Take a trip to Cardiff and the South Coast!
I don’t get down to Cardiff and its coastal area very often these days so I persuaded a good friend of mine to write about how she spent her time there recently. Thanks very much Chris! I don’t know about anyone else, but after reading this I have a real hankering to re-visit our wonderful capital!
City, coast, country and culture. Or ‘How to spend a couple of days in South Wales when you’re visiting family’!
I spent last weekend down in south-east Wales, my husband’s home patch and a land of great contrasts. We could have just stayed in and around his family home but decided to take a bit of time to ourselves and headed for Cardiff, the exciting and cosmopolitan capital of Wales.
Cardiff itself is a great commercial centre with lots of beautiful Edwardian shopping arcades and huge stores like John Lewis. But a short walk away from all that, and with an inquisitive 4 year old in tow, we headed for the museum, in fact the National Museum of Wales in the city’s Civic Centre with pretty Cathays Park to the rear.
There’s always something interesting on at the Museum and, as well as regular workshops and treasure trails, the current family-friendly offering is I Spy… Nature. This is a hands-on exhibition allowing you to try your hand at observing and recording nature, getting up close and personal looking at lots of different natural history objects under the microscope. Find out how Victorian naturalists sketched the natural world or how modern technology allows scientists to image objects in 3-D.
Young visitors can find out what sort of explorer they are – and then get all dressed up in the appropriate outfit and go round the gallery in character. Much enjoyed by my young explorer!
Stepping out into a very pleasant afternoon, we headed for Bute Park, easily accessed on foot via a subway that comes out by one of the park’s entrances behind Cardiff Castle. This extensive park in the heart of the city really is ‘bute-iful’ (oh dear!) and boasts a significant arboretum, stunning planting, an education centre, abundant wildlife and – importantly for us – lots of natural play features for youngsters. Oh, and several cafes too! The parkland runs alongside the River Taff, there are self-led walking trails and it’s also popular for cyclists.
Bute Park has a fascinating history, from an area used for agriculture and cottage industries 1000 years ago to its donation (along with the castle) to the people of Cardiff by the fifth Marquess of Bute in 1947. Don’t miss it when you visit the city.
The following day was bright and sunny and we fancied a short trip to the seaside. The Glamorgan Heritage Coast lies to the west of Cardiff (perfect for ‘valleys’ visitors!) and boasts wonderful sandy beaches at the likes of Porthcawl and Ogmore. Not to mention stunning geology and dramatic rocks and cliffs backed by lovely rolling countryside. To find out all about the area and what it has to offer, go to the Visitor Centre at Dunraven Bay, Southerndown.
For a taste of the other-worldly, your kids (and no doubt you too!) will be fascinated by Merthyr Mawr sand dunes. These are one of the most amazing landscapes in Britain - honestly, it’s like a desert in South Wales! The biggest sand dune in Europe is the Big Dipper and next time we go, we’ll make sure we have a sledge with us.
So, a brilliant weekend was had by all (and we made it back in time for tea at Auntie Ada’s!).
Happy Birthday to the Snowdonia National Park
The Snowdonia National Park today celebrates its 63rd birthday! Of course the mountains and landscapes of this breath taking area in North Wales have been around for hundreds of millions of years, but thank goodness for that committee back in 1951 who agreed this was worth conserving.
The park has been in the news this past week as it played host to a conference for the outdoor tourism sector. Snowdonia has so much to offer and it is really good to see the potential of the area being taken seriously and invested in so to create a better and fulfilling experience for those who visit and for those lucky enough to live and work there. Jacky, our North Wales rep, went along and came away feeling even more positive than usual!
The National Park covers more than 820 square miles and runs from up by Conwy in the North right the way down to Aberdyfi on the West Coast. Many areas within the park are designated sites of special scientific interest or, like the 37 miles of coastline, special areas of conservation. This is vitally important for many rare and even unique species of mammal, bird and plant life that make their home here.
People are also welcomed here of course and with such a diverse range of terrain and activities you really are spoilt for choice. From the Snowdonia Mountains in the North to the Cadair Idris range in the South there is every kind of mountain you could wish for! Snowdon itself, in the northern area of the park has always been a big draw, and being the highest mountain in Wales (and England) at 3,560ft it offers the most wonderful views from the summit. There are a number of paths up the mountain to choose from, or of course, and this would be my choice (!), you can take the train. The railway runs spring to autumn, weather permitting, and once up on the heights you can enjoy a cup of tea in Hafod Eryri – the visitors centre perched on the top of the mountain.
It’s not all about the mountains though and there are plenty of things to do which are not so weather dependent as climbing. There is world-class mountain biking, coast path walking and pony trekking to name a few and if you are still looking for even more high adrenaline activities the new Bounce Below (huge trampolines in slate caverns – more on this in the future) keeps you out of the elements.
With gardens and castles dotted throughout the landscape, museums and craft centres as well, the Snowdonia National Park is not short on visitor attractions. You could even indulge in a spot of shopping with delicious local produce to be found in delicatessens and farmers markets and varied craft pieces from pottery to slate to soft welsh woollen rugs – great for Christmas presents!
If Snowdonia sounds like your kind of place do take a look at the great range of properties we have throughout the National Park and the surrounding areas:
Northern Snowdonia, Lleyn Peninsula and Anglesey
Southern Snowdonia and Aberystwyth coast
Do give us a call and let us know what you want to see or do during your time here and we would be happy to advise you on the best specific location. Go on, challenge us!