Thursday, 5 May 2016

Cardiff Castle & Pettigrew Tea Rooms

Norman Keep Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle has a vast history to explore, stretching from the Ancient Roman Empire to air raid shelters of the World War. Nearby is also Pettigrew Tearooms, a perfect place to enjoy a slice of cake with views of Bute park and the Castle Apartments. 
If you're looking to do some sightseeing in the centre of Cardiff (and have a sweet tooth), look no further...

Pettigrew tea rooms tea cup and menu
Pettigrew Tea Rooms exterior Cardiff

My Cardiff day trip was organised by Traverse, a bloggers conference that this year was hosted in the city football stadium. 
Pettigrew Tearooms opens onto Bute Park and is named after the head gardener Mr Andrew Pettigrew, who worked here during the late 19th Century. The tearooms, gift shop and exhibition area is a destination in itself and is conveniently positioned near the river Taff water-bus stop with regular shuttles to Cardiff Bay
Inside the tea rooms you're met by the sight of cake... and lots of it! 

Cakes in Pettigrew Tea Rooms

With first impressions that would wow the likes of Mary Berry, I was excited to experience their Afternoon Tea.
What I immediately liked about Pettigrew's Afternoon Tea is that the choice is in your hands. For one person you choose two sandwich fillings from the eight on offer, for two you choose three fillings with granary or white bread. The fillings include classic cucumber and cream cheese, Welsh baked ham with mustard and roasted vegetables with hummus.

Pettigrew Tea Rooms Afternoon Tea

I was really pleased by the soft and light texture of the sandwiches, I'd recommend trying egg mayonnaise and Perl Wen organic brie with fruit chutney - so, so tasty!

Finger Sandwiches, Pettigrew Tea Rooms

Not only this, you have the choice of any beverage on the menu, a fruit or plain scone and a slice of your favourite cake. I have a soft spot for carrot cake, but would've happily devoured any with my loose leaf tea

Tea and cake in Pettigrew Tea Rooms Cardiff

Lighter options include a savoury cream tea with cheese and herb scones, toasted tea cakes, bagels, soups, sandwiches and salads.
Check out the nearby Hilton Hotel's Razzi Restaurant for an alternative afternoon tea by clicking here.

Cardiff Castle, norman keep and moat

If you live or work in Cardiff you have the option of purchasing a £5 Castle Key that gives you unlimited access for three years to the castle with discounts for shop and cafĂ©. If visiting on a one-off, a Castle ticket is currently £12 for adults with an optional guided house tour for £3. 

Norman keep, Welsh Flag, Cardiff Castle
View from Norman Keep, Cardiff Castle

Unlike the Castle Apartments, the old Norman Keep is in ruin and exposed to the elements. It's still a fascinating area to explore with steep staircases and nooks and crannies that will eventually lead you to the rooftop. Up here you'll find panoramic views of the city with the enchanting hill top Castell Coch to the north.

Cardiff Castle Norman Keep, The Banquet Hall

The Castle Apartments were transformed in the late 1800s by famous architect William Burges, who's works include Worcester College Chapel in Oxford and Trinity College in Connecticut USA.
It seems the wealthy 3rd Marquess of Bute spared no expense with lavishly decorated themed rooms and ornate furnishings.
The Banquet Hall is a spectacular space with a dramatic vaulted ceiling, gold guilting and wood carvings.

The Banquet Hall Cardiff Castle
Castle Apartments in Cardiff Castle

The apartment's extravagance really gives it a fairytale-like quality, I expect many children will have felt like they've stepped inside a Disney castle.

Spiral Staircase in Cardiff Castle
Roof garden in Cardiff Castle

Ascending the spiral staircase you'll discover the rooftop garden with painted tiles and water fountains. The oriental vibe continues in the awe-inspiring Arab Room with stained glass windows and Kaleidoscope-like ceiling pattern.
The additional £3 for a guided tour explores more of these rooms, including Lord Bute's bedroom and the Winter Smoking Room.

Arab Room Cardiff Castle

Something I totally missed on a previous visit was the air raid shelter inside the castle walls. It turned out to be one of my highlights from the whole experience and a complete contrast to the fantasy-like apartments.
Siren sound effects blared out as we walked through the narrow tunnel followed by the whirring of warplanes and distant booms. It's incredibly eerie but a powerful reminder of this turbulent period.

Cardiff Castle World War 2 Tunnels, Air Raid Shelters
Cardiff Castle World War Shelter

There's also an exhibition area titled the 'Firing Line' that details the life of the Welsh solider over the centuries with medals, weapons and armour (fun to try on) and the remains of the oldest part of the castle, the Roman fortress wall.
If visiting from abroad, the castle is conveniently located in the city centre with good public transportation. An audio guide is also currently offered with ten languages available.
See more of the Castle and seven other enchanting places in Cardiff by clicking here

My castle entry and afternoon tea was included with my ticket to Traverse - I was not obliged to write about my experience.
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