GETAWAY GUIDE: HISTORY AND CULTURE | FEATURE
The summer sun’s high in the sky and calling you to come out to play. We’ve come up with a handy guide to help you discover Wales and make the most of the weather.
HISTORY AND CULTURE
Compiled by JASON MACHLAB
An Iron Age turned Roman fortress turned Norman stronghold, seized during the Welsh rebellions and the English Civil War, and according to Geoffrey Of Monmouth, one of the most powerful cities in the Briton of Welsh king Arthur: Caerleon is absolutely dripping with history, like the Romano-Celtic remains in the village of Caerwent. The National Roman Legion Museum preserves the baths, amphitheatre, and Isca Augusta barracks, with a fun range of Romano-Celtic activities to enjoy year-round (ever wanted to try chariot racing?).
Admission: free. Info: 0300 1112333 / museum.wales/roman
The tourist season at Cardiff Castle sees live jousting shows, full-on knight combat, and open-air Elizabethan theatre within the castle grounds for a start. Within the walls and adjacent to the famous Norman fort is a stunning Gothic palace, which runs tours every hour. The structure is a beautifully intact mishmash of just about every culture and event to befall it in 2000 years.
Price: £10.95 + £2.75 (house tour). Info: 029 2087 8100 / www.cardiffcastle.com
There’s no denying that Tintern Abbey is stunning. Many an artist and poet have seen its magnificent walls and skeleton arches and been amazed. A ruin perched in solitude upon the banks of the Wye, the remains of 400 years of worship ended by the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536. Even without knowing its story, one can feel the tribute to faith present in the Gothic stonework; you can stand by its pillars and hear centuries of Cistercian chanting, and feel decades of spiritual devotion endured in pious existence.
Admission: £6.50. Info: 01291 689251 / cadw.gov.wales
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF HISTORY
St Fagans, Cardiff
Within the grounds of St Fagans stands testament to every period of Welsh history since the Celts; a live museum, housing over 40 buildings from many different eras (local children will tell you tales of the Victorian School) including a Celtic settlement and a retro village (look for the old sweetshop). Craftsmen demonstrating their working days and the houses and allotments, sometimes all on the same street, give you an insight into centuries of Welsh people trying to enjoy their lives while making ends meet.
Admission: free. Info: 0300 1112333 / museum.wales/stfagans
Beaumaris is the unfinished triumph of Edward I’s military architect, James Of St George – abandoned with the slipping of English control over Wales and Scotland. A handsome, technically impressive structure on the Anglesey coastline, it sits behind a moat in gorgeous North Wales scenery. Inside, live theatre is performed against its fortified walls, and the castle is host to social events such as a medieval festival.
Admission: £6.50. Info: cadw.gov.wales
SENEDD-DY OWAIN GLYNDWR
Owain Glyndwr very nearly secured independence from the English back in the 14th and 15th century, and remains the father of modern Welsh nationalism. The town of Machynlleth is the ancient capital of Wales, where Glyndwr held his parliament due to the absence of an English castle, a symbol of oppression. Nowadays, the building upon this site is a museum to Glyndwr and his legacy. This focal point in Welsh history should be a Mecca for proud Welshmen and history buffs alike.
Admission: free. Info: www.canolfanglyndwr.org
BIG PIT NATIONAL COAL MUSEUM
With so much ancient history in Wales, it’s easy to forget how coal and the pursuit of industrialisation changed the nation dramatically. The Big Pit is Wales’ premier tribute to the industry that still defines many Valleys communities, and briefly turned Cardiff into a global powerhouse. Visitors can find themselves 300 feet below ground in an actual mineshaft for the underground tour, and see firsthand the remnants of the industrial machine that built the British superpower.
Admission: free. Info: 0300 1112333 / museum.wales/bigpit
RHONDDA HERITAGE PARK, THE WELSH MINING EXPERIENCE
The search for ‘Black Gold’ in our valleys sparked the Industrial Revolution and the coal hauled from the mines of Rhondda Cynon Taf was transported worldwide, powering steam engines, ships and even the Titanic.
Explore the international story that unfolded in the Welsh Valleys at the Rhondda Heritage Park, the Welsh Mining Experience which brings the story of the search for Black Gold to life.
The guided underground tour, interactive exhibitions and Energy Zone play area make for a fascinating day out for all ages. On Sat 29 + Sun 30 July, celebrate Miner’s fortnight on their urban beach!
Info: 014 4368 2036 / www.visitrct.wales