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!