CARDIGAN Castle has a key role to play in the future economic and cultural development of the town.

That’s the view of castle director Jac Davies, who has been in post for the past 15 months and is now looking to further promote both the historic site and the town itself.

Since winning the Channel 4 Great British Buildings Restoration of the Year accolade back in 2016, the castle’s star has been on the rise and Jac sees that going hand-in-hand with the future development of Cardigan and the surrounding area as a whole.

Cardigan Castle now attracts 30,000 visitors a year and the associated economic benefits that provides to the town. It also employs 11 full-time and 12 part-time staff.

“We are probably one of the biggest employers in the town itself now,” said Jac.

“It is so important to create employment for local people, bring trade to Cardigan and boost the local economy.

“In 2006 I had to leave to find work because there was nothing for me in this area. That is changing now, without a doubt in Cardigan.

“It dawned on me recently that so many other towns like Fishguard, Llandysul, Lampeter appear to be struggling while in Cardigan there are three new shops opening along the High Street. We are bucking the trend in West Wales.

“Several things are happening but the castle has a key role to play in the town and since I came back here, I have had nothing but positive comments for what we are doing.

“Cardigan is so lucky to have the castle and I think people appreciate it massively. We are a town of only 4,500 people and to have had so much public money invested is quite incredible.

“Now we have to make that work for the good of the town and that is my challenge.

“I see the castle as very much a facility for the whole town to enjoy and that’s why we throw open the gates for something like the lantern parade.

“I would like to do more of that and I would also like to see more local people use it. A family ticket is only £15 for a year. Why not come in and have a picnic in the grounds or look at the exhibitions we are planning for 2019?

“It is also important we work alongside and with local traders and local producers.”

It is a remarkable turnaround for the castle, which not too many years ago was a crumbling eyesore but is now proving attractive to visitors from around the world.

“I have lobbied Visit Wales quite hard and Cardigan is becoming a signature tourist experience,” said Jac.

“When they go to market Wales overseas in Germany or the US they are now talking about Cardigan. Ten years ago there would have been no chance of Cardigan being talked about in this way.”

But while the economic importance of the castle is not lost on him, Jac is quick to acknowledge its huge cultural and historic role.

“We have to be financially sustainable but not lose sight of what we are in terms of our responsibility to the history, heritage and cultural significance of the castle,” he said.

“Look at Cardiff and the economic benefits the Eisteddfod brings. That story started here 900 years ago and that's incredible.

“I see the castle as very much a focal point of the town and its sustainability and that of the town is key. It’s what’s here in 50 years’ time that is so important as well as what is happening now.

“We need to get that message out there. I am keen for people to see we are here for the town. The town should have ownership of this place and be proud of what we have here.

“I was not quite sure what to expect when I first started here but I am absolutely loving working here. I would like to think my successor has not been born yet!

“There is an amazing team here, including all the trustees and volunteers who give so much time and energy – they are the lifeblood of the castle.

“There is so much that goes in behind the scenes that people do not see. We are effectively four or five businesses rolled into one – visitor attraction of historic importance to Welsh culture, wedding venue, accommodation provider with up to 30 guests at any one time, conference facility, concert venue and restaurant.”

That could soon be added to with the possible relocation of the town’s tourist information service to the castle with Ceredigion County Council axing its service at Theatr Mwldan.

“It’s sad that it is closing but we have stepped in with an offer to help to try to provide some sort of service,” added Jac. “If it moves to the Guildhall in the future, that would be great.

“What’s important is that the town retains a functioning tourist information service, where is of little significance. We will do everything we can to ensure there is that provision in the town.”