Caerphilly Castle projects approved as part of wider Cadw initiative

Approval has been granted for an interactive maze and an eerie Dragons’ Lair at Caerphilly Castle, as part of plans to turn the historic Welsh attraction into a major UK tourist destination.

The £570k project has just been given the go-ahead by local planning officials. Work will start this week at Wales’ largest fortress and the new additions are likely to be unveiled next month.

The work falls under Cadw’s Castles Alive! campaign. Cadw, the governing body for heritage sites in Wales, is investing a total of £9.5 million to enhance its major sites.

The Caerphilly installations are set to coincide with the 750th birthday of the castle. The castle will undergo a total rebranding, as it seeks to attract both families and historical enthusiasts.

“Admissions to Cadw sites have risen dramatically in recent years, with an increase of almost 20 percent between 2016 and 2017 alone — largely as a result of crowds who flocked to meet the Cadw Dragons,” said Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Minister for Culture and Tourism.

“This level of success brings significant benefits to Wales’s tourism economy, so I’m thrilled that the planning application for Caerphilly’s new Maze and Dragons’ Lair, which is in line with wider Welsh Government programmes of investment in the Valleys, has been accepted.

Two major projects

Gilbert’s Maze invites visitors to try to capture the castle while dodging its 13th century owner, Gilbert de Clare. The interactive attraction is set to be designed and built by THEME3, known for their work at Madame Tussauds and The London Dungeon. The maze will tell the story of Caerphilly, explaining its unique defences and features that make it one of the world’s most impressive castles. It’s edutainment at its best as visitors navigate secret passageways and encounter interactive props. There are also plenty of imaginative photo opportunities.

The second major installation is Dragons’ Lair, a spooky and evocative telling of the mythical beast. Cardiff-based Wild Creations, who are responsible for the famed Cadw Dragons, are set to construct the lair, complete with smoke and snores.

Visitors throughout August will also be able to meet Gilbert De Clare himself. Historic interpretation experts, Past Pleasures, whose work portfolio includes Warwick Castle and the Tower of London, will provide the experience.

Investment in dragons

Cadw will continue to roll out plans for investment in their historic portfolio over the next three years. The aim is to enhance visitor experience at sites across Wales. Caernarfon Castle, in North Wales, recently launched the holographic dragon game, Legends of the Sky, created by Cardiff-based digital studio Rantmedia.

“It’s vital that we continue to invest in our sites to further improve the visitor experience and strengthen their role in Wales’ tourism offer — and the £9.5m investment will do just that,” said Elis-Thomas. “I look forward to seeing what the next chapter will bring for Cadw, with new experiences, events and interpretation to be installed at castles across Wales during the next three years, beginning with Wales’s biggest castle — Caerphilly.”

Image: CADW