Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Charming Castle Hotel in Central Wales: Craig-Y-Nos Castle

Last summer on our tour of United Kingdom and Ireland we stopped at this lovely castle hotel, situated in central Wales, in the Upper Swansea Valley in Powys. Craig-Y-Nos ("Rock of the Night")  was built between 1840 and 1843 in neo-gothic style

After its completion and a few decades of adventurous history, the property was sold to the famous opera singer Adelina Patti. Madame Patti was the most celebrated soprano of her day, who could count Queen Victoria, Tzar Alexander II of Russia and Franz Joseph of Austria among her fans. She fell in love with the castle's romantic setting and architecture.  I suppose playing all those opera heroines had to be an influence on her decision. Thus began the golden years of Craig-Y-Nos, with parties, events and famous visitors including several European princes as well as the future King Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales. 

Adelina, who holds the distinction of being the highest paid performer ever known, happily sank a fortune into the refurbishing of the castle. She built a train station close by so she and her quests could arrive from London in style on private train. She also added a theatre to the property where she would stage operas and sing to her guests. Other changes included the building of the clock tower, conservatory and a beautiful winter garden.

The famous singer lived at her beloved castle (leaving only on occasional tours to sing around the world) until her death in 1919. The property became a hospital soon after that, and functioned as such until 1986. The years have not been kind to the buildings and by the time the hospital vacated the grounds the place was in dire need of repair.  Several private owners followed, each taking on various restoration projects.  Today the once magnificent castle is slowly being returned how it looked in its glory days. 

 Currently the castle houses bed and breakfast type accommodations.  We stayed in one of the side buildings in a family suite with a living room below and two bedrooms above, and a tiny bathroom.  If you prefer to have five-star splendor Craig-Y-Nos castle is not the place for you.  If may be in the years to come, as the owners keep renovating and upgrading the place. What it is right now is a charming rustic old castle in an idyllic setting with some nice large common areas.  

The rooms come with breakfast and the friendly staff is always available for a tour of the public areas of the building.  On our tour we got to visit the beautifully restored theatre which today again hosts opera performances, and learnt about the history of the property and about Adelina Patti.

As charming as Craig-Y-Nos castle is, its surroundings, the garden, park and woods and even more lovely.  Located in the Brecon Deacons National Park it is a popular area for hiking. We walked along the creek flowing at the bottom of the park, explored the meadows, woods and found a small lake too.

There are stables across the street for those who like horseback riding, and the Dan-Yr-Ogof Showcaves are just up the road. We have visited those also and I may do a post on them later.

The theatre can seat 150 people
If you find yourself in Central Wales, I recommend you pop in -or stay a night- at this romantic castle. As the renovations proceed to beautify the property, I am sure more and more people will learn of its existence and accordingly the price of stay will increase. For travelers of today, however, it is still a charming and bit crumbling estate definitely worth a weekend.

For more information check out the history of Powys as well as the Craig-Y-Nos castle website.

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