Gwrych Castle

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Gwrych Castle
Castell Gwrych
Abergele, Wales
Gwrych Castle’s east front.jpg
East wing of the castle
Coordinates53°17′00″N 3°36′31″W / 53.2833°N 3.6087°W / 53.2833; -3.6087Coordinates: 53°17′00″N 3°36′31″W / 53.2833°N 3.6087°W / 53.2833; -3.6087
TypeGothic revival
Site information
OwnerGwrych Castle Preservation Trust
ConditionDerelict, being restored
Site history
  • Original building c.14th/15th centuries
  • Rebuilt 1810 onwards
Built by
In useOpen to public ( but Closed during I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! (British TV series) November–December)
MaterialsCast iron, grey and white limestone
Listed Building – Grade I

Gwrych Castle (Welsh: Castell Gwrych pronounced [ˌkastɛɬ ˈɡwrɨːx] meaning "Hedged Castle") is a Grade I listed 19th-century country house near Abergele in Conwy County Borough, Wales.[1] The castle and 236 acre[2] estate are owned by a charity and a portion of the land is leased to Natural Resources Wales on a 999-year term.

Pronunciation of Castell Gwrych (Welsh)
Pronunciation of Gwrych Castle (English)

Early history[edit]

The Lloyds (Llwyds) of Plas yn y Gwrych were the ancestral owners of Gwrych and could trace their ancestry back to the medieval period.[3] They were part of the royal house of Marchudd ap Cynan, founder of the VIII Noble Tribe of North Wales. The Lloyds also shared co-sanguinity with Llywelyn the Great.[4] Situated within the Gwrych Castle Estate are a pair of Iron Age hillforts, a Roman shrine, lead and silver mines and medieval battle sites; the latter[5] are recorded on stone tablets at the principal entrance.[6]

The creation of the castle[edit]

Gwrych Castle was built between 1810 and 1825 by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh (1787–1861), in memory of his mother Frances Lloyd and her ancestors. It incorporated an earlier house that had been in the ownership of the Lloyds since the late-medieval period.[7] From 1894 until 1924, Winifred, Countess of Dundonald, the Hesketh heiress, owned the estate and it became the residence of the Dundonald family (family name of Cochrane). The countess left the castle in her will to King George V and the then Prince of Wales (who later became Edward VIII). However, the gift was refused and the castle passed to the Venerable Order of Saint John. In 1928, the 12th Earl of Dundonald purchased the castle for £78,000 (equivalent to £4,734,000 in 2019), selling the contents to meet the cost.[8]

The Headless Monster[edit]

According to a few articles from 1913, on the main road leading to Colwyn Bay near Gwrych Castle, a person claimed that he saw a 'headless monster' in a field over a hedge. Another person claimed they heard a screech on the same road, but the headless creature turned out to be a black and white sheep that looked headless due to its black head blending with the shadows of the hedges; the screech turned out to be a broken branch of a tree being blown by the wind. This heightened fear caused many people to avoid that road completely, walking miles longer or taking a train instead. Men also took up arms, purchasing revolvers to protect themselves on their way to work.[9][10]


During the Second World War, as part of the Kindertransport programme, the Government used the castle to house 200 Jewish refugees run by the Jewish Zionist youth movement Bnei Akiva.[11] Following the war, the castle and estate left the Dundonald family and was opened to the public as a visitor attraction.


From the castle the views are far reaching; the Irish Sea to the north, the Little Orme and Great Ormes near Llandudno to the west, to the east the hill where Castell Cawr is located, Rhyl and Prestatyn, and on good days Liverpool.

Visitor attraction[edit]

Gwrych Castle became known as "The Showpiece of Wales" and attracted many visitors.[12] It was also used as a training venue for the English World Middleweight boxing champion Randolph Turpin in the early 1950s.

The restored formal gardens at Gwrych Castle. Built in the 1830s they were based on Queen Eleanor's garden at Conwy Castle

In the early 1960s it was an occasional venue for the famous motorcycle Dragon Rally, and in the 1970s it was used as a centre for medieval re-enactments, attracting tourists with such events as jousting and banquets.[13]

Closure and decline[edit]

Between 1982 and 1986 the location attracted scooterists from all across Britain, and there are a few accounts of scooterists exhibiting their bikes and scooters. Although many of those who attended were peaceful, some were antisocial. There were many young people who were denied service from the Castle bar because of their age, but because there were very few staff hired, when they turned their backs they would then return to steal kegs from the bar and carry them outside where many would help themselves. It was also a common occurrence for youths to swing from the chandeliers and jump on and break large antique tables. On another occasion someone rode their Lambretta scooter through one of the stained-glass windows. On another occasion a portable toilet was set alight. The police attended the area regularly to keep the peace.[14]

The castle closed to the public in 1987, and it started to decline.[4] It was bought in 1989 by Nick Tavaglione, an American businessman, for £750,000.[15] However, his plans to renovate the building were not carried out. As a result, the castle was extensively looted and vandalised, becoming little more than a derelict shell, although it was used in 1996 as the backdrop for Prince Valiant, a film starring Edward Fox, Joanna Lumley and Katherine Heigl.[16] It is currently open for guided and self-guided tours, but part of the site is closed as unsafe.[17]

During the period of Tavaglione's ownership, historian Mark Baker campaigned for the castle to be brought back to its days of glory—a campaign that he started when he was twelve years old.[18] Baker was instrumental in forming the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust, dedicated to ensuring the castle's future. The condition of the property was monitored by the Trust, who lobbied Conwy council to compulsorily purchase the property, eventually placing pressure on the American owner, who put it up for sale in March 2006.

Gwrych Castle and estate

City Services Ltd, trading as Clayton Homes and Clayton Hotels, bought the castle in January 2007 for £850,000, after it failed to reach its £1.5m reserve price at the 2 June 2006 auction. On 30 April 2007, Clayton Hotels announced a three-year project, costing £6,000,000, to renovate the castle and convert it into a 90-bedroom 5-star hotel, creating 100 jobs. The project was subject to planning permission, but had the support of the Trust.[16] Clayton Hotels spent about £500,000 on its plans, clearing the site and rebuilding areas.[19]

After Clayton Hotels was placed in administration, new developers obtained fresh planning permission in November 2012 from Conwy County Borough Council for the castle to be converted into a luxury hotel with 75 bedrooms and associated facilities.[20]

Rescue of the castle and estate[edit]

On 13 June 2018, Gwrych Castle and its estate was sold to Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust, a registered charity,[21] enabled by a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

The aims of the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust is; 'to preserve for the benefit of the people of north Wales and of the nation, the historical, architectural and constructional heritage that may exist in and around Gwrych Castle, Abergele, North Wales in buildings (including any building as defined in Section 336 of the Town & Planning Act 1990) of particular beauty or historical, architectural or constructional interest.',[22] further aims were also explained in a Welsh article where their hopes are to promote Welsh-based crafters, artists, musicians, and other creative avenues; "It's clear which path we want to follow - one that supports Welsh culture."[23]

Due to the large cost of repairs and restoring lost content, the trust relies on volunteers or/and philanthropists who are able to contribute their time, experiences, knowledge and skills.

Work on the castle to prepare for I'm a Celebrity filming
Work on the castle to prepare for I'm a Celebrity filming

In August 2020 it was rumoured that ITV had chosen the castle, for the filming of the 20th series of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! after the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the usual Australian location was no longer usable. This was confirmed on 27 August after Gwrych publicly confirmed this on their social media sites. Giovanna Fletcher was crowned the first-ever Queen of the Castle at the end of the series.

After arsonists destroyed power-lines back in 1995 by setting an old caravan alight, in June 2021 a new transformer and pole were installed.[24]

Due to the ongoing covid pandemic and restrictions of filming in Australia, in August 2021, ITV confirmed that I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! would be returning to Gwrych for the second time, ensuring that further funds would help restore the castle.[25]

In the media[edit]


  • Michael Portillo visited Gwrych Castle and met Mark Baker during series 9 episode 14 "Liverpool to Dolgarrog" of BBC Television's Great British Railway Journeys, first broadcast on 18 January 2018.
  • BBC One Wales' Hidden Wales episode 1 (2018) presented by Will Millard.
  • Gwrych Castle was featured in the season 5 episode "Haunting of Heartbreak Castle" of the TV series Mysteries of the Abandoned which aired on the Science Channel on 19 December 2019.[26]
  • In February 2020, Gwrych was briefly shown on S4C's subsidiary Hansh, where a Welsh artist and researcher for Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust, Rhŷn Williams, spoke about mental health and using his art as therapy to cope. The location was used to show the importance of keeping culture alive.[27]
  • In late 2020, Gwrych Castle was used as the location of the 20th series of ITV's I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, filming in Australia, the usual location for the series, was not possible.[28] Subsequently, in May 2021, with their involvement at the castle, Mark Busk-Cowley, Roy Callow, Steve Kruger, Andy Milligan, James Tinsley and Mathieu Weekes won Bafta awards for their contribution on 'I'm a Celebrity..'[29]
  • In November 2020, History Hit host Dan Snow interviewed Mark Baker, who has dedicated his working life to saving the castle.[30]
  • In November 2021, ITV's 'I'm a Celebrity..' returned at the castle, during the first week of shooting, Storm Arwen damaged parts of the set which was located at Manorafon Farm Park just 0.6 miles East of the castle, as a consequence, the show temporarily ceased filming and took the contestants off-set until filming could proceed,[31] the castle, however was unaffected by the winds due to prior knowledge of Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh who used Cefn yr Ogof's hill as a wind barrier against the winds of North-Western Irish Seas[32]




  • Life and Liszt: The Recollections of a Concert Pianist by Arthur Friedheim (1961),[39] the closest associate to Franz Liszt. In the book Friedheim details how a recital was arranged for him by Giacomo Casanova's cousin Lord Oranmore; it was taken at "the beautiful home of the Countess of Dundonald" (Gwrych Castle).[40]
  • Gwrych Castle: A Pictorial History by Mark Baker (2000)[41]
  • The rise and fall of Gwrych Castle, Abergele, North Wales: Including Winifred, Countess of Dundonald: a biography. (2003) by Mark Baker.[42]
  • Myths and Legends of the Gwrych Castle Estate: An Archaeological, Historical and Oral History (2006) by Mark Baker.[43]

The Gwrych Castle Trust Archive and the National Library of Wales hold materials relating to Gwrych, including original plans and designs for the stained-glass windows.

Video Games[edit]


  1. ^ Hayward, Will (11 December 2016). "These houses helped shape Wales' history but are now crumbling". WalesOnline. Media Wales. Archived from the original on 7 July 2019.
  2. ^ "ITV confirms I'm A Celeb's move to Welsh castle". BBC News. 27 August 2020. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  3. ^ "Gwrych Castle Estate Records". National Library of Wales Archives and Manuscripts. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  4. ^ a b "History". Gwrych Castle.
  5. ^ "Gwrych Castle near Abergele".
  6. ^ "Tan-yr-Ogof Lodge including adjoining walls and towers to S, E and W, Abergele, Conwy".
  7. ^ Binney, Marcus (27 August 2020). "Gwrych Castle: The astonishing fantasy castle saved by the dreams and bravery of a 12-year-old boy". Country Life.
  8. ^ "Castle to be auctioned for £1.5m". BBC News Online. 29 March 2006. Archived from the original on 14 April 2019. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  9. ^ Temuka Leader, Issue 7333, 14 June 1913, p. 6
  10. ^ "Search".
  11. ^ "Welsh haven for Jewish children". BBC News Online. 26 January 2006. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  12. ^ "Money boost for castle ruin fight". BBC News. 11 May 2005. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  13. ^ "Gwrych Castle: The astonishing fantasy castle saved by the dreams and bravery of a 12-year-old boy". – Country Life.
  14. ^ "The wild scooterists who once wreaked havoc on Gwyrch Castle". 13 June 2021.
  15. ^ Powell, David (2 June 2006). "£1.2m bid for castle but it's not enough". North Wales Live.
  16. ^ a b "Gothic castle to be luxury hotel". BBC News. 30 April 2007. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  17. ^ "Visit – Gwrych Castle".
  18. ^ "Teenager leads castle preservation campaign". BBC News. 27 October 1999. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  19. ^ Davies, Rob (12 April 2010). "Future of Abergele's Gwrych Castle remains uncertain". Daily Post. Archived from the original on 28 September 2012.
  20. ^ "Derelict Gwrych Castle to become luxury hotel". Daily Post. 22 November 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  21. ^ "Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust Limited, registered charity no. 1092035". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  22. ^ "About Us – Gwrych Castle".
  23. ^ "Castell Gwrych: Ceidwad y trysorau" [Gwrych Castle: Keeper of the treasures] (in Welsh). BBC News. 4 December 2020. Archived from the original on 7 December 2020.
  24. ^
  25. ^ "I'm a Celebrity 2021 location and line-up as ITV confirm Wales return". 2 August 2021.
  26. ^ "Mysteries of the Abandoned". Science Channel.
  27. ^ "Byw gyda anabledd cudd" – via Facebook.
  28. ^ Nisbet, Megan (27 August 2020). "I'm a Celeb filming location confirmed as Gwrych Castle in Wales". WalesOnline.
  29. ^ "I'm a Celebriity... Get Me Out of Here! - Entertainment Craft Team". 28 April 2021.
  30. ^ "Gwrych Castle: Catastrophe to Celebrity". History hit.
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Holiday on the Buses". 26 December 1973 – via IMDb.
  34. ^ "Prince Valiant". 24 July 1997 – via IMDb.
  35. ^ "Dragon Crusaders". 27 September 2011 – via IMDb.
  36. ^ "Saint Dracula 3D". 23 November 2012 – via IMDb.
  37. ^ "Tim Walker on the Inspiration Behind His Darkest, Most Surreal Photographs". 10 September 2019.
  38. ^ "Men's Fall-Winter 2021 Campaign".
  39. ^ Carter, Gerard B.; Adler, Martin; Friedheim, Arthur; Liszt, Franz (2011). Facsimile of Arthur Friedheim's edition of Franz Liszt's sonata in b minor (large study ed.). Ashfield, New South Wales: Wensleydale Press. ISBN 978-3-8442-0890-0. OCLC 778321356.
  40. ^ Friedheim, Arthur (25 October 1961). "Life and Liszt: the recollections of a concert pianist". New York: Taplinger – via Internet Archive.
  41. ^ Baker, Mark (2000). Gwrych Castle: A Pictorial History. ISBN 9780707403496.
  42. ^ Baker, Mark (2003). The rise and fall of Gwrych Castle, Abergele, North Wales: Including Winifred, Countess of Dundonald : A biography. ISBN 9780953744015.
  43. ^ Baker, Mark (2006). Myths and Legends of the Gwrych Castle Estate: An Archaeological, Historical and Oral History Approach. ISBN 9780953744039.
  44. ^ "ITV Launches I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! in Fortnite with John Lewis & Partners". ITV Press Centre. ITV. 23 November 2021.
  45. ^ Williams, Kathryn (23 November 2021). "I'm A Celebrity's Gwrych Castle to feature in Fortnite game where players can attempt their own trials". WalesOnline.

External links[edit]