Whenever I visit a ruined castle, I spend most of my time, wondering what the castle looked like before it was ruined, and about what it was like to live inside.
But occasionally, you visit a castle that has never fallen down, a castle that instead of reaching the end of its useful life as a defensive fortress and being abandoned, has gone on to have a new life in peacetime.
Powis Castle, sitting proudly on top of a hill, just outside Welshpool in the Wales/England border-land, is one such example – and an incredibly beautiful one at that.
As you arrive at the Castle, there’s no doubting its origins as a fortress. The position on the hill-top, gives impressive views for miles across the area.
The austere red stone building, tightly nestled, as if holding strong arms around itself, gives no impression from the outside, of the opulence, beauty and grandeur you’ll encounter inside.
Because Powis, despite being built as a stronghold for Welsh princes, has spent the greatest period of its history, less as a fortress, and more as a grand stately home – a magnificent statement of the wealth and position of its owners.
In fact, once inside the castle, it’s easier to imagine yourself inside a grand country house of the C17th or C18th, than what is in effect the shell of a medieval construction.
While I was checking out some of the details about Powis, I came across this totally engaging blog from Ellen-Scarlett, who is currently working at the Castle, so rather than say much more about the interiors and the fabulous artistic treasures it contains, I do urge you to read View From My Attic Window. It’s so unusual to find an insight into one of these buildings from an insider, who writes in such a clear and enthusiastic style.
All I’ll say, is that if I didn’t have any responsibility for its upkeep, Powis is exactly my sort of castle – I know which bedroom I’d choose for myself, and I mentally plan big house-parties, with romantic, candle-lit dinners, and plenty of lounging around, reading from the extensive library.
As you’d expect with a building so old, it has its fair share of ghost stories, with one particularly popular about a ghost that gave instructions to an old lady. I’m sure it’s just as easy to make up your own in those kinds of surroundings.
But for those of us who simply get to visit for the day, the glory of Powis is probably not inside the Castle at all, instead it is the garden.
Wonderful terraces, complete with orangery and patinated lead statues, and more clipped yews than you could imagine (it makes my arms ache just thinking about them), the gardens and the views from the terraces are Powis’s real treasure, and one which we can all appreciate at first hand.
For more information
Please do start by reading Ellen-Scarlett’s fabulous blog View From My Attic
Of course Wiki has interesting details
And of course there’s the National Trust’s official site – the best place to find important visitor information. (Follow the links from here and you can see some of the art collection at Powis online).
Into ghost stories? Try here.