I’m just starting to plan a (very) short holiday in South Wales at the end of this month — I’ll be staying not far from Newport. Unfortunately I’ll only have 2 1/2 days in the area (afternoon of Mon 28th Jan plus all day Tues 29th and Wed 30th), but I still want to pack in all that I can (and hopefully stay for longer next time)!
So I would just love to ask the friendly community here — are there any must-see / must-do places you would recommend that I could get to while I’m in your part of the world? (I will have my car and don’t mind driving a fair way to get to anywhere that’s worth visiting.) Beautiful sights, historic places, cultural / heritage centres, anywhere where one can learn and practise a little Cymraeg? I still haven’t learned very much yet (I will aim to get through all of Level 1 SSiW before I go, at least), but I would still love to use what I can, when I can…
I’m already a fairly fluent speaker of Kernewek (Cernyweg to you) — I’m an Aussie with Cornish ancestry — so I’m also interested in anything to do with Celtic history in general and the connections between the Brythonic peoples and languages. I do already have a contact email for the Yeth an Werin (informal Cornish speaking group) in Cardiff — I won’t be there for their monthly meeting, but I’ll get in touch with them anyway and perhaps they can give me some pointers too.
If your interested in Welsh history and culture, you will have visit St Fagans. Its an open air museum on the outskirts of Cardiff, where they have reconstructed historical buildings. And all the staff speak Welsh!
Unfortunately you might struggle to hear much Welsh spoken here - we have some of the lowest % of speakers in the whole of Wales.
We’ve got quite a few castles to visit, lots of good scenery in the Brecons. I think the nearest Canofan Cymraeg is in Merthyr - but I don’t know much about it. Not really close to Newport - about an hour’s drive. There are various places and people in Cardiff where you could use a bit of Welsh - museums, bookshops and some cafes.
I don’t know if there are regular chat/meetups on a Tuesday or Wednesday in Newport - nothing that I’m aware of.
If you can be more specific about what you want to do, I could try to be more specific with suggestions.
Thanks, Joe. I’m a National Trust member, for a start, and they’re usually good for affordable days out… unfortunately a lot of their properties are closed during the winter, including a few I would have wanted to visit in the general area.
I’ve visited Cardiff once but only had about a day there and didn’t see much. I went to Cardiff Castle, but felt too much of it was a Victorian fantasy recreation instead of a real castle, so to speak. (Not that I’ve anything against the Arts & Crafts period — I like it too — but I was hoping for something a bit more ancient.)
Any museums or heritage centres in Cardiff or other towns in the area might be interesting, especially ones where I could at least try some Welsh. I definitely like Hishiv’s suggestion of St Fagans!
I’ve just discovered Cadw, which I assume is something like the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage — could also be helpful.
Well there’s a big NT place just outside Newport called Tredegar House, possibly worth a visit.
Cadw have some good castles - a big one in Caerphilly, another in Chepstow/Casgwent. Neither much like Cardiff Castle!
Both are not too far from Newport, but in different directions.
Also Cadw has some Roman Remains near Newport at a place called Caerleon. If you are interested in Roman things, it’s worth going as there is also the National Roman Museum with various other artifacts and things to see.
Yes, I saw Tredegar House on the NT website, but unfortunately the house and gardens are closed all this month and only the surrounding parkland is open. That’s pretty usual for NT properties over the winter — they do take a lot of maintenance.
I saw Caerphilly and Chepstow Castles on the Cadw website and will definitely see if I can get to at least one of them. Castell Coch is another one I’ve heard recommended, but it’s another Victorian fantasy — could still be worth seeing, but it’s closed until 1 Feb, so that’s out. I also made note of the Caerleon Roman Baths — I’ve certainly enjoyed visiting the ones at Bath. I don’t have a specific interest in Roman history, though.
Oh — Gwent (and forgive my geographical ignorance, please… I didn’t know there were two). I’m actually staying 12.5 miles away, though, in the village of Llanvair Discoed (which, I’ve just confirmed, is better spelled Llanfair Is Coed).
Raglan Castle is not too far from where you’ll be and will be open (and it’s not a Victorian one! )
Also White Castle isn’t much further, will be open, and that’s usually much quieter than the others and very atmospheric (one of my favourites!) https://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/whitecastle/?lang=en
Also relatively close by is my home town, Monmouth (Trefynwy) - lots of beautiful countryside, lots of history (Monnow Gate, Charles Rolls, Nelson Museum, Henry V castle remains), unfortunately not so much Welsh language (it is on the rise, but you’d be very unlikely to hear it being used )
and just for clarity, In Welsh the Newports are Casnewydd (Newport Gwent) and Trefdraeth (Newport Pembs)
If you like castles - Raglan is one of my favourites - historically it used to have a library supposedly holding the largest collection of old Welsh manuscripts, although unfortunately that’s long gone now - destroyed by Cromwell’s armies and not much else to do around there since likely to be deserted this time of year, but close enough to Abergavenny for a few nice eateries for lunch (I think there are quite a few Welsh Speakers in Abergavenny, but you’d have to dig them out in advance) - leading down from Raglan to Chepstow through the lovely wye valley, there’s the remains of Tintern abbey, which again will be hauntingly quiet this time of year. Caldicot castle is also surprisingly nice, but without wanting to offend anyone from Caldicot, it isn’t somewhere I would necessarily think of as a tourist destination.
Maybe look up “Menter Iaith Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen a Mynwy” on facebook as well - they seem to have plenty going on?
Thanks, Siaron and Toffidil. I’ll look those up too. I’ll probably only get to three or four of these locations in the couple of full days I have, but I’ll make the most of the ones I do visit and I’ll save the others for a longer holiday some time. Diolch yn fawr
and @jamesmahoney or @cuckoo may be able to give you more information. There was a Welsh conversation group that met up in a pub in Caerleon that I went to once with James, but I can’t remember which day it was.
Dioch, Dee! Again, some of this may have to be for another time, but it IS possible I’ll be moving closer to South Wales in the future and then I’ll have a lot more opportunities to explore.
Myttin da (as we say in Cernyweg… we only use “bora” to mean “dawn”, so we like to joke that the Welsh get up earlier than the Cornish )!
I would be happy to come to the conversation group in Caerleon on Tues 29th, diolch yn fawr! That’s not far from where I’ll be staying in Llanfair Is Coed. As I mentioned, I don’t know very much Welsh (yet) but I’d love to learn a bit more. Between 50-75% of words are the same or similar between Kernewek (Cernyweg) and Kembrek (Cymraeg), so it’s always fun to see how much I recognise when people are speaking Welsh.
Caerleon is well worth a visit as long as the museum and baths are open. I think they will be, but check on their website. The amphitheatre is, I think, the most complete on in the UK, and there are the remains of the barracks too. The museum is very interesting and shows how the local population mixed with the Roman and all the other nationalities their rule brought to Britain.
I’ll second Sain Ffagans. it’s an amazingly interesting place - I was there about 5 hours and still didnt see all that I wanted. Plus I got a chance to chat to one of the volunteers in welsh which was awesome!
Ah, that’s interesting — do you mean the Roman fortress and baths? I’ve just been looking on their website and under opening times they say absolutely nothing about it being closed for repairs, which they really should if that’s the case. Thanks for the tip, James.
Ah, thanks. I hadn’t yet looked that one up. I don’t have any special interest in Roman history, but the baths sound very interesting, so I can at least see those. I think my main interest historically is the Britons themselves, the ones who eventually diverged into the Welsh and Cornish (and the Bretons). I don’t have any known Welsh ancestry myself, just Cornish (and that’s 4 generations back), but we’ve all got to be related if you go back far enough.