peterbirks: (Default)
So, at 8.30am Friday morning, my mum phoned me up:
: "You're not going, are you?"
. She was referring to my planned drive to the Brecon Beacons for two days, to attend the wedding of Craig's daughter Kate to Brian, at Craig y Nos ("Rock Of The Night") Castle.
"Sure I am"
I replied, attempting to sound less worried about the dire weather forecasts than I really was.

As it turned out, the trip was not too bad. One heavy downpour shortly after Swindon, and fairly steady rain once I had crossed the Severn Bridge, but generally trouble-free.

Near the end of the trip I had a worrying time after the Tom Tom sent me along an extremely narrow "unnamed road" for about three miles. "Christ", I said to myself, "I hope this isn't the only way to get to this place. Because, if it is, and it snows, there's no way out".

As it happened, Tom Tom decided this was faster than the route via the main roads (it did cut about four miles from the trip), but I don't think that I shall be going back that way.

The main concern after checking in was the discovery, to my horror, that there was no wireless internet connection. FOr the first time in yonks I had failed to bring a LAN cable, and for the first time in yonks, I needed one.

Still, never mind, I had my back-up 3G dongle.

Oh, there's no mobile phone signal.

And the radio didn't work, either.

The Brecon Beacons, might be pretty, but, in terms of communications, I wouldn't want to be in my car when it broke down.

Finding a mobile phone signal is a bit like Hunt The Thimble. There are pockets of single-bar reception that flit in and out like wisps of smoke in the air. And, by "pockets", I mean, standing absolutely still by the arch outside the main entrance and telling no-one else anywhere near you to please DO NOT MOVE for the duration of the phone call, because by doing so the atmosphere changes and the call gets lost. Most entertaining.

The prospect of a weekend without any contact via phone or interweb did not appeal. But we were saved by finding a public connection in the bar. No phone signal, but I had wifi.

The "Guest Pack" for residents makes for an entertaining read. The owner (he bought the place in 2000) comes across as quite a personality, and he is refreshingly honest (I guess he can afford to be, once he already has your cash -- I would have appreciated a bit more upfrontedness on the website about the poor mobile phone quality in the area).

After the normal bumph about times for breakfast, local places of interest, etc, we get the older and more modern history of the castle.

It was built in 1841 by Captain Powell and was a Gothic ruin before it was completed. He sold it to the Morgan Family in 1875 for £6,000 in 1875. It appears that they regretted this rather quickly, and managed to lose £2,500 on the deal in just three years, selling it on to famous opera singer Adelina Patti in 1878. 'Twas her who made the place famous (as well as extending it from a merely rambling Gothic pile into the huge Money-Pit that it is today -- she spent about £10m in current money extending the place), and she stayed here until her death in 1919. In 1920 the Winter Pavilion was dismantled and removed to Swansea, where it remains. The internal furnishings were auctioned off in 1920. And the place became a Tuberculosis Hospital for 40 years, and then a geriatric hospital for another 20 years. The building gradually sank into chronic disrepair.

pictures and more stuff )

August 2017

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