I remember going around that area on day trips with my parents when I lived in Cardiff, and later with friends to occasionally visit one of the rural pubs. There are two places that spring to mind when I think of the Vale of Glamorgan, one is a village called Llancarfan, and the other is Dyffryn Gardens.
I really only remember Llancarfan for being a pretty village, and because the narrow country road crossed a ford which as a kid used to be fun as the water splashed all over the car as we drove through. The village is small, having a pub, as most villages do in Wales, and a church on the site of Saint Cadoc’s 6th century clas, which was the name for a native Christian church in medieval Wales. Various Welsh holy men studied here. In 2001, the population of Llancarfan was 736, so as you can imagine it’s a peaceful place to live.
I would love to live in a small village like that, tranquil, surrounded by nature, but with easy access to all the amenities of modern society, if and when required.
The Dyffryn Estate dates back to 640 A.D., however, the construction of the present house began in 1893. In 1894, the landscaping of the gardens began and was completed in 1909. In 2006, the gardens were restored to the original plan drawn up in 1904. I have a very clear image in my mind of the old stone wall around the gardens and a clump of tall red hot pokers towering above that wall. It’s funny the things we keep in our heads, sometimes I can’t remember things from the day before, but I have that memory which dates back maybe, forty years.
The gardens include an arboretum, a rockery, a croquet lawn, a fountain and various statues, a lavender garden and a series of themed gardens known as the Garden Rooms. I would recommend Dyffryn Gardens as a place well worth visiting, especially on a beautiful, sunny, summer's day.
You can read more about the gardens and see some beautiful pictures here: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dyffryn-gardens/
The castle first belonged to the de Hawey family and then passed to the Stradling family through the marriage of Sir Peter Stradling to Joan de Hawey in 1298. The castle has had various other owners during its history, but none so famous as the person who bought it in 1925. Having seen photographs of the castle in the magazine Country Life, the newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, bought it. He spent more money than I will ever have, renovating the castle, and then it seems he enjoyed it to its full by holding lavish parties there. Some of the guests at his parties included Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and John F Kennedy.
George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying this about St Donat’s, “This is what God would have built if he had had the money.”
Hearst died in 1951, and the castle was bought in 1962 by Monsieur Antonin Besse II who donated it to the current owners. I still live in hope that someone will one day donate a beautiful old cottage with a large garden to me, so I can have the retirement I dream of and deserve!
I believe it is possible to visit the castle, but only if prearranged. Check here:
The agricultural show will be held on the Wednesday 13th of August in 2014 and is open from 8:30am until 8:00pm. You can read all about it here:
Fonmon castle, is a medieval castle from around the 13th century, and is still lived in today. It was originally the home of the St John family, and then in 1656 was bought by Colonel Phillip Jones who was a direct ancestor of the current owner, Sir Brooke Boothby.
It’s a beautiful site, and being situated only about 40 minutes from Cardiff, access couldn’t be easier. The castle is open to the public from April to September, can be hired for different events, and you can even get married there!
You can learn more about the castle here: http://www.fonmoncastle.com/visit-the-castle
So there you have a brief insight into some of the sights the Vale of Glamorgan has to offer.
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