Wales 2014


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Wales 2014

  1. 1. WalesView alesView 14 2014 Coast & Country: award-winning beaches & mountain waterfalls A tale of two cities: an insider’s guide to Swansea & Cardiff Chris Packham: celebrating the natural wonder of Wales Adventure playground: mountain biking in Wales Matthew Rhys: celebrating the life of Dylan Thomas Plus travel and holiday information ––
  2. 2. For a tiny piece of the planet, there is rather a lot to see and do in Wales. We like to keep ourselves entertained, with festivals, anniversary celebrations and sporting events. You can see this reflected in the natural enthusiasm of the people of Wales. We use the country as our playground. It provides us with wonderful food and inspires us to create great works of art and literature. Wales is a modern, diverse country with a great heritage for everyone to enjoy; and we look forward to sharing all these memorable experiences with you. Front cover Rhossili, Gower Peninsula This page Dylan Thomas’s Writing Shed, The Boathouse, Laugharne Opposite page, top to bottom Matthew Rhys Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire Mission Gallery, Swansea Conwy Castle, Conwy BikePark Wales Welsh produce
  3. 3. Contents Dylan Thomas 42 Myths & legends Actor Matthew Rhys on Wales’s best-known literary figure, kicking off a year of centenary celebrations in 2014. Magical stories from all over Wales, featuring an assortment of dragons, water monsters and fairies. ales on film W Visit the beauty spots that drew Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley and Dobby the House Elf to Wales. Follow in the footsteps of royals down the centuries and you’ll end up in Anglesey, former home of Prince William and Kate. 8 2 2 46 Mountain biking 6 8 Coast country BBC television presenter Chris Packham celebrates the wildlife of Wales, alongside your guide to its great gardens, beaches, islands and waterfalls. 20 20 A tale of two cities International wheelchair athlete and television presenter Liam Holt explores the visitor attractions of Cardiff and Swansea. 40 26 On the town celebration of the historic A market towns of Wales. 44 Royal connections Discover why Wales has become a leading destination for mountain bikers from all over the world. 50 Adrenaline Wales Wales View’s youngest contributor tells us what it’s like to fly 500 feet (152 metres) in the air along the longest zip wire in Europe. 54 Food drink Whether you’re foraging or feasting, the natural produce grown in Wales is unrivalled for freshness and flavour. 28 Events diary Visit Wales cannot guarantee the accuracy or reliability of the information in this publication and hereby disclaim any responsibility for any error, omission or misrepresentation. To the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for loss, disappointment, negligence or other damage caused by reliance on the information contained in this guide is excluded. You are advised to check all details and information with the business concerned before confirming a reservation. All rights reserved. Material in this publication must not be reproduced in any form without permission from the copyright owners – please contact Visit Wales. Opinions expressed in Wales View are not necessarily those of Visit Wales. on, spoil yourself... Go 40 The castles of Wales Travel information, area guides to Wales and FAQs. appetising guide to a selection An of the 641 historic castles we have in Wales. 54 60 In the lap of luxury Why not book your Welsh break around one of the exciting events taking place here in 2014? 46 68 Wales View is published by Visit Wales, the Tourism and Marketing division of the Welsh Government ©2014. Visit Wales, Welsh Government, QED Centre, Main Avenue, Treforest Industrial Estate, Treforest, Pontypridd CF37 5YR (WG18041) Managing Editors Iestyn George and Charles Williams. Printed by Westdale Press. Print ISBN: 978 1 4734 0418 2 Digital ISBN: 978 1 4734 0409 0 Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales 62 Essential information Wales map Design photography: Visit Wales Creative Services. Other photography: Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, Celtic Manor Resort, Grace Elliott, David Frost, Getty Image, Steve Hartley/ CBMWC, Charles Hawes, Gweldd Conwy Feast, Ian Jones, Rainy Day Films, Steve Read, Kiran Ridley, Lee Miller Archives, S4C, Nick Treharne, Universal Studios, Wales Screen Commission, Wright’s Independent Food Emporium and Ynys-Hir RSPB. This publication is also available in Braille, large-format print, and/or audio from Visit Wales. Printed on recycled paper Back cover quotation: from Idyll of Unforgetfulness by Dylan Thomas – © The Trustees for the copyright of Dylan Thomas, 1929. 1
  4. 4. Being Dylan So why does Dylan Thomas mean so much to Wales? Who better to ask than Matthew Rhys, the Cardiffborn actor who played the mercurial poet so brilliantly in The Edge of Love. Interview by Charles Williams Main Matthew Rhys as Dylan Thomas in The Edge of Love Opposite clockwise from top left Matthew Rhys and Sienna Miller in The Edge of Love Sienna Miller and Kiera Knightley filming in Wales Best friends Matthew Rhys and Ioan Gruffudd 2 O n a Sunday morning, a black-clad jogger trots up to the Wales View editorial door. The jogger pulls off his beanie and a mop of curls springs out, a wide smile not far below. ‘I’ve been up the Taff Trail,’ beams Matthew Rhys, who’s just been running along the long-distance path that skirts the Cardiff suburb where he was born. ‘I love it, I run up there whenever I’m back home.’ The 39-year-old radiates health and happiness. He’s a delightful, energising presence, talking quickly in his mellifluous baritone. He throws in impressions and accents for free (many of them American, because that’s where he’s now based, in Los Angeles). He laughs, a lot. Matthew Rhys is not an actor of the tortured variety, clearly. ‘Life is good,’ he agrees. He’s currently the star of one of the world’s biggest TV shows, The Americans, in which he plays a Soviet KGB spy living a chillingly tense undercover existence in Washington DC during the Cold War. Still, it’s not half as scary as being Dylan Thomas. Rhys played the iconic poet in The Edge of Love, a role which required him to be one-third of a love-triangle with two of the most beautiful stars of British film, Keira Knightley and Sienna Miller. Tough job? Yes, actually. ‘I was terrified!’ laughs Rhys. ‘Everyone in Wales has this incredibly strong sense of who Dylan should be. But there’s no footage of him, we’ve only got his voice recordings. So no-one really knows who he is. When I was researching the role, I tried to read as many people’s accounts of him as I could, to try and get an image of him. I spoke to his daughter Aeronwy as well, who gave me a good few pointers. She said, ‘His hands were like two dead fish,’ which I thought was wonderful!’ As an actor, Rhys is awestruck by Dylan’s dazzling way with words. But does he also think the poet would have
  5. 5. Arts and culture Dylan Thomas been an interesting chap to share a pint with? ‘I do, actually, although from what I read, not everyone who met him liked him. He had the wit, along with the everpresent Welsh darkness, and very little patience.’ So why does he remain such an iconic figure to the Welsh? ‘Ah, we love our archetypes in Wales,’ says Rhys. ‘The big drinker, the carouser, the no-good-boyo. Dylan’s image fitted incredibly well. And he was irreverent at a time you weren’t supposed to be, the 1950s. It’s not really in the Welsh DNA. We haven’t got many hellraisers, but Thomas stuck two fingers up at it all and lived the life he wanted. on full twee overdrive and found this amazing pub in Aberaeron and I got a Welsh folk band in,’ says Rhys. ‘What was so gratifying was how much they loved it. The girls [Knightley and Miller] loved Wales, they were like, “Oh my God, we need to move here!’” If they had, the local farmers would have remained utterly unfazed by two of the world’s most beautiful actresses, reckons Rhys. They were certainly less impressed by Rhys’s acting than his local farming connections. ‘One farmer said to me, “I know who you are. You’re Kevin Evans’s cousin, aren’t you? He runs a thousand acres up near Aberystwyth, doesn’t he? Beautiful dairy he’s got...”’ ‘Thomas lived the life he wanted, on his own terms. That’s quietly admired in the chapels.’ Richard Burton was exactly the same. They lived their lives on their own terms. In our nation’s psyche, that’s quietly admired in the chapels.’ There was a modest amount of roistering during the making of The Edge of Love, which was filmed on location in West Wales, land of Rhys’s own ancestors. ‘I was determined to put on a proper Welsh night, so I went It’s a typical Welsh characteristic – a refusal to be impressed – that never fails to amuse Rhys, even when he’s on the receiving end … which he is, every time he comes back home and goes to the pub with his school friends. ‘They feel almost duty-bound to make sure that if I ever dream of thinking myself above my station, I should be put back in my place – or lower, just to make sure. i Matthew Rhys grew up in Cardiff, where both his parents were teachers. He went to the same Welsh-language school as his best friend Ioan Gruffudd, and the pair trained together at RADA. He won acclaim in the hit US TV series Brothers Sisters and currently stars in the spy thriller The Americans. His stage work includes The Graduate with Kathleen Turner, several Royal Shakespeare Company productions, and a recent revival of Look Back In Anger in New York. For an extended version of this interview, and to find out about Matthew Rhys’s favourite places in Wales, see 3
  6. 6. It’s almost like “hazing”, as they say in America. You have to go through the first 15 minutes in the pub where you’re torn to bits, and then you can get on with catching up.’ Rhys went to his local Welsh-language comprehensive school in Cardiff, where he was the year below his best friend, the actor Ioan Gruffudd. They went to the same chapel, and competed in the same school eisteddfod, the performing arts competition in which almost every Welsh child – especially those in Welshlanguage schools – takes part. ‘We’re kicked onto a stage, or into a pulpit, from a young age,’ says Rhys. ‘I didn’t always like it as a child, but when you look back, it’s amazing. That level of celebration of culture, combined with a sense of tradition and history – it’s great, as long as it keeps evolving. And even if you hate being on stage, somewhere in your psyche it will help you. It encourages confidence and teamwork, which sounds like corporate cliché, but I genuinely believe it.’ Rhys followed Gruffudd to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), an experience they found both priceless and shockingly hard. While their friends who went to university seemed to be living lives of raucous freedom, RADA was a gruelling six days’ work a week, plus long nights learning lines. Rhys is now based in Los Angeles, where he’s part of an entire tribe of 4 Welsh actors that includes Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Sheen, Andrew Howard and Catherine Zeta Jones. I discovered an even greater group of Welshies there during the Six Nations [rugby championship],’ says Rhys. ‘There’s a pub in Santa Monica called the King’s Head that shows the games live, usually at around 5.30am. I remember walking in and there’s a sea of red, and suddenly there’s this ready-made Welsh community. There are a lot of boys from Merthyr Tydfil working in construction there, strangely.’ Welshness – and especially the Welsh language – is still central to who Rhys is. It’s also why, on this precious weekend off in Cardiff, he doesn’t mind pitching in to help … by opening major festivals at a moment’s notice, for instance, which is what he did the day before at the Welshlanguage festival Tafwyl. ‘I’m happy to support when I can,’ says Rhys. ‘Welsh is my first language, it’s what I speak to my family and to friends like Ioan. But whenever I do something like speaking at a festival, there’s always someone at the back I know, one of my school friends, who catches my eye and does this…’ At this point Rhys mimes a series of magnificently obscene gestures that, mercifully, cannot be recreated in print. ‘It’s the Welsh putting me back in my place.’ He laughs again. ‘Happens all the time!’ r In Country Sleep: where to stay on the Thomas trail Browns Hotel, Laugharne Dylan’s favourite haunt has been restored and reborn as a boutique hotel and oozes glamour. 1 Coastguard Cottage, Rhossili Dylan and his school friends came camping here, but you can stay in this National Trust-run cottage. Quay West, New Quay This clifftop holiday caravan park offers lovely views of the harbour town that inspired Under Milk Wood. Trehyddion Barns, Carmarthenshire Dylan’s summer holidays were spent on rural farms like this, with Llansteffan’s sandy beach and castle on the doorstep. ^ Ty Mawr, near Aberaeron When filming The Edge of Love the stars stayed at this gorgeous Georgian manor in the Aeron valley. Above from left Laugharne Castle, Laugharne Browns Hotel, Laugharne Dylan Thomas
  7. 7. Arts and culture Dylan Thomas Dylan Thomas 100 Dylan Thomas is Wales’s greatest poet and writer. To mark the centenary of Dylan’s birth, in a small house in Swansea in 1914, the Dylan Thomas 100 Festival is a yearlong celebration of his life and work. The festival’s Royal Patron is the Prince of Wales, who has joined in the festival spirit by recording a special reading of his favourite Dylan Thomas poem, Fern Hill. There are hundreds of events, here and around the world. These are just a few highlights, but do check the website for the latest info: The Dylan Thomas Boathouse The poet’s lovely waterside home hosts a variety of events and intimate readings throughout the Dylan Thomas 100 Festival. Also look out for Dylan’s writing shed as it tours the country. All year, Laugharne and locations across Wales Peter Blake Exhibition: Llareggub The venerable pop artist Peter Blake is passionate about Dylan’s play for voices Under Milk Wood, and this show includes portraits of each of the 60 characters, and collages depicting the fictional village of Llareggub. Until 16th March National Museum Cardiff The Laugharne Weekends Three weekends in Laugharne celebrate Dylan Thomas’s life and work, each themed to echo Dylan’s favourite art forms – just the kind of events Dylan himself would have enjoyed. There’ll be Poetry and Biography, curated by Patti Smith and Simon Armitage (11th – 13th April), Comedy and Radio, curated by Robin Ince and Stuart Maconie (19th – 21st September), and Music and Film, curated by Richard James and Euros Childs (26th – 28th September). Laugharne A Dylan Odyssey This series of literary tourism events follows Dylan’s steps to Wales, Oxford and New York. They will involve kayaking, pony trap rides, jazz music, Beat poetry, and the company of contemporary writers such as Owen Sheers and Gillian Clarke. May – September, Wales and worldwide /a-dylan-odyssey/ Dylan Thomas Exhibition The National Library of Wales has a major exhibition from its archive of Dylan Thomas material, which includes unique personal items, alongside visiting items from the United States. 28th June – 20th December Aberystwyth Lleisiau/Voices Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts This annual festival includes the Wales premiere of A Dylan Thomas Trilogy by John Corigliano, and the world premiere of Karl Jenkins’ Three Images from Dylan Thomas with the Russian National Philharmonic Orchestra. 4th – 18th October, Swansea The Dylan Thomas Festival This annual festival, held over an eventpacked two weeks, is the centrepiece of the year-long celebrations that make up Dylan Thomas 100. 27th October – 9th November, Swansea A Child’s Christmas in Wales Michael Bogdanov’s adaptation of the This live, multi-national event celebrates classic tale will be performed by the Wales the history of vocal and oral traditions. It’s Theatre Company at theatres presented at Chapter in Cardiff, with live all over Wales. streaming from Browns Hotel in Laugharne November December, across Wales and the Chelsea Hotel in New York. 20th September Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff ‘Dylan Thomas 100 is the perfect way to introduce the places and characters in my grandfather’s poetry and prose, and for people to discover why the quirky villages and seaside towns inspired him so much. I hope that the festival will spark a passion for words in a new generation and leave a lasting legacy for Wales.’ Hannah Ellis, honorary patron and Dylan Thomas’s granddaughter 5
  8. 8.    ’ Hollywood Sometimes even Hollywood stars have to play best supporting actor to the scenery. Wales has been the location for hundreds of films. Here we pay tribute to our most scene-stealing performances. ’  Holy water! Œ Ž   6 Œ Whale of a time Matthew Rhys filmed The Edge of Love (2008) in several locations around West Wales, most notably New Quay. This lovely harbour town was the inspiration for Dylan Thomas’s classic Under Milk Wood, although the 1972 movie version, starring Richard Burton, was filmed down the coast at Lower Fishguard, as was the 1955 film Moby Dick. In the 2012 movie The Dark Knight Rises, the Batcave is hidden behind the 88-foot (27 metre) curtain of thundering water known as Henrhyd Falls, the highest of dozens of cascades in the western Brecon Beacons. Ž The ‘Dai’ Vinci code Margam Park is an 850-acre country park with its own 12th-century abbey and neo-Gothic mansion. It’s also a slice of sun-dappled Renaissance Tuscany – when they’re filming the hit US drama Da Vinci’s Demons.
  9. 9. Arts and culture Wales on film to Holyhead Main Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire, the setting for Shell Cottage in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Licensed By: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved  Welsh wizardry Shell Cottage, in which Harry and his companions shelter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was built on the edge of Freshwater West’s mile-long (1.6 km) beach, where Russell Crowe also came to film Robin Hood. Key scenes from the 2012 fairytale Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart, were shot nearby on Marloes Sands ... which also featured in the 1968 historical epic The Lion in Winter, starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn.  Dark forces Our own Nordic-noir-style TV detective series is so good, we filmed it twice. The Welsh version, Y Gwyll, was broadcast on S4C in 2013 while the English Hinterland, which was shot simultaneously, goes out on BBC4 in 2014. The series location remains the same: the hauntingly beautiful landscape around Aberystwyth. to film the tragi-comic romp Restoration. Another key location in the film was Tretower Court near Crickhowell which, in 2004, also welcomed Johnny Depp in The Libertine., ‘ Star quality “ Twin peaks There’s a bit in the 2007 fantasy Stardust when its star Claire Danes treks high above a magical lake. That’ll be Llyn y Fan Fach, a beautiful glacial lake on the western edge of the Brecon Beacons. ’ Moat points Caerphilly Castle is the second largest castle in Britain, and in 1995 Hollywood big cheese Robert Downey Jr was here So spectacular are the mountains of Snowdonia, film-makers often use them to represent other exotic, far-flung locations: China in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003) and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), Kazakhstan for the 1999 Bond movie The World Is Not Enough, and a rather convincing Khyber Pass in the 1968 comedy Carry On Up The Khyber. 7
  10. 10. Main Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire Inset left to right Atlantic puffin Bluebells on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire The thing about islands is that you can’t look at one without wondering, even for a fleeting moment, what it would feel like to be there, standing on its cliffs among the wheeling clouds of seabirds, looking back at where you are now. Island paradise 8
  11. 11. Coast country Islands A s you meander the 870 mile (1,400 km) Wales Coast Path, you’ll count around 50 Welsh islands. You can walk to some of them at low tide. Others shimmer tantalisingly on the far horizon. Some are near-impossible to reach, unless you happen to be an expert cliff-climber or, ideally, a puffin. But you can visit many of the best ones, and even stay on a few. Skomer is a cracking example, part of a cluster of little islands off Pembrokeshire that support some the world’s most important bird colonies. It’s a fabulous day-trip across the turquoise waters of Jack Sound, where even the seabed is a protected nature reserve. In summer the island throngs with guillemots, razorbills and puffins, while fulmars and kittiwakes fill the air like flurries of snowflakes. Grey seals bask on the rocks below clifftops that offer one of the most spectacular displays of wild flowers in Britain. You can land on nearby Ramsey Island too – it’s a beautifully untouched RSPB nature reserve – or take a rib ride around its reefs and rapids. You’ll definitely see seals, probably dolphins and porpoises, and possibly even whales and sharks. Back on Skomer, if you stay the night you’ll witness another of nature’s most incredible sights: tens of thousands of nocturnal Manx shearwaters ghosting back to their burrows. There’s another major colony of these incredible little birds on Bardsey ^ Island, which lies off the tip of the Llyn Peninsula. There are eight self-catering cottages on this ‘Island of 20,000 Saints’, which has long been a spiritual refuge. 9
  12. 12. Top from left ^ Bardsey Island, Llyn Peninsula Llanddwyn Island, Isle of Anglesey r Water beds Caerfai Farm, St David’s Cottages, yurts, caravan and camp site, cheesemaking … and all on a stunning clifftop location, just around the headland from Ramsey Island. Cenarth Falls Holiday Park, Cenarth This five-star holiday park has caravans and cottages, plus great facilities for tourers and campers, just a few minutes’ walk from the famous falls on the River Teifi. Fog Horn Cottage, Flat Holm Don’t forget your toothbrush – it’s a long swim back to the mainland from this stylish three-bed self-catering cottage. Plas Rhianfa, Isle of Anglesey This architectural gem has five-star luxury overlooking the Menai Strait on Wales’s biggest island. ^ Ty Newydd Country Hotel, Hirwaun This comfortable hotel is right on the threshold of Waterfall Country, and if you like whisky with your water, Penderyn, Wales’s only distillery, is nearby. 10 Talking of which, there’s still an active monastery of Benedictine monks on Caldey Island, another hugely popular day-trip from nearby Tenby. You can also experience blissful island isolation just five miles (8 km) from Cardiff city centre on Flat Holm, another major seabird sanctuary. It’s easy to get besotted with Welsh islands. The TV scriptwriter Carla Lane bought a tiny one of her own, St Tudwal’s East, off the ^ southern tip of the Llyn Peninsula, and turned it into a wildlife sanctuary. Then the adventurer Bear Grylls bought its neighbour, i St Tudwal’s West, and – talk about getting away from it all – spends family holidays on its few clifftop acres. You don’t have to splash out on a whole island, though. You can borrow one of ours. Like we say, there are plenty to go round. /skomer-skokholm/ ramseyisland/ Mother love The biggest Welsh island by far is Anglesey, which was finally joined to the mainland by Thomas Telford’s magnificent suspension bridge in 1826. The island was a stronghold of druids during the Roman invasion, and a vital source of food during later wars – leading to its nickname of Môn Mam Cymru – the Mother of Wales. Nowadays, it’s a favourite holiday destination, with attractions that include Plas Newydd stately home, a sea zoo, copper mines, the most perfect medieval castle at Beaumaris, and a village called – deep breath – Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. But it’s the 125 mile (201 km) coastline that is the island’s biggest draw, packed with fabulous beaches, nature reserves, and the most romantic spot in Wales, Llanddwyn Island, where there’s an old lighthouse and a ruined chapel dedicated to the Welsh patron saint of love, St Dwynwen. No wonder Prince William and Kate made their first home here.
  13. 13. Fall W hat is it about waterfalls? There’s something surreally magical about a torrent of water plunging off a cliff and into a crystal pool. At the western edge of the Brecon Beacons, in a bit of Wales known as ‘Waterfall Country’, three rivers – the Mellte, Hepste and Nedd Fechan – have carved their way through soft rocks to create steep wooded gorges full of caves and cascades. It’s popular with white- water kayakers and, in summer, wetsuit-clad canyoning groups, but it’s also a brilliant place to experience the thrill of walking behind a curtain of thundering water – notably at Sgwd yr Eira, the famous ‘waterfall of snow’. Although the greatest concentration of falls is here, the highest are up in the high mountains: the Devil’s Appendix in Snowdonia and Pistyll y Llyn in the Cambrian range. And Coast country Waterfalls at your feet Bet you didn’t bargain for a waterfall of snow and the Devil’s Appendix to be among the sights on your visit to Wales. the most spectacular? Well, that’s a matter of opinion, but the 239 feet (73 metre) high Pistyll Rhaeadr, in the Berwyn Mountains, has the advantage of a car park two minutes’ walk from the base. And to be fair, it is utterly spellbinding. Sgwd yr Eira, Brecon Beacons National Park 11
  14. 14. ” perfect beach The Œ  Ž ’ • 12 
  15. 15. Coast country Beaches “ The Wales Coast Path is the longest continuous coastal path in the world. Along its 870 mile (1,400 km) length there are hundreds of harbours, coves, inlets – and, of course, beaches. Lots of them. And one of them will be your favourite. So which’ll it be? Here are ten to get you started.  Barafundle, Pembrokeshire It’s impossible to pick our prettiest beach, but this Pembrokeshire gem, backed by dunes and pine trees, always crops up. There’s something almost Caribbean about Barafundle, which is all the better for being a half-mile (0.8 km) walk from the nearest car park. ‘ Cefn Sidan, Carmarthenshire This whopping eight-mile (12 km) beach has plenty of room for everyone, and young nature detectives can climb the dunes to track down grasshoppers and other mini beasts. It’s all part of Pembrey Country Park, which has play areas and an equestrian centre, dry ski slope and toboggan run. Ž Barmouth, Snowdonia Huge and picturesque, Barmouth beach is always popular but never overcrowded. Barmouth itself is a proper British seaside resort, complete with trampolines, ice creams, arcade games, donkey rides and a vintage railway. ” Southerndown, Vale of Glamorgan The Glamorgan Heritage Coast’s multilayered cliffs occasionally drop down into sandy bays. This is a favourite with surfers and families, and there’s a great clifftop walk to the ruins of Dunraven Castle. • Tenby, Pembrokeshire We’re cheating a bit here, since there’s not one fantastic beach in Tenby, but three. The Rough Guide to Wales describes this pretty little town as ‘everything a seaside resort should be’ and it was recently voted one of the UK’s top five beach destinations by Tripadvisor. ru ym rfordir C rA Wa  Benllech, Isle of Anglesey This small holiday town is set on a crescent-shaped bay, with fine sand that stretches for miles. It’s also blissfully easy to get to, even for pushchairs and wheelchairs. ’ Porthdinllaen, Snowdonia Only locals are allowed to drive to this perfect little harbour hamlet. But never mind – it’s a lovely short walk along the beach, or through Nefyn’s famously beautiful golf course, to reach it. It’s an idyllic cove and natural harbour, with the added bonus of a cracking pub, the T^ Coch Inn, which has just been voted y one of the world’s best beach bars. “ Rhossili, Gower Peninsula Well, we had to mention our cover star, didn’t we? Rhossili’s three-mile (4.8 km) golden sands come with a genuine shipwreck, and if you time the tides right, there’s a fabulous walk out to the promontory known as Worm’s Head. le h  Llangrannog, Ceredigion There’s nothing flashy about the village – it’s just a cluster of houses wedged between two headlands, with waves lapping at their toes. The coastal footpath leads you through clouds of wild flowers that are alive with butterflies in summer. at Œ Abersoch, Snowdonia There’s always a lively family feel to Abersoch, one of our best watersports centres. It’s at its most vibrant during the August Regatta which, apart from all the serious sailing stuff, features raft-racing, crab-catching and sandcastle-building contests. Llwy b  ‘ s C a st P o 13
  16. 16. Main Ynys-hir RSPB Reserve, near Machynlleth Wild Opposite clockwise from top left Dolphin-watching off the Ceredigion Coast Wales Coast Path, near Llangrannog Red kite at heart The spiky charm of Chris Packham has made him one of Britain’s best-loved naturalists. And he thinks that what Wales really needs is … well, some beavers. T here are two things you need to understand about the maverick TV presenter Chris Packham. Firstly, he’s a proper hardcore naturalist, with a phenomenal passion for a subject that he knows inside-out. Secondly, he was an original 1970s punk, with the hair and anti-authority attitude to match. The 52-year-old from Southampton is now the mainstay of TV wildlife programmes, but the teenage punk is never far beneath the surface. He’s famous for nipping song titles of his favourite bands into his drily witty narration: The Smiths, The Clash, and the Manic Street Preachers have all made unexpected cameos. Packham even managed to slip 51 David Bowie song titles into the 2012 series of BBC Springwatch, just for the ridiculous joy of it. The series was based at the RSPB reserve at Ynys-hir, where for three years the BBC carried out its biggest and most complex outside broadcast, with a crew of 100 descending on the impossibly pretty Dyfi Estuary in remotest Mid Wales. 14
  17. 17. Coast country Wildlife How did you enjoy your time at Ynys-hir? It was fantastic, a real treat. The RSPB reserve itself is beautiful to look at, and it’s got a range of habitats – fresh water, the coastal water, the estuary, the oak woodland, the bog – all in a relatively compact site. And this brings with it a great diversity of species, which really paid off, because we had some great stories and contributors, both animals and human. The RSPB and the local people were extraordinarily hospitable, too, so we very much enjoyed our time there. So it wasn’t your first time down these parts? Heavens no! I’ve travelled in Wales a tremendous amount. The first time was when I was 15 years old, in the mid-1970s, when I caught the National Express bus and went to Cwmystwyth to spend a couple of weeks in the spring, to see what remained of the red kites. The same summer I went back to Llangrannog to warden some peregrine falcons, which were very endangered at the time. Both species have bounced back since then, thankfully. Red kites are incredibly common in Mid Wales now. Can you overdo the re-introduction thing? No. But you have to expect change. We’ve lived through a time when kites were very rare, and that had an impact on all the other creatures around them. When you put an animal back into an environment, everything has to rebalance. Kites are largely scavengers, though, and no science has so far proved that their re-introduction has had a negative impact on other birds. Ultimately what’s right is to have as many species that can live in an area, living in it. That’s why re-introduction is overall a good idea because it’s trying to rebuild the proper biodiversity of that region. What about beavers? In parts of Wales there’s a campaign to bring them back… Yes! This ought to have happened years ago! Beavers will be great news for Wales on many counts. Firstly, they will have a profoundly positive impact on biodiversity, making it much better for fish, insects, reptiles and birds of many species. Secondly, they’ll be a great draw for tourism, because people like i RSPB Ynys-hir BBC’s Springwatch chose Ynys-hir as its base for very good reason: it’s one of the best places in Wales to see birds, bugs and butterflies in a gorgeous setting of oak woodland with wet grassland and saltmarshes. 15
  18. 18. beavers and will come and see them. And further, if they do present a problem to any of our human interests, which is unlikely, we have learned over many years how to manage them. So I really hope this progresses quickly and we get these animals back. Talking of tourism, what can we do as tourists to reduce our impact on the environment? If you go to Wales, spend money in Wales! Spend money in the local BBs, hotels, pubs and restaurants. Try and put as much money back into the local community as possible. So don’t eat in a restaurant where they’re selling food from the Caribbean, go somewhere where you’re eating Welsh lamb and Welsh vegetables. That’s the responsible thing to do. Make it fruitful for the people who actually live and work there. Sheep farming is not an easy business, so if you go to a pub where they’re selling genuinely locally-sourced food, then that pays dividends for that landscape. And it’s the landscape which provides the fundamental building blocks of everything that lives on it and in it. Some environmentalists think we’ve got far too many sheep, don’t they? Yes, and they’re right, but it’s not specific to Wales. The whole of the UK is a man-modified landscape. The uplands were cleared of trees a long, long time ago. They’ve been drained and the grassland has been improved for the benefit of sheep. Sheep do overgraze, which prevents the natural regeneration of trees. So yes, sheep have an impact. Equally, for a long time they’ve been a very important part of farming in Wales, and they play a role, too. It’s about trying to balance the benefits and needs of farming, and the benefits of putting the land back as it was. 16 So you’d like to see tracts of Wales restored to what it once was: Atlantic rainforest? Of course, and ‘tracts’ is the right word. Not all of it. I’m quite happy to support sheep farmers, too. Obviously I’d like them to modify the way they do some things, and I’m happy to pay for them to do that. But tracts of Atlantic rainforest running in from the Welsh coast would be tremendous. Places like Ynys-hir have tiny fragments, and it would be nice to see them a lot more extensive. What about our other habitats? Should we treasure our bogs as much as our mountains? Everyone loves mountains, and they do make a more spectacular postcard than the average bog, but to the average naturalist there’s a lot going on in the less attractive landscapes. I remember going out on Tregaron Bog for the first time in the 1970s and being really excited by that great, open, muddy wetland covered in lichens and teeming with birds. It was fantastic, and equally worthy of protection. Do you, as a naturalist, try and harness the power of being on the telly? I don’t consider myself a celebrity, I’m just a bloke who talks about wildlife on TV. But there’s a very strong vocational element in everything I do. I want some of my own enthusiasm and passion for the subject to rub off, because I want as many people as possible to look after our landscape. And ultimately that’s why I get up in the morning and do things like Springwatch. I’m trying to say to that audience, look, this is brilliant, it’s in your back yard, have some of it for yourself. And when you’ve learnt to love it, look after it. That’s my mantra. i Chris Packham’s Wales Wales is a very rich and compact area, so it has a tremendous amount to offer in terms of natural history (I’m also keen on history, by the way, so I’ve been to all the castles, too). My first trips to Wales were on the bus as a teenager, but as soon as I could drive myself, I was away. I remember with great fondness my first trip to Skomer Island off the Pembrokeshire coast, which was just magical. Nearby are Bosherston Lily Ponds which, in summer, is one of the most beautiful places in the UK, without a shadow of a doubt. One year I spent a summer looking at all the species of orchid I could find, and I went to the Great Orme near Llandudno to look at dark red helleborine, which are very rare. Newborough Warren on Anglesey is one of my favourite places in the UK. Sand dune systems are few and far between these days, and Newborough is a beautiful place full of fantastic plants and birds. There’s so much more to explore, though. I’d love to have a couple of months off with my friend [fellow naturalist] Iolo Williams as my guide, so he could take me to all the places I haven’t been. Clockwise from top left Dyfi Estuary, near Machynlleth Newborough Warren, Anglesey Presenter, Chris Packham Dolphin, Ceredigion coast Otter Bluebell woodland near Aberystwyth Tintern Forest, Wye Valley
  19. 19. Coast country Days out Ten wild days out in Wales Soaring red kites, frolicking dolphins and leaping salmon: Wales has just the kind of wildlife that grabs the imagination. And it’s all easy to spot, says Phil Hurst of Wildlife Trusts Wales. Ospreys Ospreys nest from April to late summer on the Cors-dyfi reserve near Machynlleth. Other birds of prey regularly seen include red kite, honey buzzard and marsh and hen harriers. There’s also a herd of water buffalo that help to manage the wetlands. Dolphins Although dolphins can be regularly seen from the shore, the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre organises boat trips from April onwards. Otters Visitors often report seeing otters at the lovely Gilfach Farm reserve near Rhayader. The best time to visit is October to December when otters come to the waterfalls to chase the leaping salmon. Seabirds that have migrated 50,000 miles With well over 1,000 nesting pairs of sandwich terns, Cemlyn on Anglesey is an internationally important site for seabirds. The arctic tern, which also nests here, migrates up to 50,000 miles (80,467 km) every year between the Arctic and Antarctic. A festival of butterflies Over 30 species of butterfly can be found in the dramatic former quarry of Llanymynech, smack bang on the border between Wales and England. Fortunately the local wildflife trust have produced a guide, so you can tell your Grizzled Skipper from your White Letter Hairstreak. Magical bluebell woods Fields of orchids Situated above the beautiful Wye Valley, the Pentywn Farm reserve provides commanding views. Early summer sees thousands of greenwinged orchids in spectacular wildflower meadows. Carpets of bluebells cover the ancient woodlands in many parts of Wales, but few reach the dazzling heights of Coed y Felin, just outside Mold in Flintshire. Down south try the Coed Dyrysiog reserve just outside Brecon., Red kites Once on the edge of extinction, there are now an estimated 1,000 breeding pairs of red kites in Wales. Feeding stations where visitors can experience these magnificent birds close up include Gigrin Farm and the Red Kite Feeding Centre in the west of the Brecon Beacons National Park., Puffins There are an estimated 16,000 puffins and 300,000 Manx shearwaters on the worldrenowned Skomer and Skokholm islands, which are also home to large numbers of grey seals. Boats run daily from March to December. Autumn leaf splendour For autumnal blazes of colour, the valleys of South East Wales rival the forests of New England. The Silent Valley reserve near Ebbw Vale is a perfect example, while the Pwll-y-Wrach reserve near Talgarth has spectacular autumn colours in ancient woodland running down to plunging waterfalls along the River Enig., 17
  20. 20. Œ  ” There are far too many lovely gardens and environmental projects to squeeze into this postage stamp of magazine space. But here are some selected highlights. Everything’s Œ Dyffryn Gardens, Vale of Glamorgan Imagine a 55-acre house made of plants and flowers. Landscape artist Thomas Mawson created the gardens at Dyffryn as a collection of rooms in the shadow of a grand Victorian mansion house made of more traditional building material. Pool Garden, Lower and Upper Walled Gardens and Ninfarium – an exotic glass-roofed atrium with orchids, palms and magnolias – inspired by the gardens of Ninfa, south of Rome.  National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire As if building the biggest, striking single span glasshouse in the world wasn’t enough, the old grounds of 17thcentury Middleton Hall is a great place to discover flora and fauna from all over the world. Behind the scenes there are a whole host of environmental projects going on too. Ž Aberglasney House and Gardens, Carmarthenshire The origins of this magnificent Queen Anne style house date back to medieval times. A major restoration project includes an Elizabethan Cloister Garden, 18  Llanerchaeron, Ceredigion Built by John Nash (architect of Buckingham Palace), the walled kitchen garden of this minor gentry estate functions as it did 200 years ago – providing abundant organic fruit, vegetables and herbs, which you can buy in the shop at the house.  Brondanw, Snowdonia Sir Clough Williams-Ellis is renowned for creating the remarkable village of nearby Portmeirion, which features wonderful exotic woodland well worth visiting. The gardens of Brondanw are less wellknown, but were another of Clough’s lifetime projects that create a unique atmosphere with creative use of the natural landscape. ‘ Plas Tan y Bwlch, Snowdonia Its less catchy name is The Snowdonia National Park Environmental Studies Centre. This splendid country house, which was lit by electricity from its own hydro-electric source as far back as the 1890s, benefits from striking Victorian gardens featuring sloping lawns, large conifers and bursts of colour from rhododendron and azalea. There are semi-wild woodland areas featuring native flora and fauna intermingled with exotic imports from further afield. ’ Veddw House, Monmouthshire Described as a modern romantic garden, Veddw is the imaginative brainchild of writer Anne Wareham and photographer Charles Hawes. It has won acclaim (Most Original Garden 2012 in Readers Digest magazine) and has courted controversy. It almost demands a visit so you can make your own mind up about its innovative, environmentally-sympathetic approach.
  21. 21. Coast country Gardens  “ ‘ Gone Green “ Centre for Alternative Technology, Powys Imagine a one-stop resource of information and demonstration regarding sustainable living. Now stop imagining, because CAT covers the lot, including several gardens offering inspirational ideas on how you can maintain your own flourishing patch of greenery.  ’ Ž • ” Bodnant Garden, Conwy Like a giant horticultural stamp collection, a diverse range of seeds and cuttings from all over the world were collected over a century ago to create the gardens of Bodnant. There are formal terraces with views over the Conwy Valley, the river Hiraethlyn runs through the Dell, while the changing seasons offer dramatic varieties of colour in the shrub borders. • Erddig Hall, Wrexham An impressive country house set in over a thousand acres of land, the huge 18th-century walled garden features rare fruit trees, the symmetry of a Victorian parterre and one of the longest herbaceous borders in Britain. Visitors can also book guided environmental learning sessions. 19
  22. 22. A tale of two cities Our two biggest cities are going places. Swansea and Cardiff now have football teams in the Premiership for the first time in history, so we asked international wheelchair athlete and television presenter Liam Holt to pay a visit and see how both cities line up. Swansea I t’s a chicken-and-egg situation. I can’t work out if the style of football Swansea City play – confident, stylish, laid-back – comes from the city itself, or if it works the other way: if some of that footballing panache is rubbing off on the city. Either way, there’s a definite buzz about the place, which we feel the moment we set foot outside the Swansea Marriott, a waterfront hotel which is perfectly placed for exploring the city’s main attractions. We start with a history lesson at the National Waterfront Museum, which tells the story of industry and innovation in Wales, now and over the last 300 years. It’s a very interactive place, with a perfect combination of original artifacts and touch-screen computer displays, which allow people to explore deeper into the exhibits. It’s particularly great for kids, as they can work in a technological environment that appeals to them. After all that science, we’re in the mood for some art, so we head to the nearby Mission Gallery, which crams a huge amount of creative power into a relatively small space. The same could be said of Pierre Donahue, a local singer-songwriter who plays percussion for The Dukes Box, It’s not just a sports centre, either an extraordinary – wait for it – human – there’s a good café, which adds a jukebox. Basically they’ve taken a tiny social aspect and opens the beach up vintage caravan, sawn off the front and to everyone from dog walkers to kite replaced it with a Perspex sheet and flyers. It’s also worth mentioning the jukebox-style buttons. People push a accessibility, too: the beach is normally pound into the slot, choose their song, the ‘natural enemy’ of the wheelchair and the live band play it! but 360 conquers this with multiple The Dukes Box has played festivals all over Europe, and now Pierre has founded accessible toilets and changing rooms, and it’s the first beachfront venue in his own left-field event in Swansea, an Wales to have a Changing Places facility alternative Dylan Thomas celebration – hoists, changing tables, etc – for those called the Do Not Go Gentle festival. ‘It’s a celebration of the legendary Welsh who need extra support. Sitting at a beach café, right next to poet in his home suburb of the Uplands, Swansea,’ explains Pierre. ‘We aim to be the sand, watching people kayaking and a festival Dylan might have liked, and yes playing beach volleyball – it’s not quite that involves beer, but it also involves how I imagined Swansea to be. But I like cosy and atmospheric venues, great acts it, a lot. and the people of Swansea who first inspired him to write all those years ago.’ Right, that’s culture and science ticked, so now I’m off to get physical. Swansea is mad about sport, whether it’s regional rugby and football at the Liberty Stadium, county cricket at St Helen’s, or surfing on the Gower Peninsula. If you’re an outdoors person and into watersport Clockwise from top left then you have to visit 360, a new 360 Beach and Watersports multisport activity centre that provides Dylan Thomas’s ‘Captain Cat’, Swansea marina beach and watersports all year round, no Mission Gallery matter the weather, just along the beach National Waterfront Museum from the city centre. Mission Gallery Swansea 20
  23. 23. Cities towns A tale of two cities  Eating out in Swansea Perhaps more than any other Welsh city, Swansea cares about its food (it boasts the biggest and best covered market in Wales) and this is reflected in lots of deliciously independent-minded places to eat. Truffle Restaurant ( feels a bit like going to a house party, thanks to its ‘bring your own booze’ policy and utter lack of airs and graces. The staff and customers enjoy a bit of banter (I was made fun of for not ordering a more manly starter!), it’s great value and the desserts were awesome. I liked Mosaic ( even more: a quirky modern restaurant which in terms of independent businesses just gets it, from the decor to the menu (the names alone are hilarious!). During the day it’s a laid-back lounge, but in the evening they transform the place into a lively tapas restaurant, with projections on the walls and live music on a raised stage above the bar. The food at the Grape Olive (swansea. isn’t as innovative, but given its location – the top floor of Wales’s tallest building – it’s worth a visit just for the amazing views. Finally, you can’t visit Swansea without a trip to local institution. Joe’s Ice Cream Parlour ( founded in 1922 by the son of Italian immigrants. Joe Cascarini introduced the family’s secret icecream recipe to the city and it has never left. Quite simply it’s the most amazing ice cream I have EVER had! 21
  24. 24. Clockwise from left Cardiff Castle Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay Millennium Stadium Royal Arcade Cardiff I thought I knew Cardiff pretty well. I moved here nine years ago, and I definitely consider it to be my home. In true fashion though, when a city becomes your home you kind of take it for granted. You don’t really explore what it has to offer – it’s just there! So it was fascinating to spend a weekend in Cardiff as a tourist again and re-discover just how great it is. All the icons are correct and present: the castle, the Millennium Stadium which dominates the central skyline, the neoclassical Civic Centre, the shiny new shopping malls. Since I’m being a tourist, I start at the top of most visitors’ list: Cardiff Castle. With over 2,000 years of history, it’s an incredible mash-up of all the major historical events that have shaped Cardiff, from Roman times, through Norman conquest, to the fabulous wealth that coal brought here. The 3rd Marquess of Bute was the biggest influence on how the castle looks today. Bute hired the flamboyant (and expensive) designer William Burges to work with him in the design of his living quarters, which reflect their fascination with all things medieval. With Burges’s vision and Bute’s money, there were no limits to their sumptuous designs. It’s the little details that you remember, though: I particularly liked the little statues of monkeys reading books, which were apparently Bute’s way of mocking Darwin’s theory of evolution. Cardiff itself continues to evolve. The weekend’s highlight for me was exploring the independent businesses that are flourishing in the old arcades which intertwined with the more commercial shops. The eclectic shops within each arcade have a real charm about them, from local skate shop City Surf to Spillers Records (opened in 1894 – the oldest record shop in the world). I even took the opportunity to do some research for my wedding in Hubbard’s Cupboard in Castle Arcade, which was a bit of a dangerous move with my fiancée with me! And Cardiff isn’t just about the city centre any more: the individual boroughs are emerging strongly and making names for themselves – places like Cathays, Roath, Canton and Pontcanna offer their own high streets by day and an alternative night out for people looking for something a bit different. A good example of this new generation of pioneers is Simon Thomas, who owns a record shop called Catapult in the Duke Street Arcade. But it’s more than that. It’s also a record label, and a clothing brand. His latest business is a pop-up restaurant called Chuck’s, which shone brightly last summer in an old disused dairy. Simon, like many of the bright young independents in Cardiff, is on a mission: to inspire. ‘I’m not in it for the money,’ he laughs. ‘I do it because I want to. I started Chuck’s simply because it was the kind of place I wanted to eat. But at the same time a business like mine gives the chance to develop the careers of other Cardiff locals, whether they’re musicians on the label or chefs in the kitchen. ‘I’m not against commercial businesses,’ says Simon. ‘I just want people to have the choice of where they eat and shop – a quality, credible alternative to the mainstream.’ Back at the hotel, I’m thoroughly enjoying my tourist trip to my home town. We’re staying at the Park Plaza, a relaxed hotel right in the city centre, with its own spa and health club. After a couple of hours in the steam room and the unique stainless steel pool, I feel like a new man. At least, after the deep tissue massage, I feel like I’ve got a new pair of shoulders. More than that, I’ve seen my adopted home city in a whole new light. And it feels really, really good. Cardiff 22
  25. 25. Cities towns Access all areas Access all areas Above Jamie’s Italian  Eating out in Cardiff Cardiff has all the big-name chains like Jamie’s and Carluccio’s, as well as a great selection of home-grown independents. Milgi Lounge ( is a perfect example: a vegetarian restaurant on City Road, a mile or so out of town. It has a real community feel, with locally sourced food and a clientele of all different ages and styles, so no one seems out of place. Their cocktails are amazing, especially the Milgi Mojito, made with elderflower and lychee. It’s not just a restaurant, either: they hold live music and storytelling evenings in the yurt in the rear garden, and art exhibitions and markets in the lane and garages behind. Mint Mustard ( has a fantastic reputation locally for its South Indian cuisine, and now I’ve been there I can see why! You don’t just go there to eat; you go there for the complete dining experience. La Cuina ( is a family-run Catalan place that’s a deli by day and a restaurant by night. It’s relatively new but already a hotspot with local foodies (it was packed when we visited). Then there’s Torre Coffee, another family business run by an Italian-Romanian husband and wife team. The cakes are amazing, and they’re especially welcoming for families – and it’s right opposite Cardiff Castle. For more information on Swansea and Cardiff visit: and Think that a country known for its coastline and castles might be off limits for wheelchair users? I ’m pretty easy going when it comes to things like this. I always approach accessibility with a ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ attitude. Over two weekends spent in Swansea and Cardiff I was treated just as any visitor would be – and that’s how I like it. I didn’t encounter any obstacles in terms of wheelchair access. Both hotels had rooms with plenty of wheeling space and the bathrooms had all the necessary equipment. Staff at all the restaurants were really accommodating by allocating a table that was easy to get to and making sure a chair was removed to enable me to roll straight in! I was particularly impressed with Cardiff Castle. It’s a Grade I listed building with its origins dating back to Roman times. You don’t really expect to be able to access all areas of the castle, but if there’s a heritage building demonstrating just what can be achieved with a sincere commitment to accessibility, then Cardiff Castle is it. There were lifts installed to allow wheelchair access not only to the castle tunnels but also to the main rooms of the mansion! 360 Beach Watersports in Swansea offers genuinely innovative levels of disabled access. Suddenly you’ve got none of the usual worries: ‘How am I going to get changed?’ or ‘How am I going to go to the toilet?’ Using a beach wheelchair eliminates further issues by enabling easy access across the sand and into the sea. It’s great to see a visitor attraction offering such levels of inclusivity. If you’re looking to plan a visit to Wales and you need sound advice regarding accessibility matters: Above TV presenter Liam Holt 360 Beach and Watersports, Swansea 23
  26. 26. 48 hours Where to go, what to do and how to do it Swansea S wansea regularly tops ‘student satisfaction’ surveys of university towns, and it’s easy to see why students love it here. The whole city hugs the vast crescent of Swansea Bay, giving a chilledout seaside vibe to the city by day, and one of good-natured indulgence by night, notably in the bars and clubs of Wind Street and Kingsway. So where to start? The new SA1 area is as good a place as any, a smart waterfront development, crowned with Wales’s tallest building, that has transformed a post-War eyesore that led Dylan Thomas to describe his birthplace as a ‘lovely, ugly town’. Swansea has changed a lot since Dylan lived here, and the city centre has been thoroughly modernised, undoing the damage done by wartime bombing and, worse, hasty post-War rebuilding. But he’d still recognise several local landmarks: the castle, museum (, the excellent covered market (swanseaindoormarket. and, of course, the house in which he was born ( He might also be flattered to discover that the old Guildhall is now the Dylan Thomas Centre ( Hopefully he’d approve of some of the newcomers, too, like the exotic indoor rainforest that blossoms beneath the striking pyramid hot-house of Plantasia (, the hi-tech LC waterpark 24 (, and the National Waterfront Museum ( en/swansea), which tells the story of our industrial and sea-faring past as well as our technological future. Swansea is a coastal gateway to an unspoilt area of wild coastal countryside to rival any other. Head west through the chichi village of Mumbles, with its boutiques and restaurants, and you soon arrive on the Gower Peninsula (, the first place in Britain designated an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1949. It’s got some truly wonderful beaches, including Three Cliffs Bay and the huge expanse of Rhossili (see cover photo), which are both regular fixtures in lists of the most scenic sights in Britain. The eastern rim of Swansea Bay is worth a visit, too. Margam Country Park ( has a grand castle, 18th-century Orangery, ornamental gardens, deer park and Go Ape high-wire forest adventure, all set within 1,000 acres of stunning countryside. Swansea is also the starting point of the Heart of Wales railway line (, which potters through our farming heartland before plunging through mountain tunnels on its picturesque journey to Shrewsbury. Swansea
  27. 27. Cities towns 48 Hours Opposite page from top Mumbles, gateway to the Gower Peninsula Swansea vs Manchester Utd, Liberty Stadium, Swansea Swansea indoor market Walking on Rhossili Down, Gower Peninsula This page from top Bute Park, Cardiff Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Cardiff Bay’s busy waterfront Doctor Who Experience, Cardiff Bay Cardiff O kay, you have 48 hours to explore our capital city. So let’s go… shopping. Cardiff’s one of the best retail cities in the UK, thanks to the mighty St David’s centre (, part of a £700m transformation of the city centre. It has more than 160 stores – including John Lewis – restaurants and cafés, all set snugly in the compact heart of the city. There are also seven historic shopping arcades ( and Cardiff Market (, a proper old-style glass-roofed jobbie. There are museums and galleries galore in the city centre. The National Museum Cardiff ( /en/cardiff) tells four and a half million years of Welsh history and also houses one of the finest art collections in Europe. Just outside the city is St Fagans: National History Museum (, a fantastic open-air museum and deservedly one of the most popular visitor attractions in Wales. The city has more than 2,000 acres of parkland, making it the greenest capital city in Europe. Bute Park ( is a stunning stretch of greenery that reaches right down into the heart of the city, where it bumps into the ‘Animal Wall’ of sculptures next to Cardiff Castle ( Cardiff bursts with music and drama too, from venues like St David’s Hall (, Motorpoint Cardiff Arena ( and the Wales Millennium Centre ( to intimate spaces like Chapter Arts Centre ( – which also has an excellent café and bar – and Clwb Ifor Bach ( There are countless places to relax with good food and drink. Thanks to the docks of Tiger Bay, this was Britain’s first multi-cultural city, which is reflected in the food: pretty much all cultures are represented, from Brazil to Bengal, along with the best locallysourced Welsh produce. This is a city that parties every weekend. The clubs of St Mary Street and Greyfriars Road are the epicentre of the action, but you don’t have to look far to find an authentic Welsh pub selling Brain’s beer, like the legendary City Arms (, or a laid-back bar like 10 Feet Tall ( which has a great cocktail menu and a DJ crafting a nice groove. As you’re making a weekend of it, you’ll have time for a little exploration. Cardiff Bay ( offers striking architecture to explore – both old and new – as well as plenty of places to eat and drink, plus attractions like the science museum Techniquest (, Dr Who Experience ( and the superb Cardiff International White Water ( 25
  28. 28. Market leaders Away from the big cities and coastal resorts, rural Wales has plenty of fabulous market towns. Like this magnificent seven, for instance… 2 Abergavenny, Monmouthshire 3 Llandrindod Wells, Powys 2 4 This is a proper market town – three a week, no less – and a fabulous place to poke around home-grown shops and galleries. It’s the gastronomic capital of Wales, too, with Britain’s best food and drink festival held every September. You can burn off the calories by walking one of the seven hills that enfold the town., W here to stay: The Angel Hotel is the kind of coaching inn that every town wishes it had, and its sister restaurant, The Walnut Tree, is the most celebrated in Wales with two adjoining self-catering cottages., The Victorians flocked to ‘Llandod’ for its healing spring waters, and its mid-point location still makes it a popular conference town. This means it’s got plenty of things to amuse all year round (including a weekly market) but it really shines during the annual Victorian Festival in August. Where to stay: The Metropole is the biggest of dozens of options in a town geared up for visitors. 26 3 5
  29. 29. Cities towns Market leaders 1 Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire 4 Machynlleth, Powys 5 Llanrwst, Conwy The ‘cool capital of Carmarthenshire’, as the London press call it, sits prettily on a hill overlooking one of the loveliest valleys in Wales. There are plenty of boutiques and cafés to graze, and it’s a short walk through a wooded nature reserve to Dinefwr Castle, an ancient royal capital. There are also excellent music, jazz and literary festivals. Where to stay: The Cawdor is the beating heart of the town’s social scene, while Fronlas is the chicest of BBs., There’s a lovely vibe to Mach, a handsome market town – the street market is every Wednesday – where local farmers rub shoulders with off-beat hippie influences. There’s a very good modern art gallery, MOMA, and the nearby Centre for Alternative Technology is a gem.,, Where to stay: The Wynnstay Hotel has a lovely heart-of-the-community feel, and fabulous Ynyshir Hall is a short drive away., 6 7 In 1947 Llanrwst declared itself an independent state and applied (only halfjokingly) for a seat at the United Nations. It’s still a wonderfully free-spirited market town, at the heart of the Conwy Valley, perfectly positioned for Snowdonia’s coast and mountains. Where to stay: Plas Maenan, the ‘mansion on a rock’ is a lovely country house with brilliant views of the valley below. 6 Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan 7 Ruthin, Denbighshire The Cardiff posh commute from here, the Vale of Glamorgan’s most glamorous address. Even for all the boutiques, galleries and cafés, Cowbridge remains the heart of the Vale’s farming community, so it still has lots of good honest muck on its wellies. Best of both worlds, really. Where to stay: The Bear coaching inn can trace its origins back to the 12th century, and is still doing a roaring trade. It bills itself as ‘the most charming small town in Wales’, and we’re not arguing. There’s an excellent craft centre, and even the old gaol, which closed in 1976, now offers a warm welcome to its fascinating museum. All in all, the perfect base for exploring the Clwydian hills. Where to stay: Manorhaus is a boutique restaurant-with-rooms that doubles as an art gallery, while the town’s castle is now a sumptuous spa hotel., 27
  30. 30. Events Diary From beer festivals to major sporting events, cultural celebrations to feasts of food, there’s plenty to keep you occupied in Wales this year. As you can plainly see, we’re not shy of hosting a party. 2014 is the centenary celebration of the birth of Dylan Thomas, the highly influential literary figure of the late 20th century. The Senior Open golf championship is hosted in Wales for the first time at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club, following in the groundbreaking footsteps of The 2010 Ryder Cup. Along with literary festivals, numerous music celebrations and, of course, bog-snorkelling championships, why not plan your visit to Wales in conjunction with one of these world-renowned events? 28
  31. 31. Events Diary 2014 11th January Saturnalia Beer Festival Chariot Race, Llanwrtyd Wells Saturnalia was the major midwinter Roman festival. In this version, participants are encouraged to wear Roman dress, eat Roman food, quaff fine ales and party with friends. You can even compete in the World Mountain Bike Chariot Racing Championship. 4th – 14th February Quiltfest, Llangollen Anything and everything to do with quilt making: exhibitions, competition, demonstrations and workshops. February Classic FM Live in Wales Cardiff Held at the Wales Millennium Centre, Classic FM Live combines the very best international performers with the very best talents in Wales, making classical music accessible to a wide audience. 1st March St David’s Day Parade To celebrate our patron saint’s day, parades and events take place all over Wales. In bigger towns and cities look out for food festivals, concerts and street parties. 1st February Wales v Italy, Cardiff The Millennium Stadium hosts the first rugby union international of the Six Nations Championship. As defending champions, Wales take on Italy. 6th – 11th February Abertawe Festival for Young Musicians, Swansea An annual musical event featuring competitive piano, strings, woodwind and ensemble sections. 1st – 9th March Crickhowell Walking Festival Crickhowell Guided walks of various grades, all led by local experienced guides plus a range of supporting events. 2nd March The Island Race, Anglesey The Anglesey Half Marathon takes runners across the world famous Menai Bridge and follows the coast road to Beaumaris Castle and back. 15th March Wales v Scotland, Cardiff The final day of the Six Nations rugby union championship, and the most eagerly awaited fixture of the year at the Millennium Stadium. Starts on 21st March Wales One World Film Festival Cardiff Aberystwyth One World explores the edges of contemporary global cinema and gives audiences the chance to celebrate world cinema in all its richness and diversity. Opposite page clockwise from top left The Porthcawl Elvis Festival Llangollen International Eisteddfod Wales v Italy rugby international, Cardiff St David’s Hall, Cardiff Royal Welsh Show, Builth Wells British Speedway Grand Prix, Cardiff Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye This page from left Menai Bridge, Isle of Anglesey Musician, Cardiff Castle St David’s Day Parade 29
  32. 32. 11th – 13th April RHS Flower Show, Cardiff Held in Bute Park against the backdrop of Cardiff Castle, the show provides an inspirational display of vibrant gardening, floral delights and expert advice. Dylan Thomas This year Wales celebrates the centenary of the birth of Dylan Thomas, born on 27th October 1914 at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, in the Uplands area of Swansea. He grew up in the city, but paid regular summer visits to his aunt’s farm in Carmarthenshire, whose rural setting inspired much of his work. Thomas left school at 16 to become a reporter for the local newspaper, and became a regular at local pubs and coffee shops, where he mixed with a group of writers, musicians and artists that became known as The Kardomah Gang. In 1936 he met a dancer called Caitlin Macnamara in a London pub, and drunkenly proposed to her on the spot. They married in 1937, and a year later the couple moved to Laugharne, where they raised three children. He died on 9th November 1953 in New York, after a prolonged drinking session. His body was returned to Wales where he was buried in the churchyard in Laugharne. Thomas is remembered as one of the most innovative poets of the English language. In addition to poetry, he wrote short stories and scripts for film and radio – notably the classic ‘play for voices’, Under Milk Wood. April – September The Dylan Weekends Three weekends to celebrate Dylan Thomas’s life and work, themed to echo Dylan’s favourite art forms: just the kind of events Dylan himself would have enjoyed: 26th – 27th April Wonderwool Wales, Builth Wells A fun and fibre-packed weekend that includes displays, workshops and demonstrations. 11th – 13th April Poetry and Biography curated by Patti Smith and Simon Armitage 19th – 21st September Comedy and Radio curated by Robin Ince and Simon Maconie 26th – 28th September Music and Film curated by Richard James and Euros Child Above RHS Flower Show, Cardiff Wonderwool Wales, Builth Wells 30
  33. 33. Events Diary 2014 2nd – 4th May Machynlleth Comedy Festival Machynlleth An annual live comedy festival brings top comics to this lovely Mid Wales town. 2nd – 5th May Bro Tregaron Walking Weekend Tregaron Walking Club invites walkers of all ages and abilities to join them on guided walks in the unspoilt and stunning Cambrian Mountains. 3rd – 5th May Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza Llandudno This seaside resort returns to its Victorian roots in an event packed full of steam engines, Victorian musical organs, vintage cars, costumes, curiosities and side shows. 16th – 18th May Prestatyn Clwydian Range Walking Festival, Prestatyn Three days of walking and fun at this 9th annual festival offering 25 themed walks ranging from easy to energetic. 17th – 18th May Welsh Three Peaks Challenge Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons A unique opportunity to climb three of the most iconic mountains in Wales – Pen y Fan, Cadair Idris and Snowdon. 17th – 18th May Snowdonia Slateman Triathlon Llanberis A triathlon to remember! Held over two days, the two race options are the Full Slateman (1000m/51km/11km) or the Slateman Sprint (400m/20km/6km). 22nd – 29th May Beaumaris Arts Festival, Anglesey This seaside town is the perfect setting for a week-long arts festival. Events include classical music and jazz performances, talks, theatrical events, poetry reading and art exhibitions. 22nd May – 1st June Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye Former US President Bill Clinton called Hay ‘ the Woodstock of the mind’, which just about sums up this incredible gathering of the world’s greatest writers and thinkers. There are 900+ events over the ten days, featuring poets and scientists, lyricists and comedians, novelists and environmentalists, politicians and philosophers, actors and astronauts, historians and economists – all coming together to kick around big ideas that will transform your way of thinking. Unmissable. 23rd – 25th May Aberystwyth Cycle Festival With some of Britain’s top cyclists making a rare appearance in Mid Wales, festival visitors can watch all the action and experience the beautiful and undiscovered lanes of Ceredigion on their own bikes. From left Beaumaris, Isle of Anglesey Welsh Three Peaks Challenge, Brecon Beacons Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye 31
  34. 34. 24th May Heineken Cup Final, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Four Heineken Cup finals have been played to date at this world-class stadium. The 2014 finals will see the creation of a European Champions Village, providing a focal point for fans to savour the unique atmosphere of this major European rugby tournament. You can make a proper weekend of it by showing up for the Amlin Challenge Cup Final, held the day before at the historic Cardiff Arms Park. 25th – 26th May Abergavenny Steam Vintage Rally Bailey Park, Abergavenny A marvellous day out for the whole family with steam and vintage vehicles, a children’s playground, a food village, rural crafts and handicrafts. 24th – 25th May Really Wild Food Countryside Festival, St David's A fabulous showcase of locally grown and produced food, with wild ingredients foraged from the hedgerows, coast, beach and river. Loads to see and do, AND to eat of course! 30th May – 1st June Woodfest, Wales, Kinmel Estate near St Asaph This interactive celebration of woodrelated skills and crafts is packed with exhilarating displays including more than 150 outside stands of demonstrations and trade, and six marquees full of unique goods produced in Wales. 25th May Welsh Open Stoneskimming Championships, Llanwrtyd Wells Stoneskimming is the ancient skill of bouncing stones as far as possible across water. You can enter the fray or just enjoy other amusing stone-themed events. 32 26th – 31st May Urdd Eisteddfod, Bala One of the largest cultural youth festivals in Europe, celebrating the best talent in song, dance, drama and design. June Ruthin Festival, Ruthin An outstanding variety of non-stop music, from traditional folk to classical, as well as the best from the world of jazz and popular music. 4th – 7th June Three Castles Welsh Classic Trial Llandudno Attracting more than 300 classic cars from the early 1900s through to today’s supercars. Stalls, children’s entertainments, refreshments and live jazz. 7th June Big Welsh Trail, Coed Llandegla A half marathon and 6.3 mile (10 km) route will take in awe inspiring trails through the 650 hectares of this beautiful forest. 13th – 29th June Gregynog Festival, Gregynog Known as the oldest festival in Wales the Gregynog festival is one of the UK’s top rated classical musical events. Held in the beautiful surroundings of the Welsh borders, this festival has a different theme every year spanning a range of music from medieval to chamber, performed by fantastic artists, on authentic instruments. From left Heineken Cup, Millennium Stadium Foraging in Wales Woodfest, Kinmel Estate, near St Asaph
  35. 35. Events Diary 2014 14th June Man v Horse Marathon Llanwrtyd Wells A unique marathon of 22 miles (35 km) through spectacular countryside where runners and horses compete against each other. A runner has won just twice in the event’s 33-year history. 28th June Drovers’ Walk, Llanwrtyd Wells Follow in the footsteps of the drovers who herded their sheep, cattle, pigs and geese across the mountains of Wales to the market towns of England. There’s a choice of walks, all through beautiful countryside. 14th – 15th June Snowdonia Arts Festival Betws-y-Coed A celebration of the area’s artistic heritage through workshops and competitions. 28th June – 6th July Pembrokeshire Fish Week This whopper of a festival has more than 250 events celebrating the county’s great seafood and beautiful coastline. Learn to fly-fish, go crab-catching, tuck into the freshest seafood, get digging in a sandcastle challenge, and much more. 4th – 6th July Wakestock, Abersoch Europe’s largest wakeboard music festival with free-to-watch wakeboarding by day and music by night. 15th June Etape Eryri, Caernarfon A cycling event not to miss. The route could not be more spectacular, exploring the most breathtaking and scenic roads in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park. July – August Cardiff Festival The capital comes alive for a month of street theatre, live music, comedy, drama and funfairs. It’s all part of the UK’s largest free outdoor festival. 4th – 6th July The Celebrity Cup at Golf Live Celtic Manor, Newport The Celebrity Cup sees celebrities battle it out over two days representing England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, while Golf Live offers an unrivalled range of interactive theatres, where visitors can see the world’s greatest golfers show their talent, pick up on top tips from industry experts and try out the latest equipment. 20th – 22nd June Dinefwr Literature Festival Dinefwr Park More than 100 events featuring authors, poets, musicians, artists, actors and comedians. 4th – 6th July Beyond the Border, Wales International Storytelling Festival St Donat’s Castle, St Donat’s In the gardens of a fairytale castle by the sea, a magnificent celebration of stories and music from Wales and the World. From left Man vs Horse Marathon, Llanwrtyd Wells Wakestock, Abersoch Entertainers Ant and Dec, 2013 Celebrity Cup 33
  36. 36. Open season Seniors golf is entering a golden age, with many of the greatest golfers in modern golfing history doing battle all over again. What better time to bring the Senior Open Championship to Wales? 24th – 27th July The Senior Open Championship Royal Porthcawl Golf Club It wasn’t that long ago Wales was voted Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year. Now it follows up the success of The 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor Resort by hosting its first Major Golf Championship at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club. The secret is well and truly out now. The Senior Open Championship takes place between 24th – 27th July and brings some of the world’s greatest golfers of the past 50 years to one of the finest links courses in the world. Take Bernhard Langer, Germany’s greatest golfer, with two Masters victories to his name and 11 Ryder Cup appearances, including a victorious captaincy in 2004. He’s still quite handy, having won the Senior Open Championship and its US equivalent in 2010. 'Royal Porthcawl is certainly a wonderful venue and worthy of a Major Championship. I played there many years ago and remember it as a beautiful site and wonderful golf course. I am sure 34 the course will be just as challenging and in great shape for us in July.’ English golfer Roger Chapman, winner of the US Senior PGA Champion and the US Senior Open Champion in 2012, echoes Langer’s endorsement. ‘There are many great courses in Wales and I’ve been fortunate enough to play a number of them – Royal Porthcawl, Conwy, Royal St David’s to name but three – during my professional career. ‘I remember playing in the Amateur Championship won by Duncan Evans at Royal Porthcawl in 1980 and thinking then what a great track it was. I’ve played it many times since and there are some fantastic, challenging holes. You really have to earn your corn there!’ Royal Porthcawl is situated within less than hour’s drive from both Cardiff and Swansea. It’s the perfect venue for championship golf. Past winners of the Senior Open include Gary Player, Tom Watson and Bob Charles. Big name players who will be eligible to join the field in 2014 include Davis Love III, Colin Montgomerie and Miguel Angel Jimenez. Royal Porthcawl will ensure a challenging Senior Open debut for all Major champions, Ryder Cup heroes and record European Tour winners. The club has a colourful history dating back to 1891 and combines a great respect for the democratic traditions of the game with a refreshing openness towards visiting golfers. This pretty much echoes the way golf is played in Wales. From courses notched into the sides of mountains to parkland gems; from championship tracks to community-maintained clubs, where you leave your green fees in an honesty box. Golf in Wales is unstuffy, unhurried and full of pleasant surprises. Like the saying goes: this is golf as it should be. For tickets and hospitality opportunities, please contact: 0800 023 2557 or Clockwise from left Royal Porthcawl Golf Club Bernhard Langer Colin Montgomerie
  37. 37. Events Diary 2014 8th – 13th July Llangollen International Eisteddfod Llangollen An extraordinary cultural celebration featuring 4,000 competitors from around the world in song, dance and music. 12th July British Speedway Grand Prix, Cardiff The Millennium Stadium hosts its 14th consecutive FIM British Speedway Grand Prix. 13th July Cardigan County Show West Wales’s premier agriculture show. 1st – 9th August National Eisteddfod Millennium Coast Park, Llanelli Aled Haydn Jones is a producer and presenter for BBC Radio 1. 19th July International Snowdon Race Snowdonia One of Europe’s toughest endurance challenges, this race involves running a steep five-mile (eight km) track up and down the highest summit in Wales and England. 26th – 27th July Big Cheese Festival, Caerphilly A celebration of the history, heritage and culture of Caerphilly with an extravaganza of street entertainers, living history encampments, music, dance, falconry, fire eating and much more, all set around Caerphilly Castle, one of the largest castles in Europe. 21st – 24th July Royal Welsh Show, Builth Wells This huge agricultural show isn’t just about cows and combine harvesters. With live music, stunt displays, craft stalls, great food and a host of other attractions, you don’t have to be a farmer (or Welsh) to love it. I’ve been to plenty of festivals in my time: it goes with the territory when you’re a DJ. But there’s still something special about an eisteddfod, which has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Every child in Wales is thrown onto a stage from an early age, especially if you went to a Welsh-speaking school like mine. If you’re on holiday and you want a proper flavour of Welsh culture, then you should definitely check out the National Eisteddfod. You don’t have to speak – or even be – Welsh, to have a totally brilliant time. There’s such a friendly, welcoming vibe, and so much going on – music, literature, dance, theatre. It moves around Wales to a different place every year, and it’s in Llanelli in 2014, but the basics are the same. There’s a field called the Maes, with loads of stalls and activities. In the middle is a gigantic pink tent called the Pavilion where most of the competitions and ceremonies are held. If you imagine the Edinburgh Fringe crossed with Glastonbury, with a distinctly Welsh flavour – well, you’re nearly there. In some ways it’s very traditional, with all the druids and bards and solemn ceremonies. But it’s also great for families, and for young people. I’ve seen some brilliant Welsh bands there in the evenings. More than anything, though, it’s a great place to catch up with friends and make new ones. There’s always a warm welcome for everyone, whether you speak Welsh or not. 35
  38. 38. August Brecon Jazz World-famous jazz festival set in the beautiful Brecon Beacons, featuring major international names. The 2013 festival included performances from Jools Holland, Acker Bilk and Courtney Pine. 12th – 13th August Anglesey County Show, Holyhead The largest two-day agricultural show in Wales is a show for every member of the family. More than 350 trade stands, entertainment marquee and country pursuits area, plus much, much more! August Victorian Festival, Llandrindod Wells Step back in time to the 19th century. The surrounding backdrop of incredible Victorian architecture dating from the spa town’s heyday, in the 19th century, further enhances the festivities. 13th – 17th August North Wales Boat Show, Conwy A celebratory festival of all water-based activities. 9th – 17th August Conwy River Festival If jaunty sailing boats with bright red sails are your thing, then this week of yacht racing and cruising is definitely for you. Even if it isn’t, there are plenty of shorebased activities to entertain you. Ever fancied dressing up as a pirate? 14th – 17th August Green Man Festival, Crickhowell There are plenty of festivals jostling for the position of ‘independent’ and ‘alternative’. But Green Man, founded in 2003 as a one-day campfire folk event, still stands out proudly in the left-field. It’s bigger, that’s for sure – the capacity’s around 20,000 these days – but it still inhabits its own glorious alternative universe. What makes it special? The setting, for starters: Glanusk Park, a natural bowl in the Brecon Beacons near Crickhowell, that’s easily the most beautiful festival site in Britain. There’s the sheer diversity of entertainment: ten areas, 1,500 performers, 24-hour events, comedy, poetry, literature, art and science, cinema, wildlife walks. There’s lashings of local beer and cider, and excellent gourmet food. From left Brecon Jazz, Brecon Green Man, Crickhowell Talyllyn Railway, near Tywyn 36 15th August Orchid Festival National Botanic Garden of Wales, near Carmarthen Featuring specialist nurseries from the UK as well as Europe, with talks and demonstrations from award-winning orchid growers. 16th August Race the Train, Tywyn This unique event is a must for all multiterrain runners. It takes place alongside the route of the Talyllyn Railway on its journey to Abergynolwyn and back. Then there’s the music: Green Man 2013 featured hip young things like Band of Horses, Kings of Convenience, British Sea Power, The Horrors and Ben Howard, but also legendary icons Patti Smith, John Cale and Roy Harper. It’s also very much about the people who come here, the most diverse and friendly bunch of humanity you’re likely to encounter, a broad church that welcomes locals, East End hipsters, crusties, hippies, students, Bodencatalogue families, business execs swapping pinstripes for bandanas – and all rubbing along just fine, thank you. The whole thing peaks, unforgettably, with the burning of a giant wooden effigy of the Green Man himself. Magnificent.
  39. 39. Events Diary 2014 18th – 23rd August 2014 International Paralympic Committee Athletics European Championships, Swansea University Around 600 athletes from 40 countries will compete in this first major paraathletics event to be held in GB following the London 2012 Paralympic Games. 19th – 21st August Pembrokeshire County Show Haverfordwest The biggest county show in Wales is also one of the very best of its kind in Britain, whether your interest is cars, food, clothes or animals. 23rd – 28th August Extreme Sailing, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff Cardiff has established itself as the venue for the UK round of the Extreme Sailing Series global tour and delivers nail-biting racing in a festival atmosphere with thousands of spectators. 24th August World Bog Snorkelling Championship, Llanwrtyd Wells Daring competitors battle it out in a 60-metre peat bog for the coveted title of World Champion Bog Snorkeller. This has to be the dirtiest water sport of the year! September Festival No. 6 The Manic Street Preachers and My Bloody Valentine were memorable headline acts last year, but this is more than a mere music festival. The fantasy village of Portmeirion comes alive with intimate readings and talks, exclusive film screenings with live soundtracks, standup comedy, art trails through the woods, storytelling in the clearings, master classes, and art installations. From left The best of county shows World Bog Snorkelling Championship, Llanwrtyd Wells Extreme Sailing, Cardiff Bay National treasures We don’t have just one National Museum. We’ve got seven. They’re evenly spread across Wales, and between them cover just about every aspect of Welsh history and culture: coal and slate mining, the wool industry, our architecture, technology, folk customs, Roman occupation, farming, seafaring – all brilliantly presented and curated by friendly experts. At the Big Pit National Coal Museum, you can put on a helmet and descend 300 feet (91 metres) underground into the mine itself, guided by miners who really used to work here. It’s the same at the National Slate Museum, where the slate craftsmen demonstrate skills learnt over generations. There are more traditional crafts at the wonderful St Fagans National History Museum, where more than 40 original Welsh buildings have been rebuilt in a 100-acre woodland site just outside Cardiff. And while the National Roman Legion Museum isn’t staffed by real Romans, Caerleon does have the most complete amphitheatre in Britain and the only Roman Legionary barracks on view anywhere in Europe. The National Museum Cardiff, meanwhile, has worldclass collections of natural history and art, including many iconic Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. And this is the best bit: all these museums are free to visit. Above Big Pit: National Coal Museum Below Impressionist collection, National Museum Cardiff 37
  40. 40. 6th September Mardi Gras, Cardiff A week-long arts festival leads up to Wales’s biggest celebration of gay and lesbian life. 7th – 14th September Tour of Britain The UK’s biggest professional cycle race and largest free-to-spectate sporting event, part of which takes the riders through some stunning Welsh scenery. 14th September Ironman Wales, Pembrokeshire A 2.4 mile (3.8 km) swim, a 112 mile (180 km) cycle, followed by a marathon, with only 17 hours to complete it all. Just an average Sunday really... 18th – 21st September ISPS Handa Wales Open Celtic Manor Resort, Newport A leading event on golf’s European Tour, attracting some of the world’s top golfers, played on the Twenty Ten course, designed for the 2010 Ryder Cup. From left Festival No. 6, Portmeirion Abergavenny Food Festival, Abergavenny Ironman Wales, Pembrokeshire 38 20th – 21st September Abergavenny Food Festival One of the biggest events in the UK foodie calendar, with local produce and international delicacies, celebrity chefs, master classes, tastings and street stalls all on the menu. 20th – 21st September Mold Food and Drink Festival Showcasing outstanding local produce, celebrity chef expertise and live music to create a fabulous foodie weekend for the whole family. 26th – 28th September The Porthcawl Elvis Festival Porthcawl Elvis lives, thanks to the thousands of fans and the tribute artists who attend this annual gathering of blue suede shoes, Vegas jumpsuits, and whopping sideburns. 28th September My Friend Dylan Thomas, Bangor University School of Music A mini-festival of events encompassing the many musical responses to Thomas’s work from his lifetime to the present day. October SWN Festival, Cardiff BBC Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens is the co-founder and curator of this hip urban music festival, with cutting-edge bands playing venues across Cardiff. 8th – 12th October Iris Prize Festival, Cardiff Cardiff’s international gay and lesbian short film prize welcomes the best new film-making talent to the capital. 11th – 12th October Anglesey Oyster Welsh Produce Festival, Beaumaris It started as an informal event where locals would gather to eat oysters and get merry, but now attracts thousands of visitors each year. 25th October 2014 – 22nd February 2015 Artes Mundi, Cardiff – National Museum Chapter This is Wales’s biggest and most exciting contemporary visual art show. One of the shortlisted artists is awarded the prize of £40,000, the largest art prize in the UK and one of the most significant in the world.
  41. 41. Events Diary 2014 25th – 26th October Gwledd Conwy Feast, Conwy The medieval town of Conwy is transformed with a weekend festival that boasts the largest celebration of music, art and food of Wales. The quayside, castle and medieval streets burst with flavours, sounds and sights. 27th October – 9th November The Dylan Thomas Festival, Swansea The focus for Dylan Thomas 100 including high-profile events to mark the 100th anniversary of Dylan’s birth. This event forms the centrepiece of the year-long celebrations over an intensive two-week period. November Wales Rally GB The British leg of the FIA World Rally Championship has been based in Cardiff since 2000. Watch the world’s elite drivers take on the world’s toughest forestry tracks in the Mid Wales mountains, and thrill the crowds at special stages. Mid November onwards Cardiff Winter Wonderland Swansea Waterfront Wonderland Ice-skating and rides, mulled wine and roasted chestnuts – feel-good festivities in Cardiff and Swansea’s Christmas villages. Throughout December Santa Steam Specials Father Christmas is the VIP passenger on weekend rides on Wales’s narrow-gauge Great Little Trains. 18th December River of Light Parade, Caerphilly Join in the annual River of Light Parade in Caerphilly town centre. River_of_Light_Parade.html 6th – 7th December Blackwood Christmas Market See the town centre come to life with stalls along the high street, funfair rides and traditional entertainment. With real reindeer visiting, Santa will certainly be putting in an appearance! Blackwood_Christmas_Market.html 31st December Nos Galan Road Races, Mountain Ash This annual race commemorates the 18th-century Welsh runner Guto Nyth Brân (who was supposedly so quick, he could blow out his candle and be in bed before it was dark). There are races for all abilities, street entertainment, funfair, fabulous firework display and a mystery celebrity runner… 11th December Wrexham Christmas Market This most eagerly awaited event in the town’s calendar attracts thousands of shoppers year after year. Music and entertainment throughout the day. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy in this events listing. All dates and information were checked at the time of going to press. Visit Wales cannot be held accountable for any change to this information. 13th – 14th December Caerphilly Medieval Christmas Fayre With a mix of farmers’ stalls, continental market stalls and genuine food and craft producers the event offers something for everyone. Musical entertainment, children’s workshops, street theatre and a Santa’s grotto ensure an entertaining weekend for all the family. From left Gwledd Conwy Feast, Conwy Wales Rally GB Cardiff Winter Wonderland 39