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Letters to Dog Friendly Guests with Tips on Places to see

History & Restoration

Dog Friendly Wales Craig y Nos Castle Letters

What is Available to see and do in the Area
Letters to dog friendly / B&B guests
on Tips & Trips with your dog

Index of Dog Friendly Customer letters

1. Dog Friendly B&B at Craig y Nos Castle – Local Off-the-lead Dog Walks

As you enquired about a Dog Friendly B&B / mid-week Accommodation break at Craig y Nos Castle (and may indeed have stayed with us already), we’ll be sending you an occasional / monthly email with offers and updates on stays at our castle.

If at any time you no longer wish to receive updates and offers from us, simply press the unsubscribe option at the end of this email, and we will not contact you again.

Today I would like to share with you a section of our website that is best read before you come and stay – local dog walks. Even if you do not have a dog, these walks are an opportunity to see the local area, and take in some great views. Enjoy fresh air and open countryside. Some walks (such as the Usk Reservoir Walk) can also be cycled!

See more on our local walks (all within a short drive of the castle) here:

If the link does not work (if viewing on a small screen, it won’t work once split over two lines), go to the home page https://www.dogfriendlywales.com/index.html and choose < Jack’s Walk’s >  

The first walk is Henrhyd Waterfalls, then there are further walks such as Ystradfelte Waterfalls, the Lady of the Lake Walk, the Usk Reservoir Circular Walk, etc.

We look forward to seeing you at Craig y Nos Castle, to enjoy some fresh air and healthy country walks!

Kind regards,
Martin Gover
Owner / Craig y Nos Castle

2: Dog Friendly B&B at Craig y Nos Castle – Doggy Friendly Day Trips & Walks

Following your Dog Friendly B&B / mid-week Accommodation break enquiry at Craig y Nos Castle, this month I thought I would share with you, some further things to do in the wider area of the Brecon Beacons National Park and beyond.

Last month I sent you a link to our local dog walks – starting with the Henrhyd Waterfalls walk here:

The above walks are all within 5 – 50 minutes’ drive of the castle. By contrast, and for a longer mid-week stay, or if you have already stayed at the castle and have exhausted the half dozen ‘local’ walks, the following excursions will enable you to see more of South Wales, in and around the Brecon Beacons National Park.

See more starting with the Elan Village Reservoirs here:

The walks in this section all involve a day out with both driving scenery and picnicking, mountain biking and walking scenery at the destination. The destinations include Talybont on Usk Reservoir, the Llyn Brianne Reservoir, Talley Abbey and Forest tracks above, and the Dylan Thomas boathouse and Laugharne Castle coastal walks.

So, when you stay at Craig y Nos Castle on a discounted mid-week break, you can use these links to plan where you would like to go, and if you do have dogs, these are all excellent, scenic dog walks.

Kind regards,

Martin Gover
Owner / Craig y Nos Castle

3: Half price Dog Friendly B&B at Craig y Nos Castle, on a midweek break

You recently enquired about a Dog Friendly B&B / mid-week Accommodation break at Craig y Nos Castle and may indeed have stayed at the Castle.

As you will know, we have a Summer Mid-week Breaks deal where you can stay 2 or more nights in an en-suite at 50% off, the second and each subsequent night.

This letter is to advise you that we have recently added a new Midweek Breaks Deal to our Dog Friendly Wales website, for Winter breaks, where the second and each subsequent night is just £55 B&B per room, based on two sharing an en-suite. This rate applies on ‘winter trading’ months – see more on Winter Breaks here:

We hope you will be able to take either a Summer midweek break or a Winter midweek break sometime this year.

Kind regards,

Martin Gover
Owner / Craig y Nos Castle

4: Dog Friendly B&B at Craig y Nos Castle – Essential Services for Dogs near our Castle

When staying away on a Dog Friendly B&B / mid-week Accommodation break at Craig y Nos Castle, here are some useful services for dogs at the Castle. I do apologise if you have not got a dog!

First off, most dogs appreciate being groomed and clipped from time to time. So if your dog intends to smarten themselves up for their trip to the castle, ready to meet other residents for a walk-around sniff and hello woof, here is a useful local dog grooming service in Ystradgynlais (our nearest town).

Also, should your dog feel unwell at all during their discounted (actually dogs come free) mid-week break at the Castle, see our local veterinary service.

Additional local services include pet feeds and supplies at ‘Continental Garage’ 4 miles south of the castle, in case you have forgotten anything for your holiday. Dog feed, dog bowl or dog bed forgotten?  Pick up whatever you need just down the road.

Kind regards,

Martin Gover
Owner / Craig y Nos Castle

5: Dog Friendly B&B at Craig y Nos Castle – What to do on a Week’s Holiday; An Itinerary

Recently I sent you a link to some local attractions and to ‘Days Out’ walking/ touring excursions near Craig y Nos Castle.

If you’re planning a three, four or five-night midweek break in South Wales, whether at the Castle or elsewhere, you may want a longer itinerary - see week-long stay holiday itinerary ideas here. Aimed at people staying in our self-catering flats for at least a week, this is a seven-day touring and exploring itinerary with mainly dog friendly places to go, including some indoor options if the weather is bad.

The list includes local walks, local pubs to visit, local restaurants, Gower beaches, the Maritime Museum in Swansea, the Mumbles shops, Hay on Wye to the north of us, the Lake of Arthurian legend which few realise is hidden up an unmarked mountain track near the Castle (off the mountain single-track to Trecastle),

the Brecon Mountain Steam railway (a real treat for children),

the Mountain Centre at Libanus, the Monkey farm and zoo, and such gems as Tenby,

So, if you were planning a day or two-day trip to South Wales, you can now extend your stay, taking advantage of our half price mid-week breaks deals, and really get to see places that few even know exist.

I spent a couple of years on and off, walking around hundreds of attractions and walks in the area, creating a comprehensive itinerary of walks and days out for our guests. We hope you’ll soon be enjoying one of these great excursions!

Kind regards,

Martin Gover
Proprietor, Craig y Nos Castle.

6. Dog Friendly B&B at Craig y Nos Castle – New B&B availability, and how to book

When you’re next thinking of a break at Craig y Nos Castle, you’ll want a fast and simple way to check availability, to see which rooms we have for you, and to book.

We now have an on-line availability page which will shortly be complemented by an on-line room booking system. This means you do not have to spend time phoning or emailing our reception.

Then check the dog friendly rooms that are available on the dates of your stay - see each bedroom her with a brief summary, plus a further link to a fuller description of that room, if you wish to see more.

To book you simply complete the booking form here:

We hope you will soon be ready to make your next trip to South Wales, to stay on one of our midweek breaks deals at Craig y Nos Castle in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Kind regards,

Martin Gover
Proprietor, Craig y Nos Castle

7. Dog Friendly B&B at Craig y Nos Castle – How to join our Castle Club

You are receiving this email as part of a series of monthly emails from Craig y Nos Castle, because you have expressed an interest in staying at the Castle in the past, possibly on one of our Dog Friendly midweek breaks deals.

If at any point you want to cease hearing from us, you can unsubscribe at the bottom of this letter.

If you are planning to visit Craig y Nos Castle on one of our midweek breaks in an en-suite, we offer the second and each subsequent night at half price  - see more here.

If however you are planning to visit Craig y Nos Castle on a regular basis, or hold an event or party at the Castle, maybe a Birthday Party or some other event, then it may pay to join the Castle Members Club.

Members get all nights B&B at half price, on any length of stay, subject to availability. You can invite up to three other couples on a break with you at the same discounted rate. Should you wish to hold an event at the castle, there are discounts on event bookings and weddings, wedding anniversaries and B&B stays.

We look forward to seeing you at Craig y Nos Castle on your next visit to South Wales,

Kind regards,

Martin Gover
Proprietor, Craig y Nos Castle

8. Dog Friendly B&B at Craig y Nos Castle – Craig y Nos Farmhouse Self-Catering Breaks

However our farm was sold in 2021; see instead our self-catering at Craig y Nos here.

There is plenty to do in the area as you will see on the table of links we have prepared for our guests; see what to do in the area here.

Here you will find a neat table of links to all the local attractions and walks near the farmhouse, and in addition there is a week-long holiday itinerary here.

There is plenty to do in our area of South Wales and you will need several trips to get through all the places we have listed for you.

Kind regards,

Martin Gover
Proprietor, Craig y Nos Castle

9. Dog Friendly B&B at Craig y Nos Castle – Why our Mountain is a ‘Sleeping Giant’

If you are feeling in need of a brisk walk up a mountain, with bracing fresh air and remote hidden empty valleys with not a soul in sight for miles, so off the beaten track there is actually no track at all, and where you might actually get lost without a compass, then come to Craig y Nos Castle, where we do indeed have our own Sleeping Giant mountain right in front of our front entrance.

Locals know this area well, for somewhere in the hills and mountains lies a WW2 bomber that came down, killing a number of local people crewing the plane. Even now, should you chance across the bomber (I only managed to find it once) you will, in the middle of nowhere, find this skeletal plane wreck, dotted with little red poppies and crosses. If you want to find it, buy a local ordnance survey map.

I’ve devised for you a circular walk, with full directions for a couple of hours or more ramble / ascent / descent, starting off behind the coach-house opposite us. It’s initially a steep stepped climb – take it slow. My route curves around safely behind the Dan yr Ogof show caves, running parallel to the road below, returning via a steep mountain path to the Welsh Show caves. Dogs will need lifting over a couple of fences and styles and there are NO official tracks for much of this walk. See directions here.

The Mountain which I call ‘our Mountain’ is known as the Sleeping Giant, because, viewed from a few miles south of the Castle (just coming up from Continental Garage), it looks just like a Giant has lain down and is sleeping. This mountain is literally in front of our front door, though you’d not know it close up. Bring your hiking boots and a camera, for the views over the castle are fantastic on a clear day!

Kind regards,
Martin Gover
Proprietor, Craig y Nos Castle

10. Dog Friendly B&B at Craig y Nos Castle – History Tours & Restoration

If you’ve already stayed at Craig y Nos Castle, you may already know a bit of its history, as we invite all overnight guests on a History tour.

In the old days, the Castle was owned by a world-famous Opera Singer, Adelina Patti, who was the highest paid opera star of her time. She earned £1,000 a performance. And she insisted on being paid in cash or gold before she would perform. She could do two performances a day – a matinee and an evening performance. Over two days she could earn more than enough to buy the castle.

Adelina Patti paid £3,500 in her money, though she went on to spend £100,000 in her era’s money extending it - at least £50m in today’s money. She entertained Royalty and Dukes at the Castle, her hideaway in Wales, her ‘home sweet home’. You can read more on Adelina Patti and the history of Craig y Nos Castle here.

You can see an intro to our Castle History tour here, and as a guest, you’ll go on this tour gratis on one of the mornings of your stay. You can see some original pictures of the Castle in olden times here.

In the 1920’s through to the 1950’s, the Castle became a TB Hospital, until a cure for TB was found, after which it became an old people’s hospice. In the 1980’s it went back into private ownership, though nothing substantial happened to it until 2000, when major refurbishment began under the present owners. Refurbishment work continues, helped by 110 weddings a year, but is slow due to the scale of the task and the need to stick to a budget!  

We hope you’ll join us some time, on your own midweek break, and become part of the Craig y Nos Story!

Kind regards,
Martin Gover
Proprietor, Craig y Nos Castle

11. Dog Friendly B&B at Craig y Nos Castle – Deserted Penwyllt, once a thriving mountain top town of 500, providing the bricks for Swansea’s furnaces in the ‘Industrial Revolution’

In my last letter I mentioned some of the Castle history, and how Craig y Nos was once owned by the world’s wealthiest and most well-known Opera Singer, Adelina Patti. Yet, barely a century on, no one has ever heard of her, nor heard her story.

Craig y Nos Castle backs on to Craig y Nos Country Park, which has 40 acres of walks and woodland paths, lakes and meadows, ideal for dog walks and letting dogs off the lead. The County Park is overlooked by a steep mountain which you can walk up, taking a footpath behind the Country Park.

At the top of this mountain you will find miles of level tracks, the former main railway line from Swansea to Brecon, a major transport hub in Patti’s day. Adelina Patti, owner of Craig y Nos Castle for nigh on 50 years, like the Royal Family, had her own private train, and built the road to Penwyllt, so she could journey down in her carriage from her own private train station waiting room at Penwyllt (which then merited its own railway station). On arrival, a gun would be fired at the top of the mountain, to summon her carriage, while she waited in her private waiting room.

As you walk around the deserted Penwyllt mountain tracks, a few dismantled houses, some odd piles of stone, and a general air of emptiness and remoteness, you would be forgiven for not realising that this was once the crucible of the Industrial Revolution, where up to 500 townsfolk of Penwyllt busily mined the limestone and worked the lime kilns.

Penwyllt’s kilns produxed the bricks for the iron furnaces of Swansea. Swansea was known as ‘Copperville’, for it was a city of belching smokestacks and awful pollution. Read more about Penwyllt on Wikipedia here.

On your own visit to Craig y Nos Castle, you can take in the beauty of this remote, deserted area, now a wildlife sanctuary – see more on the Penwyllt Mountain walk here.

Kind regards,
Martin Gover
Proprietor, Craig y Nos Castle

12. Dog Friendly B&B at Craig y Nos Castle – Usk Reservoir Circular Walk


When you next stay at Craig y Nos, and want a really scenic circular walk, with a nice scenic single-track drive into remote valleys and hills, then the Usk Reservoir Walk is a must.

Take a picnic, or bring mountain bikes, or just leisurely walk all the way around it. Usk Reservoir is best walked anti-clockwise. Park up at the dam, walk across, and then past the boats, and on to the gravelled tracks all around the reservoir.

You are unlikely to meet anyone on this walk, especially mid-week, and it has some lovely scenery. Check out the Usk Reservoir Walk here.

Most of the walk is obvious, you just follow the path keeping the reservoir to your left. About half way around, you come to a footbridge at the far end. After this point you climb into woodland and unless you have a natural sense of direction in the countryside, you can inadvertently branch off down the wrong track. Do not worry as the worst you will do is come out on the road you drove along to the dam, or end up at a dead end back at the reservoir and have to retrace your steps.

It’s about 30 minutes scenic drive from the Castle, taking the mountain track to Trecastle, turning left at the Tafan y Gareg pub.

I hope you will enjoy this walk as much as we do!

Kind regards,
Martin Gover
Proprietor, Craig y Nos Castle.

13. Adelina Patti at Craig y Nos Castle

We’ve previously mentioned the Castle History tour (free to residents) and the a bit about the life of a previous owner, the world’s wealthiest and most famous Opera Singer, Adelina Patti.

Adelina Patti bought the castle in 1878, for £3,500, and though she did once try to sell it, she lived here until she died in 1919, so she lived here on and off for 41 years. Much of this time she was touring the World, performing in Europe and America, but she was always happy to return to her ‘Home Sweet Home’.

Edward VII visited the castle when he was Prince of Wales, possibly more than once. One story relates to a time when his train was delayed and the party arrived late at night. The servants awoke to the sound of unknown visitors and Madam Patti shooed them back to bed before receiving her guests personally. On the following day, the staff saw the Prince and realised why their Lady was not abed on the previous night.

Adelina Patti was married three times. Like Henry VIII who had six wives, Patti had 3 husbands: divorced – died – survived.

The love of her life was Husband 2, Nicolini. Before they married, Nicolini was playing Romeo to her Juliet. Then husband No: 1 (the Marquis de Caux), watching the performance, observed his wife kissing her Romeo 14 times more than stipulated in the Libretto. Suspecting something was afoot, Caux split from Patti, though it took a while for them to officially separate. In the interim, Patti bought and moved to the Castle with her lover, Nicolini. We now know this was some years before she divorced her first husband.

Patti was Catholic and divorce was not permitted. Unlike Henry VIII, who had to change the religion of the country to secure his divorce, Patti – as a world-famous Opera Diva – knew the Pope personally, and so the Pope allowed that her first marriage could be annulled.

Kind regards,
Martin Gover / Craig y Nos Castle

14. Jack the Dog and the Haunted Staircase to the 2nd Floor

Hopefully this won’t put you off staying at the Castle, but it may interest you to know we also run occasional ghost hunts in our derelict upper levels. Our Ghost tours typically take place late on dark, cold wintry nights.

There remains one original staircase which dates back to the Adelina Patti era, never removed in the century since she died in 1919, despite the Castle being gutted and remodelled as a TB Hospital for 40 years, and then a Hospice for another 20 years.

The old staircase gently ascends, with wide, shallow steps, from the first-floor landing to the second floor, abruptly finishing at a 1930’s Hospital era wall, behind which there is an old lift shaft. Ghost Hunters have regularly found this staircase ‘highly active’, with many a shadowy image caught on camera, though others argue the images are just shadows. Aware of this, during a Franchise conference for our then main business (a national cleaning agency), I took a few of the franchisees up to the derelict area for an impromptu look-see, one dark winter’s evening.

Unlike our ghost hunters, I personally was not anticipating anything paranormal. Purely for my own amusement, I warned the assembled franchisees how ‘active’ the staircase was. I advised ‘for health and safety reasons’ that if for any reason, the dog (Jack) stopped on said staircase, no one must panic or move. I impressed upon them how Jack the Dog was sensitive to spirit and to stay still.

This was I confess, untrue, I made it up - but my franchisees did not know this. Impressed and sobered by my warnings, my franchisees followed me on a tour of the derelict upper levels. We made it all the way to State Room 2 without incident. But on the way down the long staircase from the top floor, Jack the dog stopped.

He stopped and did not move, rooted to the spot.

Jack had stopped half way down the staircase, by the window, the exact spot where an image, several orbs, and numerous indeterminate shadows have been duly caught on ghost hunters’ cameras.

Jack’s hackles were raised. This I have never seen before or since, for golden retrievers have thick fur, are good natured, and ‘raising hackles’ is not something they really do. Refusing to descend, Jack growled aggressively, then barked, all the while remaining half stood, half sat, stock-still on the staircase.

The franchisees, crowding behind me and in the middle of their descent, stopped dead in their tracks. The other-worldly tension and surprise which we all felt, myself included, made for an unforgettable moment.

After a long few seconds of this, I told Jack to ‘go on down’, and the moment passed.

What made Jack the dog stop dead on the ‘haunted staircase’?  I have always wondered about this since. It has never happened before or since. So why did it happen after my mischievous attempt to worry the franchisees?

Jack is just a dog. He has no ability to understand what we humans were talking about in the bar.  He cannot respond to ‘suggestion’. So, what had he responded to?

Had some other worldly presence listened to me tell my little story to the franchisees, and decided to give us all a surprise? Or had the story so impressed the franchisees, that the dog picked up on their concern going down that staircase?  

This is certainly a curious incident, one of many you can either dismiss as coincidence, or puzzle over as something quite out of the ‘ordinary’.

Kind regards,
Martin Gover / Craig y Nos Castle

15. Why are Children Crying in the Conservatory?

Last time I wrote, we talked about Jack the Dog’s experience on the Haunted Staircase and I mentioned that the Castle had been a TB hospital from Patti’s death to the late-1950’s, when TB was eventually cured with Streptomycin and other antibiotics. Read more on the history of and cure for TB here.

There were two children’s TB wards at the Castle – State Room 2 and the Conservatory. We only have one rather grainy picture of the conservatory with its 18 children-sized iron beds. The children were wrapped up in plaster body casts to prevent them moving, for many months or even years at a time.

Imagine not being able to move out of your bed, or even turn over in your bed, for months or years!  Bed rest and immobility was considered part of the care needed, as was fresh air.

Patients were wheeled on to the terraces in all weathers for the fresh mountain air so beloved by Adelina Patti for her singing voice. Out they went, come sun, rain or even snow. In winter, rubber blankets were placed over the beds to keep them dry.

Richard Felix of Most Haunted rather poignantly suggested patients were left out on the terraces overnight, and in the mornings, “the live ones were brought in, and the dead were wheeled off to the morgue” (now, aptly numbered en-suite room 13).

Back in 2002/3 we were not fully up on the history of the Conservatory, so it was interesting when another early ghost tour group – investigators led by Bill Harrison - picked up on the sounds of children crying in the then derelict conservatory.

Craig y Nos Castle’s Conservatory is a far happier place now. None of the children then would have envisaged their ward becoming one of the most popular and romantic Wedding Reception rooms in Wales, on account of the beautiful mountain scenery. Read more on the Ghosts in the Children’s ward here.

Kind regards,

Martin Gover / Craig y Nos Castle

16. Captain Rice Powell – Craig y Nos Castle’s first owner

We hope our brief foray in recent letters into the ghostly goings on at Craig y Nos Castle has not put you off a Dog Friendly B&B Stay on one of our mid-week deals.

We have plenty of pleasant dog friendly rooms, many on the ground floor, which offer excellent access to the gardens for dogs wanting access to our many comfort areas at night.

We’ve recently touched upon some of the fascinating the history of the Castle, on Adelina Patti (Craig y Nos 1878-1919) and the more recent hospital era (1920-1970), when Craig y Nos Castle was first a TB Hospital and then a Hospice

Little has been said of the Castle’s first owner, Captain Rice Powell (Craig y Nos 1842-1876) without whom Craig y Nos Castle would never have existed.

But for Captain Powell, there never would have been a house in the Upper Swansea valley to capture the attention of a world famous opera diva, Adelina Patti.

Patti was a world-famous opera diva, and the highest paid opera star of her day. So why on earth did she choose a remote area of Wales when she had all of Europe, and many fantastic places with a much better climate, to choose as her home? Also, she could easily have bought a grand residence already developed, instead of buying a relatively small country house in Wales and then spending £100,000 (£50 million in today's money) forever expanding and altering it.

Well, we now know Patti was seeking somewhere to live discreetly with her lover and second husband to be – Nicolini, as she had not got around to divorcing her first husband when she moved to Craig y Nos. We guess she wanted somewhere remote and inaccessible, away from the prying eyes of her fans and society, to live with her lover. Nicolini was her Romeo in real life, not just in the opera where Patti played the part of Juliet to Nicolini’s Romeo.

Patti commanded £1,000 a performance, around £500,000 in todays money, and could do two performances a day – earning a cool £1m a day at her peak, in today’s money. Little wonder that Patti’s greatness has rather overshadowed the man who made Craig y Nos possible.

Yet Captain Rice Powell was a wealthy man in his own right, with vision, able to build a large manor house in the hills overlooking the River Tawe. Patti extended it and made it ‘a castle’.

The area would have been truly wild and remote back then, peaceful too, with lovely clear air and the cool rushing waters of the Tawe below.

There was no road to the house, for this was the age of rail. The Swansea to Brecon Railway line passed above and there was a station at Penwyllt but no road to the castle at the time. Patti built the road to Penwyllt later, so her coach and horses could collect her from her private train carriage arriving at Penwyllt. She travelled in style, just like the Queen.

She even had her own private waiting room built, at Penwyllt Station, just for her private use. There was no waiting room for the 500 or so citizens then living at Penwyllt, who presumably had to wait outside in the rain!

We believe the only route to the castle in Captain Powell’s day was a path following on from a canal towpath. As the canal stopped two miles south at or a bit beyond Abercrave, a coach and horses presumably carried on up the track, climbing gently up the valley through Penycae. So we have Captain Powell to thank for creating his neo-gothic mansion at Cae Bryn Melin Bach. Read more about Captain Powell and the house he built in 1843 on a site above the river and close to his father's former home.

Kind regards,
Martin Gover / Craig y Nos Castle

17. Whatever happened to Nicolini’s £2m Orchestrion?

In this series of letters, we have visited Craig y Nos Castle’s past, to help us to understand Craig y Nos Castle’s history.

The Castle’s most prominent owner was Adelina Patti, a world famous opera singer able to command fees of up to £1m a day in today’s money.

Patti was the highest paid opera singer of her day, the ‘Madonna’ of her age. We know she moved to Craig y Nos Castle to live quietly and in peace, with her then Lover and future second husband, Nicolini. Nicolini was Patti’s Romeo, both in the Opera, where he performed alongside Patti as she reprised the role of Juliet, and in real life Nicolini was the love of Patti’s life, the one husband (of three) that she married for love.

Like Patti, Nicolini had a great love of music, and married to the world’s wealthiest singer, he was able to indulge in a few toys of his own. The grandest of these was Nicolini’s Orchestrion.

We have no idea what it would be worth today, probably anything from £1m to £10m, who knows?  We can only imagine what this must have cost in Patti’s day. Just look at the craftsmanship of this immense Orchestrion, the largest ever built, here.

Take a small musical box, with a cylinder and wind it up and you play one tune on it. Now take the same concept, and make it thousands of times bigger, with everything that would go into a full orchestra. Multiple cylinders which could be changed, 146 organ pipes, cymbals, drums, two storeys high and as wide as the average terraced house. Handcrafted, nothing like it ever built before or since, entirely created to Patti’s personal specification.

How valuable could such a creation be today? Sadly, we shall never know.

A similar sounding Orchestrion is mentioned in a Bonhams auction catalogue for USD 1.2m but it is a fraction of the dimensions and impressiveness of the much older Nicolini Orchestrion.

The manufacturer of Nicolini's Orchestrion was Welte & Sohne - read more about their surviving Orchestrions here.

Patti and Nicolini were so happy with their own Orchestrion from Welte & Sohne that they endorsed their products. Patti's endorsement was used in much of their advertising (a different model is shown below)!

"These instruments are historical treasures from an age of opulence. Those still remaining deserve to be carefully restored and preserved for future generations. The firm of M. Welte & Söhne produced orchestrions that were truly works of art, as impressive today as when they were first made."

After some research we found Nicolini's Orchestrion was not one of those that had survived. It had mysteriously found its way to a scout camp on the Isle of Man, where it was first flooded, then it caught fire, and finally it was chopped up for firewood. Read more on the rise and fall of Nicolini’s pride and joy, the Orchestrion, here.

Kind regards,
Martin Gover / Craig y Nos Castle

18. Why is the Lady riding a Chariot on the Stage Curtain in the Opera House?

Through my letters on the history of Craig y Nos Castle and Adelina Patti, you now know Adelina Patti bought Craig y Nos Castle, massively extending it and spending £100,000 over the 40 years she lived at the Castle (cira £50 million in today’s money).

She built her own private opera house, created castellations on one of her extensions – the Northern Wing - and renamed the house, Craig y Nos Castle.

Craig y Nos Castle is not of course a castle, in the proper sense of the world. Traditional defensive castles stopped being built after the English Civil War ended in 1651. The majority of castles built since were created by the newly monied Victorians, the nouveau riche of the day.

These ‘nouveau riche’ Victorians built follies, towers and fallen down ‘sham castles’ on their new estates. This was to suggest to visitors that they were actually established landed gentry whose family had owned the estate for centuries.

But why did Patti present herself as a lady warrior astride a chariot, riding as if to war?

Looking at the picture of Adelina Patti riding a chariot I am reminded of Boadicea the warrior queen. However, there is a different story to Patti’s portrayal of herself in her chariot, and the clue is in the top billing given to Rossini, his name given centre billing in the Proscenium above the stage.

Patti had great respect and admiration for Rossini – so much so, that she insisted on being buried next to Rossini in Paris. Rossini, however, was initially not so impressed with Patti, though he was to change his mind.

Maybe Rossini initially saw Adelina Patti as a ‘popular singer’, rather than as a professional. This changed when Adelina played the role of Semiramide, in Rossini’s last Italian opera, an opera written by Rossini for his wife and described as “the most beautiful, the most imaginative, possibly the most complete; but also, irremediably, the last”.

Semiramide was also one of his more complex operas, requiring great skill to perform. Perhaps Patti is signalling to Rossini, here I am, ‘a professional’ performing with great skill, as your opera demands.

Patti must have liked the opera, choosing it for a farewell performance in 1882 which was attended by Oscar Wilde.

Kind regards,
Martin Gover / Craig y Nos Castle

19. Planning which rooms are best suited to your B&B / Holiday requirements

See more on our room selection, including links to each individual room on our wedding website’s chart showing each room’s capacity, here.

Ignore the references to weekend tariffs for weddings as you are looking to book a midweek breaks deal at 50% off normal rates midweek.

Accommodation en-suite Craig y Nos Castle room 35
The chart showing all our rooms on the link above is handy as you can quickly jump via the links to see every room, with pictures of the individual room you are interested in.

The chart is especially useful for you to find the right room if you are a family, or have elderly guests, or want ground floor rooms, or want more than one room for a group booking.

When booking rooms:

1. Where you have disabled guests or guests needing the ground floor rooms, you will want to select the most appropriate rooms for them.

2. Where you have families, or at least a group of guests willing to share a family room or apartment, you will want to nominate family rooms for them.

3. Having selected a room, check it is available for the dates of your stay here.

This information will hopefully prove invaluable in deciding which rooms are best suited for tour break.

Kind regards,
Martin Gover
Owner / Craig y Nos Castle

20. Who built the Opera House and what makes it uniquely special?

The Opera House was built by a world-famous Opera Singer, Adelina Patti, who chose to make Craig y Nos Castle her home.

Adelina Patti was the highest paid opera singer of her time, probably of all time, earning £1,000 (£500,000 in today’s money) a performance.

With a Matinee and Evening Performance on the same day she could (and did) earn £1m a day in today’s money. She insisted on being paid in cash or gold.

How often she would perform twice in one day I do not know – but imagine being able to earn a £1m in today’s money, just for four or five hours singing?  Granted, she was practicing for several hours every day between performances, the Castle always full of song.

She was the ‘Madonna’ of her day, singing privately for Queen Victoria for 25 years, travelling the World, and probably away 6 – 9 months of the year, during which time the castle kept being extended, altered and then altered again – see the changes within and after the various old postcards of the Castle here.

Opera House Craig y Nos Castle South Wales
Patti had her own personal railway carriage (just like the Royal Family) and spent £100,000 of her own money (£50m in today’s money) extending and altering her castle. She was forever changing things, so must have employed an army of builders and stone masons.

As well as keeping a team of builders expensively occupied for nigh on 40 years, she employed a huge team of gardeners and groundsmen in her extensive grounds. At one point she apparently owned 17,000 acres. What is now the Country Park was all her gardens.

In the castle itself she had 40 household servants. When anyone retired, if they had nowhere to live, she would house them. She had a reputation as a kind and generous employer and contributed hugely to charity locally, sponsoring and supporting many charity concerts.

In 1891 she had her own private opera house built, so she could practice her opera singing and perform for honoured private guests.

When you enter the Opera House it feels as if you’re stepping back 130 years in time, back to when the theatre was first built in 1891, for nothing in the theatre has changed much since Patti died in 1919. The opera house still has all its original stage hatches, pulleys and ropes, an original curtain and backdrop.

The remaining backdrop was one of 17, sadly third husband Cederstrom burnt the other 16 on her death, not knowing what to do with them. The one that’s still hanging he only kept, “to cover the bricks”.

Since Patti died the opera house has not been used for opera or performances, other than a few isolated performances put on by a local opera group before our time, and an isolated period where we tried putting on opera and other ticketed events ourselves.

Sadly, we could not make opera pay, as the opera house is too small to house a large enough number of opera goers to be viable, plus the Brecon Beacons is really too remote to attract large audiences even if there was the space. We did have some success with solo singers with a good following, such as Joe Longthorne, for a few years.

This is what makes Patti’s small opera house unique. Most theatres remain in constant use, evolving over time as new performances are put on and new stage technology evolves, and old scenery and backdrops are cast aside for new ones.

This never happened with the opera house at Craig y Nos Castle, because it was never intended for public performances. That is why today it is too small for commercial opera. The cost of putting on a professional opera is huge, requiring at least 450 – 550 seats to make it pay, not to mention all the performing arts subsidies.

The Patti theatre’s auditorium is not much bigger than the stage. At most it will seat 150, though Patti probably designed it for a much lower number of guests, with plenty of space for each guest to move around.

The floor is also unique as it was one of the first, and the only surviving example, of a floor that can be altered from a raked (sloping) position, to a flat (ballroom) position. This was done so guests could watch her perform before dinner, then go through to the Conservatory or the dining room for dinner, before returning to the theatre with the floor raised flat, for ballroom dancing.

Unlike today, Patti did not have a function room – as what is now the function room was then her sitting room and billiard room. Instead, she used the theatre for ballroom dancing after dinner, by having her servants raise the floor to its flat position during dinner.

The opera house was also the first building in Wales to have private electricity. Early stage lighting consisted of primitive gas uplighters at the front of the stage. The long dresses of the performers would brush against the gas uplighters and catch fire. This is why theatres frequently burnt down – Patti herself would have a fire officer in the wings to put her out if her swirling costume brushed the flames as she danced.

Spotlights used burning lime, hence the phrase “in the limelight” which originates from being in the spotlight on a stage in the olden days.

Fed up with the risk to life and limb, Patti had her opera house wired for electric light. See more on how electricity was first used in a private house in Wales, in the opera house here.

As you discover more and more about the history of the Castle and its Opera House, you will really begin to appreciate why the Castle is such a unique place to stay. Nothing else quite compares in terms of history and romance.

We haven’t even touched on why Patti bought it yet – that’s another very romantic, and rather scandalous, tale – for next time.

Kind regards,
Martin Gover
Owner / Craig y Nos Castle

21. Why did Patti Buy Craig y Nos Castle? When she could have chosen anywhere in the world, and anywhere with better weather!

We’ve started to look at the Castle’s history and if you have ever stayed at the Castle, you may have been on the Castle History tour (free to residents).

In our regular dog friendly letters we’ve talked a bit about the life of our famous previous owner, the world’s most renowned (and the wealthiest) Opera Singer, Adelina Patti.

Patti bought the castle in 1878, for £3,500, and though she did once try to sell it, she lived here until she died in 1919. This means she lived here for 41 contented years - most of her life.

Much of this time she was touring the World, performing in Europe and America, so it is possible she was only at the castle 3 – 6 months of each year, at least until she retired. She was always happy to return to her ‘Home Sweet Home’.

While she was away there would have been frenetic and constant building activity and alterations, which has resulted in some rather higgledy piggledy aspects to the Castle today.

Some sections of the building are joined on to others at illogical angles, hiding the view from windows that should have (and once had) a far grander outlook before yet another building extension was stuck in front of it.

The roof is awash with easily flooded gulleys and leaking gutters, forgotten turrets on the roof which serve no practical purpose, and the odd redundant tower (each attracting yet more leaks).

Edward VII visited the castle when he was Prince of Wales, possibly more than once.

One story relates to a time when his train was delayed and the party arrived late at night. The servants awoke to the sound of unknown visitors and Madam Patti shooed them back to bed before receiving her guests personally.

On the following day, the staff saw the Prince and realised why their Lady was not abed on the previous night.

Adelina Patti was married three times. Like Henry VIII who had six wives, Patti had 3 husbands: divorced – died – survived.

The love of her life was Husband 2, Nicolini.

Nicolini second husband of Adelina Patti
Before they married, Nicolini was playing Romeo to her Juliet. Her then first husband (the Marquis de Caux), watching the performance, observed his wife kissing her Romeo 14 times more than the Libretto required.

Suspecting something was not quite right, Caux separated from Patti, though it took a while for them to officially divorce.

There was a longish period when Patti wanted to be with her new lover, but was still married to her first husband. This is why she bought and moved to the Castle. It was so she could be with her lover, Nicolini. The date she purchased the castle (1878) was some seven years before she divorced her first husband (in 1885).

This explains why Patti chose to buy somewhere so remote and isolated, as the original house in the Upper Swansea Valley then was – there were no roads to it and the nearest railway line was up a mountain at Penwyllt.

She wanted to get out of the public’s prying eye and have some privacy.

Patti was Catholic and divorce was not permitted. Having an affair with and then living with another man while still married to her first husband would have been quite scandalous, especially for a Catholic, in the strict Victorian era - had it been widely known.

She bought the castle in 1878, and lived discreetly in what must then have been a remote mountainous area of Wales, where no one in the wider world enquire too closely what was going on, and no reporter would stray uninvited.

Unlike Henry VIII, who had to change the religion of the country to secure his divorce, Patti – as a world-famous Opera Diva – knew the Pope personally. Hence the Pope allowed that her first marriage could be annulled.

Patti and the Marquis de Caux officially separated in 1885, seven years after she moved in with Nicolini at Craig y Nos. The divorce cost her £64,000 (over £30 million in today’s money).

She married Nicolini a year later, but the local Catholic church refused to marry her, despite her funding its restoration. Patti promptly ceased her funding for the local church and apparently you can see a half-built stone staircase leading nowhere, today.

She quickly recovered financially, as one does when earning £1m a day (in today’s money).

Kind regards,
Martin Gover
Owner / Craig y Nos Castle

22. Who is that woman riding a chariot on the theatre curtain?

The woman is of course, Adelina Patti, the opera singer who built the Theatre in 1891, and who lived in Craig y Nos Castle for over 40 years, blowing £50m in today’s money on extensions and improvements, building and always altering and adding to her then palatial retreat.

Craig y Nos was in her day a remote mountainous idyll in South Wales (no roads, no M4 Bridge etc, 140 years ago

Craig y Nos Castle 1870
Many B&B guests are unaware of the history of the castle when they arrive, which is why we offer free History Tours, so you leave with more of a ‘sense of place’ than you will ever get at a modern chain hotel.

Staying at Craig y Nos Castle is not like staying at any other hotel, it is a journey into the past. If you want shiny and new, I’m sorry, that is not Craig y Nos!  

Adelina Patti was certainly a major historical figure, although hardly anyone these days knows of her. Strangely the Welsh are not so up on their own history, more intent on preserving the language than repeating and remembering the stories that belong to the Country and make it unique. As everywhere becomes ‘all the same’, our differences should be celebrated.

Patti was certainly an individual, a diva. She was the highest paid opera singer in the World – ever – and able to earn £1m a day in today’s money, she was the Madonna of her day. She demanded to be paid in advance, before she sung, and to be paid only in cash (though gold would do).

On one occasion she arrived at a theatre in America somewhere, and the cash strapped owners did not have enough money to pay her. They offered her half and she refused to go on stage. They begged her to go on, as the crowd was growing impatient, and she deigned to put on a single shoe when they found some more cash from the ticket office.

Only when every seat was filled, and they had enough to pay her from the ticket sales that day, did she put on her other shoe, then her dress, and go out and perform.

Adelina Patti Semiramide Chariot Craig y Nos Castle Operra House curtain

The composer Rossini was someone (a lot older than her – so it was a professional admiration only) she admired so much that she demanded to be buried next to him in Paris.

In 1919 (notwithstanding a shortage of ships after World War One) Patti was duly shipped out to join Rossini, at the behest of the Crown, who after a delay of 6 months, helped arrange her passage.

Restless Rossini, unhindered by the small matter of his death some years earlier, then proceeded to up sticks and move from his mausoleum in Paris to Italy. No slight intended, as this was at the behest of the Italian Government, who wanted their hero returned to the Motherland.

Rossini however, initially viewed Patti not so much as a professional but more as a ‘popular’ singer.

Patti was determined to prove Rossini wrong, this is why she portrays herself on the Stage Curtain in her private opera house in her role as Semiramide, from Rossini’s highly acclaimed and highly complex last Italian Opera. This work was so complex that few opera singers wanted to perform in it for fear they would not do it justice.

Patti astride her chariot on her stage, was making a point, a statement. She was saying she had ‘arrived’. In playing the role of Semiramide, she was demonstrating her art. This performance marked her entry into the world of opera as a true professional, not merely some high earning pop artist of the day.

Who was she performing for?  Whose name appears above her in the centre of the proscenium - with her own logo framing his name?

Proscinium opera house Craig y Nos Castle Rossini
So now you know a bit about the history of the woman on the chariot, as you walk into the opera house today.

Kind regards,
Martin Gover
Owner / Craig y Nos Castle

23. Nicolini Room Restoration and some curious discoveries, after decades of leaks

For many years the Nicolini Room was a rather drab, green room, the walls cream but with water marks running down the peeling wallpaper, plus a HUGE long bar in it, which had been put in by the previous owners bar one, for their own events. It was never used by us though it might have been useful for the Conservatory weddings today.

As we could not lock this bar up, and it was not manned, we could not keep it stocked as anyone could walk in and help themselves.

The original Nicolini Room bar was larger than the main bar, just in the wrong place. There was a lovely ceiling of cantilevered square sections, which sadly we had to lose, when we found it was all about to fall down. Only two floor joists were found to be intact, the rest suspended in mid-air, fortunately held up by its own cantilevered design.

Because the room had fallen into disuse as a bar, and yet was right by reception, we realised we really needed a reception lounge – every hotel has one, yet we did not.

There was no fireplace in the room, just the bar, a pool table, and some ancient green upright chairs and small round tables. It was not a friendly room. It was not insulated, so was always very cold.

I decided we should take the bar out, or maybe make it smaller, and give it a lick of paint, and put some comfortable armchairs in it. A two-week makeover was planned.

Nicolini bar Craig y nos castle 2004
Like a lot of things at the castle, when you take a look behind the façade, things are a lot worse than they look on the surface.

Chunks of ceiling fell down when we tried to repaint it, so we pulled away a section that was falling down intending to replace it and realised the joists were adrift from the stone walls, and all quite rotten. This was from decades of water ingress.

On taking over the castle in October 2000, I’d found virtually EVERY room leaked, and anywhere with gullies was worst affected as the lead gullies had all failed. This meant water was pouring in. The previous owners had pointed out all re-tiling they had done (pretty piecemeal really) but not pointed out the lead gulleys were all failing.

160 individual buckets and plastic containers were deployed in the upper derelict levels, to collect the rain-water. I’d seen the castle in summer, bought it without sight of any of the upper rooms, nor even a proper tour of the building. I did not look too closely in summer 2000.  Paid one visit only, agreed to buy, returned to London to run my cleaning agency business, and took possession, on 27th October 2000. My fortieth. Collected the keys and then rather forgot about it for a few months.

I knew it was pretty bad but didn’t consider the work required. It all just seemed such good value, buying a castle in Wales for the price of a terraced house in London. £3m later and I’m still spending whatever comes in; it’s lucky for the Castle that I was quite so naïve in 2000. A wiser me would have walked away.

In winter the single groundsman I inherited from the previous owners would spend several hours on rainy days just emptying the buckets out of the top floor windows. The place was a joke, but it did not particularly bother me at the time. I was more intrigued than concerned – I’d never seen icicles hanging like stalactites inside a house before.

The second floor of Craig y Nos was full of frozen stalactites in winter while the water running down the internal walls froze solid into sheet ice, with little lumps as the rivulets froze onto the walls. You could run your hands along the smooth surface of the ice in the upper room above the Nicolini lounge.

One of our first tasks was to repair the lead gullies between the 170 yr. old ‘pyramids’ at the top of the castle. This took half a year one summer, cost about £170,000, circa 2001 or 2002.

It was not until we had restored the Conservatory in 2007, that we decided to give the Nicolini room a quick make-over. This ended up being almost a year’s work, in winter 2008/9, as we found all that water from the ‘pyramids’ had penetrated down through centre of main building, rotting every single ceiling and floor joist to the ground floor level. We found only two joists holding up the Nicolini room ceiling, and the Nicolini rooms floor was in danger of disappearing into the cellar.

We ended up replacing the entire ceiling and all the floor, gutting the whole room, and starting again.

Sadly, we had to lose the original square box ceiling and – less sadly - the bar. Part of the original bar’s mahogany surface now makes up the reception desk’s surface, so a little ‘recycling’ did take place. Most of the historical ceiling was powder, riddled with rot and woodworm, and had to be taken out of the building before it spread whatever infestation remained.

We have ended up with a nice cosy room. We found a functioning chimney and fireplace behind the bar, so put in a new Clearview log burner. All the walls were properly insulated with modern fireproof insulation foam, so what was a cold uninviting room is now always a warm and friendly reception and sitting room.

The Nicolini Lounge is back to being what it was, a reception room for arriving guests, as it was in Patti’s day, though after a few years it became Nicolini’s office and library.

One curious anomaly we uncovered, and left uncovered, was the double stone arch. This had been hidden behind a rotten wooden shelf. Notice how there is an ‘arch within an arch’.

We also found the original stone mason’s lovely arches had been hacked away (in Patti’s time) at both sides (see the vertical straight lines either side of the arch).

Patti had the archway altered to fit two substantial ‘double’ oak panelled doors. We know this because we found one of a pair of the original once beautifully carved solid oak doors rotting in a leaking outbuilding (not salvageable).

Though the entrance into the neighbouring breakfast room is and presumably always has been the narrow single door width it is now (though even this is in doubt), Patti had fitted two very substantial oak doors within the double arch, to give the impression of a grander entrance. Anyone opening the door on the left would have been confronted with a stone wall.

A visitor would suppose the doors led to a much larger room beyond, but the huge double oak doors were for show only. We have no idea why there is an arch within an arch though.

Kind regards,
Martin Gover
Owner / Craig y Nos Castle

24. Nicolini Room – 1900 to 2018

Last week we talked about the restoration of the Nicolini Lounge, now the Welcome Drinks lounge for wedding breakfasts.

We mentioned how the ceiling and floor was completely stripped out and replaced anew. Patti had at one point a million pounds worth of personal Jewellery, so you’d expect her to drop the odd piece between the floorboards of the original building.

Yet despite replacing the floors and ceilings throughout the oldest part of the house, we have found nothing.

Nicolini Restoration Craig y Nos Castle 2008

Just one piece would be handy now!  We’ll just have to keep hosting 110 weddings or more a year!

Little do Wedding Couples and B&B guests realise how they are joining in the History of Craig y Nos Castle, as little by little, every penny that is earned through holding weddings and events, and B&B at the castle, contributes to the slow restoration and preservation of Craig y Nos Castle.

The castle is a piece Welsh History whose significance and importance is only now being appreciated – as we tell the story of Craig y Nos’s past, in our History Tours, to every B&B guests who wants to hear it.  

When you visit and stay in this historic building, you become a small part of the story, just as we are.

Let’s take a step back, 120 years, to the gentler times of Nicolini and Patti.

Look at the Nicolini’s study in this old picture of the Nicolini Room here.

No technology, not even a telephone, just books, desks, curtains rather similar to what we have now.

Note the view through the windows is partly obscured by a large vase on a stand, though the desk overlooks the view. We know Nicolini loved his wife, and in pride of place, there’s a picture of Patti above the fireplace.

Kind regards,
Martin Gover
Owner / Craig y Nos Castle

25. Function Room & Patti Bar Restoration – after a New Year’s Eve Banquet with 220 stomping in rhythm to the song “Why are We Waiting?”

Before one of our chefs declined to feed everyone at a New Year’s Eve Party circa 2010/11 (he ran out of food and then fled the building leaving behind hundreds of unfed revellers demanding refunds off me) we used to have very well attended New Years’ Eve Parties, well above 150 revellers, and a full house in the Hotel accommodation.

Later I pointed my finger at the chef and said he had to go, it was an Alan Sugar Moment. Still had to pay him a month’s notice though, which I did not want him to work, so he didn’t.

Medieval Banquets were particularly popular, so we would have the same format every year – fancy dress in Medieval costumes, food meat and cheese etc served on wooden platters with no cutlery (just knives), simple.

On one occasion quite early on – 2004, we had so many diners (260 in total spread over two rooms) that we realised we would never fit the waitresses between the tables once everyone was in and seated.

We had put seating in for 220 diners in the main function room that night, for a room that can really only seat 150 (banquet style), and 40 in a room underneath (the old Blue Bar in the cellars).

Patti Bar floor restoration Craig y Nos Castle
I decided it would be easier to get the food out on the tables first, then let the customers in.

The only problem with this plan was the sheer numbers of people trying to fit in the remaining rooms. The Patti Bar had over 90 standing, with another 100 or so (there was no restored Conservatory back then), queueing along the corridors, filling up the Nicolini lounge, and probably another 70 stuck outside in the courtyard, in winter, in the rain, unable to get in at all.

Kick off for the Medieval Banquet was 8.00 pm, but the sheer volume of food to be got out on to the tables meant the kitchens were running a few minutes behind. The crowd crushed in the bar grew restless and, in some merriment but also showing impatience, started stamping in perfect unison while singing “Why are we waiting.”  Within seconds the revellers in the corridor and Nicolini room started stomping in unison also.

As the building started vibrating rhythmically in a manner I had never felt before or since, I sensed the danger and realised we could have something go a bit pear-shaped.

Ignoring the protests of the rushing waitresses and cooks streaming in and out of the kitchen, I slammed the kitchen doors closed, to the sound of platters of food crashing on the floor the other side and, ignoring howls of protest, flattened myself against the kitchen doors to hold them closed, swung open the adjacent double doors into the main function room, while shouting as loud as I could the singing and stomping, FOODS READY - GET IN NOW!

The stamping stopped, the castle stopped shaking, and everyone filed meekly in, blissfully unaware of what might have happened. The story of Craig y Nos’s revival and restoration could so easily have ended that evening.

It was still quiet in the winter months in those days, so we would close the castle in January and most of February for major internal works.

We’d noticed the then carpeted floor sagging in places by the windows going down to the theatre. It felt a bit loose and had ‘give’ in it.

As we lifted up the floor boards, we found most of the joists once connecting into the damp external walls had rotted and come away from the stone, the thick timbers having rotted so much they were powder at the ends. We found virtually every joist riddled with wet rot, dry rot, or gone beyond any definable form of rot into just flaky chunks of desiccated timber bits and powder.

We realised that had the rhythmical stamping of feed continued a few moments longer, there was a very real risk some could have ended up in the cellars. On reviewing the state of the floor in the function room, supports were put in strategic places in the cellars and we proceeded systematically to take up every section of the floor in the Function Room in one year, in the Patti Bar in another winter period, and then in another year, the Nicolini Lounge.

You can see some of the restoration work on the function room floor here.

We even found kitchen floor needed more than a quick make-over. We’d intended to put a new non-slip washable floor in the kitchen but on checking, had to replace every joist. Not all were gone, but most had to be replaced for thoroughness and safety.

The same occurred in the reception room, all major work completed over a few winters, when we closed. Few know how much major structural work has gone on at the Castle, without which, had it been left unattended and unused, the doors to this historic building would probably have been boarded up with ‘no entry’ signs all over it, for safety reasons.

At least you know now, as you dine in the newly painted function room, or the Patti bar, you are on firm oak boards resting on new floor joists and the leaks in all the walls and roofs are in the past.

Kind regards,
Martin Gover
Owner / Craig y Nos Castle

26. Billiard Room and Music room and Patti Bar - then and now

Last week we looked at the restoration work on the ground floor of the castle, where every floorboard and every floor and in some rooms every ceiling joist had to be systematically taken up and replaced.

This week we’re going to look at the Patti bar which you will probably be dining in, when you stay at the castle.

Guests with dogs always dine in the Patti bar, while those without dogs, even though it can be rather empty midweek, dine in the main function room.

Let’s see what the Patti Bar was like 120 – 130 years ago, when the Castle was a private house owned by the opera singer Adelina Patti.

What we now call the Patti Bar was Patti’s dining room - shown here.

We believe this old photo is of the Patti bar because you can see the ceiling coving and square shape of the room is similar. More tellingly, you can distinguish the exact same design of double doors leading through into the Billiard Room – see the right corner in the picture.

The doors in the picture probably are the same doors as we have today. If they were not damaged Patti would have no reason to change them (though it is possible a previous owner managed to replicate them after the hospital era). They’re certainly the exact same design.

The wooden wall panelling a metre or so up the wall is also similar.

Missing are the swinging-doors into the current commercial kitchen.

We can see the room that we now believe to be the Patti Bar as it was 120 years ago, was used as a dining room for Patti but the table only has space for 3 or 4 diners.

Adelina Patti Dining Room 1885 Craig y Nos Castle

We know the Morgans used the cellars for their kitchen, and it is possible Patti used the cellars also for her kitchen, or certainly for food storage. The kitchen Patti’s chefs used for cooking may even have been behind the wall with the mirror and sideboard (in picture above), which is where our current commercial kitchen is located.

The main function room was divided initially into two separate but adjoining rooms.

It has the same vaulted ceiling, painted or wall papered with a distinctive pattern of small circles in 1890. The music box (an Orchestrion) was huge, almost as tall as the ceiling in this 2-3 storey function room.

The ceiling cornicing in both pictures of the function room, then and now, is exactly as it is today, though more intricately painted then than now.

Looking from the function room site, you can just make out the wooden doors on the left that go to the Patti Bar, but the absence of any doors leading to the theatre, indicates this picture of the Billiard room with Nicolini’s huge orchestrion predates the building of the opera house (completed in 1891).

The second room, which we call the music room, which overlooks the Patio and Country Park, was Patti’s private drawing room.

As you study these pictures, you can get a feel for how the house would have run. Patti and her selected guests would dine in her dining room,  but there was not much room for additional guests. Where did they eat when she had more to stay?  Maybe the Conservatory.

We can imagine that as in all grand houses, after dinner the men would have withdrawn to the Billiard room for smoking and for a game of Billiards, while the ladies would have withdrawn to the Music room / Drawing Room (once it in turn was added) for their own genteel conversations.

While these rooms are large by comparison to how most of us live these days, in overpriced undersized ‘rabbit hutch’ homes which seem to grow ever smaller with every new-build, the castle’s rooms are rather modest than you would expect, for someone able to earn up to £1m a day in today’s money.

Patti referred to Craig y Nos Castle as her ‘Home Sweet Home’, and while the castle has an impressive wide façade as you enter the main courtyard, and Patti certainly sought to make it look grander by adding castellations and calling it a castle, the property is actually rather more modest inside than first impressions of the outside suggest.

This is because the castle is very narrow, from ‘front’ to ‘back’.

Craig y Nos Castle is a very long but thin building, perched along a flat piece of land between two mountains. We are on a slope, with no space to extend ‘deeper; from front to back.

Patti’s desire to expand was constrained by the space on the hill, so she had to expand sideways – North (facing Brecon) to build the theatre, and South (facing to Swansea) to build the Winter Gardens (see 4th postcard down, which is the glass domed building on right of the main building).

I reckon though she had the money to make a grander building, and certainly set about making it look impressive, she was happy to live in a ‘homely’ internal space, as suggested in these old pictures.

Today you will walk into a function room devoid of much furniture. If you are dining alone in the main restaurant you will feel a bit list. The former billiard room is a reasonable size and will comfortably house 150 – 200 guests for a large evening wedding party. In Patti’s day, her rooms were rather cosy, delightfully cluttered, homely living spaces.

Kind regards,
Martin Gover
Owner / Craig y Nos Castle

27. Restoring the Conservatory - 2007

Last month we looked at the past of the Billiard Room, Patti bar and Music room – now used as the evening function rooms.

Until 2007 the function room was also used for all our wedding banquets, but since 2008, the former derelict conservatory has become the most popular room for the Wedding Breakfast.

It is now a fabulous room with stunning views of the Brecon Beacons National Park seen through (recreated) Victorian style windows. But it was not always so.

Though it is now 12 years ago, I clearly remember standing inside the leaking derelict Conservatory inn 2006, water seeping through my shoes, as I was in an inch of water, looking out over a pile of rubbish. You could not really see through the green-with-algae, rotten 1950’s hospital era windows. I did feel it was rather a waste of a large space, but had put off doing anything about if for a few years.

The prompt to do something about it came after I bought a hot tub at the Royal Welsh show in Builth Wells and had nowhere to put it.

I needed somewhere to put it, so at a cost of some £150,000, restored an adjoining building, which became the sports room and spa. But then the outlook from the hot tub over the derelict conservatory needed to be improved.

Conserevatory Restoration 2007 Craig y Nos Castle

I did think of simply walling off the conservatory, so it could not be seen from the hot tub, but then decided I might as well carry on and renovate that as well. The work took about a year and was expensive. The windows alone were completely replaced at a cost of £23,000.

The decision to buy that hot tub probably cost me £300,000, but we do now have a nice sports room and conservatory.

Ironically the hot tub’s motherboard gave up the ghost in 2017. We found the manufacturer had gone bust, so cannot source a replacement. I don’t feel encouraged to buy another hot tub right now when all it needs is a motherboard!

The hospital windows stretched along the lower half of the original Victorian windows overlooking the Country Park. The hospital had substantially replaced the original Patti era windows, but there was enough left of the originals along the upper sections, including some coloured triangular glass panes.

Assisted by photos of the original building, we had enough data to replicate the windows pretty much as they would have been in Patti’s day. You can see the frames being delivered and laid out in the rear car park ready for the glazier in one of the photos from the Conservatory Restoration – top of page here.

Conservatory Craig y Nos Castle circal 1900

A local (but he was in fact Irish) roofer put on a felt roof, which leaked continuously over several years.

The chap ‘guaranteed’ his work, but when called upon to honour his guarantee, stood with me under the dripping roof and solemnly declared it was ‘condensation’. I asked, how come we only ever got ‘condensation’ when it rained?  

I was reminded of Basil Fawlty and his builder in that new hall doorway scene in his hotel Fawlty Towers.  

We tried repainting the felt with a special paint to seal it, which worked for a year or so before needing redoing. After ten years of this, in 2017 we paid another company to coat it with a rubber membrane and it has remained dry inside since. No more condensation.

See original pictures of the outside here, noting the original design of the windows.

Kind regards,
Martin Gover
Owner / Craig y Nos Castle

28. The Patti Bar – Patti’s dining room in 1890 and your dining room when you stay, now

Patti kept changing her mind about what to do with the castle. Where an ordinary person would employ an architect and present drawings to a planning authority, and then build according to the plans, Patti was no ordinary person. And there were probably no planning authorities in 1878 to bother her either.

So rather than draw a plan and stick to it, she was throwing up buildings somewhat haphazardly, knocking them down and starting again.

This process of evolution was expensive – she spent £100,000 of her money (£50m today) continually extending and changing the castle. This work would mostly have been done when she was absent, I expect, as she was travelling the world performing for at least 6 moths of the year, most years.

Had she designed and stuck to one idea, it would have cost her a fraction of her £100k. It is a shame we have so few photos of the original castle, and it takes a little thought to date them reasonably accurately, based on what little we now know of what was built when.

Patti Bar Craig y Nos Castle fireplace at Christmas

When we look at the old pictures – and there are very few – we have to differentiate between early sketches and later photos.

A sketch artist when commissioned to paint or draw a grand house, in the era before Photography became more commonly used, would generally exaggerate the dimensions and impressiveness of a room. This was because the sketch artist wanted to compliment the owner and get a repeat commission.

Consequently, we can never say if an old sketch is accurate.

Fortunately, we do have a number of old photos and as there are not many ground floor rooms, it is relatively easy to see which room is which.

The Music room now is clearly the same as the old picture of Patti’s drawing room here.

The Billiard room which is now part of the function room, is unmistakeably the old billiard room here.

One exception to this was the Patti Bar. We had one photo that we could not quite place, and it was only recently that we realised for certain that it was indeed an old picture of the Patti Bar in circa 1880-1885. As it was Adelina Patti’s dining room we suspected it was on the ground floor, and the Patti Bar was the only ground floor room left that this could be.

What had puzzled us was that the ceiling cornicing is different in the picture above to how the Patti Bar looks now, so we were not sure we had the right picture. Only recently I realised Patti must have rebuilt the ceiling of this room.

Originally, she had built a 2-storey extension, known as the North Wing, and the old Patti Bar picture we have is the room on the ground floor of this extension. Patti had a grander vision and didn’t like having just two storeys on her extension. At some point she had a vision for a castle.

We guess Patti pretty well razed her extension to the ground, and started again, adding the third level, the turrets and castellations, around which time she renamed the property Craig y Nos Castle (Craig y Nos means ‘rock of the night’ as the castle stands in front of a large rocky outcrop below Penwyllt

The second floor with turrets and castellations required reinforcement and a rebuilding of the extension which previously had been designed as a 2-storey structure. A heavy iron frame ‘skeleton’ was used, which as sections of the ceiling in the derelict upper levels fall down, we can see today.

See the different roof lines externally in the old postcards here, where the original 2 storey pitched roof changes into a 3 storey extension with castellations. Compare the first and third postcards’ roof line with the second and fourth postcards.

So, what is the significance of all this, you may ask?

Well, it means that now, as a guest dining in the Patti Bar while staying for a B&B stay, or as you sit down with a snack at the bar, we can now confirm you are indeed dining in Patti’s former dining room.

You are probably seated in much the same area of the room where Patti herself once dined, and where she and her guests would have had their formal dinners, a century and a half ago.

Kind regards,
Martin Gover
Owner / Craig y Nos Castle

29. Your B&B stay in a Historic Place – learn more about the story of Craig y Nos when before and during your stay

Old Pictures

You will by now be aware of the history of the castle but just in case you want to show any relatives some of the Old Craig y Nos Castle Pictures – click here.

Free History Tours

We offer History Tours for all residents. Our Dog Friendly B&B guests always like to go on our history tours. B&B guests come back for repeat stays, gaining the same feeling of involvement in the place that we have.

If you stay a couple of nights or more on a midweek break, how about a different sort of tour?

And now for something completely different…

Paranormal Ghost Tours Craig y Nos Castle
A ghost tour takes place once a month – see our monthly castle organised ghost tours here. You can join this tour if it is on a date you are staying, for around £15/ person on top of your existing B&B stay (excluding supper).

This is not for everyone, but can be made more light-hearted depending on the group dynamic. You need to remain sober for these tours, as you’re wandering around in the dark in the cellars and upper derelict levels. This is different way t0 get a feel for the history of the Castle.

This letter is the last in our current sequence of monthly weekly letters to dog friendly B&B guests and general accommodation enquirers,

All that remains is for me to wish you an enjoyable future visit to the Castle, and we look forward to making your midweek break as enjoyable for you and your dog(s) as both / all of you would wish it to be!

Best Wishes for the future,
Martin Gover
Owner / Craig y Nos Castle

Copyright Dog Friendly Wales and Jack the Dog
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