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.
There are lots of independent retailers too including lots of restaurants, pubs and cafes. There are very few large chains, so it’s 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. If you are keen to Visit Caerphilly, here is a list of some of of our favourite places:
The impressive castle is Wales’ largest and Britain’s second largest castle behind Windsor. The annual festival, The Big Cheese, takes place every summer and has lots of entertainment, music, plus a host of food and drink stalls. In 2017 they celebrated 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 is great for big kids as well, even adults are allowed to dress up as knights and see how blacksmiths made swords.
You can also learn about the day to day lives of people and the 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.
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 the Six Nations 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.
3. Parc Cwm Darran
This 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 man-made, 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. A favourite part of the walk is the hidden gem - the waterfall. Not only is the area tranquil, the view is spectacular.
4. Llancaiach Fawr
At Llancaiach Fawr 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.
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.
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 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 will 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 are two fishing lakes, which are 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.
Just a ten minute drive from Bryn Meadows 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 will not 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.
Bryn Meadows is a member of Visit Caerphilly, a group of local tourism businesses dedicated to providing visitors with their ideal holiday or business trip experience. Their website is full of information on attractions, activities and special offers throughout the region.
We are taking part in #Blogtober which means we will be posting a different news article every day. The challenge is to create new and exciting content for you to read throughout October.