As this is about places to visit in Wales to visit what better place to start than the City of Cardiff, the capital of Wales, but first, where is South Wales and what does it offer the visitor?
South Wales, within easy reach of from most parts of the UK, has tended to be associated with coal mining and heavy industry. But now, steeped in history and legend, there are some fascinating places to visit in Wales. Well I think so anyway, but maybe I am biased. Anyway, let me tell you a little about Cardiff where I have lived since the mid 1970s up until last year when I moved to about 20 miles outside the city. In it's history Cardiff has been the foremost centre for the exportation of coal in the world. This may give the impression of a dirty coal-mining town, but on the contrary, Cardiff is a very attractive city to the visitor. It is an under-statement to say the architecture is very eye-catching, with it's Norman Castle and Edwardian civic centre, surrounded by flowering trees and ornate flower beds.
The history of Cardiff Castle goes back to the eleventh century. It was built on the site of a derelict Roman fort and many non-Welsh people settled there. This brought about many attacks from the surrounding villages of the native Welsh. In 1158, Lord Ifor ap Meurig, of Sengenydd (near Caerphilly), the Norman Lord of Glamorgan, together with his Countess, lived in Cardiff Castle and was kidnapped from the castle and held for ransom, for certain 'wrongs' he had inflicted on the natives. Jumping forward several centuries to 1865, the castle underwent an amazing transformation by an architect named William Burges. He was doing the work for the third Marquess of Bute who was a rich historian, mystic, archaeologist - well you get the idea. Burges's work can still marvelled at to this day and the style can also be seen in many buildings in Cardiff and the rest of the U.K. Cardiff Castle looks like a fairy-tale creation, that could well grace the pages of the book, Sleeping Beauty. There are guided tours around the castle, and it is full of medieval and ornate decoration, that includes: the 'Chaucer Room', based on Chaucer's works; the richly decorated Arab room; the Summer Smoking Rooms decorated with emblems of the universe, to name but a few. Peacocks inhabit the grounds and screech-like calls can be frequently heard. It is obvious that money was no object to the Marquis of Bute. Cardiff Castle is a magnificent place to visit, if Castles are your forte.
Cardiff shopping centre is a mixture of the modern with
the old. Modern shopping malls sit alongside Victorian Arcades, with the
newer St. David's centre at the heart of the city that in Christmas 2009
became even larger. Adjacent to the centre is St. David's Hall. Here, we
find a variety of entertainment all the year round, from singing stars
like Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones to famous comedians, orchestras and
opera stars. Other attractions in Cardiff are the National Museum
of Wales, with it's fine artifacts of Welsh history and other
collections and, about five miles to the West of the City, St. Fagan's Folk museum, which will be the subject of
my next post.