I’m a regular visitor to Rhuddlan Castle, which in many ways is a superior example of a Cadw castle heritage experience for me and my kids in North Wales. Recently, I visited with four of my offspring to see a very special guest visitor. Previously, my twins and I had encountered the roving dragon sculpture at Flint Castle as discussed here.
This emerging wyrm had been visiting Rhuddlan before flying south to Kidwelly. It will be installed ‘until further notice’ at Harlech Castle in late September. See its schedule here, as it has been flying over a good selection of Welsh castles.
This is supposed to be a ‘Welsh’ dragon but its linguistic skills were not in evidence and its skin-tone is hardly an indication of nationality. It could be a Norwegian Blue for all I care: pining for the fjords.
A lurking beardy guy in pseudo-medieval garb (I later realised he was employed as a storyteller) pointed out that it looked like a Game of Thrones dragon, seemingly not noticing my ‘I drink wine and I know things’ t-shirt. He then realised that my kids are a little young to watch this particular televisual offering; thankfully that rapidly ended attempts at dialogue since my kids were more interested in the dragon than him.
Such points of ethnicity and inspiration notwithstanding, the main differences from its appearance at Flint were twofold. First, the beast was situated at Rhuddlan within the inner ward, not outside its inner gate as at Flint. The dragon was thus an occupant: semi-subterranean, and facing the gateway to challenge/engage visitors. This allowed me to look down on the dragon from on high and discuss with the kids where his body and tale might extend to underground. Was he a baby dragon and were bigger dragons lurking under the Clwydian range, visible on the skyline from the battlements?
The second main difference was the presence of four cones with A4 print-outs taped to them and placed some distance from the sculpture. Each stated that climbing on the dragon was ‘strictly’ not allowed. Pseudo-medieval guy felt it necessary to verbally repeat this as my daughters happily assailed the beast’s snout. This was different from Flint, where many dozens of kids spent long periods climbing up the dragon’s head, overlooked by ineffectual security guys (unless of course they had instructions to do nothing unless someone attacked the sculpture or more than ‘x’ number were on it at one time). Perhaps the dragon’s wounds from Flint were a lesson not to be repeated at the pay-to-enter site of Rhuddlan? My kids, even without climbing, found traces that the dragon’s scales needed repair, so he certainly is being worn down by his travels and meeting the people of Wales.
I’ve previously advocated that dragons should be scheduled for protection alongside other ancient and historic monuments and buildings in Wales, as discussed here. Will this great wyrm become protected by legislation at some point? What will be the dragon’s fate? I hope she isn’t retired just yet…
In any case we rapidly got bored of the dragon and left her to other visitors. Instead, we spent far longer exploring the castle’s many architectural dimensions from towers to water gate. We briefly went back to say goodbye after a long and successful visit. At the end of the day, that’s all a dragon can do: serve as a temporary installation and ‘draw’ to greet visitors, not the primary focus of such an awesome medieval monument.