On my way back home to Ireland I stayed at one of my favourite haunts, The Mulberry Inn, in the Ceiriog Valley not too far from Chirk. It is an idyllic country inn with a beautiful garden and modern interior. The food is fabulous, the drinks delicious and the accommodation modern and extremely comfortable. A special thanks to Alan and his staff for making my recent stay so enjoyable. I look forward to returning to enjoy a gourmet night, which was the inspiration for my first book in the TREE series, Murdering Yew.
Having stayed at The Mulberry Inn a number of times I’ve explored the locality and therefore decided to venture twenty-five miles or so southward to visit Powis Castle in Welshpool, a property managed by the National Trust.
The approach to the castle is through a lovely park, and the red, stone edifice is quite commanding overlooking the park and gardens.
The latter are beautifully landscaped, with large yew trees, fountains, statues, box hedges and an icehouse. It was this which drew my attention as the igloo shaped exterior belied the deep, bricked well within which ice from the nearby lake was housed, wrapped in hay. The ice was used throughout the year to preserve food as well as cool drinks, reminding me of the wine cooler I saw at the stunningly beautiful Belvoir Castle a few days before. (https://www.aechambersnovelist.com/post/chambers-at-large-in-belvoir-castle-leicestershire-england)
The interior of Powis Castle is a little dark, due to the oak panelled walls and the curtains have to be drawn to preserve the numerous artefacts within. As light is the enemy photography wasn’t allowed, thus I do not have any snaps of the interior. My photographs of Powis are therefore limited to the exterior and the garden. A few things within the castle walls did catch my attention. In the long room where the ladies and gents took exercise when the weather was poor were busts of Roman emperors including Julius Caesar, Caligula and Nero. I am an avid fan of Roman history as it mostly concerns the three 'f's I mention in my blog about Belvedere House. (https://www.aechambersnovelist.com/post/chambers-at-large-visiting-belvedere-house-and-gardens-west-meath-ireland)
The library was filled on all three walls with historic tomes, two of which were on the childhood of Queen Victoria (1832 to 1840). I queried the dates as in 1832 she would have been 13, in my view not a child, but I suppose the title The Adolescence of Queen Victoria may have displeased her majesty or perhaps it simply doesn’t have the same appeal!
Regardless, two tomes devoted to eight years of the monarch’s existence seems a little OTT, especially when Roger Ackroyd’s book on the entire life of Sir Isaac Newton, who lived to the ripe old age of eighty-four, is a mere 153 pages. (https://www.aechambersnovelist.com/post/chambers-at-large-woolsthorpe-manor-the-home-place-of-sir-isaac-newton-lincolnshire-england) I was itching to know what the two tomes contained but visitors are not allowed to touch!
The rosary of Mary Queen of Scots is on display in the castle as are hundreds of stuffed birds, aviaries of them in the basement, and not being a fan of taxidermy I walked past these very quickly.
I was more taken with an oil painting entitled View of Verona from the Ponte Nuovo by Bernado Bellotto as I have been to Verona and enjoyed the Italian city very much. A smaller painting of Herbert of Cherbury also caught my eye, not because the man depicted was quite good looking but because he was courtier to Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I. Kudos to him surviving the political shenanigans of three monarchs!
Leaving Powis I made my way back to The Mulberry Inn via Oswestry. The birthplace of the War Poet, Wilfred Owen. However, I passed a sign for Whittington Castle, the ruins of which date back to the Iron Age and I soon found myself there.
By 1220 Whittington Castle was an impressive, moated, stone stronghold but sadly little remains. With the help of a drawing I could easily visualise how it was once bustling with Norman soldiers and Anglo Saxon farmers. One hundred years later the wonderfully named Fulk Fitzwarine VI and his wife Eleanor resided there. They turned the fortress into a palatial home complete with herb gardens.
As the castle is self-funding I was happy to take time out for a cup of tea and a slice of Victoria sponge in the café, alongside a Tudor building, before returning once again to the luxury of The Mulberry Inn, a far cry from the dark interiors of Powis and the ruins of Whittington, but I am sure Eleanor Fitzwarine would have appreciated the garden.