Ruthin Castle Hotel and Spa is the ultimate Castle Hotel. With an origin steeped in legend and a history which has seen more than its fair share of treachery and tragedy, it makes it all the more surprising that Ruthin went onto become one of the places to be seen by high society during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods.
Now a stunning four star Castle destination, Ruthin castle is unique. An architectural jigsaw puzzle that guests are actively encouraged to explore. The latest piece of the jigsaw is a luxury spa resort that provides all the contemporary features that one would expect from a luxury 21st century hotel.
A wooden fort up until 1277, the Castle has links with the legends of King Arthur but it is the Welsh Princes with whom Ruthin is most associated.
Dafydd ap Gruffydd was the younger brother of Llywelyn, the man titled the Prince of Wales. Llywelyn was a savvy political and military operator who had maneuvered his way to become the most powerful figure in Wales. In doing so he denied his brother of his rightful inheritance to lands according to Welsh law. Dafydd originally rebelled against Llywelyn but having taken a quick defeat, Llywelyn welcomed Dafydd back into his household, keeping him as a background figure. Dafydd rebelled again in the early 1260's though this time, knowing his support in Wales was minimal, he defected to Henry III who was on the English throne. Dafydd misjudged the situation in England, however, as Henry was caught up in problems of his own.
In the midst of the Second Barons War, Henry was defeated at the Battle of Lewes. Both he and the crown Prince (the future Edward I) were taken prisoner by Simon de Montfort. As de Montfort's ally, Llywelyn had Dafydd repatriated a second time.
Humiliated, Dafydd awaited his opportunity to defect again. This time, his treachery was to have lasting consequences. In 1274 Dafydd defected to Edward I who was the new King and had returned from crusade with a fearsome reputation. He also felt he had a score to settle with Llywelyn.
Edward demanded that Llywelyn pay him homage as his vassal but the terms of an earlier treaty meant Llywelyn was an independent ruler subject to nobody. Edward's temper finally snapped in 1277 and he amassed a huge invasion force. Llywelyn was forced to sign the Treaty of Aberconwy, suing for peace.
Edward now controlled most of Wales and Dafydd was rewarded for his loyalty with the lands at Ruthin. Dafydd soon set to work turning his prize into a new stone castle in a style he had witnessed in southern England.
Within a short period of English rule it became apparent that a colonisation was taking place. An angry sentiment was building amongst the Welsh with Llywelyn biding his time before striking. Incredibly, it turned out to be Dafydd who was the first to initiate the revolt. After a flurry of successes the Welsh were overwhelmed. Llywelyn was killed and Dafydd, unable to rally the Welsh as his brother had done, was taken prisoner.
During the invasion Ruthin was besieged by Reginald de Grey. Reginald would be rewarded with the Castle and lands at Ruthin for his role in the war and he quickly set about finishing the job Dafydd had started. He called in the architect Master James of Saint George to complete his Castle. By 1283 Ruthin would have stood equal to the majesty that Caernarfon or Conwy Castles do today. Unfortunately, war would again wreak its havoc.
In 1400 Owain Glyndwr a descendent of the Welsh Princes, led a revolt against English rule. Reginald's ancestor (also Reginald) had become involved in a land dispute with Owain in which Henry IV had taken Reginald's side. Both the King and Reginald had misread the Welsh sentiment, as they had frequently done since Edward's conquest. The Welsh rebelled winning a series of improbable victories. Ruthin was captured by Owain's forces along with Reginald. His ransom of 10,000 gold marks crippled the King who had to sell off estates to secure the release of his favoured subject. Owain's war dragged on for 14 years before the cause faltered.
By the time the Tudor's came to the throne, the Ruthin estate had been sold to the crown.
As the private property of Charles I, Ruthin was occupied with Royalist troops during the Civil War. The Parliamentarians ruthlessly laid siege to Ruthin and after an eleven week stand-off, its garrison surrendered. Finally in 1648, Oliver Cromwell ordered that the fine stone castle be dismantled.
Various families would take ownership of Ruthin over the years, each adding their own architectural vision of the castle idyll and each creating something new and interesting from what had gone before. The result is quite unlike anywhere else in Wales. In a land that famed for its castles, that is quite some accomplishment.
Interesting Facts about Ruthin Castle Hotel and Spa
1. One of the wealthy families that owned and built the modern castle were the Cornwallis-Wests. The family were socialites at the highest levels and entertained amongst others, Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales. The crown Prince was rumoured to have had an affair with the young Patsy Cornwallis-West, wife of the Colonel who owned the castle. Patsy also frequently entertained other famous people of the day including American actress Lillie Langtry and Lady Randolph Churchill (mother of Sir Winston). The Prince of Wales was clearly a lustful fellow as he was rumoured to have had affairs with both women!
2. Patsy had two daughters, both of whom married into Royalty. Her eldest Shelagh married the Duke of Westminster, while her youngest, Daisy, married the powerful Hans Heinrich of Pless. She became famed in Silesia in South East Germany as a social reformer but with the outbreak of World War I her days of privilege were turned upside down by the horrors of war. Daisy volunteered as a nurse to help the war victims though not long after an end to hostilities she divorced her Prince and died in relative poverty. A portrait of Patsy can be found in a hallway at Ruthin Castle Hotel and Spa, be aware that her reflection can give you quite a surprise!