Today is Calan Gaeaf in
Wales. Translated into English, this means the start of
winter and is an ancient celebration to mark the Celtic New
These days the more modern celebration of Halloween is more widely
celebrated although this has its roots in the Calan Gaeaf
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.
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
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
For more information please visit the website
Standing 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
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
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 Old Station
Visit Wye Valley
Nestled 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 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.
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
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
The Wye Valley and Vale of Usk is
an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it's not difficult to see
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
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
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
Event - King's Day
Location - Llancaiach Fawr, Nelson,
Date - Sunday 1 August 2012
Celebrate 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
For more information please visit the Llancaiach Fawr website
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
Entry is free. For more information visit their
Just 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