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 ––
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.
Rhossili, Gower Peninsula
Dylan Thomas’s Writing Shed, The Boathouse, Laugharne
Opposite page, top to bottom
Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire
Mission Gallery, Swansea
Conwy Castle, Conwy
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
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
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
As an actor, Rhys is awestruck by
Dylan’s dazzling way with words. But
does he also think the poet would have
Arts and culture
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
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.
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
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 visitwales.com
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
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
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
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
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
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
Arts and culture
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
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
Peter Blake Exhibition:
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
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).
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Arts and culture
Wales on film
Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire, the setting for
Shell Cottage in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Licensed By: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved
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.
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
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.
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.
Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire
Inset left to right
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.
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.
Top from left
Bardsey Island, Llyn Peninsula
Llanddwyn Island, Isle of Anglesey
Caerfai Farm, St David’s
Cottages, yurts, caravan and camp site,
cheesemaking … and all on a stunning clifftop
location, just around the headland from
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
Plas Rhianfa, Isle of Anglesey
This architectural gem has five-star luxury
overlooking the Menai Strait on Wales’s
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,
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
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,
St Tudwal’s West, and – talk about
getting away from it all – spends
family holidays on its few clifftop
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.
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 –
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.
hat is it about
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
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
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
Sgwd yr Eira, Brecon Beacons National Park
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
s C a st P
Ynys-hir RSPB Reserve, near Machynlleth
Opposite clockwise from top left
Dolphin-watching off the Ceredigion Coast
Wales Coast Path, near Llangrannog
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.
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
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.
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
So you’d like to see tracts of Wales
restored to what it once was: Atlantic
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
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
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.
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
Bluebell woodland near Aberystwyth
Tintern Forest, Wye Valley
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. wtwales.org
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. dyfiospreyproject.com
Although dolphins can be regularly seen from
the shore, the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife
Centre organises boat trips from April onwards.
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. rwtwales.org
Seabirds that have migrated
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
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
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.
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. gigrin.co.uk, redkiteswales.com
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.
There are far too many lovely
gardens and environmental
projects to squeeze into this
postage stamp of magazine
space. But here are some
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.
Aberglasney House and Gardens,
The origins of this magnificent Queen
Anne style house date back to medieval
times. A major restoration project
includes an Elizabethan Cloister Garden,
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.
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
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
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.
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.
A tale of
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.
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, museumwales.ac.uk/en/swansea
so now I’m off to get physical. Swansea
is mad about sport, whether it’s regional
rugby and football at the Liberty Stadium, donotgogentlefestival.com
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
matter the weather, just along the beach
National Waterfront Museum
from the city centre.
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
places to eat.
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
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
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
Clockwise from left
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay
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
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.
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 (milgilounge.com) 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 (mintandmustard.com) 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 (lacuina.co.uk) 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:
visitswanseabay.com and visitcardiff.com
Think that a country known for its
coastline and castles might be off
limits for wheelchair users?
’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
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:
TV presenter Liam Holt
360 Beach and Watersports, Swansea
Where to go, what to do and how to do it
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
(swanseamuseum.co.uk), the excellent
covered market (swanseaindoormarket.
co.uk) and, of course, the house in which
he was born (5cwmdonkindrive.com).
He might also be flattered to discover
that the old Guildhall is now the Dylan
Thomas Centre (dylanthomas.com).
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
(plantasia.org), the hi-tech LC waterpark
(thelcswansea.com), and the National
Waterfront Museum (museumwales.ac.uk
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
(visitswanseabay.com/gower), 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 (margamcountrypark.co.uk) 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
Swansea is also the starting point of
the Heart of Wales railway line (heartof-wales.co.uk), which potters through
our farming heartland before plunging
through mountain tunnels on its
picturesque journey to Shrewsbury.
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
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 (stdavidscardiff.com),
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 (visitcardiff.com) and
Cardiff Market (cardiff-market.co.uk),
a proper old-style glass-roofed jobbie.
There are museums and galleries galore
in the city centre. The National Museum
Cardiff (museumwales.ac.uk /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 (cardiff.gov.uk)
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
Arena (livenation.co.uk) and the Wales
Millennium Centre (wmc.org.uk) to
intimate spaces like Chapter Arts Centre
(chapter.org) – which also has an
excellent café and bar – and Clwb Ifor
Bach (clwb.net). 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
(thecityarms.com), or a laid-back bar
like 10 Feet Tall (10feettallcardiff.com)
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 (visitcardiffbay.info) 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
(techniquest.org), Dr Who Experience
(doctorwhoexperience.com) and the
superb Cardiff International White Water
Away from the big cities and coastal resorts, rural Wales has plenty
of fabulous market towns. Like this magnificent seven, for instance…
Llandrindod Wells, Powys
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.
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
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.
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. thecawdor.com, fronlas.com
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. midwalesmyway.com,
Where to stay: The Wynnstay Hotel has
a lovely heart-of-the-community feel, and
fabulous Ynyshir Hall is a short drive away.
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. visitsnowdonia.info
Where to stay: Plas Maenan, the ‘mansion
on a rock’ is a lovely country house with
brilliant views of the valley below.
Vale of Glamorgan
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. visitthevale.com
Where to stay: The Bear coaching inn can
trace its origins back to the 12th century, and
is still doing a roaring trade. bearhotel.com
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
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. manorhaus.com,
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?
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
Anything and everything to do with
quilt making: exhibitions, competition,
demonstrations and workshops.
Classic FM Live in Wales
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.
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
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
An annual musical event featuring
competitive piano, strings, woodwind
and ensemble sections.
1st – 9th March
Crickhowell Walking Festival
Guided walks of various grades, all led by
local experienced guides plus a range of
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.
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
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
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.
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
11th – 13th April
Poetry and Biography
curated by Patti Smith and
19th – 21st September
Comedy and Radio
curated by Robin Ince and
26th – 28th September
Music and Film
curated by Richard James and
RHS Flower Show, Cardiff
Wonderwool Wales, Builth Wells
2nd – 4th May
Machynlleth Comedy Festival
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
3rd – 5th May
Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza
This seaside resort returns to its Victorian
roots in an event packed full of steam
engines, Victorian musical organs,
vintage cars, costumes, curiosities and
16th – 18th May
Prestatyn Clwydian Range Walking
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
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
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.
Beaumaris, Isle of Anglesey
Welsh Three Peaks Challenge,
Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye
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.
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
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.
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
Attracting more than 300 classic
cars from the early 1900s through
to today’s supercars. Stalls, children’s
entertainments, refreshments and
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
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
Heineken Cup, Millennium Stadium
Foraging in Wales
Woodfest, Kinmel Estate, near St Asaph
Man v Horse Marathon
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.
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
14th – 15th June
Snowdonia Arts Festival
A celebration of the area’s artistic
heritage through workshops and
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
Europe’s largest wakeboard music festival
with free-to-watch wakeboarding by day
and music by night.
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
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
20th – 22nd June
Dinefwr Literature Festival
More than 100 events featuring authors,
poets, musicians, artists, actors and
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.
Man vs Horse Marathon, Llanwrtyd Wells
Entertainers Ant and Dec,
2013 Celebrity Cup
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
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
‘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
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
8th – 13th July
Llangollen International Eisteddfod
An extraordinary cultural celebration
featuring 4,000 competitors from around
the world in song, dance and music.
British Speedway Grand Prix, Cardiff
The Millennium Stadium hosts its 14th
consecutive FIM British Speedway
Cardigan County Show
West Wales’s premier agriculture show.
1st – 9th August
Millennium Coast Park, Llanelli
Aled Haydn Jones is a producer and
presenter for BBC Radio 1.
International Snowdon Race
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
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
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.
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!
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
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
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.
Brecon Jazz, Brecon
Green Man, Crickhowell
Talyllyn Railway, near Tywyn
National Botanic Garden of Wales,
Featuring specialist nurseries from the
UK as well as Europe, with talks and
demonstrations from award-winning
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.
18th – 23rd August
2014 International Paralympic
Committee Athletics European
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
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.
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!
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.
The best of county shows
World Bog Snorkelling Championship,
Extreme Sailing, Cardiff Bay
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
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
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
Mardi Gras, Cardiff
A week-long arts festival leads up to
Wales’s biggest celebration of gay and
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.
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.
Festival No. 6, Portmeirion
Abergavenny Food Festival, Abergavenny
Ironman Wales, Pembrokeshire
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Santa Steam Specials
Father Christmas is the VIP passenger on
weekend rides on Wales’s narrow-gauge
Great Little Trains.
River of Light Parade, Caerphilly
Join in the annual River of Light Parade
in Caerphilly town centre.
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!
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
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.
Gwledd Conwy Feast, Conwy
Wales Rally GB
Cardiff Winter Wonderland