Your guide to Proper Holidays in Wales Explore centuries of history in a short break How Wales became a great food nation The green green grass â€“ eco-friendly holidays in Wales Made in Wales: the art & soul of a nation Plus travel and holiday information â€” visitwales.co.uk
You know how it is. There you are, standing with camera in hand on top of a mountain, a cliff overlooking an expansive bay, in the shadow of an ancient castle or a magnificent country house. It doesn’t matter how long you spend trying to capture the full splendour of the moment, it’s not often you’ll manage it. After all, a snapshot is just a snapshot. So it’s with a slightly apologetic tone we’d like to say welcome – croeso in Welsh – to the 2011 edition of Wales View. Believe us, we’ve really tried to show you what an amazing place our country is to visit. We’ve commissioned great writers to go exploring. We’ve talked to people who have visited Wales so they can pass on the wealth of their experiences. And we’ve sought wisdom from those who live here, people who have contributed so much to making this country what it is. We’ve tried our damndest to represent the flair and wit – that odd mix of heritage and modernity – that is characteristic of Wales. But just like that snapshot, it’s not easy to capture the heart and soul of a nation in print. If you really want to get a taste of how refreshing, so very different our little corner of the planet is from anywhere else in the world, there’s not all that much you can do, other than come and have a look for yourselves.
Front cover: Cardiff Castle.
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Wales View is published by Visit Wales, the Tourism and Marketing division of the Welsh Assembly Government ©2011. Visit Wales, Brunel House, 2 Fitzalan Road, Cardiff CF24 0UY (WAG10-10774)
Managing Editor Iestyn George Designed by Departures® Printed by Webmart Photography © Crown copyright (2011) Visit Wales Other photography Matt Cant / The Celtic Manor Resort / Grant Pritchard / Kiran Ridley ISBN: 978 0 7504 5744 6
This publication is also available in Braille, large-format print, and /or audio from Visit Wales: 0800 915 6568 email@example.com
02 – 09 Events Diary A seasonal taste of the stuff we like to get up to in Wales, like bog snorkelling and dressing up as Elvis Presley. 10 – 15 Proper Holidays Advice on how to turn a holiday into an unforgettable experience from leading travel writer Simon Calder and a first hand account from the Darkes family of Huddersfield.
16 – 23 Explore! It’s not every day you go white water rafting in the city, steaming up the country’s tallest peak by rail, or clambering around castle ramparts dating back a thousand years. 24 – 27 Good Food Nation Award-winning restauranteur and food writer Simon Wright explains how Wales’s love affair with food has flourished. 28 – 29 Prawn Chorus Bibi van der Zee indulges in a seafood masterclass with Angela Gray in the tranquillity of Pembrokeshire.
30 – 35 Arts in Wales The dramatic landscape of Wales has inspired great works of art for centuries. We talk to four contemporary artists about their favourite corners of the country. 36 – 41 What Goes Up… The cyclists who flock to Wales from The Netherlands and Belgium, drawn by the hills and mountains of Wales. 42 – 43 Golf in Wales After playing host to The 2010 Ryder Cup, Wales is now ready to show why it is the rising star of world golf destinations. 44 – 49 The Green Green Grass… Green travel expert Richard Hammond on why Wales leads the way for environmentallyfriendly holidays.
58 – 59 Meet our Holiday Areas How to find your way around Wales, from the peaks of Snowdonia to the valleys of South Wales. 60 – 61 Getting to Wales All you need to know about getting to Wales by land, sea and air. 62 Travel Agents and Tour Operators in Ireland Make it really easy to book your holiday or short break in Wales. 63 Free Brochures and FAQs 64 Map of Wales Every square mile of our beautiful country for you to pore over.
50 – 55 Holy Coast A family of dedicated sofa surfers ditch the remote controls and learn how to do the real thing on the Gower Peninsula. 56 – 57 My Place Broadcasters, performers, writers and our Facebook friends tell us their favourite places in Wales.
Contents Featuring a guide to the major events in Wales during 2011, things to do, places to explore and a lovely photo of some people holding cheese. 08
Some like nothing better than ambling through a quiet country village and coming across a fair featuring bunting, prize goats and a tombola. Others favour experiencing the drama and spectacle of international rugby played in front of 75,000 passionate supporters. Some people like a bit of both. We’re not given to overstatement, but we’d be genuinely shocked if there wasn’t an event featured on the next eight pages that didn’t turn a good day into a memorable one.
Spring is in the air, bringing with it the heady scent of daffodils, rugby, cider and Nobel prize-winning authors. See visitwales.co.uk for more springtime events.
March – May 2011
01 March National St David’s Day Parade Cardiff Welsh schools mark our patron saint’s day with a good old-fashioned eisteddfod, and in recent years we’ve taken to the streets of our capital to celebrate St David and all things Welsh. stdavidsday.org
Up for the Cup Nigel Owens is one of the world’s leading international rugby referees and is clearly looking forward to the return of the greatest prize in European club rugby to Cardiff. ‘There’s something special about the Heineken Cup. The fact that it’s a cup competition gives it an extra edge, and it’s given Welsh clubs the chance to rekindle the rivalry with the great clubs of England and France. The stadium is unique because of where it is: right in the middle of the city centre, so everyone can walk there from the bars and restaurants. The seating is so close to the field, there’s not a bad seat in the house. When you have the roof shut with 75,000 people inside, it’s an incredible atmosphere.’ 21 May Heineken Cup Final Cardiff ercrugby.com
12 March RBS Six Nations – Wales v Ireland Cardiff The Welsh and Irish have specialised in thwarting each other’s Grand Slam dreams in recent years, which gives this fixture extra zing. millenniumstadium.com
13 – 15 May Prestatyn & Clwydian Range Walking Festival Prestatyn & Meliden The first Welsh town to be awarded official ‘Walkers are Welcome’ status is the northern terminus of the Offa’s Dyke National Trail – so there’s plenty on ‘offa’ for ramblers... prestatynwalkingfestival.co.uk 21 – 22 May Royal Welsh Smallholder and Garden Festival Builth Wells If you want some of the good life, then this is the place to be – full of home-grown help for the gardener, allotment-wrangler and smallholder. rwas.co.uk
08 – 10 April RHS Show Cardiff Cardiff The first RHS show of the season celebrates the start of spring in the magnificent parklands of Cardiff Castle. rhs.org.uk /cardiff 04
30 April – 02 May Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza Llandudno Llandudno’s elegant Victorian prom is the perfect backdrop to this riot of Victoriana, which runs alongside an excellent Transport Festival. victorian-extravaganza.co.uk
25 May – 06 June Hay Festival Hay-on-Wye Take contemporary literature’s most dazzling talents, throw in some world leaders, great thinkers and giants of modern culture and – presto – it’s the world’s greatest literary festival. *National Tourism Award Winner 2010 * hayfestival.com 27 – 30 May Welsh Perry and Cider Festival Near Abergavenny When a like-minded bunch of friendly cider revivalists get together in a proper country pub, the result is a glorious bank holiday weekend of apple (and pear) shenanigans. welshcider.co.uk 30 May – 04 June Urdd National Eisteddfod Swansea The Urdd was founded in 1922 to help young people to learn, socialise and have fun in their native Welsh tongue, and this annual festival is its biggest get-together. urdd.org/eisteddfod
Wakey Wakey! Chart-topping artist, producer and remixer Calvin Harris performed at the 2010 Wakestock festival. ‘I had a great time last year. It’s really good, one of the highlights of the year, I think. A lot of festivals are in fields, it’s very rare you get to see the sea. I think seeing the sea really gives Wakestock the edge.’
08 – 10 July Wakestock Abersoch wakestock.co.uk
Don’t miss these hot tickets as the festival season brings the world to Wales for a summer of music, food and fun. See visitwales.co.uk for more summertime events.
June – August 2011
02 – 05 June The Celtic Manor Wales Open Newport The world’s top golfers return to the scene of The 2010 Ryder Cup – just in case you thought we’d let you forget about that... walesopen.com 10 – 12 June Abersoch Jazz Festival Abersoch Music spills out of every pub and takes to the streets as Abersoch Jazz celebrates its 10th birthday this year. abersoch.co.uk/jazzfestival 11 June Man v Horse Marathon Llanwrtyd Wells The horse doesn’t always win this fearsome test of mountain/ moor endurance running, which attracts runners from around the world. green-events.co.uk
12 – 19 June BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Cardiff A win at this prestigious singing competition is invariably a ticket to a glittering career on the world stage. bbc.co.uk/wales/cardiffsinger 01
16 – 18 June Great Welsh Beer and Cider Festival Cardiff Pints, Camra, Action: three days of good-natured, beer-flavoured jollity in the Welsh capital. gwbcf.org.uk 05
June 30 – 03 July Glanusk International Horse Trials Crickhowell Set on the beautiful banks of the Usk, the only international eventing date in the Welsh sporting calendar attracts everyone from novices to aristocratic Olympians. glanuskeventing.com 04
04 – 10 July Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod Llangollen Although the eisteddfod is a proudly Welsh invention, it doesn’t limit its imagination to Welsh borders. This 60-yearold cultural crucible always brings performers from around the world – including, in 1955, a promising young singer called Pavarotti. international-eisteddfod.co.uk 08 – 10 July Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival Cardiff There’s a strongly international flavour to this long weekend of tasty treats, which stars the very best of Welsh food and drink. cardiff-festival.com 09 – 10 July Wales National Airshow Swansea Enjoy free displays by those magnificent men (and women) in their flying machines. walesnationalairshow.com
25 June – 03 July Pembrokeshire Fish Week Various locations Something fishy’s going on. But in a very good way. Still, when the local produce is this good, you’ve got to shout about it, haven’t you? pembrokeshirefishweek.co.uk
09 – 16 July Welsh Proms Cardiff There’s the strong classical programme you’d expect, but there’s also jazz, soul, rock, dance, children’s and world music. It’s based in the wonderfully TARDISlike St David’s Hall (by which we mean it’s much bigger than it appears from the outside. It doesn’t fly through space or anything). stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk 09 – 17 July Llandeilo Fawr Festival of Music Llandeilo Llandeilo has a knack of luring very big names to very intimate venues: Jamie Cullum and the King’s Singers are recent coups. llandeilomusicfestival.org.uk 10 July Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival Aberaeron The handsome harbour of Aberaeron is seafood central at any time of year, but especially on this big day. aberaeron.info 16 – 30 July Gower Festival Gower Gower’s churches become intimate concert venues for a magical fortnight in July. As if the gorgeous beaches weren’t already reason enough to visit... gowerfestival.org 06
18 – 21 July Royal Welsh Show Builth Wells Once a year the Welsh farming community meets up for a rollicking good time at this daddy of country fairs. But you don’t have to be a farmer (or Welsh, for that matter) to love this national treasure of an event. rwas.co.uk
23 July International Snowdon Race Llanberis It’s simple, really – five miles up, and five miles down the biggest mountain in England and Wales. Nobody’s yet done it in less than 62 minutes – fancy your chances? snowdonrace.co.uk 29 – 31 July The Big Cheese Caerphilly Street entertainment, living history, music, dance, funfair rides, folk dancing, falconry, fire eating, minstrels, troubadours – and, as befits the birthplace of comedian Tommy Cooper, plenty of joyful silliness. caerphilly.gov.uk/bigcheese 07
July Wrexham Science Festival Wrexham There’s no shortage of arts festivals in the world – but how about a science festival? Eureka! Inquiring minds of all ages will find plenty to stimulate the grey matter. wrexhamsf.com
July – August Cardiff Festival Cardiff This month-long festival is the multi-coloured umbrella for dozens of major events, culminating in the mighty Big Weekend, which takes control of the civic centre for the bank holiday weekend. cardiff-festival.com 09
12 – 14 August Brecon Jazz Brecon This much-loved annual jazzfest is now in the very safe hands of the geniuses behind the Hay Festival. Expect worldclass musicians in handsome Georgian settings. breconjazz.org
16 – 18 August Pembrokeshire County Show Near Haverfordwest The biggest county show in Wales is also one of the very best of its kind in Britain, offering a three-day feast of competitions, displays, entertainment and shopping. pembrokeshirecountyshow.co.uk 10
19 – 21 August The Green Man Festival Crickhowell As music festivals start to blur into each other, Green Man stands superbly apart, over in the bit called ‘leftfield’. thegreenmanfestival.co.uk
You’re Bard! T James Jones is the Archdruid of the National Eisteddfod of Wales. ‘The National Eisteddfod is one of our national institutions, which has been established in Wales for over a century. It is held in order to nurture and support the use of the Welsh language, and that is why it is held only in Welsh. Nobody should feel left out, though: translation is provided, and it is well worth visiting by anyone who is interested in other people’s cultures. As Archdruid I’m very
20 August Town Crier Festival Knighton If you like men in tricorne hats and frilled cuffs who carry large bells and have impressively booming voices – and frankly who doesn’t? – then you’d be insane not to plan your 2011 diary around this event. visitknighton.co.uk 11
28 August World Bog Snorkelling Championship Llanwrtyd Wells It’s all very well dreaming these events up in the pub, but Llanwrtyd has the chutzpah to make them happen – and before you know it, bog snorkelling is a major event in the Welsh sporting calendar. But will it make the 2012 Olympics...? green-events.co.uk
Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy in this events listing. All dates and venues were checked at the time of going to press. Visit Wales cannot be held accountable for any change to this information.
mindful that when I’m presiding over the ceremony to present the Chair, or the Crown, or Medal, it is not about me. I’m just the channel through which the winner can experience the thrill of winning.’ 30 July – 06 August The National Eisteddfod of Wales Wrexham eisteddfod.org.uk
Glorious Food The Observer newspaper’s restaurant critic Jay Rayner on the Abergavenny Food Festival. ‘There are many food festivals in Britain now, but the Abergavenny Food Festival is the only one that’s unmissable. It is, like the very best of restaurants, the perfect combination of setting, buzz and content. If the Abergavenny Food Festival doesn’t get you excited then you simply aren’t greedy enough.’ 17 – 18 September Abergavenny Food Festival Abergavenny abergavennyfoodfestival.com
The nights are drawing in, but we’re all going out to enjoy the last hurrahs of 2011. For a complete list of events, see visitwales.co.uk
September – January 2012
September Welsh International Walking Festival Llanwrtyd Wells Enjoy walking? This four-day festival shows off the picturesque countryside surrounding Llanwrtyd Wells with 10, 15 and 25-mile trails taking in mountains, moorland, streams, forests and rivers. Each evening there’s free entertainment 11 – 18 September in the Neuadd Arms, culminating The Tour of Britain in the Blister Ball on Saturday Various locations in Wales The UK’s biggest professional cycle night with live music and plenty race flies up Welsh mountain and of dancing, for those who still can... down Welsh valley at speeds we green-events.co.uk wouldn’t attempt in a sports car, frankly. 15 October tourofbritain.co.uk Voices Pavarotti: Choir of the Decade 17 – 24 September Cardiff Tenby Arts Festival The Llangollen International Tenby Musical Eisteddfod awards an All the arts will be well represented annual ‘Choir of the World’ prize, at the 20th annual festival... and now the winners from the including the art of building the last ten years will gather in the best sandcastle on Castle Beach. Welsh capital to battle it out for tenbyartsfest.co.uk the biggie. international-eisteddfod.co.uk 11 September Ironman Wales Various locations in Pembrokeshire A 3.8km (2.4m) swim, a 180km (112m) cycle, followed by a marathon. 17 hours to complete the lot. We can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday... ironmanwales.com
24 – 25 September The Great British Cheese Festival Cardiff Taste a cornucopia of sheep, cow, goat and buffalo cheeses along with artisan wine, cider, perry and beer – and all set against the magnificent backdrop of Cardiff Castle, with fabulous music and entertainment. greatbritishcheesefestival.co.uk September Really Wild Food and Countryside Festival St Davids A celebration of food and country crafts, with walks, talks and demonstrations in this lovely little cathedral city. reallywildfestival.co.uk
10 – 13 November Wales Rally GB Various locations in South and Mid Wales The World Rally Championships is fought over 13 races on four continents, but it all ends up in Wales, where the world’s elite drivers take on the world’s toughest forestry tracks up in the Mid Wales mountains, and thrill the crowds at the special stage in Cardiff Bay. walesrallygb.com 18 – 27 November Mid Wales Beer Festival Llanwrtyd Wells This being Llanwrtyd, there is nothing so straightforward as a regular beer festival. Oh no. It kicks off with the Real Ale Wobble (on mountain bikes) and Real Ale Ramble (on foot) – just the thing to build a thirst. green-events.co.uk 05
23 – 25 September The Porthcawl Elvis Festival Porthcawl The world’s biggest event for Elvis tribute acts, whose rhinestoneencrusted-jumpsuited presence transforms this seaside resort into the most surreally wonderful place to be on earth. elvies.co.uk
16 October Cardiff Half Marathon Cardiff The route weaves for 13.1 miles around the best of Cardiff’s historic buildings and beautiful parks, and the fast, flat course makes for quick times. cardiffhalfmarathon.co.uk 27 October – 09 November The Dylan Thomas Festival Swansea Dylan Thomas’s home town pays annual homage to the great poet, with the usual eclectic mix of poetry, prose, drama, film, exhibitions, talks and special guests. dylanthomas.com 29 – 30 October Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival Cowbridge This bustling market town is described as the ‘Bond Street’ of South Wales and the annual festival sees the town at its most vibrant.*National Tourism Award Winner 2010 * cowbridgefoodanddrink.org
28 – 29 November Royal Welsh Winter Fair Builth Wells It’s the finest prime stock show in Europe, but please don’t feel obliged to take your best cow along with you. But do take your shopping bags, because the food hall and 300 retail stalls will cover your entire Christmas shopping needs. rwas.co.uk 10 November – 02 January 2012 Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland Cardiff The civic centre becomes an enchanted Christmas scene with an open-air ice rink, ferris wheel and fair. cardiffswinterwonderland.com
January Saturnalia Wobble Llanwrtyd Wells This characteristically eccentric event brings together beer drinking and mountain bike chariot racing, obviously. It’s all dedicated to Saturn, the Roman god of behaving oddly for no good reason in the Welsh countryside. green-events.co.uk visitwales.co.uk
Wouldn’t it be great to come back from a holiday with more than just tan lines to show your friends? According to Simon Calder, Travel Editor of The Independent newspaper, Wales is the ideal destination for people looking for special experiences that last a lifetime.
Left: Proper Holidays essentials.
You could – and some people will – enjoy the freedom to fly for many thousands of miles in search of sights and sunshine. But despite the many temptations offered by a travel industry keen to get the public to spend as much money as possible on the promise of an exotic experience, I sense a shift towards a simpler approach to family holidays – where an appetite for adventure is more important than topping up a tan. Any journey has three components: anticipation, experience and memories. Think back, and I believe you may conclude that the most precious of these is the recollection. Shared moments – such as the time last summer when the sun came out just as we spotted a family of seals – are simply priceless. And, at a time when everyone is concerned about the economy – when most of us accept that air travel is a stressful and undignified experience, and when a good few still fret about the damage aviation causes to the environment – simplicity and quality are key. You can find scenery, heritage, gastronomy and thrills in abundance. Thanks to the nature of these islands, there is also an extra dimension of intrigue added in Wales with its language (a useful way to pass time on journeys through Wales is making anagrams of unfamiliar place names). And thanks to the diversity that centuries of political intrigue bring, tangible history is never far away along the shorelines and the borderlands between the individual nations of Britain. This curious combination of intimacy and unfamiliarity puts your senses on high alert, which is far more preferable than having them dulled by carefully marketed mirages of holiday experiences. The benefits for anyone who keeps a mental list of ‘things to worry about on holiday’ are considerable: you can rule out airport anguish, volcanic ash and fluctuating exchange rates as sources of stress and bother. Now, I am the first to celebrate the liberty that the British have to travel far and wide: wherever you want to go in the world, you are probably best off starting in the UK. But as a parent I also cherish easy access, good value and a wide range of activities – which is why, at least once a year, the Calder family pack up and head for the hills, valleys and shores of Wales. These are holidays more about developing self-reliance than helping yourself to the self-service buffet.
‘The size of Wales’ has come to be the international standard for comparisons of area, but the principality also happens to have the ideal dimensions for a family holiday. In 2010, our family celebrated several of the great strengths of Wales: the intricate coastline, the magnificent scenery of Snowdonia and the superb network of railways. From the train window, the Midlands melted into the borderlands, and gradually the mountains took hold. The Dyfi Valley leads down to the sea, whereupon the Cambrian Coast Line demonstrates why it is consistently voted one of the finest rail journeys in Britain. The railway threads delicately along the boundary between land and sea, through pretty villages and past crumbling castles. At Minffordd, you can choose between a walk through the woods to the marvellous muddle of Portmeirion – Sir Clough Williams-Ellis’s ‘home for fallen buildings’ – and a trip through Snowdonia on the Ffestiniog Railway. We did both, and added a ride on the newly extended and beautifully restored Welsh Highland Railway.
— Head for the hills, valleys and shores of Wales. —
This great rail adventure is now added to the holiday memory banks, alongside previous trips to the beaches of Gower, the birdlife of Skomer and Holy Island, and the cities of Cardiff and Swansea. In travel, as in any other sphere of commerce, competition is a great benefit for both the customer and the supplier. Hotels, attractions and transport providers raise their game in delivering higher quality and better value. Yet at the same time as these enterprises are offering more to the 21st-century traveller, the happy fact remains that globalisation and standardisation lose their impetus when confronted by the heritage of the British Isles. One size does not fit all here – which is just as well, since the B&Bs, inns and holiday cottages from which we choose are about as far as it is possible to get from the bland blocks where holidays are mass produced. The more individual the journey, the more intense those invaluable memories of family holidays.
The Darkes family from Huddersfield were tired of package holidays. They wanted an adventure, not an ‘experience’ that can be bought off a shelf. So they came to Wales. Check them out enjoying the sights, sounds and flavours of Wales in their own little corner of the Visit Wales website.
Tales from the Darkes side
Richard Daddy Darkes. Likes mountains and running. And pubs. The beaches took my breath away. I really wasn’t prepared for just how special they would be. Shell Island, where we stayed in a yurt, was probably my favourite. It’s on the north west coast, surrounded by massive sand dunes. It’s one of the biggest campsites in Europe, but it feels like you’ve got the whole place to yourself. It doesn’t matter where you go in Wales, you can always find a bit of peace. I like staying at places that aren’t too formal, somewhere you get a chance to meet the local people, rather than places that are shut away from normal life. It was brilliant at The Felin Fach Griffin, between Brecon and Hay-on-Wye. The food there was great and it’s got a really friendly atmosphere. The Llangorse Multi Activity Centre in the Brecon Beacons was really good. It’s very rare that you get the opportunity to do so many different things in one place. There’s pony trekking, climbing, indoor caving… I’d never ridden a horse before. Sky Trek was great too. There were over a dozen different routes on a zip wire. As you can imagine, the kids loved that.
Dawn Better half. The heart and soul. Champion sledger. Snowdon was my favourite spot. I like the great outdoors and it was great to wander around and enjoy the view on a lovely clear day. The kids went a bit mad, running around acting silly and messing about. It felt like total freedom and at the same time it was a lovely, easy walk. I think that’s the thing about Snowdon. It can be as much of a challenge as you want to make it. GreenWood Forest Park was a really good day with the kids. There was quite a lot of family competition going on, especially racing down the big slide. Lots of laughter, lots of messing about. I won the race on the slide, the kids said it was my weight that carried me down. Cheeky. It’s not very often that you take part in the things the kids do, so it was really good fun. There were plenty of surprises along the way during our holiday to Wales, but I don’t think I’ve ever visited anywhere quite like Portmeirion before. It’s a beautiful Mediterranean inspired village overlooking an estuary on the north west coast. Quite a special atmosphere – very romantic and mysterious. A definite highlight for me.
Shell Island shellisland.co.uk The Felin Fach Griffin Inn eatdrinksleep.ltd.uk
GreenWood Forest Park greenwoodforestpark.co.uk Portmeirion portmeirion-village.com
Lois Likes canoeing, playing out and watching TV. My top five things were: #1 Finding jellyfish on Shell Island. Me and Alfie buried the first one, but we put the other one back in the water. It was still dead, though. — #2 Horseriding, ’cos it was in a nice place. I’m the only one who rides normally. — #3 Playing in the sand dunes on Shell Island. I wish we could have stayed there longer. — #4 Staying in all the hotels, ’cos they had nice views and I liked locking the doors so mum couldn’t open them. — #5 Making our own fire when we were doing bushcraft.
Jacob Enjoys playing football. Supports Liverpool. My top five things were: #1 Jumping off the sand dunes when we were at Shell Island. — #2 Gutting the fish when we were doing bushcraft. I’ve never done anything like that before. We only cook pizza and stuff in cookery lessons. — #3 Riding a really lazy horse that just wouldn’t get going was funny. — #4 Finding loads of jellyfish and a dogfish on the shore at Shell Island. — #5 Going to the restaurant with all the lambs outside.
Llangorse Multi Activity Centre activityuk.com
Firefox Bushcraft firefoxbushcraft.co.uk
Alfie Likes his BMX and going fishing with his dad. My top five things were: #1 Finding the jellyfish on Shell Island. — #2 Sitting by the campfire at night on Shell Island looking at all the stars. — #3 The rollercoaster at GreenWood Forest Park. It was really fast and it only uses a tiny bit of electricity. — #4 Eating out at the Mawddach Restaurant. We had nice food all week. — #5 Kite flying on Shell Island. It was a really good place and the weather was good too. Bwyty Mawddach Restaurant mawddach.com
— It’s very rare that you get the opportunity to do so many different things in one place. —
To see the full version of the Darkes family adventures, go to visitwales.co.uk /proper-holidays
You’ll find all these attractions and hundreds of other great things to do in Wales at visitwales.co.uk 14
The River Dee Llangollen is set above the rapids of the River Dee – a great place for white water and adventure activities – but you can always opt for a more leisurely trip along the ‘stream in the sky’ – Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. horsedrawnboats.co.uk
Alternative Technology On the outskirts of Machynlleth is the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT). Built in an old slate quarry in the Snowdonia foothills, it delivers important messages on sustainable living in a fun, friendly way. cat.org.uk
GreenWood Forest Park GreenWood is a family adventure park like no other. All the rides and activities are ecofriendly, from the people-powered Green Dragon rollercoaster to the therapeutic BareFoot Trail. greenwoodforestpark.co.uk
Cadair Idris Cadair means ‘chair’ and this mountain is said to have been used as an enormous armchair by a Welsh mythological giant. It’s also said that anyone who sleeps on its slopes alone, will wake up either a madman or a poet. eryri-npa.gov.uk
Well, once you’ve read the information, done your own research, booked time off and cancelled the Sunday papers... But you know what we mean.
Peace in our Time
Old and New Ride the Welsh Highland Railway from Caernafon in 2011 and, for the first time, you’ll be able to change to the Ffestiniog Railway at Porthmadog, giving you a total of 40 miles of steam heaven. festrail.co.uk
Devil’s Bridge The picturesque Vale of Rheidiol Railway chugs 12 miles uphill to the waterfall and gorge at Devil’s Bridge, which is actually three bridges built on top of each other. According to popular legend, the first one was built by Lucifer himself. devilsbridgefalls.co.uk
Your Proper Holiday starts here!
On Top of the World
Menai and Môn Caernarfon is possibly the grandest of Edward I’s ‘ring of steel’ castles. Beaumaris, across the Menai Strait on Anglesey, is certainly his largest. It’s also a World Heritage Site. cadw.wales.gov.uk
Seal Spotting New Quay remains a firm favourite holiday destination and as you take a boat trip out into Cardigan Bay, look out for bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoises and Atlantic grey seals. tourism.ceredigion.gov.uk
Lake or Break
Nature and Nurture
Highs and Lows
Hay-on-Wye The capital of the second-hand book trade, the small town of Hay-on-Wye draws literary giants from around the world to its annual festival. hayfestival.com
Cows Week After a visit to St Davids, the UK’s smallest city, why not stay somewhere that’s significantly more individual than your standard chain motel? You might find yourself waking up on a working dairy farm, courtesy of Farmstay Wales. farmstaywales.co.uk
Up, Up and Away… See things from a different perspective – take a dawn or dusk hot air balloon flight over the Wye Valley and Vale of Usk. Of all the ways to discover this picturesque area, this is pretty hard to beat. wyevalleyaviation.co.uk
Nature’s Playground The Brecon Beacons National Park can be as sedate or exhilarating as you want it to be – from fishing for trout on the shores of the Usk Reservoir to paragliding from the park’s mountains and sharing a thermal with a passing buzzard! breconbeacons.org
Druidston Haven Riding a horse through the surf is something everyone should experience at least once, especially when the beach is as stunning as Druidston. noltonstables.com
Big Pit: National Coal Museum The South Wales Valleys were once the industrial engine-room of the British Empire. In the town of Blaenavon, you can don a miner’s lamp and descend 300ft with a real miner into a former working pit. *National Tourism Award Winner 2010* museumwales.ac.uk
Red Kite Country The Elan Valley Estate takes quiet pride in being in the middle of nowhere. It’s arguably the most peaceful spot in Wales and is the heart of red kite country, where the last few pairs survived near-extinction to become a spectacular tourist draw. elanvalley.org.uk
Folly Farm Don’t be fooled by the name, Folly Farm also has a zoo, an indoor vintage fair, a host of indoor and outdoor play areas and CAT minidiggers. Please note – Children sleeping all the way home is a known side effect of a visit here. *National Tourism Award Winner 2010* folly-farm.co.uk
St Fagans: National History Museum In the 100-acre parkland of St Fagans Castle, a late 16th-century manor house, are over 40 buildings from different historical periods, moved from all over Wales and painstakingly re-erected. museumwales.ac.uk
(Welsh) Lake District Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid) is the largest natural lake in Wales. As you would expect, the area is a magnet for watersports enthusiasts including, curiously, the odd windsurfer, as the lake benefits from the high winds sweeping down from the Aran Mountains. visitbala.org
Skomer Skomer plays a significant role in the planet’s ecology: more than half the world’s Manx shearwaters breed here and on neighbouring Skokholm, as well as colonies of puffins, guillemots and razorbills. welshwildlife.org
Afan Forest Park With five world-class mountain bike trails, a low level cycle route and a choice of 13 waymarked circular walking routes, there are many ways to discover this piece of rural Wales just minutes off the M4. afanforestpark.co.uk
Seize the Bay Journalist, cultural commentator and author David Quantick proves that Cardiff has it all, from white water rafting to unlimited quantities of cheese.
Splash! I seem to be underwater. I’m never sure what the phrase Flop! I am scrambling into ‘boutique hotel’ means, but in a dinghy. this case it seems to stand for Thud! The dinghy has hit ‘dinky and friendly’. Our rooms something hard. are excellent, with lots of If you’re like me, you tend attention to detail and there is not to visit capital cities to have even a jacuzzi to make us feel like the stuffing knocked out of you. rock stars. Jolyon’s bar – Bar A spot of sightseeing, by all Cwtch – is also brilliant, cosy, means. A nice meal, perhaps, and intimate and specialising in a stroll through the impressive surreal neon cocktails and their city centre. So when the dinghy own stone-fired pizzas. It’s a hits the rapids and my eyes bulge wonderful feeling, knowing with the impact, it comes as you’ve tapped into one of the something of a surprise. city’s coolest, friendliest places completely by accident. — Cardiff Bay is a mixture of old It’s not normal. But and new, with the steel and glass of the Assembly then, we are in Cardiff. architecture building cheek-to-girder with the shining bronze glory of the Wales — I am just metres away from Millennium Centre and the red a lovely little Norwegian sailors’ brick dignity of the Pierhead chapel and in plain sight of the Building. Jenna’s grandfather Assembly building (the Senedd), once worked there. Now it’s an where members are charged with arts centre. After dinner we go to the responsibility for the future see our favourite Cardiff landmark welfare of its citizens. And here – the impromptu shrine to the we are being buffeted by waves fictional Ianto, a character in the and battered by currents. hit TV series Torchwood, filmed It’s not normal. But then, we in and around Cardiff. The are in Cardiff. heartfelt teenage poems and Cardiff is one of my favourite tearstained memorials are a little British cities, possibly because it’s moving and slightly hilarious at a mixture of contradictions. It’s a the same time. Then we go to capital city, but it’s just a fraction the pub. of the size of your average — bustling metropolis. It has its own Norman castle, but its façade is Cardiff has more Victorian, built by an eccentric parkland per head architect and the Third Marquess of Bute, who was once one of than anywhere else the richest men in the Western in Britain, apparently. world. It’s a famously Welsh city, yet the ethnic and cultural — The next day we cycle past diversity of the place is as great the Millennium Stadium – not to as any other capital in Europe. And even though Cardiff Bay has be confused with the Millennium Centre, unless you can’t tell rugby no tide you can go white water rafting there. What a strange and from dance. Just across the road from this modern amphitheatre wonderful place this is… is the lovely Bute Park. Cardiff I arrive in Cardiff with my has more parkland per head better half Jenna and make than anywhere else in Britain, straight for one of the nicest places in the Bay - Jolyon’s Hotel. apparently, and from there you
Clockwise, from left: David Quantick, St Davids Hotel & Spa, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff International White Water, the Senedd.
can cycle (or indeed, walk) the 55-mile (90-kilometre) Taff Trail to Brecon, over half of which is traffic-free. From communing with nature, we head for the luxurious and imposing St David’s Hotel & Spa, overlooking Cardiff Bay. We have dinner in the hotel where we are shown an enormous quantity of cheese by a waitress, which we then eat (the cheese, not the waitress). This is possibly not the best preparation for the following morning’s activities – a day at the Cardiff International White Water centre. The course resembles a tiny Formula One track that’s being constantly flooded by angrylooking waves. We are kitted in wetsuits, helmets and paddles and sat in a flimsy-looking dinghy. But as these things often do, our bizarre capital city white water induction turns out to be exhilarating, exciting and totally terrifying fun. The instructors make us scream like little boys and girls on a big wet rollercoaster – which essentially is what white water rafting is. It is more fun than I ever planned to have. Not only do we survive the experience, we are invigorated, exhausted and happy. Wish I’d eaten less cheese, though. visitcardiff.com Cardiff International White Water *National Tourism Award Winner 2010* ciww.com For more city break ideas, go to visitwales.co.uk
Carmarthenshire used to simply be the county we travelled through en route to Pembrokeshire. From the car window along the A48 through Carmarthen I would glimpse the sign for Johnstown, of no particular significance for everyone else motoring further west. But for me it jogged the memory of a boy from that village who broke my tender student heart 20 years ago. Not that failed romance was my reason for avoiding this Welsh county – more my twisted perception that it lacked romance. How wrong could I be?
design touches ranging from the fabulously stylish (12-foot hand-carved Moroccan doors) to the rather eccentric (strange twisted metal grandfather clock). My suite has a galleried bedroom reached by spiral staircase, and a baby grand piano – much more fun than a Corby Trouser Press. The Cors Restaurant & Gardens nearby is an intimate Victorian country house run by artist turned chef-proprietor Nick Priestland. Nick’s modernist paintings adorn the 19th-century walls while his classy cuisine graces the tables. But his biggest passion is the grounds, which he has lovingly — transformed from a simple bog The setting is serene – Cors in Welsh – to an oasis shrubs, flowers, sculptures enough to inspire of and ponds. An evening at The Cors poetry in the most is the perfect preparation for unromantic of souls. the next day discovering why Carmarthenshire is known as the — Accompanied by an equally Garden of Wales. Make that plural. eastern Welsh travelling Within a few miles of each other companion – Karen is from lie two of the most significant Newport – our starting point is horticultural jewels of the British Laugharne and with it the obvious landscape. attraction of The Dylan Thomas Norman Foster’s Great Boathouse perched on the Glasshouse rises out of the ‘heron-priested’ shore of the 500-acre site of the National Tâf estuary. The setting is serene Botanic Gardens with futuristic enough to inspire poetry in the grandeur, while the splendour most unromantic of souls. of Aberglasney House & Gardens A student Bill Clinton is rooted in the 16th century. attempted a pilgrimage to The house and gardens at Laugharne during his time at Aberglasney were rescued in the Oxford but apparently got waylaid mid-1990s from sinking into at Cardiff Bus Station. These days, weed-choked dereliction. Director bookish youths come to the Graham Rankin, one of Britain’s annual script-reading of cult Welsh leading horticulturalists, also film Twin Town that takes place ensures all forms of crossduring Laugharne’s expanding pollination at Aberglasney – literary festival. summer Shakespeare, winter fairs, Hurst House on the Marsh art exhibitions and concerts is another example of how featuring Bryn Terfel, Katherine Laugharne has embraced Jenkins and Only Men Aloud. sophistication but retained its After an afternoon lost in time, essential quirkiness. Originally a we head for the market town of 16th-century dairy farm, the Grade Llandeilo, and The Cawdor Hotel, II listed 17 bedroom hotel has a former coaching inn buzzing
Clockwise, from right: Carolyn Hitt, Aberglasney House and Gardens, speaking to Bernard Llewellyn at Carreg Cennen Castle, National Botanic Garden of Wales, The Dylan Thomas Boathouse.
with life. The girls on reception bubble with West Walian warmth and show us to our spacious loft apartment overlooking St Teilo’s Church. We opt for supper at Y Polyn in Nantgaredig, recently named in a new Roadside Gastro Guide as one of the 20 best-hidden culinary gems in Britain. It’s run by Simon Wright and his chef wife Maryann and is a country pub and restaurant with attitude. The ambiance is summed up by the warning: ‘Sometimes it can be quite noisy due to the sound of people enjoying themselves.’ And we certainly do. Concerned at the impact of Carmarthenshire’s finest delicacies on our bellies, a little outdoor exertion is in order the next morning. You’re not short of heritage walk options, but with Carreg Cennen Castle on our doorstep it’s a no-brainer. As we chat to the castle’s engaging owner Bernard Llewellyn at his farm next door, he sums up its extraordinary appeal with a grin and three words: ‘Location, location, location’. This is arguably the best-sited castle in Wales – a 12th-century fortress crowning a rocky outcrop, with a sheer cliff drop that must have sentenced generations of attackers to a swift retreat. The view encompasses all the scenic glories the county has to offer, sweeping from the Black Mountains in the east across the verdant river valley stretching west, and beyond to the estuarine coast. And it’s a perspective that has changed my own. Carmarthenshire is not a journey; it’s a destination.
discovercarmarthenshire.com For more suggestions of castles and gardens to visit, go to visitwales.co.uk
Dungeons and dragons Writer and broadcaster Carolyn Hitt could have visited any part of the country to get her fill of castles and gardens â€“ yet she braved a return to the county that broke her heartâ€Ś
Snowdonia revisited Broadcaster, author and keen walker Stuart Maconie returns to his childhood haunts â€“ and falls for Wales all over again.
We never went to Spain or Portugal when I was a kid. I never came home with a straw donkey or a sombrero. But I didn’t feel deprived or dissatisfied, because I still was a regular and eager visitor to another country. A land of mountains and eagles and castles and waterfalls, of spooky stories and magical unpronounceable names. And you didn’t need a passport, since it was just a few hours down the M56 and the A55.
— A land of mountains and eagles and castles and waterfalls, of spooky stories and magical unpronounceable names. —
I loved the otherness of North Wales as a kid. The austere beauty of it all; that same windswept, flinty music that you heard in the poetry of RS Thomas which I was later to come to love too. As a student I got to know the bars of Bangor and the beaches of Beaumaris too, and there was a whole other kind of magic in that. So going back to North Wales always gives me a thrill, a frisson of expectation whenever I hit the dramatic sweep up to Llanberis, where Pete’s Eats does a bacon butty of mythical repute, where Llyn Padarn lies glassy under the Electric Mountain and where you can take a train to the top of the highest mountain in Wales. As we climb up the mountain’s northern approaches (1 in 5 at times), the audio commentary relates Snowdon’s various legends. Its native name of ‘Yr Wyddfa’ means ‘Tomb’ or ‘Grave’ and the story goes that
here King Arthur slayed a great ogre named Rhita who wore a cloak made from the beards of other warriors he’d slaughtered and who was keen to add Arthur’s, possibly as a fetching collar accessory. The distinctly unlovely Rhita was vanquished by King Arthur – and according to folklore he lies buried under the summit cairn. After a while, a fabulous view of the Llanberis path opens up on your left hand side and it was here, in the days when the railway had open carriages, that the passengers would rise to their feet to better admire the prospect. Sudden gusts of wind would often remove their headgear and deposit them in the valley to the delight of the villagers below. And that is how ‘Cwm Hetiau’, or the valley of the hats, got its charming name. There are several stops on the way up; Hebron with its ruined chapel, Halfway House where the walkers take a breather and Clogwyn where train passengers can disembark if they feel energetic enough to do the last 1000ft (305m) on foot. Refreshment awaits at the new summit café, Hafod Eryri. It was fashionable to decry the decrepit one, but this is a revelation, sympathetically built into the hill in the natural slate and glass, busy, bustling and bursting with good food and drink and information about this fabulous mountain and its history. You can make the descent as tough as you like. I like the Pyg track, which gets closest to two fine mountain lakes, even crossing Llyn Llydaw via a causeway. Incidentally, the Pyg track may get its unusual name from the famous Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel that lies near its foot. The Everest expedition of 1953 stayed here when training in Snowdonia and the place is crammed with memorabilia of the trip, ropes, crampons, even the mug Hillary drank from at the summit.
Clockwise, from left: Stuart Maconie, crossing Llyn Llydaw, Hafod Eryri, Portmeirion, Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Another cracking little bit of track, the Ffestiniog Railway, takes me from the little town of Blaenau Ffestiniog to my next destination of Minffordd. The oldest independent railway company in the world, this was once used to transport Blaenau’s slate to the docks at Porthmadog. Now it takes passengers through the pretty wooded valleys and dramatic slate architecture of Snowdonia to the coast. It’s just a quick hop from Minffordd to one of my favourite places in North Wales and one that shows a different element of the area’s character. Yes, I love the stony, sombre grandeur of the high peaks but I also love the gorgeous, elaborate, fanciful daydream of Portmeirion. Architect Clough Williams-Ellis spent fifty years letting his imagination run riot here, in a playful, mesmerising Italianate cluster of houses, halls, hotels, gardens and harbours. The world knows Portmeirion because of The Prisoner, Patrick McGoohan’s unfathomable cold war spy fantasy filmed here. But there is so much more to it than that. At twilight, Portmeirion becomes something else again, a hint of the Mediterranean on the Welsh coast, romantic, magical, even a little ghostly. Once upon a time for me, North Wales was sandcastles and paddling. Then it was tents and beer and girls and ramshackle vans to Red Wharf Bay. My tastes may have changed – a little – but Snowdonia still has something to satisfy all of them. It still feels otherly, as wild and strange and remote as you want to make it but still close at hand, still within easy reach. And still no passport needed.
visitsnowdonia.info For more days out, go to visitwales.co.uk
If you’re a history buff, green-fingered, a culture vulture or you simply like to be beside the seaside, here’s how you can get started on your very own voyage of discovery in Wales.
Go Coastal With 750 miles of coastline, Wales has plenty of seaside resorts. In Victorian resorts like Llandudno, you can indulge in seaside traditions like strolling along the prom. There are harbour towns, like New Quay, from which you can take a boat-ride to look for some more unusual local inhabitants – dolphins, seals and porpoises. Then there are villages where the sand and sea are the focal points – like Llangennith, the (unofficial) surf capital of Wales, with its laid-back vibe. Our coastline also has more than its fair share of Blue Flags: 45 (a record number) in 2010. For details of all our award-winning beaches go to visitwales.co.uk /coast
Museums and Heritage Welsh history is written all over the landscape, from Neolithic burial chambers to hands-on science discovery centres. There are museums for every passion: from the origins of Wales to Doctor Who. We’ve got 7 national museums that help tell Wales’s story through art, history and the natural environment. At Big Pit: National Coal Museum (a National Tourism Award winner in 2010) you can go 300ft (90m) underground with a real miner to discover what life was like at the coal face. A great day out guaranteed and even better, all seven museums are free to visit. Find out more about our national museums by visiting museumwales.ac.uk
Gardens Wales is full of gardens. Our location on the Western edge of Britain, combined with the warming effects of the Gulf Stream, means things grow bigger and better here. Which might explain why Bodnant Garden is home to the UK’s tallest California Redwood. Or why Portmeirion has a giant herbaceous flowering plant native to the Brazilian forests. Even our greenhouses come bigger – The Great Glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales is the largest single-span glasshouse in the world, protecting and conserving some of the planet’s most endangered plants. Discover more by going to the gardens section of our website: visitwales.co.uk 22
Castles and Historic Houses How do you like your history? With over 600 castles and historic houses in Wales, we’re certain we have something that’ll appeal to every interest. For a castle with added bite, try Beaumaris. Its defences include entrances protected by murder holes, from which defenders would be able to rain down hot oil onto any would-be attackers. If you’re more of a lover than a fighter, then perhaps Carreg Cennen will be for you. It’s been named in a shortlist of 10 castles vying for the UK’s most romantic ruin. Cadw (Governing body for Welsh historic monuments) cadw.wales.gov.uk National Trust nationaltrust.org.uk
World Heritage Sites A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a special place that’s considered by the United Nations as having ‘outstanding value to humanity’. Here in Wales, four of our castles and two industrial sites join a list of 900 global treasures that includes Venice, the Palace & Park of Versailles, the Acropolis and the Grand Canyon. Blaenavon World Heritage Site visitblaenavon.co.uk Pontcysyllte Aqueduct waterscape.com Castles and Town Walls of King Edward I in Gwynedd (Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy and Harlech) cadw.wales.gov.uk
Great Little Trains of Wales Built at a time when the pace of life was slower, Wales’s narrow gauge steam railways are a charming way of taking in the scenery, some having a history of well over 100 years. 2011 will be memorable for the Welsh Highland Railway as, for the first time ever, passengers will be able to ride the complete route from Caernarfon to Porthmadog, where they can jump aboard the world-famous Ffestiniog Railway. A total trip of 40 miles – a great railway journey for anyone with a soft-spot for steam travel. To find out more about public transport from a bygone era, go to greatlittletrainsofwales.co.uk
Food writer and broadcaster Simon Wright thinks Wales is one of Europeâ€™s great culinary nations. So make sure you pack a pair of trousers with an elasticated waist.
Good food nation
Left: Abergavenny Food Festival.
In a former life I was a restaurant inspector. Nice work if you can get it – eating out at somebody else’s expense and getting paid for it. Coming from Wales led me into some interesting conversations with fellow food commentators about my home country. They weren’t always complimentary. I knew better and could put up a neat defence that if you looked hard enough, Wales was a pretty decent place to eat. More recently, I’ve been tempted to call some of them up and start the argument all over again. So much has changed in Welsh food in the last decade – the riches of our agriculture are not new but the relish to refine and treasure them is more recent and the results have been stunning. Wales is no longer a pretty decent place to eat, it’s actually quite brilliant and here’s why... The Hidden Harvest Wales has over 750 miles (1,200 kilometres) of coastline dotted with ports and harbours built on the riches to be found in our oceans. The might of the native fishing industry may have ebbed away over the years but there is a new vibrancy amongst the remaining fleet, derived from an increasing appreciation of the sheer quality and variety of the fish to be found in our seas. Few people know that there is enough crab and lobster landed on Welsh shores to satisfy the UK market several times over. Much of that bounty is snapped up by our eager European neighbours. It’s a strange thought that you could easily find yourself eating wonderful Welsh shellfish in some sundrenched Spanish village on the Mediterranean. Trust me, that experience will never compete with the pleasure of eating it within a few hundred yards of where it was landed. Take The Shed in Porthgain where a selfless crustacean could almost crawl from the boat to the kitchen, or The Ferry Cabin in Ferryside, Carmarthenshire – an unpretentious fish and chip joint where you can eat sea bass and dabs from the estuary on which it sits. And the chips are made from potatoes grown on their own farm too.
— The sheer joy of eating it within a few hundred yards of where it was landed. —
A Flurry of Festivals If you had any doubt that there has been a food revolution going on in Wales, a visit to one of the many festivals celebrating the nation’s larder will dispel your cynicism. From the Mold Food Festival in the north east corner of the country to the Really Wild Food & Countryside Festival in St Davids on the extreme south west tip, the food map of Wales is lit up with events that are beacons for the nation’s burgeoning food culture. Artisan producers proudly bring their wares from far and near, chefs conjure up dishes determined to do justice to the majesty of the local produce and the champions of good food debate the politics of what we eat and how we should produce it. Commander-in-chief of these flag bearers for the forward march of Welsh food is the Abergavenny Food Festival held over a September weekend each year, turning the town into a Mecca for food lovers from all over the UK and beyond.
Magnificent Markets Farmers’ markets have sprung up all over Wales. The farmers’ markets in Wales website – fmiw.co.uk – now lists over sixty. Many, as one would expect, are located in the market towns of agricultural Wales, providing a direct route to the consumer for local small producers offering everything from fruit and vegetables to bakery goods, beers, rare breed meats and an array of dairy produce. One of the finest is to be found in the Pembrokeshire town of Haverfordwest, with all produce on sale sourced from within a 30-mile radius of the town. Less predictably, you’ll find some great markets in urban communities – a trend exemplified by the Riverside and Roath markets in Cardiff which are as vibrant as any you’ll find in the UK. Produce from Passion Great food doesn’t happen by accident – it needs people who really care about what they produce, people whose first thought is not for the bottom line but for top quality. Wales is fortunate to have these lovely folk in abundance – attracted by the quality of the harvest available to them and working to realise the potential that the agricultural landscape of Wales offers. Go to any number of farmers’ markets in Wales, eat the food and taste the pride and love that has gone into creating it. Take those who produce peerless salt marsh lamb around Harlech or on the Gower Peninsula, or purveyors of organic Welsh Black beef and rare breed pork. Then there are superb smoked products such as those from Rhydlewis in Ceredigion or the famed Black Mountain Smokery in Crickhowell. The shopping list is almost endless – Pâté, pickles, bacon, ham, a growing number of ales and ciders, not to mention a wealth of cheese...
Blessed are the Cheesemakers A restaurant I jointly ran years ago was once admonished by the Good Food Guide for the lack of Welsh cheeses on its cheeseboard. At the time I made myself feel better by pointing to the genuine scarcity of home-produced cheeses that could compare to the best the French, in particular, had to offer. To start such an argument these days would be laughable and I’ll take this opportunity to right the wrongs of the past by loudly declaring that Wales is up there with the best in putting top-notch cheese on the world’s dinner tables. The variety of styles, flavours and textures is as diverse as the Welsh landscape. Everyone will have their own favourite, but personally I’d point you in the direction of Llanddewi Brefi in Ceredigion (of Little Britain fame), where Maugan and Kim Trethowan are indeed the only cheesemakers in the village producing an epic handmade Caerphilly. Alternatively, head slightly further west to Llangybi where Sam and Rachel Holden make Hafod, an award winning organic cheddar at Wales’s longest standing organic dairy farm. Actually, the best advice I can give you is to plant yourself in one of the many delicatessens across Wales that showcase these works of dairy genius. Ask to sample a few delights until you decide for yourself which one makes your biscuit. Putting the Ales Back in Wales Wales is no stranger to brewing. Some of our oldest traditional breweries continue to flourish. Brains, for instance, was once synonymous with Cardiff – ‘It’s Brains you want’ is still the reassuringly familiar slogan to be found adorning railway bridges in the city. But it’s now found in bars and pubs far beyond the capital. The tiny
Left to right: Kevan Downing, Rachel & Sam Holden, Hafod Cheese Llangybi, Enjoying some Welsh Ale, Relaxed dining.
Carmarthenshire village of Felinfoel remains home to its eponymous beer, the first in the UK to be sold in cans way back in 1935. Other names have long since disappeared but some like Rhymney have been resurrected as part of the amber wave of quality brewing that has swept across the nation in the last ten years or so. Beers like Otley from Pontypridd, Evan Evans from Llandeilo and Purple Moose from Porthmadog are regarded as some of the best real ales in the UK. What’s more you don’t have to go far to find them. All have been embraced by pubs, bars and restaurants recognising their quality and distinctive local character.
— Your chances of eating out well in Wales have never been better. —
Easygoing Eating Out Let’s get one thing out of the way – the idea that Michelin stars are somehow a barometer of the nation’s culinary health is a rather large and overcooked red herring. Over the past few years the number awarded in Wales has waxed and waned but as someone who has an overdeveloped interest in these things I can say with some conviction that your chances of eating out well in Wales have never been better. It’s not just about posh restaurants. To be honest, it’s rarely about posh restaurants in Wales. Much of the best cooking in the country is to be found in relatively informal environments that concentrate on the honest cooking of top-notch local ingredients, with service that is welcoming but unstuffy. But that’s not to say we don’t have talented
chefs here. Take the supremely talented Stephen Terry at his pub restaurant The Hardwick just outside Abergavenny, the legendary Shaun Hill at the equally renowned Walnut Tree also near Abergavenny, or Bryan Webb at Tyddyn Llan in Llandrillo. These are all chefs that are talked of as amongst the best in the UK. There are many more outstanding restaurants of a similar class that could appear on the itinerary of any food loving visitor to Wales. But that would still be only part of the picture. Also on the list could be a wealth of less celebrated places, where the food may be simpler but is none the less delicious. Might I tempt you with proper Welsh Rarebit at Cafe Florence in Denbighshire, amazing tapas with a Welsh accent at Ultracomida in Narberth (and Aberystwyth), or dressed freshly landed local crab at the Quayside Tearoom in Lawrenny? These are just a few examples of the irresistible, unpretentious food that typifies the best of eating out in Wales. And there I rest my case, confident that you’ll come to Wales and return home with memories of delicious things eaten and a bag full of tasty goodies to restock the larder. Just like anywhere in the world you’ll need to do your research if you want to hit the culinary high notes – but that’s part of the fun. If you love good food, then you’ll love Wales. That’s a promise.
For more culinary delights, take a look at walestruetaste.co.uk or visitwales.co.uk / welsh-food
Taking a relaxing trip for a culinary weekend in Pembrokeshire, journalist and author Bibi van der Zee is not the first to discover that Wales has prawns as well as Brains.
As the train taking me to Angela Gray’s seafood cookery course draws near Whitland station in Carmarthenshire, the two women sitting ahead of me start chatting about seafood. ‘I used to hate it’, says the husky voiced one on the left. ‘I’d only eat fish if it was in breadcrumbs, do you know what I mean?’ Her friend agrees; ‘Oh yes. Ooh yes, I do’. I begin to think I signed up for a culinary version of those murder-mystery weekends by mistake. ‘But now’, goes on Husky Voice, ‘I can’t get enough of it, Scallops, I love them. Prawns. Crab, I love that. And seafood paella, that’s my absolute favourite, with a nice glass of wine and a squeeze of lemon’. By this point we’re all starting to drool. It may be true that seafood in Wales was an underappreciated harvest. Unless our new foodie friends are secretly employed by the fisheries commission to ride up and down talking loudly on trains, then times have clearly changed. That is partly down to the likes of Angela Gray. You don’t just meet Angela Gray – you experience her. She is a force of nature, rather than just a cook; tall, curvaceous, with a soft voice, a lovely giggle and the rare ability to talk about food as well as she cooks it. This long-time champion of Welsh cuisine has
done much through her television work and the courses she teaches to spread the good word. It is for seafood, however, that she reserves a particular affection. At one point in her class she pauses to stroke the side of a sea-bass and asks us to treat it with respect.
— The seafood has all (apart from the tiger prawns) come from local sources and fishmongers she knows well. —
Her classes take place in the kitchens of Slebech Park, which has been home to the Phillips family for more than 800 years. The most resilient parts of the estate have been lovingly maintained. Elements that have needed renovation have been restored beautifully. As we drink coffee and eat Angela’s delicious shortcake overlooking the lovely Daugleddau estuary, it’s not too hard to work out the growing appeal of taking a few days out to have some fun in someone else’s kitchen – particularly one as magnificent as this. Mind you, those fish aren’t going to skin themselves. Our itinerary is as ambitious as it is mouthwatering. In one day Angela wants
us to learn how to de-scale, gut, de-gill, fillet and, yes, skin a fish. She wants us to dress a crab, clean up langoustines, and learn how to deal with squid and oysters. And then we’re going to make three different kinds of sauce, fish stock, a seafood pilaf… and finally, if we’re still conscious, we’re going to sit down and eat it all. The seafood has all (apart from the tiger prawns) come from local sources and fishmongers she knows well. In recent years the Welsh Assembly Government has put much effort into developing the native fishing industry, issuing the Welsh Fisheries Strategy in 2008 with the goal of encouraging viable and sustainable fishing while also promoting local seafood to consumers through guides like Fresh Welsh Seafood. Adrian Coakley-Greene, whose family has been selling fish in Swansea Market for 150 years now, says that in the last couple of years people have been turning away from the supermarkets and going back to markets selling the local product, and the real experts. ‘They liked it all packed up in plastic with instructions for a while’, he says. ‘But now I think they’ve realised that we can fillet it and skin it for them, explain how to cook it, and that here they’ll get really fresh fish like our seabass, just half an hour out of the water,
Left to right: Make your fish come true – Angela Gray makes Bibi’s day.
without paying all the extra for the packaging. Once you’ve eaten really fresh fish nothing else will do’. And Angela certainly agrees. As the basis for the stock bubbles in the background (just over a litre of water, with an onion, a leek, a carrot and a stick of celery; awaiting the bones and heads that we shed as we go for just twenty minutes boiling, any more and the flavour alters), she introduces us to our mackerel and explains how to check the freshness of a fish. ‘Check under the gills – it should be bright red, rather than brownish. Check the smell, you’re looking for the smell of the sea. And most of all check for firmness; the flesh should still be firm and muscular’. She holds her mackerel up by the tail with the head pointing towards us like a pistol to demonstrate. OK, OK, we’re convinced! Filleting and skinning turn out to be less difficult than I feared. A very thin, reasonably flexible knife is needed (put the tip to the kitchen counter and see how easily it bends – the more the better). However, a slightly queasy silence takes over as we learn to gut them. De-gilling is similarly done in silence, pulling back the gills and cutting away the small bones inside – crack, crack, crack. There is a surprising amount of blood. It’s only when we get on to the less hair-raising
task of skinning them that the jokes start to flow again. We shuck the oysters (‘I’ve looked these guys over and they ain’t the easiest’, cautions Angela) and peel and clean up the prawns. And then it’s the turn of the squid. ‘This is a real fear for me’, says one of my fellow classmates Georgina, as we hoist them up out of bowls of water.
— We pour out wine, grab our forks and sit down, and I fleetingly remember the women talking of seafood on the train. —
‘Squid is a wonderful creature, there’s nothing to be afraid of’, says Angela. ‘Now, grab those tentacles’. We obediently grab. We clean out the sand, clean off the clinging membrane outside, and then slice them into delicate strips. We are all impressed. ‘It’s better than ‘O’ Level Biology’, says one class member. It’s certainly more educational than any class I ever went to at school.
After that it’s time to cook and we’re whisked into a whirl of butter and oil and shallots and freshly ground pepper. It’s after one now and we’re all gasping with hunger, tormented by the tastes we get of provençal sauce, the spicy pilaf and the fish stock into which Angela has thrown our prawn shells. Finally it’s all ready; the seabass stuffed with crab and served with beurre blanc, the mackerel in provençal sauce (packed up for us to take home), the oysters baked with crème fraiche, a tray full of roast potatoes and a green salad that Angela has unobtrusively put together while we stirred our saucepans, and the prawns and squid thrown into our seafood pilafs. We pour out wine, grab our forks and sit down, and I fleetingly remember the women talking of seafood on the train. You would have loved it, girls. Cooking with Angela Gray angelagray.co.uk Slebech Park slebech.co.uk
For more culinary delights, take a look at walestruetaste.co.uk or visitwales.co.uk / welsh-food
We spoke to a painter, a photographer, a 3-D artist and a ceramicist about their favourite place in Wales and how it has influenced their work.
Departure from tradition
Elfyn Lewis, the winner of the 2010 Welsh Artist of the Year explains the method behind his madness. Glaslyn is a river that runs from a lake on Snowdon, through my hometown of Porthmadog on to the north west coast of Wales. Porthmadog is a harbour town of around 5,000 people, where boats used to transport the slate mined locally. I like to think of it as a place that’s a gateway to a wider world. ‘Glaslyn’ was a stepping-stone for me as an artist – a ‘Eureka!’ moment, I suppose. It was a piece I worked on for my MA in Cardiff between 1996 and ’98. You can interpret it any way you like, really, but for me the people of Porthmadog are represented by the blood redness of the paint and the blue feels like a river flowing out to the sea into the big wide world. The origins of the river Glaslyn are a lake on Snowdon and there’s a nature reserve there, with breeding ospreys which fly as far as the estuary in Porthmadog to catch trout for the family. There are red kites too and all sorts of other wildlife. I’ve always felt like my work was a reaction against a lot of Welsh art – ‘here’s a farm, here’s a mine, here’s a sheep’. I’ve always strived to get as far as possible away from that. The way I work is that I layer colour after colour on the canvas until I feel I’ve captured something unusual and interesting. It’s a process that can seem never-ending. The 19th-century artist William Turner used to always try and recapture the sun, which he knew was an impossible job and I think all artists struggle to a certain extent. Sometimes it is a bit like a dog chasing its own tail. There is a method to my madness, though. I hope so, anyway… See Elfyn’s video where he talks about his work at visitwales.co.uk /arts
Landscape photographer David Wilson explains why he loves shooting his native Pembrokeshire in the depth of winter.
A strong link to the past
I’m from here, as they say – born and brought up in Pembrokeshire. I know it really well and I love it too. I take my photographs in the late autumn, all through winter and into early spring. I don’t take any photographs at all in the summer. It’s a complete waste of time to me. The weather just adds so much more drama. If I can get someone to look at the photograph and make a little shiver run down his or her back I know I’ve done something right. I took this shot in February 2008. The cottage in the photograph is called ‘Treledydd Fawr’ and it’s near St Davids. It’s probably around 200 years old and is the kind of building that would have been dotted across the North Pembrokeshire countryside until 30 or 40 years ago – a two-up, two-down, with a limestone render on the roof to keep the slates from blowing off in high winds. It’s probably the only house of its kind remaining in Pembrokeshire now. Mr Griffiths, who lives there, is in his mid-80s. He’s lived there since he was about 10. It’s extraordinarily cold inside. On the day I was there I had my winter jacket on but I was still shivering inside the house, whereas Mr Griffiths was quite comfortable in his open-necked shirt and a little v-neck sweater. The earth floor probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. As a landscape photographer, I could travel along the roads of Wales for years and years and I could never capture it all. It’s just a stunning place to be, really, without wanting to sound too smug. And the more people who discover it, the more they’ll realise: ‘yeah, he was right…’ See David’s video where he talks about his work at visitwales.co.uk /arts
Left: Treledydd Fawr
A very special place Luned Rhys Parri’s humorous work comes from a lifelong love affair with her local area.
Below: Dynes Diarth
My mother wrote short stories, and she kept a typewriter in the boot of the car. Her writing was often based around the patch of North Wales we lived in called Dyffryn Nantlle (the Nantlle Valley) and her stories were usually humorous ones. I think she’s had a big influence on me, as did both my grandmothers. One of them used to recycle everything – she even had aprons made up from parachutes that were used in World War II. I do the same with my work, recycling cardboard, old photographs, materials and buttons to create my scenes. The Nantlle Valley has a rich history in literature, but it’s best known for slate mining. It’s a really, really interesting environment to look at, with streets that are almost too narrow to drive along and houses that are built very close together. It’s a place I constantly gain inspiration from. I love looking at people’s clothes and I especially love the way old ladies put their outfits together, matching clothes from different decades in one outfit. ‘Dynes Diarth’, which roughly translates as ‘The Visitor’, is a piece inspired by people dropping by to our house to see my mother when I was a child. The figure in the picture is scaled quite big, which reminds me of Alice in Wonderland a little, and also reminds me of how small I was and how big these visitors must have seemed at the time. In the background is a picture of my grandmother’s traditional Welsh dresser. I love looking at Welsh dressers because they’re always quite a combination of contemporary things like souvenirs people have brought back from holiday, photographs of children in frames and traditional things like willow-pattern plates. The background of this piece is made from cardboard and the figure is made from papier-mâché. Her clothes are from bits of Laura Ashley material I had and the skirt is made from an old blouse my mother wore in the 70s. The whole feeling of my work is very Welsh. I’ve tried working in other countries, but I think it’s like actors trying to adopt another accent or something. In the last 10 – 15 years we’ve really developed as a country – we’ve got our own self-determination through the National Assembly. On the one hand we’re superconfident and on the other we’re massively pessimistic. As a nation, it’s a constant balancing act that we’re not always very good at performing. But I do feel like there’s a general up-ness to art in Wales. See Luned’s video where she talks about her work at visitwales.co.uk /arts
I’m originally from Egypt and moved to Wales around 10 years ago with my wife, who is originally from Porthcawl. There was an element of serendipity, I think. We met in London and when we both decided to pursue our work full-time – Sue is a sculptor and I work with ceramics – we decided to make a home in Wales. She wanted to live near the sea, so we drew a triangle on a map, I stuck a pin in it and that’s how we ended up in Pembrokeshire. My work is principally about the vessel and it’s been heavily shaped by my environment over the past few years. ‘Altered Form’ has been inspired by the coastline and the faces of the cliffs here. It’s all about using the movements I see in all the rock formations to create the contrast between those sharp edges and the fluidity of the lines. I try and create work that’s visually stimulating, but that you also feel compelled to touch. My work has been exhibited extensively in Wales and I won the Applied Arts category of the Welsh Artist of the Year Awards in 2010. I feel very much part of the arts scene in Wales. My real interaction with the countryside here has been since we’ve had our beautiful hounds. Walking them has given us the incentive to spend time on the coastline in all weathers. We’ll walk the cliff tops, or Newgale beach or Druidston Haven – we’re really spoilt for choice here. The same beach isn’t the same two days running with the changing weather and light conditions. If you have an observant mind you can’t help but interact with the environment here.
Above: Altered Form
Ceramic artist Ashraf Hanna stuck a pin in a map. Luckily for him he ended up living and working in one of the most striking areas of Wales.
See Ashraf ’s video where he talks about his work at visitwales.co.uk /arts
A druid’s land
The arts are a living thing in Wales. They’re in the landscape, the people and their communities, and have provided inspiration for artists of all kinds for hundreds of years. Here you’ll find some ideas of where to go to enjoy the best art, craft, music and dance created in Wales.
Art Museums/Galleries In 2011, the National Museum Cardiff will complete the development of a National Museum of Art for Wales, exhibiting works by Renoir and Van Gogh alongside collections by distinguished Welsh artists. Ffotogallery in Cardiff hosts exhibitions, workshops and courses of all kinds; Oriel y Parc in St Davids is an innovative architectural home to many of the finest pieces of landscape art in Wales; while there are over 180 works of art in the private collection alone at the Museum of Modern Art Wales in Machynlleth.
Find more art museums and galleries at visitwales.co.uk/arts
Made in Wales The flourishing craft scene in Wales gives you the opportunity to take something home that’s more meaningful than a fridge magnet. Ruthin Craft Centre has undergone an amazing transformation in recent years and hosts several exhibitions, events and workshops at any one time in its dynamic zinc and cast stone building. The Corris Craft Centre in Machynlleth has ten workshops featuring traditional and contemporary styles of jewellery, ceramics, furniture and more, while Craft in the Bay in Cardiff is home of contemporary applied art and craft made by members of the Maker’s Guild in Wales. Discover more at visitwales.co.uk/arts
Performing Arts Just occasionally, we do like to make a song and dance about things in Wales. We have some stunning arts venues and a variety of world-class companies performing in them. The Wales Millennium Centre is a striking addition to the Cardiff landscape and home to the Welsh National Opera. An equally diverse programme of events takes place at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. One evening at Venue Cymru in Llandudno you can revel in the majesty of a symphony orchestra, the next you might be splitting your sides to a stand-up comedian.
For more arts venues (and events going on in them) head to visitwales.co.uk/arts 34
Festivals From wool to world cinema, our calendar is crammed with countless celebrations of the arts. For example, Sw^n is a threeday showcase of the best new music in Wales, while the WOW Film Festival starts in Aberystwyth before touring throughout Wales and the borders. Wonderwool Wales (a festival of Welsh wool and natural fabrics) is second only to Abertoir (Aberystwyth’s horror film festival) as the best-named event in Wales. And although the International Ceramics Festival lacks a natty title, it does attract some of the world’s best ceramic artists and potters. Go to visitwales.co.uk/arts for details of more arts festivals happening in 2011
Inspired by Wales Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, voted the UK’s favourite rock song, had its genesis at Bron-yr-Aur, a cottage in southern Snowdonia. The Pembrokeshire coastline inspired the makers of the latest Harry Potter movie to build Shell Cottage, set in fictional Tinworth, on Freshwater West beach. Charles Darwin – yes, the one who ‘invented’ evolution – actually trained as a geologist and honed his skills observing the natural world during field trips across North Wales. And you can’t talk about people inspired by Wales without mentioning Dylan Thomas, who wrote many of his finest works, including Under Milk Wood, from his writing shed overlooking the Tâf Estuary.
Creative Courses If you’ve now got an overwhelming urge to paint a landscape, throw a pot or even compose poetry, then why not combine a holiday in Wales with the chance to acquire a new skill or brush-up on an old one. Plas Tan y Bwlch, in Snowdonia National Park, runs a variety of courses including crafts, photography, painting and illustration and even chamber music! Waunifor Crafty Breaks offers, as the name would suggest, a number of craft-based courses from its studio in the Teifi Valley. And if you fancy yourself as a budding novellist, the Ceridwen Centre in Llandysul runs regular creative writing courses. Feeling inspired? Go to visitwales.co.uk/arts
Image: Cycling in the Senni Valley
What goes up... When you go cycling in Wales, itâ€™s worth remembering that having a downside can be a good thing.
You may have heard the one about Wales being bigger than England if you ironed out all the lumps. But we’re not the only ones who like our hills and mountains just as they are – just ask the growing number of cyclists from The Netherlands and Belgium who travel here each year.
Lôn Las Cymru is Route 8 of the National Cycle Network, from Holyhead to Cardiff. See sustrans.org.uk for full details.
I first visited 34 years ago. It was the hot summer of 1976 and I took a 1,800 kilometre (1,120-mile) tour of England and Wales with a friend of mine. The loveliest part of our trip was going to Wales. I don’t exactly remember where I went, but I still have the map of the trip somewhere. I always knew I would return one day. All these years later our son was doing some work experience at a summer camp for children in Shrewsbury, near the Welsh border, and we decided to combine a visit to see him with a cycling trip. We took the Lôn Las Cymru route, which runs the whole length of Wales. It gave us the opportunity to visit a big part of the country, starting in the north and ending up in Cardiff. Where we live it’s completely flat. For miles and miles there is no hill to be seen, so for us it’s great to do a tour with plenty of variety. It can also be very windy at home, so sometimes you can find yourself cycling into a strong wind for 20 kilometres (12 miles) or more. In Wales, you don’t have to endure this kind of cycling, so it is very appealing to us. And when you go up a hill you always get to go down, which is a very rewarding feeling. One of the surprising things for us was that the weather was so good. We prepared for rain, but we hardly had any. The place we enjoyed the most was Snowdonia. It was very wild – a really exciting place with very few people around. In fact,
we visited many great places in Wales, but the names were so difficult to pronounce and even harder to remember! Maybe the Welsh do this on purpose so that people have to discover them for themselves. I like that idea. I do remember we went to the village with the long place name – I can remember it starts with a double ‘l’ but that’s about it. Anyway, we took some photographs to show our local cycle club.
— We prepared for rain, but hardly had any. —
The food was also very good during our trip, which makes a long day of cycling worthwhile. As for the mountains, they were not too difficult for us, as we are experienced cyclists. We did about 80 to 95 kilometres (50 to 60 miles) a day and if I’m honest, I don’t think such a long trip would suit everyone. But there’s nothing to be scared of. There are such a variety of great tours in Wales and the challenge is not an intimidating one. One regret is that we didn’t get enough time to take any trips on the ‘Great Little Trains of Wales’. That looks like a magical experience, so we will definitely come back one day and take a trip by train. Jan Kerssens, Krommenie
387 km cycled; 80 – 95 km per day; 48 hours cycling time; 2 hours practicing how to say Llanfairpwllgwyn gyllgogerychwyrndrob wllllantysiliogogogoch.
We cycle a lot in The Netherlands day to day, but this was our first cycling holiday and my husband wanted to go to Wales. I don’t know why Wales in particular, but he was right. We took the Lôn Las Cymru (South) tour. We knew it was a beautiful country and we thought the best way to see it would be by bicycle. We also knew we weren’t going there for the weather. The first day it was raining cats and dogs and we had to put our rain suits on. Straight away we had to cycle up a big hill. So within an hour I was soaking wet, riding in first gear on the bike. I thought to myself ‘Oh my God’. But it’s all part of the experience. When we got to our first hotel I took a long hot bath and it felt like I’d really achieved something – the kind of feeling you don’t normally get when you take a holiday. And for the rest of the week everything was great. The weather was off and on, but the biking was just fantastic. We loved it. One of us would have the map and the other would have information of what sights there were for us to visit as we cycled. The
countryside is so beautiful and inviting, it inspires you to find out more about it. So, once in a while we would take a detour and go and see some really interesting sights. One highlight was going to the Elan Valley, which has four dams and reservoirs. It was really beautiful.
— We will definitely come back. We want to do the north part of the tour one day, which looks amazing. —
You know what else we did? Every morning we would prepare a little backpack and a thermos with some soup or hot water in and some instant coffee and then, when we took a break, we would put our bikes down and go and sit in a field with all the sheep and just enjoy the environment. It might have been quite an unusual sight for people passing by.
The first night we stayed at a bed and breakfast, the next we stayed at a small country inn that was actually part of a 12thcentury priory. Our suitcases would be taken from one place to another by car while we were cycling. We also stayed with a lovely elderly couple in Chepstow. Not only was our room beautiful, but they were also very, very welcoming. We visited the castle there and wandered around for hours. I know it might seem quite strange for people from a flat country to choose a holiday destination in a place with hills and mountains, but that was definitely part of the appeal for us. Some of the higher climbs were a good challenge, but we never felt that we were biting off more than we could chew. We will definitely come back. We want to do the north part of the tour one day, which looks amazing. After our trip we then visited Big Pit, which is a museum in an old coalmine. It was amazing to learn all about the history of coal that is so important to Wales. It was a great holiday – we enjoyed it very much. Tanja Dobbe, Breezand
Lôn Las Cymru (South) is part of Routes 8 and 42 of the National Cycle Network. See sustrans.org.uk for full details.
234 km cycled; 63 km traffic-free; 18 hours cycling time; 3 hours drinking soup in a field. LLANTHONY PRIORY
ATOP PEN Y FAN
I work as an environmental advisor, so I try and take holidays that are environmentally friendly. We were always very curious about visiting Wales. We’ve been biking in Slovenia, Croatia and the Czech Republic and we bike a lot in The Netherlands, but we had not travelled very much in the UK. Wales looked great from the pictures, wild and unspoilt, so we decided to visit. I like being outdoors, and I think you see a lot more of a country by bicycle. We were expecting Wales to be quite rough, off the beaten track as you say, and we knew there would be quite a lot of hills, which we don’t get when we cycle at home. There was a lot of cycling up hills, but it wasn’t too difficult at all. I like seeing great views and being in a very natural environment, which Wales is fantastic for. One of the things I really enjoyed is the fact that Wales is extremely diverse. We started at Carmarthen, which had quite a lot of hills, and then we made a trip anti-clockwise, heading towards Pembrokeshire and the coast, which was more flat. We travelled between
40 and 60 kilometres (25 and 35 miles) a day and in the beginning it was quite a challenge, which I really enjoyed. I don’t think my partner did so much and we walked from time-to-time, which was fine. We had great bikes, so we were always comfortable, while our luggage was taken separately from one destination to the next. It worked very well. We liked to start cycling straight after breakfast, which meant we arrived at our destination at about two in the afternoon. That gave us plenty of time to relax and read a book, or explore the village where we were staying that night. It’s a great combination – to face a challenge in the morning and then be able to totally relax in the afternoon. I think people think this kind of holiday is just about sitting in the saddle all day. It’s really not like that at all. We had some rain during our trip, but to be honest, it was no big deal. The weather’s much the same in The Netherlands. My son is 17 years old. He really liked the sporting side of the trip – the challenge of climbing the hills and then going down as fast
as he could, 60 or 70km/h (35 – 45mph). He loved that. My partner and myself were not quite so competitive. We did the trip at our own pace.
— We knew there would be quite a lot of hills, which we don’t get when we cycle at home. —
I think the feeling I took away from the holiday was total freedom. What I also liked was the diversity of the places we stayed. And I loved the fact that wherever we went we would get offered a cup of tea. I have so many great memories from the trip, but if had to choose one it would be just standing on a cliff top in Nolton overlooking St Brides Bay. It was just so beautiful. Martijn van der Glas, Groningen
366 km cycled; 66 km traffic-free; 28 hours cycling time; 65 km/h top speed That’s downhill, obviously. TENBY
JUST OUTSIDE TENBY
Celtic Trail (West) is part of Routes 4 and 47 of the National Cycle Network. See sustrans.org.uk for full details.
Take your pick from a variety of tours and trips tailored to suit all calf muscles.
National Cycle Network Wales has 1,200 miles of cycle paths on the National Cycle Network. So there’s never been a better time to get out and start exploring the country on two wheels. You can cycle these trails in one go, or you can cherry-pick great day and weekend sections. Celtic Trail 220-mile, five-day route from Fishguard in the west to Chepstow in the east. Lôn Las Cymru Running for over 250 miles through the National Parks of the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia to the quiet lanes of Anglesey. Lôn Cambria 113-mile cycle route crossing the heart of Mid Wales between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury.
Lôn Teifi This 98-mile cycle route follows country lanes and minor roads along the valley of the River Teifi before reaching the coast at Cardigan.
For full details of national routes in Wales, visit sustrans.org.uk. For ideas on local cycle rides go to routes2ride.org.uk/wales
Mountain Biking There are six purpose built centres in Wales: dedicated mountain biking locations, with a visitor centre and MTB facilities serving multiple waymarked trails. There are also seven areas of Wales each with several waymarked/mapped trails and MTB facilities. Afan Forest Park The fastest growing mountain bike area in Britain. Coed Llandegla A selection of trails completely enclosed within the forest. Coed y Brenin Home to a network of hand-built, all-weather singletracks and a dual slalom course.
Cwmcarn Less than half an hour from the Severn Bridge. Nant yr Arian Trails head out into the epic scenery of the Cambrian Mountains. Coed Trallwm and Elan Valley A big Welsh favourite for over 30 years. Check out mbwales.com for details.
The Tour of Britain Geraint Thomas MBE, is an Olympic gold medallist and multiple track cycling world champion. ‘The Tour of Britain is the biggest race in the UK and it’s great to have it coming through Wales again. It’s a really special occasion for me, and I’ll be well up for the Welsh stage. As professional cyclists we live away in Italy and we hardly ever get to come back, so to come home and race in an event like this is wonderful’. ‘Wherever we’re racing in the world, it’s incredible the amount of support we get. When you see a Welsh flag, it really does spur you on a lot. It does make a big difference. When I do get time off, it’s always nice to come home and get out 40
on the old roads. When you get out in the lanes it’s nice and quiet, there are some good climbs, and that great scenery. And the cycling scene in Wales seems to be getting bigger, better and stronger all the time’. 11 – 18 September The Tour of Britain Various locations in Wales tourofbritain.co.uk
All you need to know if Shanks’ pony is your chosen method of transport.
National Trails Wales boasts three very different long distance National Trails complemented by over thirty regional routes of varying lengths. Pembrokeshire Coast Path Currently the longest trail you can follow in Wales at 186 miles. National Geographic recently voted Pembrokeshire the second best coastal destination in the world. nt.pcnpa.org.uk Offa’s Dyke Path A 177-mile trail down the length of Wales from south to north, following the ancient border between Wales and England. nationaltrail.co.uk/offasdyke
Glyndw ^ r’s Way Follow the footsteps of the last Welsh Prince of Wales on this 135-mile trail. nationaltrail.co.uk/glyndwrsway Wales Coast Path Sample parts of the 850-mile trail from Queensferry in the north to Chepstow in the south before it’s fully opened in 2012.
Walking Events The following is just a selection of walking events and festivals across Wales. Crickhowell Walking Festival crickhowellfestival.com Anglesey Walking Festival angleseywalkingfestival.com Llanelli Festival of Walks llanelliramblers.org.uk Gower Walking Festival visitmumbles.co.uk Conwy Walking Week conwy.gov.uk Wales Valleys Walking Festival thevalleys.co.uk Cardigan Walks Festival walk-wales.co.uk
Barmouth Festival of Walking barmouthwalkingfestival.co.uk Lly^n Walking Festival llyn-walking-festival.com Snowdonia Walking Festival snowdoniawalkingfestival.co.uk Monmouthshire Walking Festival walkinginmonmouthshire.co.uk See walking.visitwales.com for a more comprehensive list of events.
Walking Holiday Operators Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you do the whole country in one go, but if you’re not sure which part of Wales will best suit your tastes, these are the people to speak to. What’s more, they’ll transport your luggage to your next destination if you’d like them to! Celtic Trails walkingwales.co.uk Contours Walking Holidays contours.co.uk Drover Holidays droverholidays.co.uk
Footpath Holidays footpath-holidays.com Walk or Bike Wales walkorbikewales.com
Wales is full of perfect places to explore on foot and walking.visitwales.com will help you find them.
Now the real fun begins... The Ryder Cup coming to Wales was just the start. As Iestyn George points out, thereâ€™s a whole nation of golf to exploreâ€Ś
After nearly a decade of preparation and anticipation, Wales now knows at first hand what it’s like to host one of the most popular sporting events on the planet. Let’s not beat around the bush – The 2010 Ryder Cup exceeded all expectations. The Celtic Manor Resort, on the outskirts of Newport, provided the setting for pure sporting drama, with Europe winning the trophy back from their US rivals right at the death. It was unforgettable. Now you have the chance to play The Twenty Ten Course at The Celtic Manor Resort while those memories are still fresh in the mind. We can’t promise you’ll recreate Tiger Woods’ magical eagle at the 12th and it’s unlikely there’ll be upwards of 25,000 people cheering you on to the 17th green, as they greeted Europe’s dashing blade, Graeme McDowell. But if the opportunity to walk in the freshly-trodden footsteps of the golfing history makers isn’t a tantalising prospect, we don’t know what is. Those precious few days at The Celtic Manor Resort mirror the broader appeal of Wales as a destination for the travelling golfer. The venue was superb for players and supporters alike, yet there was ample room for everyone and a welcoming smile was never far away. You won’t find yourself being herded, crowded or corralled in Wales. There’s no need for it. Even at the bars during the rain delays at The Ryder Cup, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who was, well, hard pressed. One word of warning, however. Wales doesn’t really offer the sort of golf break where the route is so well trodden that you could sleepwalk your way from A to B to C. Of course, there are world-renowned courses, like the revered Royal Porthcawl and Royal St David’s, as well as a fantastic supporting cast of links tracks dotted along the entire coast of Wales – Pyle & Kenfig, Ashburnham, Tenby, Aberdovey, Porthmadog, Conwy and Bull Bay, to name just a few. Then, there are the numerous must-play inland courses – the Vale Resort (a European Tour event host), St Pierre (a Solheim Cup venue), Cradoc, Llandrindod
Wells and the Vale of Llangollen, amongst others – offering great quality golf, an unforgettable all-round experience and great value. No, the real joy of golf in Wales is stumbling across the unexpected – and unforgettable. OK, so the astonishing clifftops of Nefyn, where you can have a pint at the local pub during your round, is a little off the beaten track. Likewise the great ‘links in the sky’ at Pennard, is slightly more than a hop, skip and a jump from the M4. Trust us – The extra effort in getting there will be more than repaid at either. And what about Llanymynech, where the great Welsh golfer Ian Woosnam learned to play? Here’s a course so disorientating that you tee off on the fourth hole in Wales and hole out in England.
— The real joy of golf in Wales is stumbling across the unexpected – and unforgettable. —
Any tour of Wales’s golfing highlights (and wee wonders) would inevitably bring us back to The Celtic Manor Resort, with its worldclass facilities, as well as three championship courses – The Roman Road, The Montgomerie and, of course, The Twenty Ten. The Ryder Cup is famous for the friendly rivalry between the US and European players and supporters. That congeniality will have gone up a notch or two after Celtic Manor 2010. So if The Ryder Cup has whetted your appetite to go golfing in Wales (and if it hasn’t, get someone to check your pulse), you’ll be delighted to know that we have over 200 courses packed into an area that’s just 60 miles wide and 170 miles long. If your head is now spinning with the endless possibilities, you could do a lot worse than paying a visit to our golf website for information on courses, itineraries and packages. For all the information you need about golf in Wales, visit: golfasitshouldbe.com
Clockwise, from left: Graeme McDowell celebrates Ryder Cup victory, Aberdovey, Nefyn & District, Pennard, The Celtic Manor Resort.
Right: Pen y Fan.
Autumn is arguably the finest time to visit Wales, a time when nature puts on a real show. And as Richard Hammond, MD of greentraveller.co.uk, finds out, this is a boom time for environmentallyfriendly breaks.
There is not a herb here below, but he hath a star in Heaven above; and the star strikes him with her beam and says to him: ‘grow’. Henry Vaughan (1622 – 1695)
I’m a sucker for signs. This is partly because I once spent a long, tiring conservation weekend installing them. It’s also because they often give you a surprising insight into the locality in just a few cursory words; a silent companion who tells you everything you need to know. This particularly well-crafted sign was one of a series of interpretative inscriptions installed on wooden posts along the towpath of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal in celebration of Henry Vaughan, poet and doctor, and his twin brother Thomas, priest and alchemist. As the first of the signs explained, the brothers were born across the valley in the 17th century and published over a dozen alchemical, medical and poetic volumes. Henry was ‘ultimately recognised as one of the great confessional, visionary poets and he influenced many later poets, including Wordsworth’. The posts are positioned on ‘The Henry Vaughan Walk’ – a 2.5m (4km) walk along the canal that takes about one and a half hours at a brisk pace. ‘But why hurry?’ reads another sign. ‘Relax and enjoy the scenery and atmosphere that inspired the poet’s work’. It’s not hard to enjoy the scenery as you walk along this well kept canal path. One of those gloriously balmy autumn days when the changing colour of the leaves on the trees –
the myriad of vibrant oranges, yellows and browns – is enhanced by the backdrop of a bright blue sky. The towpath passes through the pretty village of Talybont-on-Usk and connects with the Taff Trail, a 55-mile (90kilometre) waymarked route for both walkers and cyclists from the Brecon Beacons via Merthyr Tydfil all the way to Cardiff, following a green corridor of canal paths, former railway lines and forest trails.
— It is a brilliant place to go and see stars at night. —
Coity Bach is a restored dairy farm a short walk from Talybont. Coity Bach’s owner, Cerys Scott-Howell, is an enthusiastic advocate of the Brecon Beacons and one of the park’s ‘Ambassadors’. Ever since her childhood days of horse-riding in Abergavenny, she’s admired the Sugar Loaf Mountain and in 2006 she jumped at the chance to move (with her farmer husband Rhys and three young children) to the farm, which has fabulous views of the mountain. They’ve restored an old cottage on the farm plus renovated a modern cottage – both are available as self-catering holiday cottages. The farm dates back to medieval times and the old cottage still has
The yearâ€™s last, loveliest smile Autumnâ€™s feast of nature inspires poetic words, as Richard Hammond discovers.
the original oak beams and an inglenook fireplace with an outline of stone to the left, which would have been used for washing and making pig swill, and a bread oven on the right, made out of cream firebricks. There’s also the original stone staircase, which Cerys explains was intentionally designed to go up and round to the right to prevent the enemy from being able to draw their swords. Coity Bach has been awarded Gold by the Green Tourism Business Scheme and its commitment to reduce its impact on the environment is impressive. The main heating for both cottages is via log burners, water is sourced from the farm, there are bins for recycling plastic, paper and tin, the lighting is low energy and all their kitchen appliances are A-rated. Cerys is keen to encourage guests to explore the countryside and provides a wealth of information about local walks and bike rides. From the farm, there’s a wonderful stroll down the valley to Talybont Village, but if you want to venture further afield, head up through the woods behind the farm to where the path meets the Usk Valley Trail, which takes you through the Talybont forest up to a spectacular view of the Talybont Reservoir. Cerys also provides six bikes (including one with a double trailer which can carry two children) for guests to explore the nearby forest cycle trails.
From Coity Bach it’s just a 20-minute drive to the Brecon Beacons National Park Mountain Centre at Libanus, five miles south of Brecon. The park is dominated by a northfacing escarpment of old red sandstone that extends from the Carmarthenshire Black Mountain eastwards through Fforest Fawr and the Beacons to the eastern Black Mountains, punctuated only by the Usk Valley.
— As the autumnal sun warms our backs, I’m extremely reluctant to leave. —
Pen y Fan is the highest point at 2,906ft (886m) and the views from the National Park Visitor Centre are amazing. The visitor centre’s manager, Richard Levy, explains that although the park is easy for day visitors to reach, it is one of the least visited national parks in the UK in terms of overnight visitors. Over two million people in South Wales live within an hour’s drive of the park and the large urban populations of the West Midlands are only about two hours driving time away, Bristol one hour and London is only about three hours away, via the M4 and Severn Bridge. The park
Clockwise from top: Chatting to Cerys Scott-Howell at Coity Bach, Richard on ‘The Henry Vaughan Walk’, signposting along the Taff Trail, Richard at Gentle Jane B&B, Coity Bach’s chickens, walking across Talybont Reservoir.
hosts about four million day visitors a year, compared with approximately eight million day visitors a year to the Lake District and a whopping 22 million day visitors to the Peak District. The absence of heavily populated areas in the park means that there is very little light pollution so it is a brilliant place to go and see stars at night. I spend a ‘dark sky’ evening with the Cardiff Astronomical Society, who teach me all about the solar system and the night sky. One of the society’s champions, Theresa Cooper, tells me that the Welsh Assembly Government has given its support to the British Astronomical Association’s Campaign for Dark Skies. The only place in Britain that currently has dark sky status is Galloway Forest Park in Scotland. From the visitor centre, I travel over to the historic village of Grosmont where I stay at a lovely B&B with an even lovelier name – Gentle Jane. Food is the focus at this B&B in a Grade II listed building. In 2009, its tearoom won the Gold Award in the Eating Out category of Wales the True Taste Awards in recognition of its devotion to serving local, seasonal food. Both Gentle Jane and Coity Bach are excellent examples of how the appetite for a greener form of tourism is now mainstream. Going green is no longer about sacrificing creature comforts on a wet weekend of hedge-laying. Nor indeed is it about going
on expensive conservation holidays in farflung, exotic locations. Choosing a greener holiday is about going on any kind of holiday but carefully selecting tourism businesses that are reducing their impact on the environment, in terms of energy and waste; and supporting decent, locally produced food.
— Going green is no longer about sacrificing creature comforts. —
After a hearty breakfast at Coity Bach, that includes delicious eggs from Cerys’s chickens, I drive in blissful sunshine past the Talybont Reservoir and over to the stunning Blaen-y-Glyn waterfalls in the heart of the woods. As the autumnal sun warms our backs, I’m extremely reluctant to leave. Henry Vaughan’s words, written four centuries ago, echo how I feel: So hills and valleys into singing break; And though poor stones have neither speech nor tongue, While active winds and streams both run and speak, Yet stones are deep in admiration.
So much to do, so much to see… Wales is a feast of nature and wonder when the leaves turn gold in autumn.
National Parks There are three National Parks in Wales. Snowdonia is the largest, with the highest mountain in Wales (Snowdon) and largest natural lake (Llyn Tegid). Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is Britain’s only truly coastal national park, with spectacular landscapes. For a small country, there’s a breathtaking remoteness to the Brecon Beacons, but there are also sheltered woodlands, reservoirs, waterfalls and caves. Snowdonia National Park eryri-npa.gov.uk Pembrokeshire Coast National Park pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk Brecon Beacons National Park breconbeacons.org
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) Wales has five AONBs – Gower, the very first (designated in 1956); Wye Valley, with its beautiful lowland scenery; the Lly^n Peninsula, a walking wonderland; the Clwydian Range, a 20 mile chain of undulating hills; and Anglesey, Wales’s largest island. Gower swansea.gov.uk /aonb Wye Valley wyevalleyaonb.org.uk Lly^n Peninsula ahne-llyn-aonb.org Clwydian Range clwydianrangeaonb.org.uk Anglesey anglesey.gov.uk/aonb
Wildlife Ospreys. Check. Red kites. Check. Minke whales. Check. Atlantic grey seals. And check. All wildlife you can spot in (or off) Wales. One of the best ways to see Wales’s wildlife is by visiting any of our network of nature reserves and RSPB centres. There are six Wildlife Trusts in Wales, with 230 reserves between them, about a dozen RSPB reserves and a National Wetland Centre, near Llanelli. Wildlife Trusts Wales wildlifetrustswales.org RSPB
rspb.org.uk/wales National Wetland Centre wwt.org.uk/llanelli 48
Green Attractions At GreenWood Forest Park, near Caernarfon, have a go on the world’s first environmentally-friendly rollercoaster, which generates more electricity than it uses. If you’ve a head for heights, take on the high ropes, tightropes and ladders in the sky at green award-winning Tree Top Adventures, Betws-y-Coed. The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), near Machynlleth, is one of the world’s most renowned eco-centres, with seven acres of interactive displays.
Conservation Holidays Put something back. A number of organisations run working holidays throughout Wales. You could join a Canal Camp on the Monmouthshire, Brecon and Abergavenny Canals. Or you might fancy carrying out a survey of moorland plants or dry stone walling with the National Trust. However, if you’re serious about sustainability, sign up to The Otesha Project’s 10-day sustainability course, which is hosted at the Fforest campsite, Cardigan Bay.
GreenWood Forest Park greenwoodforestpark.co.uk Tree Top Adventures ttadventure.co.uk Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) cat.org.uk
Waterway Recovery Group wrg.org.uk National Trust nationaltrust.org.uk / wales The Otesha Project otesha.org.uk
Award-Winning Places to Stay Five star Wern Watkin Bunkhouse, in the Brecon Beacons National Park, was winner of the Sustainable Tourism Award at the 2010 National Tourism Awards for Wales. The converted stone barn offers direct walking access to the mountainside, ancient woodland, caves, cliffs and industrial heritage. Commended in this category were Asheston Eco Barns at Newgale, Pembrokeshire and Coed Cae B&B, overlooking the Mawddach estuary.
Green Transport Ditch the sat nav (or should that be sat ‘nag’!). Public transport can be remarkably hassle-free, if you do your homework. For up-to-date, reliable public transport information including route planners, use Traveline Cymru: traveline-cymru.org.uk ‘Hop on, hop off’ bus services operate in each of the National Parks in order to try and cut down on traffic. The Pembrokeshire coastal buses run on recycled vegetable oil.
Wern Watkin Bunkhouse wernwatkin.co.uk Asheston Eco Barns eco-barns.co.uk Coed Cae coedcae.co.uk
Beacons Bus breconbeacons.org/visit-us/transport Pembrokeshire Coastal Bus Services pembrokeshire.gov.uk/coastbus Snowdon Sherpa snowdoniagreenkey.co.uk
Green Tourism Business Scheme The Green Tourism Business Scheme is a national sustainable tourism certification scheme which, following a successful regional pilot, is now being opened up to businesses across Wales. A number of Mid Wales businesses were awarded the Gold medal in 2010 including Wern Watkin Bunkhouse (see above) and Coity Bach Farm Cottages (see page 44). Businesses opting to join GTBS will be assessed against a rigorous set of criteria such as energy and water efficiency, waste management, biodiversity and more.
Small Changes, Big Difference Make your holiday’s environmental footprint that little bit smaller by following one, or all, of these tips: – Try taking a walking or cycling holiday. You’ll see Wales close up and go home feeling much healthier too! – Stay somewhere different – try an eco-barn, or a tipi, or a yurt, or even a Romany caravan! – Buy food, drink and souvenirs that are produced locally. This will cut air miles and boost the local economy. – Whether you take public transport or bring the car, only pack what you need for your trip, to reduce fuel consumption. Do you really need those seven pairs of shoes…?
For a full list of award holders in Wales, visit the Green Tourism Business Scheme website: green-business.co.uk/Wales.asp
Holy coast From sofa-surfing to the real thing, Iestyn George and his family don their wetsuits for a watersports adventure on the Gower Peninsula.
‘And here you’ll see two different types of heather…’ There are many words in the English language that are guaranteed to excite my two lovely children. Thirteen year-old Minnie is partial to the words chocolate, Facebook and shopping. Her 10 year-old brother, Finlay, is fond of the words Playstation, YouTube and Top Gear. To the best of their doting father’s knowledge, the word ‘heather’ doesn’t figure anywhere near the top of their lists, yet here we are up to our knees in the long grass on the highest point of Gower, admiring the rich variety of flora and fauna that flourish around us. Finlay has befriended three caterpillars – Flexi, Flexito and Brian – while Minnie, who normally wouldn’t let anything more exotic than a tomato pass her lips, is munching on some edible silver lichen. This is a welcome distraction from the kind of sporting itinerary that would take the spring out of the step of an Olympic decathlete. A dedicated group of sofa surfers (I include myself in that category), the idea is to cram as many different water-based activities as we can manage in a short space of time without developing webbing between our toes. Our coastal playground is the Gower Peninsula. I grew up on the edge of Britain’s first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This wondrous wilderness reaches out into the Bristol Channel from Swansea, Wales’s second city – it’s a bit like having Cornwall on the doorstep of Manchester. But while my childhood friends pulled on their winter wetsuits and hit the surf, I would happily watch from the shore, or even better, from the warmth of a car, with the heaters on full blast. There’s no hiding place this time. We put ourselves in the hands of the Venture Pursuits Team run by the City & County of Swansea council, which in school term time takes care of tens of thousands of children and young people from all over South Wales. The facilities are superb and everything works like clockwork, but that’s just the half of it. The heart and soul of the operation are the instructors. You might have heard of the mythical Welsh outside-half factory that would churn out the world’s best rugby players during the 1970s. It seems that the same can be said
Clockwise, from left: The George family, The Gower Peninsula, surfing.
of adventure sports instructors. Chris and Tony, who guide us every step of the way, are living the dream. They have over 30 years’ knowledge and experience between them. They make every step of the journey as enjoyable as a family afternoon in front of the telly with a boxed set of Terry Gilliam DVDs in one hand and a family-sized New York cheesecake in the other. Our first challenge is surfing. The venue is Rhossili, an expansive bay with Worm’s Head at one end jutting into the sea and the mountainous sand dunes of Llangennith at the other. Conditions are ideal for beginners and the kids take to it like the proverbial ducks to water. Finlay is first to his feet, riding the two feet waves to shore, and Minnie’s not far behind. Considering her father has watched Point Break a dozen times or more, I am little more than embarrassing, struggling to paddle out from the shore and demonstrating all the dexterity of a giraffe on rollerblades when trying to catch a wave.
— Our coastal playground is the Gower Peninsula. —
No matter. I believe the official terminology to describe the expression on the kids’ faces as they emerge from their first surfing lesson is ‘stoked’. Next up is the coasteering. In our list of watersports and related activities, this appears to be the most exotic. To an idiot layperson like myself it involves throwing oneself off a cliff, supremely confident in the knowledge that no danger lurks below. You wear a helmet and a buoyancy aid, which helps when you’re paddling your way around to the next jump. It’s terrific fun and daunting enough to make you proud of your achievement. It’s amazing seeing two children chuck themselves fearlessly into the surf below, empowered by the confidence given to them by their enthusiastic tutors.
We traverse parts of the Worm’s Head, exploring caves as we go. Minnie reminds us: ‘The last time we were here was on Christmas Day and we moaned about it being too cold.’ That day we were all wrapped up for a pre-feast stroll. Now we are all-action heroes for a day. Just as surfers on Gower have secret breaks far from prying eyes, Chris and Tony are reluctant to pinpoint the best places for coasteering, but they do mention ‘The Thing’, which as Tony succinctly describes: ‘Is high enough for you to change your mind on the way down.’ Best of all, though, are the expressions of people walking down the pathway along the Worm’s Head as we walk back to the van, helmets in hand and buoyancy aids slung across our shoulders. Their eyes say: ‘Wow, look at those fearless, devil-may-care adventurers.’ Little do they know…
— The kids are naturals, while their dad demonstrates his famous clumsiness in front of an audience of hundreds. —
Clockwise, from left: Tony leaps for freedom, an undignified clamber, exploring caves, trying hard and going nowhere, the glory of Gower, board rigid they were...
Offering yet another uninformed assessment, kayaking is rowing with grace and power – and the kind of sore shoulder muscles afterwards that make you feel like you’ve been wrestling a bear. But it’s worth it, really it is. We’re in Port Eynon, which I must have visited 50 times before without the slightest knowledge that it contains man-made oyster beds, the ruins of an old salt factory and clay beds that produces red ochre, used for painting, protecting sails and dyeing clothes. Our encyclopaedic action man Tony rarely pauses for breath. No wonder he’s so fit.
Just like the surfing, the kids are naturals, while their dad demonstrates his famous clumsiness in front of an audience of hundreds, colliding with Finlay, capsizing my kayak and condemning a waterproof camera to a watery grave. While the kids make a break for it in the direction of North Devon, I spend the next four and a half hours pacing up and down Port Eynon hoping the waves have washed the camera to shore. Finally, the tide retreats and the kids find the camera in exactly the spot it was lost. They celebrate like they’ve backed the heroic victor of The X Factor final and are handsomely rewarded with ice cream. Everyone’s a winner! Our final jaunt in this odyssey of water-based activities is sailing. The most traditional activity of the lot, by this point in our minimarathon an element of fatigue has set in and we are all grateful to be led to a relatively sheltered corner of Swansea Marina by our sailing teacher, Jonathan. It doesn’t need much to engender a sense of competition among the George family and within seconds of us having set sail, we’re nicking each other’s wind and squeezing past buoys as if an Olympic medal depended on it. Minnie demonstrates the most guile and determination of us all, which seems to be the qualities required for the task. If you can imagine a more intriguing version of dodgems, that just about sums up dinghy sailing the George way. Of all our activities, it provides the surprise hit. ‘That was great fun,’ says Finlay, before ploughing his way through a Nutella sandwich, the snack of champions throughout our watery escapade. So surfing, coasteering, kayaking and sailing all get a resounding thumbs-up, framed by the most scenic settings you could find anywhere in Britain. If you’re under the impression that this kind of adventure is only for the super-fit and hardy, then think again. If this bunch of lightweights can do it, anyone can. And for parental incentive, what can be better than the feeling of your teenage daughter reaching out to hold your hand, when you thought that sort of gesture was a thing of the past. OK, so it was uphill and she was tired, but still…
If this has inspired you to give the couch a holiday, head for visitwales.co.uk /active
Ditch the weekend DIY, come out to play in Wales instead. Our Visit Wales activity websites will point you in the right direction.
Wales comes well equipped for adventure. We have mountains for the mountain bikers, salmon rivers for the anglers and bogs for the bog snorkellers. And as we’re surrounded on three sides by sea, we’re pretty well off for water, too – including surf for the surfers. None of this depends on good weather, which is just as well because it has been known to rain occasionally in Wales. But that’s hardly a big issue when you’re hurtling down a mountain with your rear brakes burned out. And don’t let the end of summer dampen your enthusiasm. The sea in Wales is warmer in October than in July. Even when it does get chilly, you can always pack away your surfboard and go fishing for grayling on the River Wye instead. The information here should give you a few ideas. It contains some of our most popular pastimes on land and sea. One or two are fairly sedate. Some are for risk-takers and adrenaline junkies only. If you’re tackling some of these activities for the first time, make sure you sign up for expert instruction. Most instructors cater for all ages, levels of experience and grades of fitness. Our Visit Wales websites will point you in the right direction. So what are you waiting for? Go play.
Adventure If you’ve a passion for adventure you can choose the challenge in Wales. Have a go at coasteering. First, kit yourself out in a wetsuit, helmet and buoyancy aid. Then, do everything your mum told you not to: climb, swim, slip, slide and scramble your way along the rugged coastline before throwing yourself off the cliffs into the swirling waves below. If that doesn’t appeal there’s always rock climbing, white water rafting, canyoning, caving, scrambling or paragliding.
Fishing There’s a lot of game fishing to boast about here in Wales. There are 22,000 acres of lakes, 2,400 miles of sea trout rivers, and 2,450 miles of wild brown trout rivers here. You’ll find big crafty carp in our course fisheries, wild brown trout in the tumbling Teifi and Usk, and salmon in world-famous rivers such as the Dee, Wye and Severn. The ultimate fly-fishing challenge is for sea trout (or sewin). The River Tywi in Carmarthenshire is simply the best sea trout river in Europe and a path has recently been created to improve access to the river for anglers and visitors.
Mountain Biking Wales is only half the size of The Netherlands, yet its forests and valleys offer the most mountain biking options in the UK. We have 13 dedicated mountain bike centres and bases, delivering a nerve-tingling experience all year round, whatever the weather. We do slalom singletracks like Cwmcarn in the South Wales Valleys and remote wilderness epics like Nant yr Arian in Mid Wales. Each winter sees more routes and trails added and thanks to the free-draining Welsh geology, the average route is just as good in the wet as in the dry.
Walking Wales is a strong contender for the best walking country in Europe, maybe even the world. It’s not just the 500 miles of National Trails, the five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the treasure trove of Welsh history or the astonishingly ancient landscape. It’s the sheer variety packed into such a relatively small space. Work continues to create the Wales Coast Path, which by 2012 will provide walkers, cyclists and horse riders a continuous 850-mile path running right around the coastline.
Golf Wales was proud to host The Ryder Cup in October 2010. And what a thrilling Ryder Cup it turned out to be, with Europe clinching victory over the US right at the death. But that was just the start. There’s a whole nation of golf to explore – over 200 courses – from outstanding links courses like Royal Porthcawl and Royal St David’s, or laid back courses like clifftop Cardigan or Cradoc, and nine-hole hilly delights at St Davids City and Priskilly Forest. Golf in Wales has it all – whether you’re looking for a challenging 18-hole course, just want to ‘pay and play’ or practise your swing at the driving range.
Watersports If you’ve ever wondered what snowboarding on water might be like then wakeboarding is for you, an exciting mix of snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding that has fast become the coolest and most fun way to take to the water. Or why not give windsurfing a go. Blasting along the beautiful Welsh coastline at 30 knots might sound a bit much to achieve in one holiday, but it’s within most people’s grasp. Sea kayaking is the perfect way to discover the Welsh coastline – there are caves you can paddle into, beaches you can’t reach on foot, and you might be lucky enough to spot seals and dolphins.
From the grandest views in Snowdonia to fairies playing in the waves of Ceredigion, everyone has their favourite little spot in Wales. Here are just a few of them…
Between Machynlleth and Llanidloes 52° 28’ 41” N, 3° 36’ 52” W
Anna Heywood, Drover Holidays
If you go by bike, you can smell the gorse as you twist and turn past Llyn Clywedog. A star-topped bronze monument marks the high point of the LÔn Las Cymru longdistance cycle route and then, finally, you top out and begin the swoop down to Machynlleth. It's a blast. Dolwyddelan Castle 53° 3’ 12” N, 3° 53’ 53” W
Jessica Loveland, via Facebook
It’s my favourite place in the world. I was there once in the middle of a storm surrounded by sheep sheltering within the walls - beautiful.
Aberaeron 52° 14’ 32’’ N, 4° 15’ 33’’ W
Huw Edwards, broadcaster
Rated by many (me included) as the prettiest town on the Welsh coastline. I feel at home there. Afan Forest Park
51° 41’ 6” N, 3° 10’ 40” W
53° 8’ 49’’ N, 4° 7’ 33’’ W
Jason Morgan, via Facebook
Ceris Jane Davies, via Facebook
The walks and views around the Afan Valley are amazing.
I spent every summer holiday as a child nestled between two hills near Caernarfon. Bliss!
Cwmllynfell 51° 47’ 58’’ N, 3° 49’ 5’’ W
Rita Wood, via Facebook
I was evacuated there and I loved the Black Mountains, the scenery and the life people led there. People greeted you even if they didn’t know you. I remember it very fondly.
Bardsey Island 52° 45’ 36’’ N, 4° 47’ 30’’ W
Bryn Terfel, opera and concert singer
You’re greeted by a welcoming choir of lazy seals when you arrive, the perfect introduction to the astonishing tranquillity of Bardsey.
The Ceredigion Hinterlands 52° 28’ 1” N, 3° 47’ 0” W
Niall Griffiths, author
They epitomise wild Wales; sparsely populated, dotted with megaliths and ruins. Pumlumon. Pendam. Just the names ring and echo with true and pure escape. Tywyn and the Dysynni Valley 52° 35’ 1” N, 4° 5’ 21” W
David Mees, via Facebook
Home of the Talyllyn Railway! Stunning scenery best viewed from a steam train!
The Dyffryn Arms, Pontfaen 51° 58’ 33” N, 4° 51’ 58” W
Marc Evans, film director
It’s a place that always draws me back, where Welsh is still spoken the way my grandmother spoke it, and Bessie’s Bass always tastes great. Coed Pen y Pigyn, Denbighshire 52° 58’ 47” N, 3° 22’ 11” W
Ann Nicholas, via Facebook
The top of the woodland trail looks over the Dee Valley. We used to look down on the whole of Corwen and think we were the greatest.
Swansea Market 51° 37’ 9’’ N, 3° 56’ 42’’ W
Margaret John, actress (and the legendary ‘Doris’ in Gavin and Stacey)
My father would go there on Saturday to buy Welsh bacon which was about an inch thick and mostly fat - cockles and laverbread. It would set him up just right for the weekend.
Tenby 51° 40’ 22’’ N, 4° 42’ 9’’ W
Nicky Wire, songwriter
I see the world I grew up in. Loving. Safe. Pre-digital. Beach cricket. Ice cream. Rock pools. Uninhibited joy and wonderment.
The Lly^n Peninsula
52° 8’ 7’’ N, 4° 38’ 5’’ W
52° 49’ 26” N, 4° 30’ 25” W
Joie Parris, via Facebook
Anna & Miles James, Yr Helyg – The Willows Caravan and Camping Park
I used to go to Mwnt Bay when I was little with my Gran. She called me a fairy of the waves, running in and out of the sea. Memories...
The Sugar Loaf Mountain 51° 51’ 44’’ N, 3° 3’ 31’’ W
Jonathan Carthew, Black Mountains Smokery
It’s the first proper mountain you come across on the drive from London to Mid Wales, with views over the Brecon Beacons as far down as the Bristol Channel.
It’s the remoteness that makes it special, the lack of traffic, the undeveloped land. Green, uncommercialised, unchanged in appearance for hundreds of years. Monknash 51° 25’ 23’’ N, 3° 33’ 29’’ W
Tony Price, via Facebook
The beach, which is on the Glamorgan Heritage Coast, has been a family favourite for four generations. Follow us on:
Read our blog at blog.visitwales.co.uk
Wales is divided into 14 distinct areas, each with its own individual character. Allow us to introduce you.
Meet our holiday areas
The Valleys 58
The Isle of Anglesey Anglesey offers unparalleled beauty, amazing adventures, serious solitude and a warm welcome. Easily accessible, Anglesey’s coastline, varied beaches and historical towns make it a superb base for all the family. +44 (0)1248 713177 visitanglesey.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org 2a
Llandudno and Colwyn Bay Vibrant Llandudno, the Victorian seaside gem. World Heritage Conwy. Waterfront adventure at Colwyn Bay. Year-round breaks, filled with fun, good food, great walking and world-class theatre. All within easy reach of Snowdonia. +44 (0)1492 577577 visitllandudno.org.uk email@example.com
Snowdonia Mountains and Coast Highlights are the Snowdonia National Park, Lly^n Peninsula and the Cambrian coastline. Discover its castles, narrow-gauge railways, golf, cycling, walking, World Heritage Sites, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Heritage Coast. +44 (0)1341 281485 (24hr) visitsnowdonia.info firstname.lastname@example.org 05
Mid Wales and the Brecon Beacons Step into fabulous walking country, right on your doorstep. Two National Trails and a National Park, charming spa and market towns, outdoor pursuits in outstanding scenery. Home to the Hay Literary Festival and Brecon Jazz. +44 (0)1874 622485 exploremidwales.com email@example.com
Rhyl and Prestatyn Among the best recognised British seaside resorts, with award-winning beaches, a range of family-friendly attractions, events and activities. Walk the Offa’s Dyke Path in Prestatyn. An hour’s drive from Merseyside and the West Midlands. +44 (0)1745 344515/355068 visitrhylandprestatyn.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org 03
The North Wales Borderlands Short journey: very different place. From the world-famous Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod to the culinary delights of the Mold Food and Drink Festival, to the exhilaration of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site. +44 (0)1978 292015 northwalesborderlands.co.uk email@example.com
Ceredigion – Cardigan Bay and the Cambrian Mountains Some of the UK’s finest coast and countryside, ideal for mountain biking, cycling, walking, sailing and angling. Holiday areas include Aberporth, Tresaith, Llangrannog, New Quay, Aberaeron, Aberystwyth, Borth, Cardigan, the Teifi Estuary, Devil’s Bridge and the Cambrian Mountains. +44 (0)1970 612125 tourism.ceredigion.gov.uk firstname.lastname@example.org 07
Carmarthenshire – Carmarthen Bay Stretching from Carmarthen Bay in the south to the western Brecon Beacons in the north, discover Wales’s longest beaches, pretty market towns, the National Botanic Gardens of Wales and the home of Merlin the magician. Perfect for fishing, cycling and walking. +44 (0)1267 231557 discovercarmarthenshire.com carmarthentic@ carmarthenshire.gov.uk 09
Swansea Bay, Mumbles, Gower, Afan and the Vale of Neath Unwind in the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, relax on award-winning beaches and explore unspoilt countryside. Some of the UK’s best locations for walking, cycling, watersports and golf, plus the city of Swansea, Wales’s Waterfront City. visitswanseabay.com +44 (0)1792 468321 email@example.com
Cardiff, Capital of Wales The capital of Wales has unique attractions, top-class entertainment and quality shopping. Cardiff Castle, the Millennium Stadium, the National Museum Cardiff and Wales Millennium Centre combined with Cardiff Bay offer entertainment for all weathers and seasons. +44 (0)8701 211258 visitcardiff.com firstname.lastname@example.org 12
The Glamorgan Heritage Coast and Countryside The dramatic Heritage Coast and popular resorts of Barry Island and Porthcawl are fringed by the lovely Vale and Bridgend countryside and green hills. Discover an area steeped in history, that’s close to Wales’s cosmopolitan capital, Cardiff, too. +44 (0)1446 704868 +44 (0)1656 815332 visitthevale.com visitbridgend.com email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
The Valleys – Heart and Soul of Wales A stunning landscape perfect for outdoor pursuits. The Valleys has unique historical attractions, including a World Heritage Site, Wales’s largest castle and Big Pit, the real coal mine attraction. For a true Welsh experience, visit The Valleys – the heart and soul of Wales. +44 (0)29 2088 0011 thevalleys.co.uk email@example.com
The Wye Valley and Vale of Usk Food lovers flock here. Maybe it's because Monmouthshire’s officially the ‘best food destination’ in Wales. Or it could just be because there are so many ways to work up an appetite. Like walking some of our 1,000 miles of footpath or paragliding from the Blorenge Mountain. +44 (0)1633 644842 visitwyevalley.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Pembrokeshire Choose between lively Tenby and Saundersfoot or peaceful St Davids and Newport. No other county in the UK has more Blue Flag Award beaches, all set in the magnificent Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Perfect for outdoor activities or just relaxing. +44 (0)8705 103103 visitpembrokeshire.com email@example.com
Wales is easy to get to. It’s a big plus point. We’re just a few hours by road and rail from most of the UK’s main centres. And if you’re visiting us from Ireland, you have the choice of ferries to both North and South Wales or direct flights to Cardiff Airport.
M90 Glasgow M8
Newcastle upon Tyne A1(M)
M6 A1 Leeds Dublin Dun Laoghaire
Mileage/times supplied by theaa.com
A470 A40 A470
Getting to Wales
M1 M6 Nottingham
Kingston upon Hull Grimsby
Birmingham M6 M54
M42 Coventry M50 M5 Ross-on-Wye Monmouth M40
Journey time by car
Birmingham – Aberystwyth
Canterbury – Cardiff
Coventry – Barmouth
Exeter – Swansea
Leeds – Llandudno
London – Cardiff
London – Tenby
Manchester – Caernarfon
Nottingham – Swansea
Peterborough – Aberystwyth
Newcastle -upon-Tyne – Llandudno
Reading – Carmarthen
York – Welshpool
By road National Express provides a nationwide network of express coach services linking major towns and cities in Wales as well as the UK’s principal destinations. Funfares are available exclusively online for as little as £1 (one way), subject to availability. nationalexpress.com Megabus provides low cost intercity travel in the UK, with buses running from a number of major UK cities to Cwmbran, Newport and Cardiff. Prices from £1 plus 50p booking fee (one way). megabus.com By rail In the UK, fast and frequent rail services run between London Paddington and Cardiff, taking only two hours. There is a half-hourly departure to Cardiff Central, with an hourly continuation to Swansea and onward connections to West Wales. Direct trains to North Wales depart from London Euston. There’s also a rail service between London Marylebone, Shrewsbury and Wrexham. Hourly services also run from Manchester to the North Wales coast. For general rail enquiries: 08457 484950/ +44 (0)20 7278 5240 nationalrail.co.uk thetrainline.com
By sea Ferry crossings from Ireland to ports in Wales: Fastnet Line fastnetline.com Cork – Swansea Journey time: 11 – 12 hours (overnight) Irish Ferries irishferries.com Dublin Port – Holyhead Journey time: 3 hrs 15mins (cruise ferry)/ 1hr 49mins (fast ferry) Rosslare – Pembroke Journey time: 4 hours Stena Line stenaline.ie Dublin Port – Holyhead Journey time: 3hrs 15mins Dun Laoghaire – Holyhead Journey time: 2 hours Rosslare – Fishguard Journey time: 3hrs 30mins By air Cardiff Airport is situated in Rhoose, 12 miles (20 kms) south west of Cardiff. Buses, trains and taxis link the airport to the city centre. Taxis cost approximately £26, a booking office is located outside the arrivals hall. Bus service X91 operates between Cardiff Central station and Cardiff Airport every two hours during the day, seven days a week. The journey takes approximately 35 minutes, with pick up and drop off points situated in front of the terminal building. A rail link connects the airport station to Cardiff Central and Bridgend. Trains run every hour from Monday to Saturday and every two hours on Sundays. A complimentary shuttle bus service is available between the terminal building and the station for passengers with a valid train ticket. Car hire is also available. +44 (0)1446 711111 tbicardiffairport.com
A number of airlines offer direct flights to Cardiff from other parts of the UK and Ireland – check out their websites for details: Aer Arann Serving: Dublin aerarann.com Air Southwest Serving: Newquay airsouthwest.com bmibaby Serving: Belfast (International), Edinburgh and Jersey bmibaby.com Eastern Airways Serving: Newcastle easternairways.com Flybe Serving: Belfast (City), Edinburgh, Glasgow and Jersey flybe.com Manx2 Serving: Anglesey manx2.com Travel within Wales Rail services run through the regions of Wales – usually on highly scenic routes such as the Cambrian Coast, Conwy Valley and Heart of Wales lines. For more information: nationalrail.co.uk arrivatrainswales.co.uk scenicwales.co.uk heart-of-wales.co.uk For pure pleasure why not take a ride on some of our 14 narrow gauge and steam railways? Many are members of the Great Little Trains of Wales. greatlittletrainsofwales.co.uk
When you’re out and about in the National Parks, use the convenient park and ride bus services designed to cut down on traffic: Brecon Beacons National Park (Beacons Bus) breconbeacons.org / visit-us / transport Pembrokeshire Coast National Park (Celtic Coaster, Coastal Cruiser, Poppit Rocket, Puffin Shuttle and Strumble Shuttle) pembrokeshire.gov.uk /coastbus Snowdonia National Park (Snowdon Sherpa) snowdoniagreenkey.co.uk The Freedom of Wales Flexi Pass offers unlimited travel on all mainline rail services in Wales plus most scheduled bus services. Holders will also benefit from free or discounted travel on some of the narrow gauge Great Little Trains of Wales and discounted entry to many of Wales’s tourist attractions. A number of ticket options are available – The 4 in 8 Day All Wales Pass (£78) allows four days’ train and eight days’ bus travel and the Freedom of South Wales Flexi Rover and North and Mid Wales Rover (£54 each) allow 4 days’ train and 8 days’ bus travel within each regional area. walesflexipass.co.uk For up-to-date and reliable public transport information including route planners use Traveline Cymru. traveline-cymru.org.uk
There’s a good local bus service too, and a cross-country long distance network between North and South Wales. traveline-cymru.org.uk
Carr Golf Travel 01 822 6662 carrgolf.com Celtic Horizon Tours 01 629 2000 celtichorizontours.com Emerald Elite 01 895 8966 emeraldelite.com Gateway Ireland 0504 24004 Golf Vacations Ireland Ltd. 01 624 6366 golfvacationswales.com Golf VIP Ireland Ltd. 01 281 9375 golfvipireland.com Irish & English Tours 07 198 51999 King Travel 01 845 3600 kingtravel.ie / kingbreaks.ie
Travel agents and tour operators in Ireland
Limerick Travel 061 20 4444 letsgotravel.ie Mangan Tours 074 91 28410 mangantours.ie Manning Travel 056 77 22950 TomManningTravel.com PAB Travel & Tours
01 87 33411 pabtours.com Tullys Travel 059 91 36100 tullys.ie
For a comprehensive list of UK tour operators go to: visitwales.co.uk / things-to-do-in-wales/tour-operators 62
To make it really easy to book your holiday or short break in Wales you could use a tour operator. There are a number of Irish companies who offer Wales-based holidays. They often have specialist knowledge of particular products and will be happy to help you find the right holiday to suit your needs. The following operators offer everything from tailor made packages to ready-to-go golfing breaks to Wales.
Find out more by choosing some of the FREE guides featured on this page. You can order or download them from visitwales.co.uk/brochures Alternatively, fill in and send back the tear-off reply card at the back of the magazine, or call +44 (0)8701 211256.
Free brochures and FAQs
Frequently asked questions How do I know I’m booking good quality accommodation? When choosing your holiday accommodation, look for the Cymru/Wales quality mark of Wales’s official, nationwide quality assessment scheme. Visit Wales and the AA are the only checking agents in Wales, checking out over 5,000 places. Both assess holiday accommodation to the same criteria and award one to five stars, based on the facilities and overall quality of the experience. Also look out for that extra-special property that has been awarded Visit Wales’s Gold Award, given for exceptional standards of hospitality, comfort and food in serviced accommodation. For more information on the Cymru/Wales Quality Assessment scheme, star ratings and to get direct access and links to all of Wales’s quality assessed accommodation go to: visitwales.co.uk /holiday-accommodationin-wales Where can I find holiday information for people with special needs? Tourism for All is a free specialist information service promoting accessible tourism. It offers free guidance on travel planning, transport, accommodation and booking. tourismforall.org.uk
Wales – Where to Stay Visit Wales graded hotels, guest houses, farmhouses, B&Bs, self catering cottages, caravans and camping, plus travel information and events.
Farm Stay Wales The genuine countryside experience providing quality serviced and self catering accommodation in rural Wales. farmstaywales.co.uk
Wales Golf Enjoy golf the Welsh way – unhurried, unstuffy and inexpensive. With over 200 courses to choose from, you’ll have no problem finding something to suit your preference, handicap and pocket. golfasitshouldbe.com
Fishing Wales With endless coastline and countless rivers and lakes, it’s no wonder Wales is an angler’s paradise. fishing.visitwales.com
I’d like to learn Welsh before my visit – where do I start? Take a look at the following websites to pick up some basics: bbc.co.uk/wales/learnwelsh learnons4c.co.uk If you’d like to learn Welsh in Wales, the Nant Gwrtheyrn Welsh Language & Heritage Centre specialises in residential courses for adults learning Welsh. nantgwrtheyrn.org Where can I get local tourist information? For up-to-date information on short One of the simplest and quickest ways of breaks and proper holidays in Wales, go getting local information is by calling in to to the official web site visitwales.co.uk one of our Tourist Information Centres. The staff are highly trained, have an excellent knowledge of the area and will be delighted to help you with booking your accommodation, finding places to eat, things to do, routes to take, national and local events and obtaining maps, guides and books. Normally, offices are open between 10.00 and 17.00. For a list of Tourist Information Centres see: visitwales.co.uk /contact-visit-wales
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