The goings on in and around Bridgend

Digital Bridgend, Short Trail 3

#Digital Bridgend is a new and innovative smartphone application that challenges users to find almost 300 places of historical interest throughout the County of Bridgend. Using augmented reality to find your way around, there are no less than 17 trails to follow, games to play, quizzes and scavenger hunts to unearth the unique heritage of this fascinating part of Wales. This series of blog posts reviews each trail in turn on location. The app is now available on Apple and Android platforms.

One of the things I really like about this app, is its scale. Yes it takes a while to download all the content but you can do that as and when required. The fact that there are 17 trails to pick, some which will take a few hours, and others are short easy strolls around a castle, village or ironworks taking a little over an hour, make this app very flexible to meet the needs of all abilities and interests. Today I'm reviewing the short trails. They may be short and sharp, but they are probably amongst my favourites. So, here's what I encountered…

Bridgend and its Castles: The Coity Castle Trail

Just a couple of miles outside of Bridgend town centre or about half a mile from the junction 36 off the M4, lies one of the most impressive ruins of a Norman Castle outside of West Wales.

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Coity Castle
is another must-visit attraction in these neck of the woods, and with this app, the visit so much more enjoyable providing an excellent view into the castle's past and medieval life at its best (or worse!). There's a place to park your car right outside the gates (which close at 4pm by the way!), by the side of the post office in the village. If not, there are usually plenty of spaces available along the roads outside the castle, so despite a very small official car park, parking should not be an issue at all.

This tour begins right at the castle gates and the West Gatehouse. It takes you through step by step into the heart of the castle grounds where we are told about the castle and the lives of its inhabitants. The app provides a welcome twist from the standard interpretation that you tend to find at castles regarding historical events. This app does include that, but perhaps more interestingly, it provides an understanding and appreciation of life at the castle. One thing in particular I learned (which I probably should have known!) was the connection that castles have with hawks and birds of prey, and their role in hunting. A little walk into the castle grounds, the app presents us with a quiz, about these roles, which you must get right before you can proceed - interestingly, I learn that such was the importance of hunting in Coity that dogs were often looked after better than the servants in this castle.

Further into the grounds, I'm challenged with a scavenger hunt where I'm required to 'mop up' the hexagons that appear on my smartphone screen in order to reveal further interesting facts and figures. I discover that the Keep was actually rebuilt in 1185 after the Welsh uprising in 1183, and that keeps could only be built 10 feet per year due to the mortar that was used. So they often took a lifetime to complete. We are also told that there was once a Great Hall onsite that hosted royalty such as Richard 2nd.

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The app neatly comes to an end once again making a huge impression on the user by leading us to the North East Gatehouse and bridge over the moat. The gatehouse was only built after the siege of this castle by Owain Glyndwr and his armies. Before using this app, I wasn't fully aware of the extent of Owain Glyndwr's movements throughout Wales, but I now know that he certainly left his mark on Bridgend.
This was a short trail on the app but nonetheless it certainly makes this castle come to life. It provides just enough information and an interesting entertaining angle of interpretation. What I really like about this one is that it has taken me to experience an almost perfect ruin (if there is such a thing!), well maintained and never crowded, in fact you could be there alone making it easier to take it all in.

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