Caerphilly – More than just cheese! There are many tourist destinations a short driving distance from Bryn Meadows Golf Hotel and Spa, perfect for a day out exploring the area.
Picture courtesy of Gavin Webber
Caerphilly is famous for lending its name to the popular cheese, which is thought to have been created to provide food to the local coal miners. Production died out after World War II with mass production being moved to Somerset and Whiltshire, however over the last 20 years or so local producers have starting to supply this again.
During the 1700’s Caerphilly began to grow into a market town as the south Wales Valleys underwent massive growth through industrialisation. The coal industry to this day still marks the landscape, and evidence of this can be found throughout.
Landmarks aren’t the only ones putting Caerphilly on the map; more recently comedian and magician Tommy Cooper, Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, ITV’s This Morning Presenter Matt Johnson and Cardiff City and Wales footballer Robert Earnshaw lived in the borough following his family’s move from Zambia.
Tommy Cooper statue near Caerphilly Castle
There are lots of independent retailers too including lots of restaurants, pubs and cafes - like Bryn Meadows Golf Hotel and Spa. There are very few large chains, so it’s often safe to assume that you are supporting local businesses. Also prices tend to reflect a more rural setting, rather than the big city prices which is always a plus.
Visit Caerphilly have a full list of visitor attractions, events and country parks can be seen on their website. Here are some of our favourites a short driving distance from Bryn Meadows Golf Hotel & Spa:
The impressive castle is Wales’ largest and Britain’s second largest castle behind Windsor. In July the Big Cheese, the annual festival is held with entertainment, music, plus a host of food and drink stalls. In 2017 it will be the 20th anniversary of festival. On days like this, tours of the castle are free of charge, so you can immerse yourself in the history and find out why that tower leans over so far. It’s great for big kids as well, even adults are allowed to dress up as knights and see how blacksmiths made swords.
Many ‘famous’ names and historic figures were involved with the castle. At the beginning of the 15th century it was attacked by Owain Glyndwr, the last native Prince of Wales, who took over the castle. In 1648 during the Civil War, Oliver Cromwell’s army caused great damage to the south east tower, so it now leans at a greater angle the more famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. Growing up in Cardiff too, I’d heard a lot about the Marques of Bute who heavily invested and regenerated the area. He also acquired Caerphilly Castle, with his decedents overseeing the building work.
The Grade II listed building is in the heart of Newbridge, which was built by the local miners in 1904, with the Memorial Hall added on 1924, and was modernised in 2014. With an art deco ballroom and auditorium the venue provides weekly events from watching sport on the big screens to theatre productions, quiz nights and concerts. There is also a library and reading rooms, and weekly children’s courses. The Manic Street Preachers lead singer James Dean Bradfield used to work there in the 1980’s, fuelling his love of music. In the 1970’s and 80’s famous bands such as Iron Maiden, Dire Straits, The Stranglers and The Cars played here. More recently it has been used as a backdrop to film BBC’s Doctor Who and Sherlock.
Main auditorium at the Newbridge Memo
Three quarters of the county borough is countryside, so there is lots to discover. Parc Cwm Darran is a very tranquil country park that feels like it is a million miles away from civilization. You can walk or cycle through woodland and along lakeside paths. The lake is manmade, and is actually an old quarry when the area was used for mining. You can also visit the Powder Store, part of the former Ogilvie Colliery. In some areas you could also fish, and camp from Spring to Autumn with electric hook-ups, hot showers and washing up facilities. There is even an audio trail that talks through the history of Parc Cwm Darran including the importance of coal during the industrial revolution. As well as the café there are a lot of picnic benches and grassy banks to enjoy the scenery. My favourite part of the walk is the hidden gem - the waterfall. Not only is the area tranquil, the view is spectacular.
Picture courtesy of Visit Wales
Llancaiach Fawr Manor is a time warp, you can step into a fully restored Tudor Manor House which is furnished as it would have been in 1645 – including characters in traditional dress. It’s a Grade I listed building, and is thought to have been built on the site of an earlier medieval structure. It was the home of Colonel Edward Prichard when King Charles I visited on 5th August 1645 (which is why the house has been set up for this moment in time). The Colonel was appointed as one of the Commissioners for the King, raising money and men for the Royalist cause. Shortly after the King’s visit The Colonel’s family changed sides to support Parliament, The Cavaliers, where he was appointed Governor of Cardiff Castle and was commended for his consistency during the battle of St Fagans.
Phew, history lesson over! There is more to the site than the historic elements including dinners, functions and events that are held here throughout the year. One of the most popular events are the Ghost Tours. Llancaiach Fawr has been named in the top ten haunted locations in the UK, with many TV programmes being recorded here including Most Haunted. Visitors and members of staff tell tales of odd events, all believing the site is haunted. I am a bit sceptical, but thoroughly enjoyed a tour as nearly every room has a scary story attached to it. Staff will tell you stories that will make your spine tingle including hearing children giggling when there is absolutely no one around...
Manor House at Llancaiach Fawr
The Summit Centre is built on the site of the former Trelewis drift mine, which closed in the 1980’s, and used to be called the Welsh International Climbing Centre. The indoor climbing walls are up to 18 metres high, and the instructor told me that there are about 180 different routes. There are outdoor pursuits too, with mountain biking, walking, canoeing and kayaking. Plus a man-made caving system with a waterfall inside.
You’ll find locals walking their dogs, cyclists out for a ride, some out for fresh air with the children or those out for a run. There are a few trails for visitors to explore the wildlife through woodland and grasslands. The park also has a lot of sculptures to find, as well as an audio trail for children. There is also two fishing lakes, which is popular throughout the year. With two car parks to choose from; the upper car park is best with those who have limited mobility, as you can keep mostly to the flat. It’s somewhere all ages can appreciate.
This is another destination that has been created from a former coal pit. The views across Caerphilly from the High Point Observatory are spectacular. Plus, you won’t be able to miss Sultan the pit pony, one of the UK’s largest earth sculptures – which is really impressive from a distance and up close.
Picture courtesy of Visit Wales