you get closer to the attraction.
Again the sun was out to play and the skies were astonishing blue, making taking photos enjoyable if a little tricky with getting the sin right for the shot. Not that I am complaining, of course! That is a problem, I’ll put up with!
From the car park we went through the little entrance to collect our map and be guided on where we were going. We decided to visit the castle first as it would take us up to our picnic time. We walked around the visitor area and toilets and followed the hill upwards where we were greeted by one of the towers with the Welsh flag proudly blowing in the wind. (funnily enough, the castle used to be on the English side!) A glorious way to start your journey back in time around the castle from 1310.
The front entrance of the castle is equally stunning with the central door way, which was formerly the drawbridge which was changed by a previous resident. For obvious practical reasons!
Our own private introduction
As we walked through the entrance we noticed a sign about a tour. Always ones for getting some additional anecdotal and factual information we were curious to find out more. Luckily while we studied the sign, a lovely lady from the Trust come over and introduced herself as the tour guide. We were the only people who were there for it and she agreed to do it even with just the two of us. To be honest, it made it more special!
The introduction share the gruesome details of the Murder Room just inside the drawbridge door and the arrow slits to prevent anyone from getting close. The family also had wolves and we saw where they would have been tied up to ‘greet’ the enemy in the entrance.
On the inside
Inside we learned about the tents and owners of the castle, the history and alterations that have happened over the years. The current owners still have part of the castle for personal use – can you imagine Christmas in a castle?! The information was amazing and really set the scene for our visit – even down to knowing some secret things to look for. It was also informal and friendly, which we loved. It turns out that the Trust tour leader was new, so she was able to practice on us. Everyone was a winner.
Chat to everyone
Despite my reaction to it when I was younger and my parents would do it, I have learned that you should chat to everyone in places like this. Volunteers, staff and visitors alike. Ask questions and learn as much as you can. There is so much knowledge out there that is inside people’s heads that if you don’t ask, you’ll never know! One of the best things that came from chatting like this was a secret and private visit into one of the dining rooms at a National Trust where visitors were not normally allowed!
Quirky stories and objects
Inside the castle, you get to explore at your own leisure and pick up more information from the laminated sheets. From our tour, we knew that there would be some quirky things and kept out eye out to spot them. One of the previous owners loved armour and had some made for himself. He would often be found eating his breakfast and greeting guest wearing them!
My favourite is the one on display with the goat’s head on top.
As you walk from room to room, you get to see the style through the ages – including a room from the 20s. You get a real sense of the people who lived there as well as the way in which they used the space. Although pretty grand, they didn’t live hugely lavish lives. (in comparison to many others of the time)
Your journey through the house takes you through the living areas and then down to the basement. One of my favourite parts of the castle as it was cold, dark and exciting. It was incredibly deep for the age and time of the construction of the building and has really stood up to the test of time.
There were long slits leading to the air outside in order to keep the space ventilated. Very forward thinking, if you ask me!
Heading back into the courtyard, you can see just how beautiful the building is from that angle too. The ivy growing around the door and the detailed roof makes it feel more like a fairy tale castle. The light bouncing around really shows the immense size of the building too.
This leads you to both the servant quarters and to the newly opened upper area (I forget the name right now, but will find it out!) It had been previously shut because it as in a bad state and needed repair. Now, however, it looks amazing with the pointed brickwork, recovered frescoes and neat window frames. The views out onto the cafe makes it so romantic!
So much to see
As I say with my Urban Wanderering, it is important to look around and see things from different angles. I would totally recommend that you do that here too. There are so many quirky little things hidden away, but really worth finding when you explore and discover them. I forgot to take a photo, but
if when you visit, try to find the miniature version of the coat of arms I showed earlier!
One of the great things about National Trust properties is that they cater for the picnickers like us and usually have a designated space with tables. Chirk Castle had a lovely one hidden just by the food growing garden and allotments. This meant that we could watch the gardener at work while dappled with the shade of the fruit trees. The breeze was coming up, so we were pleased to have somewhere a little sheltered too.
Following having our fill, we headed out into the gardens to ave a gentle stroll before venturing into the countryside surroundings (I’ll tell you about that in another post!)
The gardens at Chirk Castle are laid to curved lawns with beautifully sculpted hedges and borders surrounding it. The Gardeners were out cutting the hedges and boy do they put our hedge cutting to shame!
It was the perfect time of year to enjoy the annual and perennial borders filled with summer colour and interest. The garden is well planned that you can wander around and find something of interest that will lead you to another one. There were even some deck chairs for us to enjoy the view from over the Ha-Ha. (I love that name! It’s a ditch that stops livestock from entering the gardens without spoiling the view. You can see on in Manchester at Heaton park)
The country-side of Chirk Castle and Estate
After exploring the garden, we decided to take things up a notch and head out into the Estate and surrounding countryside to get in a bit more f a strenuous hike. That in itself was an adventure, so I’ll save that for another post. you’ll even get to see how many times we went wrong on the trail that I had downloaded before we left and the amazing discoveries because of it. There’s always a silver lining.
So for now, that is the end of part one of our visit to Chirk Castle and parkland! I hope you’re enjoying it so far and feeling inspired to visit!
Remember to look at things in a different way and get an adventure in every day (I’m a poet and I know it!)
Do you enjoy visiting castles and stately homes? What is your favourite thing about them?
Share in the comments 🙂