We have a friend who is off to South Wales for a couple of days and luckily we have been there and done that… She wanted to know if we had any ideas of things to do and places to see – of course we do!!!
When I started blogging, one of the first series I wrote was on our trip to London that we took in the days when we just had five kids… and life was simple. After two weeks of dashing around London visiting sites and museums and not getting too much rest, we headed for Wales to visit some friends.
Wales was a welcome respite and this is a bit of a travel diary of what we did while we were there. Naturally, there are heaps more places to visit, but these are the spots we stopped by while we were there and so I can share what we found.
I think the part we liked most was the pretty countryside. After being in a hotel in London for quite a while it was great to stay with friends in the countryside and just completely chill out. We did a lot of ambling round the country side (no hikes for us thank you very much) and even more picnics. Even though it rained everyday there was always a patch of sunshine at picnic time – really perfect! Have a look at the countryside and see why we loved it… roads there are so cute, I took heaps of pictures just of roads and the pretty pretty roadsides!
The other thing about Wales is castles – in fact castles could well be the main feature!!! Every single site we went to see we stopped at a castle first on the way. And at every castle we decided that “this one” was the ultimate castle! They are all different and unique and make history come alive, when you can walk through the rooms and roam the castle walls you can really imagine living there. Hmmmm, cold draughty halls where I couldn’t stand to raise my children… so much for the good old days!
Here we go:
Spot 1 – Tintern Abbey:
We arrived in Wales after a very long day and as we crossed the Severn River day turned into night.
The directions our friends gave were not very direct and we went on a brief tour of South Wales in the pitch dark and pouring rain with five sleeping kids – heaven. We came upon Tintern Abbey as we drove up the Valley. It stood out like the ancient ruin that it is all lit up against the night. It was totally beautiful and we rushed back to see it the next day. This Abbey is quite possibly the most beautiful place on earth and I wouldn’t go to Wales without stopping by. A huge ruin and where once stained glass windows must have been the windows are now open to the forest and sky. Can you see this church filled with people all singing hymns together, how awesome is that?
On the first and third Saturday of the month and well worth a visit. This is lovely, lots of homegrown goodies to choose from. We bought ourselves a picnic: Goats cheese, fresh bread and apple juice worth dying for. Then we headed for Usk Castle, which is a beautiful spot up the hill above town, surrounded by forests and woodlands. Rolling green grass and castle ruins, really a stunning stunning spot. I suppose because it was our first Welsh Castle it will always be our favorite!
Spot 3 – Caldicott Castle:
We stopped off at Caldicott Castle, on the day of a garden sale, which meant free entrance and our first look at a UK boot sale! We explored this castle from top to bottom there were rooms for kids that were very appealing: Medieval dress-up in one, Ancient hands on games in other, we were amazed at the amount of stuff that was touchable and explorable. It was a great start to our day and certainly fixed “castles and all things medieval” in the mind of us and our kids forever.
From their we went on to the Roman ruins at Caerleon Amphitheatre where we had yet another picnic on historic grounds and were able to vividly imagine the life of a Roma. There are also Roman baths to explore 200 m down the road. Attached to the Roman Ruins is The National Roman Legion Museum, which is a great spot to explore all things Roman. They have real live barracks to explore, you can see how the Roman soldiers lived day to day, there is a brilliant kids section where dressing up as a Legionnaire is expected – don’t miss the kids section just because you are an adult there is a lot to learn and fiddle with there!
Spot 5 – Caerphilly Castle:
On the way to The Welsh Museum of Life we stopped at Caerphilly Castle. We explored the castle and there is a lot to explore here. It has restored parapets and working life size siege engines. Really it is very impressive to see these machines for real, they are so much more impressive than when you see them in a school book. This castle has a magnificent great hall where you can totally imagine a medieval banquet in play!
Spot 6 – The Welsh Museum of Life:
And then on to The Welsh Museum of Life… Here you can talk a walk through time popping in and out of houses and shops from the past. We loved that there is a person at each dwelling to tell you who lived there in the past and a couple of factoids about the building. There are not just homes and farms, but a chapel, a school, a shop, a bakery and a real sweetie shop selling freshly made sweets.
There was a farm house half the size of our front hall where a family with 13 kids lived – how on earth!!! We loved the kitchen table that was rough and ready on the one side, for every day use and smooth and shiny on the other side for guests. And another 200 year old farmhouse that I could have moved into straight away… well less the associated livestock maybe. The street of crofters houses was just lovely and the post-war prefab house had another kitchen table quirk. Under their kitchen table was the bath, since all the plumbing was in the kitchen! There is also a new feature since we have been there and that is exploring the surrounding woodlands and if you are looking for great woodland printables for school then go and look at their site.
We loved this museum there was lots of place to run around and let off steam… and plenty of place to play hide and seek. Allow a good chunk of time for this it will take hours (half a day minimum) and it is worth taking a picnic to have in the woods.
Spot 7 – Chepstow Castle:
We stayed with friends near Chepstow, so naturally the last spot to visit was Chepstow Castle. It was a very glum visit (nobody wanted to be leaving!). But what a castle and our spirits were soon lifted this is yet another perfect castle with heaps of turrets to clamber and the Wye river for a moat – brilliant! We totally loved it – What’s not to love!
Now before I finish I could have said at the end of each spot that there is a fantastic shop for buying goodies… but I saved it to the end so that I only have to say it once. Each site we visited had a great shop attached to it. They sold guide books and postcards of course. It was the little replica goodies that got me. Great stuff for kids as well… really the shops at spots are well worth a visit.
Next week I will pop in a post on what we did en-route between London and Wales and back again!!! That’s it virtual touring, a great way to travel!!!