Gwrych Castle is a Grade 1 listed building set on a wooded hillside within a 4,000 acre estate on the outskirts of Abergele, North Wales. It was built between 1819 and 1825 on the instruction of the grandfather of the then Countess of Dundonald and had a total of 128 rooms, 19 towers and a 52-step marble staircase, with the whole of the front facade being more than 200 yards long. From 1894 until 1924 it was the home of the Dundonald family, then when the Countess died she left the castle in her will to King George 5th and the then Prince of Wales, but the gift was refused and the castle passed to the Venerable Order of Saint John. In 1928 the 12th Earl of Dundonald bought the castle back for £78,000 but had to sell the contents to meet the cost.
During World War 2 the government used the castle to house 200 Jewish refugees, then in 1946 it was sold on, leaving the Dundonald family and passing through several owners. It was open to the public for twenty years until 1985 and played host to many different events, including medieval re-enactments and banquets. In 1989 it was bought by an American businessman for £750,000 but his plans to renovate the building weren't carried out and it was extensively looted and vandalised, although in 1996 it was used as a backdrop in the film Prince Valiant, which starred Joanna Lumley and Edward Fox. In 1998 the castle was extensively damaged by the collapse of various ceilings and floors and was later further damaged by fire, reducing it to a derelict and dangerous ruin.
The castle was sold on again in early 2007, being bought by a hotel and property chain with plans to convert it into a 5-Star hotel, but the company was placed into administration; since then new developers have obtained fresh planning permission to convert the castle into a luxury hotel with 75 bedrooms and associated facilities. In 2014 the Gwrych Castle Trust, working in conjunction with the castle's current owners, started a 3-year project to renovate and restore the buildings surrounding the main castle and convert the old Melon House and conservatory into a visitor centre.
Within the castle estate is the 18-hole Abergele golf course and next door to it is the camp site where I stay. On a sunny day a traffic-free walk with the dogs up to the castle and back is a very pleasant way to pass some time and hopefully in the not-too-distant future I'll be able to see the castle restored to all its former glory.