The beautiful Vale of Clwyd resides in the middle of Denbighshire and has a cluster of historical attractions all within a very short distance.
In Ruthin you can take a trip through the seven ages of Nantclwyd y Dre, Wales’ oldest dated timbered town house. Originally built way back in 1435 it has been added to, updated and upgraded throughout the centuries. This house has been beautifully restored to demonstrate the changing fashions and the lives of its residents. In the attic rooms a surprise lives as visitors can observe a colony of Lesser Horseshoe bats via the ‘Bat Cam’ they can also take part in a quiz and use interactive media screens to learn more about the house and its inhabitants.
As well as the house you can also visit the fully restored Lord’s Garden. Admission to the Lords Garden is included in the entry price to the house. The gardens were first mentioned back in 1282 when it is said that they, along with Ruthin Castle, were awarded to Marcher Lord Reginald de Grey in recognition of his part in subduing Llywelyn the last native Prince of Wales. The Lord’s Garden would appear to have been an orchard and kitchen garden to the castle for some 350 years. During the Civil War, it became part of the Nantclwyd y Dre estate with greater emphasis on meadowland and ornamental gardens. From April to September, you can visit thurs to Saturday 11am – 5pm
Also in Ruthin there is the only purpose-built Pentonville style prison open as a heritage attraction. Normally people can spend time exploring its nooks and crannies and learn about life in the Victorian prison system. See how the prisoners lived their daily lives: what they ate, how they worked, and the punishments they suffered. Explore the cells including the punishment, ‘dark’ and condemned cell. Find out about the Welsh Houdini and William Hughes who was the last man to be hanged there. However due to extensive flood damage the interior is closed indoors for the rest of 2021. They are holding free outdoor tours of the prison buildings and exercise yards, plus the Shop will be open. Tours will take place at 11am and 2pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, from Wednesday 2 June.
Travelling 8 miles to the next town Denbigh, it is difficult not to notice the Castle dominating the skyline. Denbigh Castle is all about drama. Cross the drawbridge into the triple- towered gatehouse and you’ll hear the portcullis thundering down, chains rattling and the din of horses and marching soldiers. With all the sound effects it easy to imagine as it was once, the royal residence of Dafydd ap Gruffudd, whose attack on nearby Hawarden Castle provoked the English king Edward I to mount a full-scale invasion. By 1282 Denbigh was the in hands of the king’s commander Henry de Lacy. He lost no time in building a huge stone fortress with extensive town walls on top of Dafydd’s stronghold. But the Welsh weren’t finished just yet. The half-complete castle was attacked and captured and, by the time they got it back, the English had changed the blueprint. They made the curtain walls much higher, added the imposing gatehouse and inserted an ingenious ‘sally port’ – a secure secret doorway – so defenders could sneak out in an emergency.
Another eight miles into the vale and we have another castle, the awesome feat of engineering Rhuddlan Castle still towers above the River Clwyd. King Edward I liked his castles to be on the coast. It was safer that way so supplies could still get through by sea. At Rhuddlan, several miles inland, the plan was to use a river instead however the meandering Clwyd wasn’t quite in the right place. So Edward conscripted hundreds of labourers to dig and divert the course of the river. More than seven centuries later Rhuddlan still looks like a castle that was worth moving a river for. Begun in 1277 it was the first of the revolutionary concentric, or ‘walls within walls’, castles designed by master architect James of St George. You can also still clearly make out the medieval grid layout of the streets in modern-day Rhuddlan.
To finish off this whistle stop tour of the vale we can’t leave out Bodrhyddan Hall a stunning Grade 1 listed stately home, set in rural peaceful tranquillity. The Hall, which has several hundred acres of gardens, parkland and woodland, has remained in Langford family for over five hundred years. Steeped in both history and beauty, Bodrhyddan welcomes guests and visitors. Bodrhyddan north of the A5151 opens its doors to the public for guided tours, hosts unique and family friendly days out and is also available to book for your jaw-dropping wedding venue.
Plenty to do you’d agree maybe too much for a day trip so why not book yourself some accommodation and make a weekend of it?
Blog written by Denbighshire County Council Tourism Department as part of the Destination Management Plan 2021.