Powis Castle, a medieval fortress built in the 13th century by the Welsh ruler of Powys, Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn, sits high on a rock above its world-famous garden in Welshpool.
By the late 13th century, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd of Gwynedd had established himself as Prince of Wales, and in 1274 he destroyed Powis Castle, forcing Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn into exile. However, within three years Llywelyn’s principality had crumbled leaving Gruffudd of Powys to regain his lordship and rebuild the castle.
The castle then passed on to the Charltons in the 1300s, followed by the Tiptofts and Greys. Years of neglect left the castle in need of considerable restoration, until the 1530s when Edward Grey began a major re-building programme, transforming Powis Castle into the most imposing noble residence in North and Central Wales. Edward Herbert, second son of the Earl of Pembroke, continued this re-modelling when he purchased the castle in the 1580s and created the Elizabethan Long Gallery, the oldest surviving interior of the castle.
Remodelled and embellished over more than 400 years, the castle and garden you see today reflects the changing ambitions and visions of the Herbert family, who occupied the castle from the 1570s. Each generation enlisted artists to embellish and refine the castle and to contribute to the family’s collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture and tapestries on view throughout the property.
Below the castle lies a garden steeped in history. Considered one of the finest surviving examples of its kind, dancing statues lead you along Italianate terraces, and grand staircases show you the way to colourful herbaceous borders and stretches of impeccably mowed lawns.
The 30ft high, cloud-like yew trees spill over the terraces and are a real showstopper. Surviving changes in style, design, and fashion over hundreds of years, today these unique and character filled topiary hedges are carefully trimmed by a team of dedicated gardeners every autumn.
Powis also holds one of the UK’s most significant collections of south Asian objects, housed in the Clive Museum. The collection was amassed by Robert Clive and his son Edward (later 1st Earl of Powis), major figures in the British East India Company. The third contributor was Henrietta Herbert who Edward Clive married, thus uniting the two families. The story behind the objects in the collection is not always clear and although some items were purchased or received as gifts, others were acquired following the defeat and death of Tipu Sultan by British troops at the Siege of Sriringapatna in 1799. The Clive family wealth amassed during the contentious rule of the East India Company ensured the survival of Powis, and contributed to later modernisation of the castle and garden that transformed Powis into how it appears today.
Please note, well-behaved dogs on leads are allowed in the courtyard all year round, but only in the garden from 1 November to 28 February. The surrounding deer park is privately owned by Powis Estate, no dogs are allowed all year round and it’s a permissive access path only.
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