Festival of Castles 1983

Cestyll 83 logo

The Wales 1983 Festival of Castles (Gwyl Cestyll Cymru 1983) was a controversial marketing campaign created by the Wales Tourist Board. It was branded “Cestyll 83” and took place during the “Year of Castles”.

The festival was launched on 28 February 1983 by the Prince and Princess of Wales at Caerphilly Castle.

The Prince and Princess of Wales opening the Cestyll 83 festival in Caerphilly Castle.

Euryn Rhys Roberts, Lecturer in Medieval and Welsh History at Bangor University, wrote an excellent piece for The Conversation. I would encourage you to read his article for the full history of the festival.

Festival of Beers

My interest in the festival began after purchasing a beer mat with an illustration of Castell Coch. I have a couple of designs, one from Brains and another from Whitbread Wales.

There are mats for many other castles. I have Newcastle Castle (Bridgend), Cardiff Castle, Caerphilly Castle and Beaupre Castle (Cowbridge).

Castell Coch Cestyll 83 Brains beer mat

“Building of this famous castle started in 1260 and went on into the 14th Century. Also known as the Red Castle as far back as 1307 when it was referred to as Rubeum Castrum. The castle was deliberately destroyed in the 15th Century and lay in ruins until 1870. At this time it was designed and rebuilt in its present state by William Burgess, who reconstructed it, as a ‘folly’ for the 3rd Marquis of Bute. Castell Coch is a tradition…so is your next pint of Brains.”

Castell Coch Cestyll 83 beer mat

“Whilst the foundations are 13th century, this reconstructed medieval castle is essentially an extravagant Victorian nobleman’s folly.”

“For further information about the Festival of Castles write to: Marketing Dept. (PB) Wales Tourist Board, Cardiff, CF2 1UY.”

The Other Side of the Castle

During my research I stumbled across an exhibition called “The Other Side of the Castle” by Ian Walker. Around 40 photos were exhibited in eight venues around Wales.

Ian wrote a statement to accompany his pictures. It begins, “When I learned that 1983 was to be the Welsh Tourist Board’s ‘Year of the Castle’, I decided that I would like to try to take a set of pictures that would show a different view of Welsh castles from the heroic and romantic one that would dominate the media.”

You can read the full statement and view a slideshow of pictures on Ian’s website.

The photo from Castell Coch isn’t in the slideshow so I contacted Ian to ask if he had a copy I could share. He went out of his way to dig out the photo and included a few more he took! I can’t thank Ian enough for being so helpful. The photos are amazing and I’m incredibly lucky to be able to share them.

© Ian Walker

© Ian Walker

These photographs were taken between August 1982 and April 1983. Ian lived quite close to Castell Coch so he visited on a few occasions. The shot from the M4 was used in the exhibition but he told me that today he would probably choose the vacuum cleaner!

Courtyard of Castell Coch

© Ian Walker

© Ian Walker

© Ian Walker

Thanks again to Ian for being so generous with his time. I hope these images bring back some memories of Castell Coch in the 1980s.

If you have any old photos of the castle, I’d love to hear from you. Send me a message via the contact form or use the social media links below.

Profile photo of Jack


Jack is the editor of CastellCoch.com and Tongwynlais.com.

1 thought on “Festival of Castles 1983”

  1. What a great article. Amazing to see how much, yet how little, has changed over the last forty years.

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