Adelina Patti, History Tours at Craig Y Nos Castle

Theatre built by Adelina Patti

Adelina Patti bought Craig Y Nos Castle and its estate for £3000 in 1854.

Although nearly forgotten  now, at the time Adelina Patti was the most famous of opera singers, earning an astronomical £1500 per performance.  She can be heard HERE singing at Craig Y Nos. During the 50 years she owned the castle Adelina spent over £100,000 on additions including winter gardens, a theatre and a generator to provide the first domestic electricity.

The winter gardens were given to Swansea towards the end of Adelina’s life and still remain in Swansea as the Patti Pavilion, Adelina’s own theatre remains unaltered at Craig Y Nos.  Painted with the names of Adelina’s favourite composers and with her initials above the Proscenium, the Theatre is a fascinating step back into theatrical history with many original features including a working fly tower and machinery. The auditorium floor can be raked with an orchestra pit or flat so that the whole area can be used as a ballroom. The painted backdrop is an original Cyclorama of Adelina as the character Semiramide.

Adelina Patti's theatre at Craig Y Nos Castle
Adelina Patti’s theatre at Craig Y Nos Castle

The Adelina Patti hospital at Criag Y Nos

On Adelina’s death in 1919 her third husband stripped the castle of its contents and sold the castle and its estate for £19,000.  It became a hospital for the treatment of TB.  Craig Y Nos’s location up in the mountains was ideal for the fresh air and bed rest treatments pioneered in the alps.   A three story open metal structure was built onto the back of the castle and these balconies become the home of TB suffers.  Beds were put onto the balcony and those prescribed bed rest lay on these day and night though summer and winter.   In bad weather tarpaulins were put over the bed covers and some former patients remember kicking snow off their beds when they woke.  Before the advent of antibiotics the TB cure was a long and fragile one.  Many people spent years of their life in the castle, some only toddlers when they arrived. This era of the castle is still in living memory and the publication Children of Craig Y Nos gathers together  stories of hardship and kindness.  The Adelina Patti hospital at Criag Y Nos was one of the first places to use the new antibiotics and by the 1960’s it was no longer needed as a TB sanatorium.  The castle become a lung hospital and latter a geriatric hospital, before passing into private ownership in 1983.

Fireplace in the bar at Adelina Patti's Craig Y Nos Castle
Fireplace in the bar at Adelina Patti’s Craig Y Nos Castle

History Tours of Criag Y Nos Castle, Adelina Patti’s home

By the time the current owner took over the floors were rotted through and the roof in such bad repair that a full time person was employed just to empty buckets. Thanks to investment the roofs are now intact and the ground floor renovated to provide a hotel with high class restaurant much used as a wedding venue.  The old nurses block at  CRAIG Y NOS CASTLE has been converted to provide bunkhouse style accommodation, where you can stay with friends and family.  Guests at the bunkhouse can enjoy the fabulous wild location of the castle and the comforts of the castle bar with its wood burning stove and views over the river.

History tour at Criag y Nos Castle the home of Adelina Patti
History tour at Criag y Nos Castle the home of Adelina Patti

The hotel runs a guided history tour every morning, free to residents of the nurses block, £10 to non residents.  I really recommended this as you get to see all parts of the castle including the preserved theatre and the rooftop with it stunning views of the Brecon Beacons.   The upper floors remain in ruins scattered with items of old hospital equipment and the rumors of a ghost or two. In a  box room there are glass batteries from the old electrics and you can look into the ruins of the room overlooking the river which was once Madam Patti’s private parlour.  Although the balconies are no longer present you can wonder around the wards which become home to hundred of children many of whom did not survive the TB.

View from the roof at Adelina Patti's Craig Y Nos Castle
View from the roof at Adelina Patti’s Craig Y Nos Castle

The Bunkhouse at Criag Y Nos Castle is one of the Brecon Beacons Bunkhouses.  Ideal for great value group holidays you can stay at one of the many bunkhouses in the Independent Hostel Guide.  Or stay at the bunkhouse at Craig Y Nos Castle, like we did, take a history tour and visit the local waterfall.  If you like visiting castles you will be delighted to learn that there are a surprising number of independent hostels and bunkhouses situated close to a castle all over the UK.