Raglan Castle - a veritable Harrenhal
Raglan Castle is *huge* and imposing - and absolutely tucked away in a corner of Wales where you'd never expect. Of course Britain is so (beautifully, perfectly, awesomely) rotten with castles they are littered everywhere. I'm not complaining. I would quite like to see one that hasn't been either ruined or tarted up, though. Something altogether medieval and still, medieval. I haven't come across one yet (though Bolton Castle almost fit the bill) and I think it's now a goal of mine. Besides the fact that I want to crawl over the entire of Britain until I know it like the back of my hand, I want to see every castle I can.
I'm reminded of the adage "The difference between an American and an Englishman is that an American thinks 100 years is a long time and an Englishman thinks 100 miles is a long way." Pretty sure at this point I was simply born American so I could traverse the entirety of Britain without breaking a sweat. (Because of course I'll be in a car ;) ) Finding out that my heritage is up and down Scottish, (I even have the requisite ~10% Scandinavian DNA that most Scots do, not to mention my complexion and hair) has at the start, completely delighted me and further, confirmed my suspicions. I only need to gain the love of good whisky! Hasn't happened yet, alas.
But back to Wales and it's gigantic Raglan Castle. I had never heard of it before we spotted it on our GPS for "sites nearby" and decided to trek out to it from Cardiff. We got there in the afternoon in June and it was deserted. How grand was that? :) My favorite thing besides visiting these ancient places is visiting these places where there is no one else hanging about. Sublime, in a word, to wander these great halls alone with just your history background and imagination, burning into your long term memory some of the best dopamine hits travel money can buy.
We carted our teens along on this trip and they have a great time tromping along old ruins as me and my husband. They're quiet and respectful and I imagine do about the same as I do - wander in a dopey haze of daydreaming. Okay maybe not as dopey as I do. I bet there aren't many people who get as crazy blissed out as I do in a castle ruin. But my son was into it, taking it all in and looking in every corner and crevice. About ten minutes in he came back and found me, face full of delight and pronounced, 'It's exactly like Harrenhal."
Harrenhal is a fictional castle that's been ruined by dragonfire in George Martin's popular Game of Thrones book series. I quite agreed with him and now it's what we call it. Raglan Castle, sure - but really, it's Harrenhal.
The Castle was besieged by Oliver Cromwell during the Civil War. Afraid that it would be used as a Royalist fortification again, he destroyed it and let people rob out the stone. It is a spectacular shame. This place is magnificent and expansive, I can only imagine the how remarkable it was in it's prime. Besides it's current duty as a sleepy tourist destination, Raglan Castle has been used in filming the British tv show Merlin. I think it deserves a bit more attention.