The Welsh Castle of Oystermouth has officially re-opened earlier this month, after the first phase of an ambitious project to improve access to medieval fortress. On July 16th a 30ft (10m) high glass bridge was unveiled that will allow visitors into a part of the castle called Alina’s Chapel for the first time in hundreds of years. From the chapel there are spectacular views across Swansea Bay.
The reopening brought hundreds of people to the castle to share in the festivities. One visitor, Claire Jones, told the South Wales Evening Post, “It is really nice to see the castle open again. My five-year-old daughter really enjoyed herself although we were too late to get on a tour and so we will be bringing her back again.”
The Welsh Government is contributing £400,000 through Cadw and £585,000 has been provided from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the Welsh Government’s £19m Heritage Tourism project. It also benefits from a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the City and County of Swansea’s own resources.
The aim is to create a first-class heritage attraction, increase community connections within Mumbles and Swansea and act as a gateway to the castles of Gower. This work will also assure the long-term sustainability of the castle.
A castle community co-ordinator has been appointed to manage a wide range of events, engage with community groups and ensure that Oystermouth plays a full role in the city. The room below Alina’s Chapel will be developed into a multi-functional space. The chapel which is traditionally linked to Alina de Breos, daughter of William de Breos III, Lord of Gower, was added to the castle in the 14th century and is its highest point.
A number of other works have also been undertaken at the castle. These include a new visitor centre with an activities area outside, improved steps and pathway making the grounds accessible for people with disabilities, the toilet block has been completely refurbished and the walls themselves have been cleared of vegetation and repointed with lime mortar.
The castle currently welcomes 5000 visitors a year but the target is to attract many more by 2014.
Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones, said, “Oystermouth Castle is a great example of the terrific ancient buildings we have in Wales. Castles such as this are a physical reminder of our rich heritage and tell the story of our nation. The Welsh Government is delighted to be helping to fund the restoration work that will make the site a first-class attraction for Mumbles and Swansea and preserves the castle for future generations.”
Cllr Graham Thomas, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Recreation and Tourism, added, “Oystermouth Castle is one of the city’s most historic attractions and it’s great news that has re-opened.
“The conservation scheme has found a perfect balance between conserving the attraction and retaining its historic character while adding features that befit the needs and aspirations of the 21st century visitor. This is the culmination of a decade of research, planning, funding and project delivery.”