Wales



Places to Visit In Wales

Hello and welcome. Thanks for dropping by.

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 being from Swansea in South Wales and living in Cardiff for the past 30+ years, maybe I am biased! I hope you enjoy the postings here and please feel free to click on the email link if you have any questions. It is a fairly new site, and I am constantly creating more articles about some good places in Wales worth a visit. So please feel free bookmark this site, or drop me an e-mail so I can let you know of any updates.


I hope you enjoy what you read about Wales in these pages. Just click on the article/post link to find what interests you about Wales above or in the sidebar on the right. I will be adding new articles and posts, so please feel free to return...

Vale of Glamorgan Agricultural Show

liver-chestnut welsh mountain pony.
My First Pony
Liver Chestnut
Welsh Mountain Pony
Being an avid horse-rider as a kid, I grew up around farms and farmers and always loved the feel of the countryside, fields and stables. I am not sure where I got my passion from, but it probably came from watching the local blacksmith shoeing different breeds of horses .  I was around my 10th birthday that I was granted my wish for a pony of my own. He was liver-chestnut Welsh Mountain Pony gelding of 11hh.

A few years later my Dad who was a property developer, purchased a run-down small-holding of around 38 acres and we went on to breed ponies and kept some pigs.

Anyway, enough of reminiscing so I’ll  fast-forward to 2018 and my first visit to the Vale Agricultural Show on August 8th 2018 that brought back some fond memories of those by-gone days of my youth and the wonderful experiences of attending similar shows around South West Wales.

Despite the threat of heavy rain-showers, the 2018 Vale Show had a wonderful atmosphere with everybody so helpful and friendly in getting in and parked up.   It was a great visit and we have only one shower of any significance when we were in the horticultural tent looking at prize vegetables and other plants. 

Below are some of the  pictures we took so as they say, “a picture can paint a thousand words”...



Over the the first jump
Clear Jump




equine show jumping
Another Great Clear Jump.


equine show jumping
Excellent Jump on the Turn


Best in Class Welsh Mountain Ponies

African Verreaux Milky Eagle Owl
African Verreaux Milky Eagle Owl

Aplomado Falcon
Aplomado Falcon


Kookaburra
Kookaburra

Eagle Owl
Eagle Owl
     

prize-winning cucumbers
Prize Cucumbers (very straight)


 The Vale of Glamorgan Show is always held on a Wednesday every August and is a one day event. It is a great day out with something for all the family. The gates are open from 8:30am until 7:30pm.  It is a very popular even in the Vale of Glamorgan and has been held in the grounds of Fonmon Castle since 1998. I took many more photographs, and will upload them at a later date in another post.  Below are a few more photographs that tell the tale of the show.   For details of next year's show, please click here

welsh beef cattle
Prize Winning Beef Cattls

prize milking cow
Prize Milking Cow

Sheep Shearing Competition
Sheep Shearing Competition

Big Pumpkins!  Prize Winners
Big Pumpkins!  Prize Winners

Merlin in Wales. Legend of King Vortigern.

Cotton Claudius B VII f.224 Merlin Vortigern
Merlin Giving the
prophecies to
King Vortigern

King Vortigern was a warlord that lived in the 5th century AD just after the Romans had left the British Isles to fight invaders back in Europe. It is suggested that he historically existed, but that Votigern was his title rather than his name. What follows in this story has not been proven as historical fact so considered to be a legend of betrayal and sorcery.


Briefly the legend goes that Vortigern was not very popular with his people because he arranged for the Saxons to migrate into Britain to help drive back the Picts and the Scots that were a threat to England, This the Saxons did but then one day, they turned on the English at a conference with Vortigern attacking them with hidden knives. Vortigern managed in one way or another to get away with his life, but his arrangement with the Saxons had backfired on him.

 There is a story that the Saxons got him drunk, seduced him with one of their women, and tricked him into getting lands. I don’t know the truth of this, but I guess it sounds more interesting than to say that the Saxons just merely went out and grab the lands and set up their own kingdoms. From here the story enters the magical world of Arthurian legend.

 King Vortigern had a group of magicians or wise men who advised him, and he called them together and asked them what he should do next. They told him how treacherous these Saxons whom he had invited into the lands of Britain really were and that they would probably stop at nothing to kill the King and take even more of his lands. The best thing he could do was to move to the far reaches of his kingdom and build himself a fortress to wage war on the Saxons.

It was probably months or maybe years they travelled looking for a suitable place in which to erect a citadel, but eventually came to the Mountainous land of Snowdonia, known in Welsh as the mountains of Eryri. They came to a high peak, Dinas Emrys an ideal place to build a fort, but then strange forces began to thwart the building of the fortress.

Some stories say that any building erected by the end of the day, mysterious collapsed over night, and other stories claimed that all material collected and stored to begin the build, vanished without trace. Whatever happened there was obviously some sort of sorcery at work, so the magicians were consulted once again.

 This time the sorcerers told Vortigern that the site would need the sacrifice of a young boy who had no father and his blood sprinkled over the ground to kill the spell that was thwarting Vortigern’s plans of a new fortified city. The king ordered them to go and find such a boy and the search was soon underway.

Eventually they found a fatherless boy in Bassaleg, a town existing in North Wales to this very day, but fate was not to be kind to the King’s magicians, as their magic would prove not to be near as powerful as the boy they intended to kill. For this boy was destined to be known as Myrddin Emrys – Merlin in England, the greatest magician who ever lived. If the King’s magicians had realised the power of this boy, they would have left him well alone!

Merlin strongly suspected his fate at the hands of his captor and asked Vortigern what was to happen to him. Vortigern told him the truth, that he needed this fortress and that the boy was to die there to destroy the curse that was obviously on the site.

 Merlin asked to speak to the magicians and question them about the wisdom of what they were doing. His first question was “what was under the ground that is thwarting all attempt to build the citadel?” The magicians could not answer. Merlin asked then if they would dig into the site and find out, and the King ordered them to do this.

welsh dragon versus saxon dragonWhat they found was two sleeping dragons. A white one and a red one. The dragons immediately awakened and began a ferocious fight. Both fighting for all they were worth. The red dragon which seemed the weaker was almost overcome, but then the red dragon found a huge surge of strength and defeated the other which just vanished, never to be seen again.

Merlin asked the king’s magicians to explain the meaning of such an awesome and magical event. They were dumbstruck and had no idea what had gone on.


Merlin explained to the King that the red dragon was the Welsh dragon and would become a great symbol of the power of Wales. The white dragon was the Saxon Dragon that was defeated and banished. He then said that the site was not meant to be used as a citadel, as it was the sacred home of the red dragon who had now successfully driven the enemy away. Vortigern would need to build his citadel elsewhere in the mountains.

Vortigern was not pleased at the deceit and treachery of his magicians and so ordered their execution and burial on the mountains of Snowdonia. Merlin’s life was spared, and the mountain where these magical happenings took place became known as Dinas Emrys.

Dinas (city) of Emrys. Emrys also a name given to Merlin’s means immortal). Myrddin Emrys, Merlin’s other Welsh name means Sea fortress in Welsh – so we can add the meaning as immortal sea fortress. A man of many names. All powerfully magical.


A Trip on the Snowdon Mountain Railway

Located in the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales, Mt. Snowden attracts some half-a-million visitors a year.   The area has many associations of the legendary King Arthur and the wizard Merlin - this will be the subject of another post at a later date. 


I visited the Mount Snowdon way  back in the late 1980s and discovered that there were three ways to reach the summit.. The first, the 'hard way' – the way of the mountaineers,who climb the North Face cliff that is named Clogwyn Du’r Ardue a seriously forbidding rocky crag considered to be high-grade mountaineering in UK mountaineering standards. Not that I know anything at all about mountaineering… that certainly wasn’t the way to get up Snowdon for me!

The second way up Mt. Snowdon was the ‘long way’ - a very challenging way to walk up the slopes for around 5 miles. One would need a lot of stamina (something that I don't have!) and good weather, because it can get to be quite dangerous if bad weather sets in regardless of one's fitness. Weather can change very quickly on the slopes of Snowdon.

The third way was the 'easy way' that sounded good to me...

Llanberis Station


The easiest way to reach the summit was by a steam train that travels up a steep rack and pinion railway  track that was put in place during Victorian times. This track has a toothed rack rail, that is fixed between the running rails  which ensures that the train does not start to slip backwards on its outer rails!  

The weather was good back on the June day back then.  But walking  up the second (long) way, did not appeal at all, and climbing did even cross my mind, so it was the train for me.  Early June being out of the main holiday season in the UK, meant that there was no problem in getting a ticket, so the train-ride it was.





Llanberis is a village at the foot of Mt. Snowden. It is from Llanberis Station that we boarded this very train that took us up  the steep slopes and along the high ridges to the summit of Mount Snowden, some 3,560ft (1085mtrs) above Sea Level. 










Me at the Summit of
Mount Snowdon disappointingly
a mist had developed.



Finally at the top of the mountain there is a raised large rock platform and here I am waiting for my turn to stand on it and take in the view. From there all I was expecting to see  a panorama of  the adjacent Snowdonia hills rising up out of valleys and one or two mountain lakes some of which rumoured to have connections with King Arthur and his magician Merlin (more of this in another story). 


It had been very sunny when we had set off on the train from Llanberis but I was surprised and disappointed that up here at the summit, it was very misty and visibility beyond adjacent hills was not possible. However, I learned from a fellow-visitor who had been before, that standing on the summit one can see over to the coast of Ireland, across England to the Isle of Man and some 144 miles to Southern Scotland in the North.  But unfortunately I was not to witness this. I decided that I would have to come up to North Wales again, and get up Mt. Snowdon, but alas I have not got around to it as yet.











One of the many lakes on Snowdonia
some of which have connection
with King Arthur and Merlin.
Photo supplied by
Images by PhotoEverywhere.co.uk








Made In Wales - Gilben Sports Cars 1959 - 1974

Gilbern cars Ltd was the only manufacturer of Welsh cars. The company began in the South Wales Valleys in the village of Llantwit Fardre,  Rhondda Valley in South Wales.  It was founded by a Welsh butcher named Giles Smith and a German engineer named Bernard Friese, who stayed in the UK after being a prisoner of war during WWII. 


It was 1959 and they wanted to create a light and nimble sports car so they decided to make the car’s bodywork out of fibreglass.  The came up with the name of Gilbern being the first syllable of each of their Christian names of Gil and Bern.
Gilbern 1800GT (1963) - 15163694364

Gilbern Models and Specs


There were three models made the first being the Gilbern GT. Many Gilberns were sold as kit cars so specs varied, but as a general guide...

The GT was powered by a 1.8ltr BMC engine of 95HP  which was quite nippy for its day with an acceleration of 0-60MPH coming up in around 11 seconds and a top speed exceeding 100MPH. 

Both the Genie and the Invader models had very similar specs and performance figures….

The Gilbern Genie came into existence in the late 1960s and was powered by a more powerful 2.6ltr V6 British engine and produced 0-60MPH acceleration speed of a little over 8 seconds with  141bhp and top speed of around 115MPH

Finally we have the Gilvern Invader, the most powerful being powered usually by a Ford V6 which brought up a 0-60MPH claim of around 8 seconds seconds also with 141bhp and top speed of around 115MPH
 

Birds of Wales:The Red Kite

The Red Kite has been referred to as the National Bird of Wales as for many years in the UK, Mid Wales was its only breeding place.  However, I have noticed one or two in the skies of South Wales and the bird is now well on the road to recovery from being on the edge of extinction in the 20th Century due to human persecution over much of the UK.  During those bad years it was in Mid Wales that a handful survived in secluded woodlands.  

The killing of Red Kites began when farmers had the erroneous beliefs that the birds attacked and killed lambs but it turned out that the Kites were totally innocent and fed mostly on carrion and smaller rabbits and other mammals, but it would take out pheasant and other game birds. It’s diet can also extend to  beetles and worms.

The Red Kite is an impressive looking bird in flight with a wingspan of around 2mtrs (5½ ft) and has a swallow-like forked tail. It soars higher and higher with the thermal winds and has keen eyes to seek out prey or carrion on the ground. In medieval times, was quite a common site in the British Skies.

Since the late 1980s there has been a program to reintroduce the Red Kite into the wild. There are now protected and it is illegal to harm or kill one or remove eggs from its nest.

Tinkinswood and St. Lythan Neolithic Burial Chambers

Around 6-7 miles west of Cardiff, in the Vale of Glamorgan, down a quiet country lane off the A48 trunk road, are two ancient burial chambers from the Neolithic Age. To get there, get on the A48 west of Cardiff and follow the signs for Dyffryn House once in the village of St. Nicholas. Go about a mile down that road past the entrance to Dyffryn House and a sign will appear in a lay-by on the right-hand side of the road indicating Tinkinswood Burial Chambers. And finally, to get to the site, you then need to walk cross a stile and walk across two fields.

Although not a large attraction it is another of the places to visit in Wales that I would recommend that takes you off the beaten track.


Tinkinswood


neolithic burial chamber, tinkinswood, vale of glamorgan
Tinkinswood Burial Chamber
A pillar has been inserted to support the heavy capstone


Tinkinswood is a burial chamber that was constructed about 6000 years ago and during an excavation in 1914, the chamber was found to contain the remains of 50 people together with earthenware and stone tools from the Neolithic age.  It is believed to have been attached to the village of Tinkinswood. The soil in this area is highly fertile and there are many rocks lying around that would have been ideal for tool-making, so it is understandable why Neolithic man would have settled here.

neolithic burial chamber entrance, tinkinswood, vale of glamorgan
What caught my imagination was the size of the capstone. Weighing in around 40 tons and measuring 7.3 X 4.4 metres (24 X 14ft ), I had an image of how the stone must have been put into place with hundreds of men pulling and lifting, and perhaps levering it into place.  And what is more surprising is that this dolmen, as such burial chambers are known, predates Stonehenge by around 1000 years.

Situated within a courtyard, originally the chamber would have been covered by an earth mound, but over the years this has disappeared. 

And we have a legend... some sort of curse that may be attached to the place. It is said, that if anybody spends the night at this site
neolithic burial chamber, north view, tinkinswood, vale of glamorgan
Tinkinswood Burial Chamber
North View
on the evenings leading up to May Day, St John's Day or mid-winter's day, they will either go insane or be transformed into a poet!  And... another curse may have been even more potent at one time. A  group of boulders nearby are said to be three women who were turned into stone for dancing on the Sabbath. So
perhaps there was a Welsh relative of Medusa at Linkswood!



St. Lythan's Burial Chamber


Known as Gwal-y-Filiast, St Lythan's Burial chamber lies about a mile further down the lane from Tinkinswood. This is not quite such a large site and there is just one single stone chamber remaining from what was once a much larger structure.

St Lythams Neolithiic Burial Chamber, Vale of Glamorgan
St. Lytham's Burial Chamber
V ale of Glamorgan
St. Lythan's is also around 6000 years old and was also covered by an earth mound.  It's size has been estimated to be around 24 X 11 metres (80 X 30ft).  The capstone here is still quite a size, but smaller than Tinkinswood weighing in at a mere 35 tons, but it still would have needed many men to place this in position. 

Human remains and pottery were discovered here during the mid to late 1800s.

So there you have it. I have visited both sites, and would highly recommend taking just a few hours to check them out. If you have a sensitivity to atmospheres and auras of ancient places, you won't be disappointed

Boverton Village & Castle

     Boverton Castle


Boverton Castle (Manor House)
  




Boverton Village, near Llantwit Major, has stood since the time of William the Conqueror (1028-1087).  The main point of interest these days is the ruins of Boverton Manor also known as Boverton Castle, that was built by Robert Fitzhamon, a 12th century Norman conqueror of Glamorganshire in South Wales.

boverton manor hous
Boverton Manor House
Overlooking
Boverton Village Square

During the reign or Richard 1st the manor house was owned by the Earl of Gloucester.  His daughter Hadwisa went on to marry Prince John and it is rumoured that this union lead to something quite sinister in the Manor that was witnessed hundreds of years later.





Boverton Manor (left and above)is rumoured to have a ghost called the "Black Lady" who terrified some workmen during the early 19th Century.  The ghost was dressed in black mourning clothes (hence the name Black Lady) and believed to be the restless spirit of Hadwisa, estranged wife of King John.  He had divorced her and banned her to exile in the Manor house.  However, still being in love with him, she lived a sad and pitiful existence there for the rest of her days, and it was her forlorn appearance made itself known to the workmen along with the sound of her mournful sobs.



It was later rebuilt in the 17th Century as a fortified manor house by Roger Seys who was the attorney general of Wales, but then fell into decay.

Boverton Manor is currently fenced off and can only be seen from the road outside, but it is well worth just standing there and soaking up some of its history. There have been no reported sightings of a ghost there in recent years, but that's not to say that the Black Lady won't appear again.


Further Posts/Articles relating to Vale of Glamorgan, Wales - see archive list in right hand column or Vale of Glamorgan Page also linked at top of page

Ogmore Castle, Vale of Glamorgan.


Ogmore Castle is situated in St. Bride's Major, Vale of Glamorgan on the east bank of the River Ogmore and south of the River Ewenny.  The castle stands at what was once a strategic position to protect the towns of Bridgend and Coity situated further inland to the north and east. 

What was originally a timber fortification, Ogmore Castle was later
ogmore castle fire hearth
Old Fire Hearth, Ogmore Castle.
reinforced by stone and when looking up inside the Great Hall, the remains of the upper first floor can be seen with a large and ornate fireplace and arched windows.


The Castle is thought to date back to before the Norman Invasion but was given to William de Londres by Robert Fitzhamon who was the Norman conqueror of Glamorgan.

In 1116, whilst William was away, his butler Arnold successfully defended the Castle against a Welsh invasion, and was later knighted, Sir Arnold Butler and given Ogmore Castle along with the nearby Dunraven Manor as a reward for his bravery.

main gate, ogmore castle
Ogmore Castle Main Entrance
(from inside the grounds)
I find that old castles are amongst my favourite places to visit in Wales, having visited many of them in my youth both alone and on our school outings. Ogmore Castle, whilst not huge, certainly captures the imagination. The tranquil peace of the area where it is situated, plays on the imagination and I can often "hear" the battles that seem to echo
Ogmore Castle Main Entrance
Ogmore Castle, Main Entrance
around ancient walls and ruined battlements,  now silenced by the passing of the centuries.  Ogmore Castle has free admission and whilst not a large structure to explore it is a great place to visit for a picnic or to play games with the kids hopping across on the River Ogmore on the stepping stones adjacent to the Castle


The Ghost of Ogmore Castle
The legend goes that a local man once accosted the White Lady - the ghost of Lady Ogmore - demanding that she give him some gold that he knew she had hidden in the castle.  She led him upstairs into the one of the towers and beckoned him to raise a large stone slab from the floor.  There under the slab, was a container full of golden guineas. She told him that he could take half but leave the other half for her.  He accepted her offer and left with his windfall. Later on though, he was overcome by greed and couldn't see why he should not have the entire fortune. After all, what would a ghost do with such a worldly fortune anyway? So he returned to the castle get it.  As he was about to take the money, the ghost caught him in the act. He tried to talk his way out of it, saying that she was mistaken and that he was only checking on it.  But the White Lady knew that theft was in his heart and set about him, slashing deeply into his flesh with her talons.  He left Ogmore Castle bruised, bloodied and badly injured but made it home. There was a lot of questioning as to how he got these bruises and he must have confessed to the truth  just before he died of his wounds because his sickness and subsequent death was referred to as the White Lady's Revenge.

Llantwit Major: Ghost Story

Llantwit Major, being one of the most ancient villages in Wales just has to have a ghost story or two.

River Ogmore & Castle Ruins
River Ogmore & Castle Ruins
A tailor in the town had a wife called Barbara who's dying mother-in-law entrusted to her the task of distributing her wealth equally with the rest of the family. However, Barbara's head was turned by the wealth and she decided to say nothing of the inheritance and keep it for herself.  But the ghost of her husband's mother returned to exact vengeance on the woman for her dishonesty. She did this at first by constantly pinching Barbara all over her body whilst she rested in bed each night, completely depriving her of sleep. This continued until Barbara felt very ill and was covered in bruises.  At this point the ghost reappeared and ordered her to either share the money equally with the family, or throw it downstream into the River Ogmore.

Barbara, not wanting to reveal the theft to the family by sharing the wealth at this late date, decided to throw the money into the river, thinking that this would allow her to keep the respect of the family.  However, it seems that she had more trickery in mind and  did not throw it downstream as she had agreed, but upstream. I don't know why she threw it upstream, but it suggests to me that the was trying to trick the ghost and would set about retrieving it later.  But the ghost was obviously not stupid and this didn't work for the hapless Barbara and threw her into a deep whirlpool in the river.  She was found later by some villagers battered and bruised, but with no memory of what had happened.

The ghost returned again and haunted the home that she shared with her innocent husband and children with ghostly bumps and crashes for the rest of their days. The story goes  that even her children were punished. Locals were said to be "ghost ridden"