Archaeodeath fans, I haven’t gone over to the dark side and started studying medieval castles. Let me assure you, ruined castles are light relief from serious mortuary matters: places of fun and recreation. This is their heritage purpose in my view: past-lite family days out. Fine eternal ruins without the stench of mortality infesting your nostrils. There is serious scholarship on these impressive structures, but this is not for me!
Flint Castle – a Cadw managed and protected monument – is a free entry historic monument and one of a series of fabulous castle tourist attractions along the North Welsh coast. Somewhat surprisingly, Flint, Conwy and the rest were not built to be pretty and fun. Instead, they began life as mechanisms of conquest of Wales by English monarch Edward I. For details look here.
Of course the pedant in me still doesn’t really, really, deep-down understand why he is Edward I, since the Elder, the Martyr and the Confessor were perfectly good Edwards that ruled Wessex and the Confessor almost certainly envisaged himself as a king of England. I am sure royal historians can put me straight on this as to why we start again at one for the 13th century…. I imagine it comes down to what historians define as ‘England’ at different times and the historiographical Berlin Wall that is the Norman Conquest.
The issue of whether he deserved to be first, second, third or even fourth, Edward’s castle is a phenomenal maritime design built as a base for invasion. It was subsequently embroiled in politics and conflicts for well over a century and was the site where Richard II agreed to abdicate the throne. Flint Castle later had a brief period of reuse as a Royalist and then Parliamentarian stronghold in the English Civil War.
Flint Castle’s great tower is the highlight although the entire site’s scale – both inner and outer bailey, merit attention. The views over the Dee estuary and its juxtaposition next to housing and industrial estates render it a distinctive place to visit. It is also free to visit.
Recently, I visited twice; both on lovely sunny mornings, both visits with segments of my family. I confess that Flint Castle is blissfully free of archaeodeath interest: there were no notable memorials or other distinctive funerary features: it is just a castle ruin. Both utilised the on-site free parking.
Still, the castle deserves a posting for its fabulous ruined walls. The heritage boards follow the spoof tabloid headline theme found at all the castles I have recently visited in North Wales. Nice idea that wears thin after a while…
It amuses me to reflect on the contrasting experiences of meeting other visitors there.
First up was a visit with my twin toddlers who had to be kept on reins from falling over and into, and climbing up the ruins to dangerous heights. There were other families there, some with young kids, some with older (pre-teen) boys playing football in the outer bailey and running around and climbing freely and without fear over the walls (despite the signs) to incredible precarious heights. There were other bizarre visitors. In the short time I was there, moving from tower to tower was a young woman posing against the ruins for professional photographers. In stark contrast, there was a topless middle-aged pot-bellied man slumped on the only bench within the inner ward, talking to himself, seemingly frowning at everyone and drinking lager (no friends, this wasn’t me).
Second was my visit with my older three kids. This time, there was a mother with two boys with whom my kids played. All the other visitors were couples, some young, some middle-aged, exploring the ruins as ‘serious’ tourists and all very friendly. This time it was my kids who were climbing all over the walls despite my best attempts to prevent them. The basement of the great tower was particularly popular for running in circles, tripping over, shouting randomly and hiding in the arrow-slits. All very safe, although I would note that one window should have vertical bar running down it to prevent little kids from squeezing through and falling out.
Both visits were most enjoyable and Flint Castle is highly recommended. An archaeodeath free day-out for all!