Caerphilly near Cardiff in South Wales has one of the most spectacular ancient castles that we used in the TV series on “Castles of Horror”, which I presented for the Discovery Channel.
Road King Classic
I rode to Caerphilly to make the programme on a Harley Road King Classic: a truly great machine, one of the very best I’ve ever ridden in the 60 years I’ve been a biker! The air-cooled V2 four stroke engine has a capacity of 1450 cc and top speed was over 96 mph. I tried her off-road on a disused stretch and we were doing well over 90 with some still in hand. She’s belt driven and has a five-speed gearbox. The Road King has a 63 inch wheelbase and weighs in at 323 kg. The 5-gallon tank makes her an excellent long-distance cruiser.
Two Ghost Stories at Caerphilly Castle
There are two persistent ghost stories attached to Caerphilly Castle which we used in the TV show: one is benign and the other very sinister. Red Gilbert, who built Caerphilly Castle, was married to the exquisitely beautiful Princess Alice of Angouleme. Gilbert neglected her and was always away fighting somewhere. Understandably, the exquisitely lovely, lonely Princess attracted the attention of a romantic Welsh Prince named Gruffudd the Fair, who came from Brithdir to the north of Caerphilly.
Gruffudd and the Treacherous Monk
They had a passionate affair, but Gruffudd had a bad twinge of conscience and confessed it all to a monk whom he thought he could trust – as it turned out, he couldn’t! The mean and treacherous little monk told Red Gilbert everything. The jealous Gilbert went ballistic and sent the lovely Alice back home to Angouleme in disgrace. Gruffudd caught up with the perfidious monk and hanged him. Unfortunately, Gilbert’s men caught up with Gruffudd and hanged him too!
Death of Princess Alice
When the news of her lover’s death reached Alice, she died of a broken heart, and her unhappy ghost returned to Caerphilly Castle, where she had known such intense happiness with Gruffudd. Many honest and reputable witnesses claim to have seen her, always dressed in green and flitting from tower to tower at Caerphilly. Her phantom stands looking northwards towards Brithdir, watching and waiting for her beloved Gruffudd to come to her.
The Evil Moat Hag
The other Caerphilly Castle ghost is the Moat Hag, a hideous, demonic creature that emerges from the stygian waters of the moat and utters screams and moans like a traditional Irish Banshee – a harbinger of death. According to legend, the Moat Hag wings her way towards a victim’s house and utters her dreaded cries of impending death. As well as being linked to the Irish Banshee legends, the Moat Hag of Caerphilly is also linked to the legends of Lilith.
Lilith the Screech Owl
In ancient Middle-Eastern traditions, Lilith was Adam’s first wife, who flew from him because she didn’t like sex and became a screeching owl-demon that attacked children as they lay sleeping on the flat roofs of early Middle-Eastern homes. She hated children in particular because she couldn’t have any. But what is a legendary Middle-Eastern demon doing in the moat at Caerphilly in South Wales?
Welsh Warriors Overseas
In the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries a lot of Welsh warriors – especially the famous bowmen of Gwent. Who got involved in overseas wars and Crusades to the Middle East. Did they bring strange tales home with them?
Saint Nicholas – Alias Santa Claus
Strange tales certainly do travel from the Middle East to Western Europe and the UK. The most famous of all being the good and great St Nicholas who came originally from Myra in Turkey. His generosity and kindness are still remembered during Christmas time all over the world. He would certainly approve of the magnificent charity work that the Star Bikers of Stoke on Trent do regularly. Although they have just completed their Easter Egg Charity Run. They are already planning ahead for their Christmas Toy Run on 9th December 2012. They start from the Britannia Stadium in Stoke on Trent at 11 a.m. The entry fee is £2 for the charity plus a toy. Full details from Star Bikers organisers by phone on (01782) 414831.