Re-opening of Usk Castle Autumn 2020
After the extraordinary year we have all experienced in some form or other, it will be apparent that some things must change, and yet many will stay the same.
Following the closure of Usk Castle over Lockdown, we tentatively tried opening by appointment over the Summer Bank Holiday period, to help visitors find things to do over a damp week. It proved onerous and unrewarding, despite several cheery souls making the best of it. As a family, we now feel, after being open virtually every day of the year for about 30 years, that times have changed, and we would like to regain the privacy of our home and garden.
All those years ago, it felt right to share an opportunity of this lovely and pleasant space for families and tourists to visit. A donation for entry was a way of avoiding costs,(there is VAT on ticket entry) and we hoped that the special atmosphere would invite people to reward the castle with appropriate donations if they could afford it, yet still be able to visit if they were short of cash. We saw many single parents enjoying space to play with their young, romantic couples and interested antiquarians alike enjoying the calm of the crumbling ruins. I have met some of the most charming and interesting folk passing by our back door.
The income from donations was helpful with the cost of maintenance (it is impossible to get insurance for public access without proof of repairing and maintaining the ruins) and when events became popular, the castle was able to fund its own significant conservation programme over 10 years, without asking for grant aid.
However as times change, so did our visitors. We have had an increasing number of unpleasant experiences, from drug users and dealers, litter, theft, and plain rudeness. Visitors fumble in their pockets for small coins, little realising that the cost of conserving the Banqueting Hall in 2010 was £90,000. The spirit of joyful appreciation – two boys exclaiming “This is like the secret castle nobody has ever found!” has been replaced by the demands of a right to visit, and if not, why not?
The change, therefore, is that we have decided for the future, that the castle will be freely open only to Usk Castle Friends (and event clients by appointment). Usk Castle Friends is a group founded 1999 with the remit of creating accessibility and information about the castle, visit their website for more information . At £10 for a single, and £18 for a family per year, members can have unlimited visits to the castle. Joining UCF is available on-line, or by down-loading/requesting a form and paying as appropriate. The only exceptions would be for days when weddings and charity events are booked, or for community days such as Usk Open Gardens Weekend, Teddy Bears’ Picnic. These have always been popular days, without charge. The glamping site Usk Castle Knights has proved very successful, with free access to the castle included and much appreciated.
In the present climate, alas, it is necessary to book a time slot to avoid over-crowding, so we would ask to be notified visitors times by email, text or phone message.:
Visiting slots are: 10.30 – 12;12.30 – 2; 2.30 – 4; 4.30 – 6pm when the castle closes.
The castle is still open in a way, with the hope that a return to ‘Normal’ will be possible in due course, and allow easier access.