I’m taking a brief trip away from the Boudoir to spend a few days here in Wales between Christmas and New Year. I have managed to include a gentle walk in the Brecon Beacons. We parked the car near Craig-y-nos Castle and approached the Beacons Way after a meander around the Craig-y-nos Country Park.
Craig-y-nos Castle was the former home of the world famous nineteenth century Italian opera singer Adelina Patti (1843-1919). It stands above the steep ravine of the River Tawe.
Simon Jenkins, in his book ‘Wales: Churches, Houses, Castles‘, writes of her “She performed before emperors, tsars, monarchs and tycoons and was paid 5,000 gold dollars for one performance of La Traviata in Boston … The daughter of a Sicilian and a Roman, she first married Ernest Nicolini, Napoleon’s equerry, then a French tenor, then, at the age of 56, a 30-year-old Swedish ‘nobleman and masseur’.” Jenkins then asks “So how did this remarkable woman come to live in a dark and wet corner of the Brecon Beacons, in a house with Wagnerian name of the ‘rock of the night’?” This came about through her friendship with Lord Swansea who brought her to the Tawe Valley where she fell for the house. In 1878 at the age of 35 she moved in. The fresh air was good for her lungs. Ten years later she had a theatre built at the house and enjoyed entertaining locals and the famous alike. She died here in 1919 but is buried at Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
The house fell into disuse, was for a long time a geriatric hospital and is now a wedding hotel. The theatre still exists and is occasionally used for operatic performances.
Our walk took us through the country park which had once been the pleasure gardens of the house. It appears that these may be gradually being re-established. There are a couple of small meadows, a lake and a fishpond in the park but mainly it consists of woodland – beech woods, conifer stands, rhododendron walks and pine woods. Once out of the park the land, and the Beacons Way path with it, rises gradually and the view opens to reveal the Brecon Beacons at their finest.
Before returning to the car we called at the shop where I spotted an interestingly titled book about about Adelina Patti!
Thankyou for giving my book a plug. I am the grandson of Constantine Hibbert , Patti’s Head gardener for over 30yrs. I was born in Craig-y-Nos and am dismayed at the current condition of the castle and gardens. I hope my book will go some way to raising people’s awareness of the rich history of Craig-y-Nos and the generosity and kindness shown to the local inhabitants for over 40yrs by this great benefactor Adelina Patti.The castle and gardens deserve to be preserved in her memory. She was made an Honorary Burgess of Brecon (the first lady to achieve such an honour) and Honorary Freewoman of Swansea Borough – she was indeed a remarkable lady. The National Park now organise tours around the gardens (only) with a storyteller dressed as the Head Gardener (Constantine Hibbert) , returning to the building next to the Cafe for a High Victorian Tea.Tickets can be bought from the Changing Seasons Cafe and Restaurant.
Tony, thank you for visiting and adding your comment here. I do so agree that the castle and gardens are worthy of greater attention. Some work is already underway on the lake at the back of the garden. The guided walks were not on days that I could manage but perhaps another time. A High Victorian Tea sounds just the ticket to me. Thanks again for your visit.
We have spent many a pleasant hour in the Craig-y-Nos country park over the last 9 years when we have enjoyed our Easter holiday in the upper Swansea Valley. This year, our four generations of Hibberts gathered at the Pen-y-Cae Inn not far from Craig-y-Nos to add another Mrs. Hibbert to the fold!
With so many loose connections “Milady Steps Out” will be my next read!
Thank you for looking at my post here about Craig-y-Nos. I hope you all enjoy the family gathering and the weather will be kind to you! Barbara