Major plans for Caerphilly Castle revealed as Cadw announces a further £9.5m investment into Wales’s historic sites

Wednesday 09 May 2018

Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly Castle

Wales’ biggest castle could be transformed into a major UK tourist attraction, if planning permission is granted.

Cadw revealed ambitious plans for Caerphilly Castle as part of its Castles Alive! campaign today (09 May), which will see a further £9.5m invested over three years to enhance the visitor experience at Cadw’s top sites*, which have seen a 27% increase in paid visitors since 2012.

The immediate plans of £570k for Caerphilly Castle, which attracted record visitor numbers in 2016 and again in 2017, include an interactive maze, Dragons’ Lair complete with audio-visual effects, and regular live firings of the medieval Siege Engines. The planned attractions also coincide with the Castle’s 750th anniversary year, and support wider Welsh Government programmes of investment in the Valleys.

Designed by specialists behind top attractions such as The London Dungeon, Warwick Castle and Madame Tussauds, the Caerphilly maze ‘Gilbert’s Maze’ will invite visitors to ‘break through its defences’ and ‘capture Gilbert De Clare’s castle without getting caught’. There’ll be secret passageways, interactive obstacles, and photo opportunities for visitors to enjoy along the way.

Meanwhile, a permanent home will be created for Cadw’s much-loved family of Dragons, which pulled in more than half a million visitors to the site last summer. Visitors will get the chance to hear their epic tale, narrated by actor Gareth Potter who has featured in the likes of Hinterland and Torchwood, choreographed to an audio-visual display and set in the shadows of Caerphilly Castle’s iconic leaning tower.

Finally, after months of restoration and training a team in medieval warfare, visitors can expect to see regular live shows where 12th century-inspired Siege Engines will catapult ammunition high above the castle grounds, travelling an impressive 150ft across the spectacular medieval backdrop into the surrounding moat.

It is hoped that all the new attractions will be in place at Caerphilly Castle by summer 2018, complemented by an action-packed events programme.

Cadw is also rolling-out a series of new and improved visitor experiences at castles across Wales — with a new attraction to be announced at Caernarfon Castle later this spring.

It’s all part of the further £9.5m Welsh Government investment over the next three years, which will enhance the visitor experience at historic sites across Wales — including further investment in Caerphilly to take forward the implementation of the site’s Masterplan —  and in turn, release revenue savings and support Wales’s unique culture, heritage and diversity.

Minister for Culture and Tourism, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, said: “Cadw visitor figures have risen continuously over recent years — bringing significant benefits to our tourism economy.

“In 2017, Cadw generated £4.4m in admissions revenue — an increase of almost 20% on the previous year. It’s vital that we continue to invest in our sites to further improve the visitor experience and strengthen their role in Wales’ tourism offer.

“Caerphilly Castle in particular has seen noteworthy visitor growth in recent years, with visitors flocking to site due to a combination of innovative attractions, events and installations. I’m confident that these innovative, new features will help to cement this impressive monument’s position as a top-class tourism attraction.

“And Caerphilly Castle isn’t alone. Cadw’s Castles Alive! campaign will provide regular visitors with a range of new experiences and events at castles and historic sites across Wales this summer, whilst providing yet another reason for those that haven’t yet visited and enjoyed our sites to do so.”

The plans have also been well received by local businesses. Oliver Wild, Manager of Roberts Estate Agents in Caerphilly, added: “This is great news for the town. There was a flurry of interest in Caerphilly the first time the Dragon appeared, so there’s clearly huge potential to transform the Castle into a major tourist attraction, which in turn, will benefit local businesses.”  

To keep up to date with Cadw’s Castle’s Alive! campaign and the full events programme at Cadw sites during 2018, visit www.cadw.wales.gov.uk, follow @CadwWales or @CadwCymru on Twitter and find Cadw on Facebook.

*Top-performing castles in terms of revenue generated and footfall: Caernarfon Castle, Harlech Castle, Beaumaris Castle, Conwy Castle (collectively a World Heritage Site), Castell Coch, Caerphilly Castle, Raglan Castle, Chepstow Castle.  

The major projects proposed will support Caerphilly Castle, Flint Castle, Tretower Court, Caernarfon Castle and Porth Mawr.

Caerphilly Castle — immediate investment £571,000
• Caerphilly Castle Maze: £140,000
• Dragons’ Lair: £61,000
• Siege Engines: £120,000
• Caerphilly Castle events: £50,000
• Conservation and interpretation: £200,000

Top-performing castles, collective paid visitor figures, by year
• 2017: 730,473 – up 10% on previous year
• 2016: 661,371 – up 6.5% on previous year
• 2015: 620,755 – up 4.9% on previous year
• 2014: 591,593 – up 2.6% on previous year
• 2013: 576,487 – up 5.8% on previous year.