I couldn’t believe my eyes when I threw back the curtains early that Sunday morning and watched the sunlight flood my room. Not wanting to stay indoors a minute longer, I rushed through getting ready and skipped hotel breakfast to go out and explore, thinking I’d grab something en route.
Not the smartest of decisions, as I quickly realised at 8am on a Sunday morning, there was nowhere around open to serve food. I used the time to instead wander round with my camera enjoying the rays.
Bonus to being out and about early, I was the first person to arrive at Cardiff Castle, and for the first 15minutes… I had the place all to myself.
It was bliss. I walked straight up to the path around the turrets, perched myself on the edge and stopped. Not to take pictures, not to explore, I simply sat and took in the view. The only sound was that of the wind against the flags above me and rustling the daffodils below. Definitely worth sacrificing breakfast for.
I literally skipped with joy around the grounds exploring the nooks and crannys, peeping through the tiny doorframes and windows and running my hands along the stone walls of this ancient fort. I did of course then get pretty snap happy as the sun was flooding the grounds, bringing it all to life. I took so many snaps, I had to include some of my favourites in their own post.
After having completely lost track of time, I made a mad dash to join my Traverse Sunday experience group waiting on the other side of the castle walls.
Everyone accounted for, our tour guide Paul from ‘See Wales’ welcomed us all into the minivan and off we went to our first stop of the day…
Brecon Beacons National Park
During the most scenic drive, Paul plied us with facts and figures as we headed away from the city towards the South Wales valleys. Stopping only to share hypnotic Welsh music, allowing some time for us bloggers to get to know each other.
We were only there to admire the views and embark on a small walk, but there is an endless amount of things to do at this National Park. Of course top of my list would be walking (need to come back with my dad one day!) and there are many routes that showcase some of the highlights such as waterfalls, endless green valleys, canals, quaint towns… and much more.
But if adventure is what you’re after you won’t be disappointed round here. During the conference on the Saturday, I discovered you can do all sorts: canyoning; canoeing; fishing; mountain biking… and again the list goes on.
Stopping for pictures
You can’t visit Wales and not come across flocks of sheep. Apparently there are more than 10 million of these woolly creatures wandering the vast countryside. Paul made a few brief stops for us to stretch our legs, have a quick stroll and snap away at some of the wildlife.
One of my highlights was when we stopped to get up close and personal with some welsh mountain ponies – doing what they do best, keeping the vegetation in check.
Lunch stop was at the Tower café, opposite St Marys Church, a beautiful stone structure. Sunday service had just finished when we arrived and it was lovely to explore amongst the parishioners, listening to their friendly chatter, watching the children play whilst finding gems such as stained glass windows, beautifully carved pews and perfectly coiffured flower arrangements.
The cafe was overflowing when we arrived, we nabbed an outdoor table and I had no doubt the only meal I was after that day, was one I had been looking forward to all weekend. Welsh rarebit. It’s one of my favourite lunch meals anyway and I finally got to have it, in Wales! (I was a very happy bunny)
After food, there was no time for wasting, it was back onto the bus for our last stop of the day…
Big Pit Coal Mines
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go down the mine shaft into Big Pit due to industrial action (apparently a common occurrence at the moment) but we were treated to a guided walk by an ex-miner, Wayne, who had worked the modern day mines for 34 years. He walked us through the long hard process of extraction and educated us on the history of mining, sharing some of his own personal tales.
From Wayne’s talks and after listening to the ‘virtual miner’ in the mining galleries, my opinion of the trade completely changed, especially when you saw the passion and dedication of the workers. As much as I believe its important for us to be sourcing renewable energy, it is quite sad that ceasing production meant it impacted the surrounding towns so significantly.
The area itself has been labelled a world heritage site by UNESCO recognising the Big Pits international importance to industrialisation.
Paul left us to spend our last hour exploring the area on our own. I chose to visit all the museums rather than grab tea in the shop and I’m so glad I did too. One of the very kind guides was on hand at the Pithead Baths and he walked me through the exhibits, answering my many many (quite naïve) questions.
Growing up in Saudi Arabia, I really knew nothing about the history of mining – this trip was a wonderful eye opener and I learnt so much, I really recommend it!
A quick float round the gift shop with the others and that was the day done. Back in the van and back to Cardiff. There were a lot of sleepy bloggers on the drive, sign of a long day (and maybe a long Traverse night before for some!).
We arrived at the castle and that was it, time to catch the train up North to Manchester. I definitely picked the right experience that’s for sure, with most of our time spent enjoying the great outdoors, this one was right up my street. See Wales do a number of different tours and after today, I would happily book any of them (The Gower Peninsula tour is definitely the next one on my list though).
Met some great bloggers, expanded my knowledge, looked out over the most sensational views – totally found my epic.
*** This tour was part of the Sunday experience program at Traverse 16 bloggers conference ***
As always all opinions in this post have not been influenced and are entirely my own.
Thank you to Paul from See Wales for a great day out!
Couple of tips from my experience:
- Although the sun was out, early spring usually means it gets pretty windy when you’re high up in the hills so be sure to pack a hat and scarf
- Comfy shoes, I really don’t think I need to explain? Although Paul is always on hand with the mini bus there are lots of opportunities to explore on foot that you don’t want to miss out on.
- Visit all the areas at the Big Pit coal museum, it’s definitely worth it, and be sure to speak to the workers there – all ex-miners with a wealth of knowledge.
Have you explored any of the sites above? What did you think? Have you tried any of the activities at Brecon National Park?