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.
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
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?
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.
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 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.