Visit Southern Wales

Visit Southern Wales Blog

Guarding the Valleys

GuardianWe got the chance to visit the Guardian Mining Memorial this week.

Towering above the village of Six Bells, in the heart of the Valleys, the Guardian stands as a monument to the mining industry that once dominated this landscape and commemorates the lives lost in the 1960 Six Bells Colliery disaster.

Despite visiting several times in the past, the monument never fails to impress.  And this time we were lucky to get a guided tour of local expert Meg Gurney.

She has a wealth of knowledge on the Guardian - the process of building it, the history of the Six Bells site and the mining industry locally.  She also told us some poignant stories of those who perished in the disaster and those who had lucky escapes.  Hearing these stories added so much more to the visit.

If you're visiting, be sure to call in to Tŷ Ebbw Fach. The former coaching inn has been transformed into an information centre about Guardian, whilst also providing light snacks and refreshments in its excellent coffee shop.

For more information on the Guardian or Tŷ Ebbw Fach click on the links below.
Guardian
Tŷ Ebbw Fach

Wonderful Welsh Whisky

PenderynDid you know Wales produces its own whisky? It might not be as well known as its Scottish or Irish counterparts, but that is changing.

Penderyn Whisky (which takes its name from the village in the Brecon Beacons National Park where the distillery is based) started production in 2000 and the first bottle was released on St David's Day in 2004. It was the first whisky to be (legally!) produced in Wales since the 19th century. The distillery is situated on a natural spring and it uses this water, to produce the whisky.

The visitor centre opened in 2008 and gives visitors a tour explaining how the distilling process works. Even better, at the end of the tour you get the chance to sample the whisky (or vodka, gin or cream liquor that they also produce).

And if you're really into your whisky, why not try the Penderyn Distillery Master Class tour. This includes a detailed tour of the distillery, an in-depth look at how the whisky is made and also an expert tasting session.

For more details take a look at their website - www.welsh-whisky.co.uk

Iechyd da!

Happy New Year

Llancaiach GhostToday is Calan Gaeaf in Wales.  Translated into English, this means the start of winter and is an ancient celebration to mark the Celtic New Year. 

These days the more modern celebration of Halloween is more widely celebrated although this has its roots in the Calan Gaeaf celebrations.

One place you should visit today is Llancaiach Fawr, a 16th century manor house and, reportedly, the most haunted house in Wales.  Many sightings and strange goings on have been reported in almost every room of the house. Ghosts are believed to include a former housekeeper named Mattie and that of an unidentified young boy. 

Llanciach Fawr is marking Halloween with a spooky ghost tour where visitors can see if any spirits are coming out to play.  Take a look for yourself on the Ghost Cam, if you dare.

Aside from the ghost tours, Llancaiach Fawr itself is a great day out.  Visitors can step back in time to 1645 and the time of the Civil War.

The house is decorated in the style of the era and visitors get the chance to meet the mansion's servants who will tell you of what life was like at that time.   Servants you might come across include the maids, the cooks and the groom. And if you're lucky you might even get the chance to meet Colonel Pritchard, the master of the house himself.

Take a look at their website for more details.

Best of Bedwellty

Bedwellty HouseTredegar is a small town with a big history.

At the centre of the town is the beautiful Bedwellty Park.  The 26 acre park dates from the 19th century when it was created for the Master of the local iron works, Samuel Homfray.

The parkland is full of interesting features such as cascades, a bandstand and an ice house.  It also boasts the biggest single lump of coal ever mined.

The park's centre piece though is Bedwellty House.  Once home to Homfray, the house has a remarkable history.  As well as being a residence, the house also became the headquarters of Tredegar Town Council.

And it was in this council chamber that a young Aneurin Bevan took his first steps into politics, before he went on to become the local MP and founder of the NHS.  Visitors can take a look inside this historic room and watch a short film as well as browse through a number of other exhibitions.

Bedwelty House and Park is open all year round to the public.

Visitors to the house and park can relax and unwind in the Orchid House tearoom where they can sample a range of homemade specialities, including produce grown in its very own kitchen garden.

For more information please visit the website

Tour of Tintern

Tintern CoachStanding on the banks of the River Wye in the pretty village of Tintern, it's hard to imagine a more tranquil setting for one our biggest historical attractions.

Tintern Abbey was built in the 12th century by an order of Cistercian monks who lived in the Abbey for 400 years.  Latterly the Abbey attracted the attention of celebrated poets and artists such as Wordsworth and Turner.

Despite the shell of this grand structure being open to the skies, it remains the best-preserved medieval abbey in Wales.

These days the remains are popular with visitors to this corner of Wales and walkers exploring the nearby Wye Valley and Offa's Dyke Path.

Other attractions nearby include the Abbey Mill Craft Village and Tintern Old Station, a delightful country park with an award winning tea room based in the station's old ticket office.

For more information please click on the following links
Tintern Abbey
Abbey Mill
Tintern Old Station
Visit Wye Valley

Roman Remains

CaerleonJust to the north of Newport lies Caerleon, a small town with a big history.  The town was once one of the most remote outposts of the mighty Roman Empire and one of only three permanent fortresses in Britain.

The legacy of that past is clearly visible today with many relics and remains throughout the town.  The amphitheatre is the most complete  in Britain while the barracks are the only one of its kind still on view in the whole of Europe.  A short stroll through the town brings you to the Roman Baths, in their time a state of the art leisure complex with heated changing rooms, exercise rooms and an open air swimming pool.

Telling the story of the town's Roman past is the National Roman Legion Museum.  Exhibitions and artefacts show how the town and its garrison lived, fought and died. 

Visit the museum's website for more details

The King of Castles

With its towering turrets and sprawling water defences, Caerphilly Castle dominates the town of Caerphilly.

It's actually the second biggest castle in the UK behind Windsor.  It has been there since the late 13th century when Gilbert de Clare decided he needed to keep the rebellious locals at bay.

They're much more welcoming to visitors these days.  They've even built a bridge over the moat to stop you getting your feet wet on the way in.To find out more about this impressive castle, take a look at the video or visit the website.

Meet the Ancient Keepers of Bryngarw

Bryngarw KeeperIn the tranquil surroundings of the Bridgend's Garw Valley, lies the beautiful Bryngarw Country Park.

113 acres stunning parkland to explore, including native woodlands, formal gardens and secluded glades.

And lurking amongst the flora and fauna are the Ancient Keepers of Bryngarw - four mythical guardians of the park's woodlands, meadows, gardens and river.  Awaken the keepers with your special 'talisman' (available from the visitor centre) and hear the stories, myths and legends of this mysterious area.

For more information on Bryngarw Park visit the website

GTOA All Set for Southern Wales

Caerphilly CastleA busy weekend is in store for us as welcome the Group Travel Organisers Association Western Branch to the region for a familiarisation visit.

The group, who are in Cardiff for their AGM, will also take time to visit some of the area's best attractions and sample some legendary Welsh hospitality.

The tour will kick off with a visit to Llancaiach Fawr, a 17th century manor house near Caerphilly, which takes you back in time to see how the servants worked and lived during the civil war.

Back in the present day, and the group will then head for Wales' only distillery at Penderyn in at the top of the Rhondda Valley.

From there they head to the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet near Bridgend, to browse (and spend) in some of the centre's 90 designer and big name stores.

Dinner at Llanerch Vineyard will round off the day in a relaxing manor.

The following day, the group will head for the St Fagans National History Museum and enjoy a trip aboard the Cardiff Bay Road Train.  Whilst in the Bay, they'll also visit the Norwegian Church and the Senedd.

The weekend will then be rounded off in unforgettable style with a sumptuous feast at Cardiff Castle's famous Welsh Banquets.

The group will be guided by Steve Griffin from Griffin Guiding.

We hope the GTO's have a great time and that they will be inspired to return with their groups in the not too distant future.

A Taste of Wales

This weekend sees Wales' biggest and best food festival come to Abergavenny.

The historic market town, which has a great reputation amongst foodies will be full of stands, stalls and exhibitors giving visitors, quite literally a taste, of Wales. 

Complementing the stalls are a variety of masterclasses, tastings and talks whilst there is plenty to keep the kids happy with workshops, story telling and live music.

Don't worry if you can't make it to Abergavenny, there are two more great food festivals coming up over the next few weeks. 

Look our for the Bridgend Food Feastival (26-27 September) and the Newport Food Festival (4 October)