"Psst, remember what they say about ancient castles? Most are supposedly haunted," my friend whispered furtively as we approached Cardiff Castle in Wales.
We were on an excursion to the castle, a heritage building with a jealously preserved facade. I had always wanted to tour a castle featuring medieval and Victorian architecture to catch a glimpse of the past. Tales from any crypt, no matter how macabre, I told myself, would not put a damper on our visit.
Located in the heart of the city, Cardiff Castle is easy to get to. It was early evening when we arrived and the sun was about to set.
We signed up for a guided tour which offered quite a mix of features - you can walk round the walls, visit the open air ancient stone keep on top of a large artificial hill and experience what it was like to use the thick walls as a World War II shelter but, best of all by far, is the tour of the Marquess of Bute's family apartments. Archaeological surveys suggest that a fort was first established by Roman legions as early as 54 AD. After the Norman conquest, the Castle's keep was built, using the site of the Roman fort. The site was divided into inner and outer wards, separated by a huge stone wall.
The Castle passed through the hands of many noble families until in 1766, it passed by marriage to the Bute family. From 1866 the third Marquess employed architect William Burges to transform the castle lodgings. With money no object, he created lavish and opulent interiors, rich with murals, stained glass, marble, gilding and elaborate wood carvings. Each breathtaking room has its own special theme, including Mediterranean gardens and Italian and Arabian decoration. The castle was the first building in Wales, and the third in Britain, to have electricity.
Today the castle is the property of the Cardiff County Council, a gift from the Bute family.
Chilling and bizarre as it may seem, several ghosts are said to wander around the castle, notably the Second Marquess of Bute also known as "The Creator of Modern Cardiff". He died in a small chapel behind the library. Very often, his ghost is sighted in the library.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, there have been sightings of a phantom coach and paranormal activities taking place early in the morning in the stockroom.
Workers have also reported hearing footsteps late at night and feeling as though someone has touched the back of their necks.
I was sceptical at first till I entered the banquet hall. A chilly atmosphere seemed to have crept in and the dim lighting in the room did not help. I shivered with unexplained goosebumps, and felt that I was being watched. I think that some of the others experienced the same sensations that I did, though they did not want to admit it.
The feeling was very eerie, and we did not stay long inside the room. Later, I found out that the room was a favourite place of Sofia, the wife of the Second Marquess of Bute, who died of a broken heart.
There are other stories of the ghosts of Cardiff Castle. Don't let me spoil the fun for you. If you are ever in Cardiff, visit the Castle, have afternoon tea and enjoy its charming gardens and grounds.--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin