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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

What is your favourite Welsh castle?

Caerphilly CastleYou may have heard a whisper that Wales has a castle or two. Indeed there are 641 at the last count, meaning that we have more castles per square mile than any other country in Europe. In fact almost every town or village has some form of castle or fort.

And now thanks to a deal between Cadw and The Friends of Manx National Heritage (FMNH) the historic sites of Wales have now become free to visit to FMNH members from the Isle of Man.

Good news that our heritage will be more open to visitors, but it got me thinking - Which of our 641 castles is our best?

How about the imposing splendour of Caerphilly Castle. Very few castles in Europe are as big as Caerphilly Castle. It dominates the otherwise quiet market town in which it stands. It was built in the 13th Century and must have been a quite a fearsome site to attacking enemies with its imposing walls and huge moat. Thankfully they're a bit more welcoming to visitors today and have opened the portcullis and put a bridge across the moat so you don't get your feet wet on the way in.

Caerphilly Castle is a mere youngster compared to Chepstow Castle as it dates from the 11th Century. As well as being the oldest it was probably the most strategically important as it stands guard on a hillside overlooking the River Wye which marks the border between Wales and England.

It may not be as grand as Caerphilly or as important as Chepstow but Ogmore Castle near Bridgend certainly makes up for this as being one of the most picturesque. Sitting quietly on the banks of the River Ewenny, access to the castle is via a set of stepping stones which leads from the tiny hamlet of Merthyr Mawr and its thatched cottages.

If it's grand castles that you want then there is none more opulent than Cardiff Castle. Don't believe me? Then take a tour of the apartments dating from the 1860s. You'll be amazed by the lavishness and luxury in which the Marquess of Bute, at the time the richest man in the world, once lived. As well as the extravagant apartments the castle also has a Norman keep and Roman walls. It's like all the castles of Wales rolled into one.

There's also the World Heritage Site castles of North Wales at Caernarfon, Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech or the romantic ruins of Carreg Cenen sitting on a hilltop amongst the rolling hills of the Towy Valley.

So many to choose from. So it's over to you, which one is your favourite?