One day in 1925, the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst was leafing through a copy of Country Life magazine when he came across a 12th century Welsh castle overlooking the Bristol Channel which was up for sale. He decided to buy it and set about modifying the structure of the castle by adorning one part of it, Bradenstoke Hall, with a roof brought across from Bradenstoke Abbey in Wiltshire - as one does. The castle in question was St Donat's Castle in the village of the same name - named after the 6th century saint Dunwyd - and during his 12-year tenure Hearst brought a touch of Hollywood glamour to this quiet corner of the South Wales coast by inviting such luminaries as Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks to come and stay there, as well as a young John F Kennedy and the playwright George Bernard Shaw.
The castle, which has curtain walls dating from around 1300, holds the distinction of being the longest continually inhabited castle in Wales. For many years it was owned by the Stradling family, and the village church includes monuments to them. After Hearst sold it in 1937, the castle was requisitioned for use by American and British troops during the Second World War. Today the castle houses an international secondary school called Atlantic College and an Arts Centre. Not surprisingly, given its long history, there are a number of ghosts reputed to haunt the castle, including one of Lady Stradling in a long flowing dress and high shoes. Her appearance, usually in the Long Gallery, is said to be a portent of impending doom. An old witch-like woman is often seen in the Armoury, while the animal kingdom puts in an appearance in the form of a phantom panther which has been seen in a corridor. The makers of the recently shown TV series Wolf Hall made use of two of the castle's largest rooms for filming, one of which was the aforementioned Bradenstoke Hall.
Map of the area.
|Sea wall at St Donat's Castle. Photo by Peter Wasp, via Wikimedia Commons|