Visit Southern Wales

Visit Southern Wales Blog

Archive for tag: History

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

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.

History and Handlebars

You'd be forgiven for thinking that Caerphilly is all about the castle.

To be fair, covering 120,000 m2 Caerphilly Castle does tend to dominate the town.  It was built by Norman invaders but it was an attack during the 17th century that left the castle with its most striking feature - a leaning tower, which at 10 degrees has more of a tilt than its more famous counterpart in Pisa.

When you've finished exploring it there is a lot more to do in this corner of Southern Wales.  A journey of 8 miles and almost 400 years brings you to Llancaiach Fawr Manor and the year 1645.  You'll meet the servants of the manor who are busy looking after the house for the master, Colonel Pritchard.   They'll regale you with tales of what life is like for them amidst the turmoil of the civil war which rages around them.

What you need with so much history in an area is a museum to bring it all together.  Well, luckily for Caerphilly there's the Winding House.  As the name suggests, the building housed the winding mechanism for the local colliery (in fact you can still see the engine in action on special days throughout the year).  Today the museum is home exhibitions and artefacts charting the area's past.

Back in the 21st century and over in the next valley is Cwmcarn Forest's Mynydd, quite possibly the biggest, hardest, most technical downhill mountain biking track in the country.  It also has terrific views over South Wales, not that you'll be able to take them in as you hurtle down the side of the mountain.  There are also a number of other tracks at the centre if you're not quite up to the big one or if you're after something a little more sedate you can enjoy the beautiful 7 mile long forest drive.

To find our more about Caerphilly, 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

Joust in Time

JoustThe fanfare sounds, the tension mounts, the sensational Knights of Royal England are back at Cardiff Castle this summer (22 & 23 June) for the annual Joust extravaganza!

Pomp, pagentry, amazing horseback stunts and bruising falls await the crowds as the Knights go head to head in the noble art of Jousting.

As well as the main jousting arena, there will be a medieval encampment to explore, minstrels to meet, storytelling sessions and you can even learn a few jousting skills of your own.

A packed programme of medieval action throughout the day makes this a great value family day out, topped off by a mass battle with everyone invited to join in.

For more information visit the Cardiff Castle website

A Day Fit for a King

Event - King's Day
Location - Llancaiach Fawr, Nelson, Caerphilly
Date - Sunday 1 August 2012

Llancaiach Fawr KingCelebrate with the residents and servants of Llancaiach Fawr Manor as His Majesty King Charles I comes to visit.  Hoping to persuade Lord of the Manor, Edward Pritchard to remain loyal to him during the on-going Civil War, the King will preside over a day of activities and re-enactments taking place around the manor and it's grounds.

Llancaiach Fawr is a Grade One listed Manor House that has been restored and furnished according to its appearance during 1645. Visitors will now encounter live role-playing interpreters portraying the household staff during the time of the Civil War.

For more information please visit the Llancaiach Fawr website


History Comes Alive

Wales makes no secret of the fact that it is a country full of history and heritage.  And where better to find out all about it than at the superb National History Museum.

Situated just 4 miles from the centre of Cardiff, in the pretty grounds of St Fagans Castle, a 16th century manor house, the museum's collections comprise over 40 historic buildings from every corner of Wales.  Moved from their original location, they were then transported to the site before being re-built brick by brick by skilled craftsmen.

Buildings on site include farm buildings, a school, a workingman's institute and a row of 5 Ironworkers' cottages originally from Merthyr Tydfil where each cottage is decorated in a style from different eras, from 1805 to 1985.

Undoubtedly, the most impressive building on the site is the 12th century St Teilo's Church.  Originally standing on the banks of the Lougher estuary near Swansea, the church was carefully dismantled before being transported to St Fagans where it was restored both inside and out in a 16th century style.  The whole relocation project took an incredible 20 years to complete before the church was opened to the public in 2007.

As well as the buildings, visitors to the museum can see skilled craftsmen and women at work in their various workshops.  A blacksmith, Welsh clog maker, potter, saddler, miller and backer can all be seen making their wares using traditional techniques.

Entry is free.  For more information visit their website

Outdoor Theatre Festival - Take 2

Everyman Open Air Theatre FestivalJust as the Lord Chamberlein's Men's Midsummer Night's Dream tour of Welsh castles comes to an end the Everyman Theartre company's open air summer theatre festival gets going. 

In the stunning setting of the St Fagans National History Museum on the outskirts of Cardiff the festival will comprise 36 performances of 4 different plays over the course of course of 25 days throughout July.

First held over just 1 week in 1983 the festival has expanded over the years to become one of the biggest in South Wales.

This years performances are:
The Pirates of Penzance by W.S. Gilbert & Sir Arthur Sullivan - July 6-16
Shadwell Opera: Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten - 10 July
The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare - July 20-30
Old King Cole by Ken Campbell - July 23-30

More information is available from the Everyman Theatre Festival website

(Image courtesy of Everyman Theatre Festival)