Powis Castle – an absolute gem! UK days out

powis castle

It was a boiling, sticky day when we decided to visit Powis Castle during our recent holiday in Wales. What were we thinking? We should have been crisping up on a beach somewhere! However, a beach is a just a beach and Powis Castle is one in a million. We have visited some great historical places on our travels, but this was one of our favourites.

Firstly  it is old. Really old. The original castle was built in the 13th century by a Welsh Prince. It has evolved ever since, and in the last 400 years has been added to and  remodelled to become the impressive building it is today.

Secondly, it is stunningly beautiful, especially its lovely terraced gardens. If you are ever in North Wales it is well worth a visit.

History

Powis Castle

In the late 1600s, Powis Castle was purchased by Sir Edward Herbert, who was responsible for creating the Long Gallery, which is now decorated with the coats of arms of his ancestors. The Castle stayed in the family for a couple of couple of hundred years, during which time the palatial interiors were created. These include the Grand Staircase (and it really is grand, no exaggeration!) and the state bedroom.

In 1784 Lady Henrietta Herbert married Edward Clive, whose father was Robert Clive, a controversial figure known as the conqueror of India. During the 20th century the castle interior was redecorated in Jacobean style and the gardens were improved.

Surprisingly, it is still owned by the Clive family, although these days it is in the care of the National Trust.

Inside the castle

Powis Castle

As you would imagine, the interior of the castle is as impressive as the exterior. There are hundreds of family portraits exhibited throughout, which we found fascinating. Each generation of the Herbert and Clive families has added to the collection of paintings, sculpture, furniture and tapestries. 

The Castle also houses the Clive Museum, with lots of Indian treasures on display, from weapons to textiles and ornaments made of precious metals.

No pics from inside the castle though – they weren’t allowed. This is always my complaint when we go to National Trust properties. I can’t see how taking a few photos of the interiors hurts?

My other slight gripe was that it was very dark inside. I know that the furnishings are damaged over time by light, but you need to balance this with the fact that visitors are paying to see things and keep these places going. Another visitor commented on it and was told that it was especially dark that day because the sun was shining so brightly outside.

Because I have been to other historical properties where the blinds are up AND you are allowed to take photos (for example, Holkham Hall in Norfolk), it makes me wonder if the National Trust aren’t being a little over protective?

Cellar tour

We booked in for the free guided cellar tour. Two guides, in character as the butler and the housekeeper, gave us some fascinating insights into what went on downstairs and how the Clive family lived. I would recommend doing this if you can.

Gardens

The best feature of Powis Castle is by far are the stunning terraced gardens. They are really extraordinary in design and the modern planting is fabulous.  They are absolutely immaculately kept too.

We sat under a shady tree to eat our picnic and just admire them. I think I will let the pictures do the talking here!

Powis Castle

Powis Castle

Powis Castle is in Welshpool in Powis, SY21 8RF. Admission costs £13 for an adult, £6.50 for a child and £32.50 for a family. Obviously it is free if you have a National Trust membership.

6 thoughts on “Powis Castle – an absolute gem! UK days out

  1. We loved our visit, many years ago, to Powis Castle, too, Jane. But some NT properties do permit photography, such as Saltram here in Devon. I don’t know why the NT doesn’t allow it in all properties across the board, but perhaps each property is run autonomously and photography is therefore at the discretion of the Property Manager?
    In my Powis Castle Guide book, I have slipped in a cutting from the Telegraph from 2004 – it is about a magnificent jewelled flask brought to England nearly 250 years ago by Robert Clive of India. Much of the collection is in Powis, but some items were held by the descendants of Clive and this flask was put up for auction at Christie’s. It is only 10 inches tall, and the estimate was between £800,000 and £1.2 million. It actually fetched £2.9 million (other items were sold and the total was £4.7 million and this in 2004.)
    But the value to visitors seeing these objects has little to do with their monetary value; we see them for what they are: things of great beauty.
    Powis is truly a magnificent building. To think it was constructed centuries ago leaves one in total awe of the place. But with so many lovely things to see, one very small item could so easily be overlooked. It is, according to the guide book (and who am I to disagree?) “one of the most beautiful of all British miniatures”, Lord Herbert of Chirbury depicted as a melancholy knight and lover.
    So glad you enjoyed your time at Powis, Jane.
    Margaret P

  2. PS – Sorry, I meant to add that while it is annoying that we can’t see some things properly because the NT are over-protective of their artefacts and furnishings, in Saltram when we visited a summer or two ago, the blinds and curtains were drawn and the candles (low lights to look like candles) were lit in some rooms to give the impression of evening, or dinner party-time. This was a novel way of getting around the light problem!
    I have to say, that we had our sofa re-covered in 2002. It is now – 16 years later – bleached from terracotta to pale pink in parts because of sunshine. Imagine how the sun would destroy the things that are infinitely more valuable, and in a very short time, if care wasn’t taken. And yes, the sunnier the day, the darker it seems within such places, unfortunately.
    Margaret P

  3. I totally agree with you regarding National Trust properties – they are either one extreme or the other!
    Lanhydrock House (between Bodmin & Lostwithiel) is once of those delightful “living” houses that immediately make you feel welcome. Light, bright and airy, you’re given free rein to take pictures and interact with the custodians, who are dressed in period costume for the rooms they are in!
    From the real butter swirls in the creamery and carafs of wine in the dining room, to the smell of carbolic soap in the scullery and baby powder in the nursery it gives the appearance that the family has just popped out for the day to let you look around!

      • Yes, Lanhydrock is a favourite of ours, too, Jane. But I don’t recall the guides being dressed in period costume, but this could be something new, it’s three years since we were last there. I just love the servants’ quarters and the nursery wing, and of course, all the various departments of the kitchen, each room used for a special purpose. A super house and well worth a visit.
        Margaret P

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