Visit Southern Wales

Visit Southern Wales Blog

Santa's Toy Mine

Rhondda Heritage ParkDiscover the story of black gold as you explore one of the area's finest mining museums. The Rhondda Heritage Park is based on the site of the former Lewis Merthyr Colliery in the heart of the Rhondda Valley

Visitors are able to get a taste of what life was like as a collier with an underground experience tour in the company of a former miner.  Don your safety helmet in the lamp room, ride 'the cage' to 'pit bottom' where you will 'live the experience' of life as a miner and hear from your guide about the hazards and tasks miners endured as part of their daily work.

However, in the run up to Christmas, the tunnels and workings are transformed into Santa's Toy Mine.  Descend in the lift but instead of the usual mine tour, you will embark on a quest where you must follow the clues to find Santa's secret hide out.

Tours run daily right up until Christmas Eve.  For more information, please head to the website.

Festive Festival Park

Still stuck for that final Christmas gift, then worry no more.  Festival Park is bound to have something suitable.

Festival Park, Ebbw ValeLocated near Ebbw Vale, Festival Park is one of two branded designer outlets in Southern Wales.  It is home to over 40 high street shops all under one roof.   You will find some of the top brands selling some of their latest goods at discounted prices.

There's plenty to keep you occupied if shopping is not your thing.  It is situated in a 70 acre parkland setting in the heart of the Southern Wales Valleys.  There are cafes and restaurants to keep you fed and watered and even an owl sanctuary.

Visit the website for more details

Festive Food

Food and DrinkAlready host to the  Food Festival, one of the biggest and best annual food festivals in the country, the pretty market town this weekend (13 & 14 December) hosts their Christmas Food Fair.

Every culinary taste is catered for - rare and exotic, innovative or traditional.  There'll be over 80 specialist exhibitors selling everything from fresh and cured meats, cheeses, chocolates to local wine, ales and ciders.

There'll also be chef demonstrations and activities for children as well as plenty of seasonal music, choirs and bands to ensure a truly festive atmosphere.

Take a look at the website for more information.

Caerphilly's Christmas Festivities

Caerphilly Christmas FayreOne of the biggest and best Christmas markets in Wales gets underway this weekend.

The Caerphilly Christmas Fayre attracts visitors from far and wide to experience the festivities in this historic town.  With the giant medieval castle providing the backdrop, the fayre is sure to get you in the Christmas spirit.

Visitors will experience Christmas through the ages as the fayre embraces the traditions of Christmas past and present.

Over 100 stalls will be ready to tempt you, including a Farmers' Market selling the best local produce and a Continental Market, ensuring that you get a taste of a European Christmas.

Caerphilly Castle itself will also get in on the act as it is transformed into a Victorian fairytale castle full of decadence and romance.  There'll also be traditional fairground rides, mulled wine and of course a visit from Father Christmas himself.  There'll also be free entry to the castle for children.

For more information on the fayre take a look at the website or see what other Christmas events are coming up over the coming weeks by clicking here.

The Elf-steddfod is Back

The Bridgend Elfsteddfod is back.

Back in 2010, the town of Bridgend took on mighty New York in the battle of the Elves. The Big Apple held the record for the most elves gathered together in one place.  Bridgend decided to take on the challenge and ended up smashing the world record with 794 elves gathering in the town centre.

Every year since then
, Bridgend has successfully topped their record with more and more elves coming to the town to be part of history and the current record, set last year, stands at 1500.

Not one to rest on their laurels, the town is looking yet again to break its own record.

This Saturday, 13th December, people are being invited to gather in the town for a day of festivities which will culminate in the Elf World Record attempt. To take part, just turn up in a red or green jumper and collect one of the official elf hats that will be provided.

Who knows, you might end the day as a World Record Holder.

The Christmas Pudding Run

This is the village of Merthyr Mawr near Bridgend.  It's an idyllic little settlement, as picturesque as they come, with an outstanding collection of thatched cottages positioned around an old village green.

Despite being a relatively small village, there's plenty of interesting places to visit.  The 'Dipping Bridge' was built in the 15th century, the holes in the sides allowed farmers to push their sheep into the River Ogmore for a seasonal dip!

Just down the lane lie the remains of Candleston Castle, once a 15th century fortified mansion house, whilst nearby Ogmore Castle is probably the most picturesque castle in Wales.

Just beyond the castle is one of the biggest sand dune systems in Europe.  It once stretched for miles, right around Swansea Bay and some of the dunes are as big as small mountains.  The dunes are an important wildlife habitat and site of scientific interest, which shelters a rich variety of plants. Parts of the Hollywood blockbuster 'Lawrence of Arabia' were filmed here.

Every year, just before Christmas, hundreds of amateur athletes descend on the village for the annual Christmas Pudding Run.

The race is a challenging multi-terrain, six mile run that winds its way through the sand dune system.  The route starts with an ascent of the highest single sand dune in Europe - the fearsome Big Dipper. 

But it doesn't end there, the race then continues with even more climbs, over rough moorland and through several streams before eventually the runners get to the finish line.

And the prize for completing this gruelling course……a Christmas pudding of course!

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