We arrived at Atlantic College (Coleg yr Iwerydd in Welsh) just after noon on Thursday. Passing over the Bristol Strait we followed signs in English and Welsh down ever more winding, narrow roads until we came to our destination: a 12th century castle situated on the sea to protect the ancient shipping channels that led to Cardiff on the Welsh side, Bristol on the English.
The castle has a colourful history. Long ago it would have welcomed crusaders back from their pursuits to tell their stories by roaring fires. At various points, poor wretches would have climbed the steep, twisting stairs to the gibbet tower to meet a sorry end. The lonely Lady Ann would have walked in her blue garden, along paths of lavender and wisteria, pining for her son who was kidnapped by pirates. Sadly, her pining got the better of her and she went mad and died before she could witness her son’s return and his captor’s hanging. In the early 1900s, the castle, now in disrepair, was purchased by Randolph Hearst. He renovated it with artifacts and building materials scavenged from churches, manors and estates that he purchased throughout England and Europe.
At this point, the castle and grounds provide a home to the College and numerous summer programmes for international students. Although our sleeping accommodations were humble (except for Chris who got to sleep IN the castle!), the view was spectacular and the castle itself grew more intriguing day by day.
Tomorrow we set out for London and the excitement of the big city. But for now, I’m glad that we’ve been snug in the quiet Vale of Glamorgan. It’s given us a chance to adjust to this time zone, get to know each other, settle into the pace of our classes and anticipate the rest of our journey.