|Ruthin Castle, Wales|
Several times a week nearly a hundred people don bibs and fill the banquet chamber, once the Great Hall of Ruthin Castle. A huge wood fire crackles at one side and the rafters and beams, blackened it seemed by centuries of wood-smoke, are hung with flags and shields that glint back the light of the fire and the flames of the thick white candles positioned at intervals along the tables.
Great trouble has been taken to keep the menus, dress, music and surroundings authentic, and these banquets have become a regular feature of this castle since l967 when the proprietors received a national award for them. Ruthin Castle itself has been there a good deal longer. Built originally as a fortress of wood and stone around l277, it was rebuilt and enlarged in l296 by Reginald de Grey who was in the service of Edward 1.
Set in over twelve hectares of parkland on the edge of the half-timbered black and white village of Ruthin (Rhuthun, in the Welsh), in the beautiful Vale of Clwyd, the castle has come a long way in the last seven hundred years or so. And because this is Wales, music plays an integral part of each night's proceedings. There is singing and the sounds that have haunted these valleys for centuries fills the room until everyone present feels the hairs on the back of their necks begin to rise. This is Wales, this is Welsh magic.
How to get there: Ruthin is on the north coast of Wales, several hours drive from Cardiff, but a useful stopover enroute to northern England, 40 minutes from Chester. Regarded as the gateway to Snowdonia, and the ideal centre for touring North Wales. One hour from Manchester airport.
What is available: In addition to the banquets, there are 58 rooms with private bath or shower, restaurant and bars, conference facilities.
What else is in the vicinity: Chester, Carnarvon with a castle of its own, Ruthin is a medieval market town and craft centre.
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