ATTRACTING more than 170,000 visitors per year, Chirk is home to one of Wales’ most popular tourist attractions.

Chirk Castle boasts a rich history and beautiful scenery which attracts visitors from across the globe each year to the town.

There is a lot yet to be discovered about the popular site, with remnants of old castle wings recently being unearthed and items from centuries ago being found in the grounds.

It is enjoyed by many nowadays; however, many years ago the grounds were private and no public access was granted.

It was during this time that the castle was visited by an American landscape architect by the name of Frederick Law Olmsted.

Mr Olmsted had been tasked with designing the grounds at one of the United States’ most popular green spaces – Central Park, New York – when he embarked on a tour of the UK to take inspiration from similar spaces.

During his trip, he stopped at Chirk Castle, and is believed to have factored in some of what he saw at the North Wales site when drawing up his plans for the space in the heart of New York.

Although it has never been proved what exactly it was that brought him to Chirk, and indeed how much inspiration he did take, it is likely that he took inspiration from some of the British architecture of the time.

Visitor services manager at Chirk Castle, Jon Hignett, said the historical link between the castle and the New York park is something he finds fascinating.

“He certainly did visit Chirk Castle all them years ago, and I think he is said to have taken inspiration from the ha-has (a sunken fence) here when designing the sunken paths in Central Park,” he said.

“I would love to believe it’s true, but we don’t know if it’s 100 per cent right. Ha-ha’s were a pretty common thing in the UK at the time.

“But it is true that he stopped here, and he travelled around a number of sites in the UK to gather inspiration for the New York site.”

To look at the two sites, there may be little similarity between them in their modern forms, but that might be because the Chirk site has undergone huge changes since Mr Olmsted’s visit in the 1850s.

Jon Explained: “The gardens at the castle at the moment are more reminiscent of the work done in the 1950s after the Second World War.

“So when Mr Olmsted visited in the 1850s, the gardens had been transformed about 90 years prior to that by William Emes, and he had a very similar, naturalistic outlook to Mr Olmsted.

“And then even further back than that, the gardens were a lot more formal with a lot of straight paths and orchards.

“So, the gardens here have changed quite a lot, and I wouldn’t say the gardens today look an awful lot like they did when Mr Olmsted would’ve visited.”

One thing the American was keen on was providing green spaces which could be enjoyed by the public.

During his visit, the castle grounds would have been private and inaccessible for the public.

Jon said Mr Olmsted’s views mirror that of the National Trust’s today.

He said: “I never read Mr Olmsted’s travel log, but I know he was a big believer that green spaces should be for everybody.

“I think that’s quite a nice connection with the work that the National Trust do today.

“During the time when he visited, that wasn’t the case – the gardens were part of somebody’s country home.

“I think it’s hugely important that spaces like this are accessible for the public.

“The conservation of these landscapes and places is vital, and that’s because if we can conserve them, they will be here for future generations to enjoy as well.

“That’s the whole point really – if we looked after it for nobody to come and visit it, there wouldn’t be much point to it.”

The story of Mr Olmsted’s visit is one of the many pieces of history which makes up what is known about the castle today.

This story, along with many others, is Jon’s favourite thing about the site.

“Personally, I love the mysteries of the castle,” he said.

“We still don’t know a lot about people who lived at the castle.

“Since 1595, the castle was owned by the Myddleton family, and from that period onwards we know a lot because they kept very good records.

“But before that time, there were between 18 and 20 owners in the 300 years before that and there was an awful lot of work done to it.

“It looked a lot different to how it does now and that’s something we’re still learning about.”