Friday 16 January 2015
Cardigan Castle has seen its fair share of drama over the years, from a Norman invasion in 1066 to Wales’ first Eisteddfod in 1176. And 2015 is also a year set to go down in its history.
The Castle, which has been unoccupied since 1996, will open its doors to visitors in April, following an extensive £12m restoration project which began in 2011.
After more than a decade of lobbying and fundraising, led by the Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust (CBPT) and its devoted volunteers, the 900-year-old site will be given a new lease of life as a heritage attraction, luxury accommodation provider, bar and restaurant, and wedding and events venue.
The Trust has received more than £6m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and £4.3m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through Welsh Government, to restore the Grade I listed building, while creating new, sustainable uses for the historic site.
Further funding was received through a Communities Asset Transfer grant with support from the Welsh Government, Cadw, Big Lottery Fund, The UK Association of Preservation Trusts, The Architectural Heritage Fund, Ceredigion County Council, Cardigan Town Council and The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, as well as through community fundraising.
The redevelopment of the site has included the recreation of the paths and lawns of the Regency gardens, fitting of a floor-to-ceiling glass restaurant with panoramic views over the River Teifi, and the restoration of the whalebone arch – a ‘must have’ feature for early 19th century gardens.
It is hoped that the Castle will become one of west Wales’ top tourist destinations, attracting at least 33,000 visitors in the first year and bringing significant economic benefit to Cardigan and the wider area.
Jann Tucker, Chair of CBPT, who was recently awarded an MBE for her efforts in preserving Welsh heritage, said the Trust was now gearing up for an “incredibly intense” period over the next few months. “It’s been a long time coming but the finishing post is nearly in sight. We have worked so long and so hard for this. The Castle will really put Cardigan on the map,” she said.
And local businesses are too looking forward to the opening, with 71% of traders* believing that it will have a positive impact on the town of Cardigan and its surrounding areas.
Pam Vaughan, multiple business owner, said: “I have three shops in Cardigan town – Wishbone, a shabby chic boutique; Second Gear Canolfan Teifi, a clothing shop; and Second Gear Priory Street, which sells household goods and bedding.
“The high street is in desperate need of a boost, and for a retail owner like myself, it can be a real struggle.
“I think the opening of the Castle this spring will have a fantastic impact on Cardigan and I’m certainly hoping to reap the rewards from the increased visitors to the area. Even the small Christmas fair that the Castle hosted last year helped to drive footfall to my shops, so I hope the opening makes a real difference to trade.”
As the Castle moves into the final phase of completion, the workforce is now busy installing interpretation and creating heritage exhibition spaces; fitting the restaurant, shop and luxury accommodation; and recruiting kitchen staff ready for its opening.
Further jobs will be advertised via the website in the lead-up to spring, along with volunteer opportunities for roles as tour guides, shop assistants and gardeners.
Cris Tomos, Castle Director, said: “The restoration project is complete and now it’s all-hands-on-deck getting the Castle ready for operation. We’re planning an exciting programme of spring and summer outdoor events, a rotating exhibition featuring local talent and a seasonal menu in the restaurant.”
For further information and job opportunities, please visit the Cardigan Castle website. Those interested in volunteering roles should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01239 615 131.
Cardigan Castle’s restoration in numbers:
• 1 underground room discovered (7 feet beneath the ground)
• 60 tonnes of stone brought in and 80 tonnes of recycled stone used the reinstate the garden paths
• 135 plant species in the grounds; 15 of which are original
• 1,700 rolls of turf laid (only another 250 to go!)
• 3,000 daffodils planted
• 9,500 archaeological artefacts discovered, including medieval stone structures
• 20,590 volunteer hours
• £200,000 generated through community fundraising.