Visit Southern Wales

Visit Southern Wales Blog

Archive for tag: Museum

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

Newport 360

Roman CaerleonStanding on the banks of the River Usk, the city of Newport and the surrounding area is packed with things to see and do.

And now to help you find your way about, a new tourism guide has been launched.  Called Newport 360, the guide hears from local people about what visitors can expect to find on a visit to the city and the wider region.

Amongst the highlights you can expect to find on a visit is the iconic Transporter Bridge.  It is one of only eight such bridges remaining in the world.  Built in 1906, the elaborate design was needed in order to allow tall ships to pass up the river to Newport Docks.  Today visitors can cross the river on the suspended gondola or the brave can climb the stairs and cross the high level walkway, a mere 177 feet above the ground.  Enjoy the view.

From the top of the Transporter Bridge, you should be able to spot Tredegar House on the outskirts of the city.  Standing in 90 acres of glorious parkland, the estate was once the home of the aristocratic and somewhat eccentric Morgan family.  Visitors can explore this National Trust property and discover how both the masters and their servants lived and worked.

Newport's history goes back even further.  All the way back to Roman times in fact.  The small town of Caerleon to the north of the city was once the furthest outpost of the Roman Empire and home to hundreds of soldiers.  Today, visitors can explore the remains of the legion's amphitheatre, barracks and baths whilst the National Roman Legion Museum tells the town's story.

Head from Roman times up to the 21st century, and 2010 in particular.  The  eyes of the sporting world focused on Newport when Golf's Ryder Cup was staged at the Celtic Manor Resort.  The tournament put this world class resort firmly in the spotlight and it now boasts 3 world class golf courses including the famous 2010 course which saw Europe triumph in dramatic circumstances.

It's not only the golf that makes a visit to the Celtic Manor worthwhile.  The resort boasts a luxurious 400 room hotel together with fine dining restaurants and spa facilities. 

There's plenty of other accommodation available in the area with high quality accommodation available from the like of Hilton and Holiday Inn whilst for something a little bit different you can stay in a lighthouse overlooking the Severn Estuary.

To download your copy of the Newport 360 visitor guide, please click here

Discover Merthyr Tydfil

Take a look at this video of Merthyr Tydfil.  It might not be the obvious choice when thinking of a holiday in Wales, but as the video proves there's so much to do and some stunning scenery.  Enjoy!

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

A Blog from the Past

Llancaiach FawrToday's guest blog has been written by Steffan Matthias, Agent and Surveyor at Llancaiach Fawr Manor near Caerphilly.

You'll have to excuse the writing style. After all, Steffan is almost 400 years old.

"My Master Edward Prichard owns the capital Manor House of Llancaiach Fawr in the parish of Gelligaer in this year of our Lord 1645. He is one of the most powerful men in Glamorgan, being a landowner, a lawyer and a Justice of the Peace, and a Commissioner of Array for his Majesty King Charles.

You shall be afforded a most gracious welcome to my Master his house. Edward Prichard is the direct descendant of Cedrych ap Gwaithfoed, the olden Lord of Ystrad Twyi. My Master still follows the ancient traditions of Perchentyaeth, the obligations brought by the office and privilege of Landowner.

The Master will offer protection and hospitality via his servants, who will attend gentle visitors and provide guidance about his fair house and speak of their experiences and their lives in the house during this most horrid Civil War. Fortunately Llancaiach is far removed from the distractions of War, and all of my Master's visitors will be assured of a safe haven and pleasant discourse during their visit."

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

Is this Wales' best attraction?

Big Pit National Coal MuseumThis has got to be one of my favourite attractions in Wales. It's the Big Pit National Coal Museum in Blaenavon. It tells the story of the coal mining industry throughout the Southern Wales valleys.

The highlight of the visit is the underground tour. Take a ride in the lift to the bottom of the pit where you'll get an appreciation of what the men, women and boys who worked down here had to endure in years gone by.

If that's not enough for you, speak to your guide. They are all genuine ex-miners and as well as taking you around the pit, they'll also tell you of first hand tales of what life was like for them underground.

Oh and the best bit - it's all free.

Easter Ideas 2 - Big Pit National Coal Museum

Big Pit National Coal MuseumThe Easter holidays are now well underway and with the glorious sunshine here in Southern Wales it's time to get out and about. 

Last week's Easter Idea was a trip to Techniquest in Cardiff Bay.  Today we head North out of the capital city and into the Southern Wales Valleys and to the Big Pit National Coal Museum at Blaenavon.

The award winning museum is easily one of the best attractions in Wales.  There are plenty of opportunities to explore the restored pit head baths and exhibitions on the surface but the real highlight is underground tour. 

Head to the lamp room to be kitted out in your helmet and lamp and then step inside the cage for your journey for the 300 feet journey to the bottom of mine.  Your guide around the pit will be an ex-miner who will be able to tell you first hand stories of what life was like for them and their colleagues working underground.

Entry to the museum is free and is open 7 days a week.  More information can be found here.

Remember, if you do visit, tell us what you thought of it by leaving a comment below.

The Story of Cardiff

CardiffThis Friday sees the opening of Cardiff's latest visitor attraction - The Cardiff Story.

The Cardiff Story is a fascinating new museum telling the story of how our capital city has evolved from a small fortress town, through to the biggest coal exporting port in the world and onwards to the modern thriving city of today's Cardiff.

The story of how the capital became the city we know today is fascinating and often unexpected, but until now there has been no single place where that story is told.

The museum opens in the Old Library in The Hayes district of the city centre on Friday 1 April.

Chinese Takeaway

The town of Dazu in China is a World Heritage Site, notable for an exceptional series of rock carvings from the 9th to 13th century.  There are 50,000 figures in total, remarkable for their aesthetic quality and the insight they give to life in China during this period.

So, why in a blog all about Wales am I telling you this? 

Well, these remarkable carvings have never been seen outside of China until now.  But from today until the 3rd April some these figures go on display at the National Museum in Cardiff.  The museum is the only venue for this exhibition before the artifacts return to their home in Dazu.

The exhibition is imaginatively titled From Steep Hillsides: Ancient Rock Carvings from Dazu, China.  It contains superb examples that have become detached from their original setting, along with accurate replicas of some of the most important sculptures and dramatic large-scale images.

The National Museum is situated in Cardiff City Centre.  As well as extensive archaeological displays the museum is home to a superb exhibition on the evolution of Wales as well as large art gallery which includes one of biggest collections of impressionist paintings outside Paris.  And best of all, entry to the museum is free.

For more information on the National Museum and the Dazu Exhibition visit their website

History Comes Alive!

Recently during an office conversation I made a startling revelation to my colleagues, I had never been to St Fagans National History Museum!  Gasps of horror could be heard throughout the office followed by complete disbelief.  Having lived in South Wales all my life I had to admit that I had reached the age of 32 and never been to this well known attraction.

Once the initial shock had subsided the afternoon was filled with stories of people reminiscing about their visits, from school trips to taking their own children to this fantastic place.  Have also admitted that the rest of my family and my own children had been, I felt it was about time that I went to discover this place for myself.  I also couldn't bear the look of disgust from my fellow workers any longer!

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day and so I decided that this would be a perfect time to find out what I was missing.  On arrival at the museum I was struck by how unlike a museum it was.  There were coach loads of people milling around the entrance which houses the coffee shop and souvenir shop, no hushed voices just people enjoying themselves.

Greeted by the friendly front of house staff I was equally surprised to learn that entrance is free.

100_5187I was kindly accompanied by a St Fagans veteran, who having mocked my lack of knowledge agreed to show me around.  Walking through the open air museum I couldn't believe how much they had to offer.  Now in my 32 years, St Fagans hadn't completely escaped me and I did have some knowledge of what was there although I think it's fair to say that it's only when you visit you get a true sense of how wonderful this place is.  Catering for all ages, there were young families, groups of school children (including a number of international students) as well as older couples and groups all marvelling at the history, the wonderful buildings and the story behind each one.  Over forty original buildings from various historical periods and locations in Wales have been re-erected in the 100-acre parkland and with traditional craftsmen still occupying some of the buildings the traditional crafts and activities bring the place alive.

Keeping cool from the summer sun the resident Blacksmith was keen to show us his workshop while the aroma from the Derwen Bake House filled the air.

As well as all this, there is a year round programme of events (including an autumn food festival) and even a working farm, where you'll soon be able to buy some of what they produce.

I couldn't resist the traditional sweet shop and a treat for the office was too tempting to ignore.  Taking the road train whilst tucking into some Sherbert Lemons was the perfect finish to a fabulous day.

I can't believe it's taken me this long to visit this wonderful piece of Welsh history and I certainly won't be waiting too long to return.  it's no wonder it Wales' most visited heritage attraction, and after yesterday they definitely have one more fan.