Visit Southern Wales

Visit Southern Wales Blog

Archive for tag: Attractions

Downhill Drama

New mountain bike for Christmas? Then you'll obviously want to hurtle down a mountain at full speed to try it out won't you?

Luckily for you, we've got the Mynydd at Cwmcarn Forest near Caerphilly. A fearsome downhill track that fully tests the most experienced riders (and scares the rest of us).

Taking the steep drops, tight turns and huge jumps at break-neck speeds seems to be impossible. Yet they do and that is why this is considered to be one to the best tracks in the country by mountain biking enthusiasts.  It has been rated as a Black track, which means it is officially classed as severe and should only be tackled by experienced riders.

You daren't take your eyes off the track, which is a shame as the views from the top are stunning.

The Mountain Biking Wales website describes it as"a track which offers steep technical sections, a very fast open section near the bottom, jumps, drops, berms, infact probably one of the biggest berms you'll ever see, as well as some doubles and even a massive gap jump if you want to try it."

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

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

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.

Hidden Gems: Guardian

GuardianYou'll know all about our castles, museums and other well-known attractions by now.  But aside from all those, there are a plethora of hidden gems lurking throughout the region, each with their own story and ability to make any trip to Wales a memorable one.

The Guardian Memorial

It's been compared to the Angel of the North, and it's easy to see why.

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.

It stands on the site of the former Six Bells Colliery, not that you'll know it, given how you are now surrounded by meadows and wildlife.  The inscriptions on the base of the statue commemorates the lives lost at the 1960 Six Bells disaster.

Nearby, Ty Ebbw Fach houses a small exhibition on the statue as well as a café, making it an ideal places for a refreshment stop.

For more information, please visit the website

Discover Rhondda Cynon Taf

Lluest-wen ReservoirNestled at the heart of the Southern Wales is perhaps the most famous valley in the world. Once upon a time, the Rhondda Valley produced the coal that powered the world.

How times change, the pits and heaps have long gone to be replaced by glorious countryside and great mountain top views.

There are still reminders of the area's past, not least at the Rhondda Heritage Park, where in the company of an ex miner you embark on an Underground Experience Tour. Find out what life was like for the men (and indeed boys) who worked in the mines.

Up above the valley, the views from the mountain tops are spectacular. There are many walks and routes to follow, not least from the Dare Valley Country Park. Who knows, they might lead to historic sites or hidden waterfalls.

The valley actually stretches all the way up to the Brecon Beacons.  And it is here, in the foothills of the mountains that you will find the tiny village of Penderyn, home to the only whisky distillery in Wales.

They started production here 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).

For more information on this region of Southern Wales, please visit the website.

Wonders of Wye

Tintern AbbeyThe Wye Valley and Vale of Usk is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it's not difficult to see why. 

The rolling countryside is a magnet for walkers with some well-known and popular trails including the Offa's Dyke Path.  It is also where the Wales Coast Path begins (or ends, depending on which way around you're going).  In fact, Offa's Dyke and the coast path join up so that you can complete a whole circuit of Wales if you really want to!

The plenty of historic attractions too.  There are castles galore including the first one to be built at Chepstow and the last one too at Raglan.  One of the most impressive monuments is Tintern Abbey standing proudly on the banks of the River Wye. 

Why not combine walking with history by doing the Three Castles Walk which is a 20 mile triangular walk taking in White Castle, Skenfirth Castle and Grosmont Castle.

The area also has a reputation for excellent food.  There are plenty of top class restaurants or cosy country pubs to choose from whilst Abergavenny's Angel Hotel is renowned for its Afternoon Teas - well worth indulging.  Don't miss the Abergavenny Food Festival each September which is an excellent chance to see (and of course taste) the best of the area's produce.

For more information on the area please visit the website