Family Day Out: Caerphilly Castle

The first week of the Easter Holidays brought us some lovely Spring weather. Knowing that the sunshine can disappear as quickly as it arrives, we made the most of it with a trip to Caerphilly Castle.

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Sitting right in the middle of the town of Caerphilly and surrounded by an extensive moat, the castle is partly ruins with one ominously leaning tower, although in nice weather this makes for a pleasant walk.

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Pip was thrilled to find dragons in the castle grounds!

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These sculptures were amazing, such beautiful detail. The red dragon has apparently been at the castle for a long time, while the blue was added more recently.

Signs warned us not to approach the geese that waddled about, as they’re nesting at the moment.

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We walked up a winding narrow staircase to reach the top of the castle. If I’m honest, I’m not keen on spiral staircases, particularly ones with ancient slippery steps and even less so when my daughter happily bounds up them when I’d rather she take her time. There’s no stopping little adventurers! However, I’d say the view from the top is well worth the climb.

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I would say that this is not a suitable day out for pushchairs or wheelchairs. There’d be very little you could see and even navigating the grounds could be tricky.

The price of entry was perhaps a little expensive for what’s on offer. £7.95 for adults, £5.20 for students, senior citizens and under 16s or £23.70 for a family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children). I understand that maintaining an ancient structure costs money and that’s probably reflected in the price but there wasn’t a lot to interact with. I suppose I’m comparing that with Cardiff Castle, which as Cardiff residents, we only have to pay £6 every 3 years for our Castle Keys for unlimited entries and reduced event prices.

After spending a couple of hours walking around the castle and the obligatory visit to the gift shop, we ended our day out with a drink in the visitor centre cafe.

Overall, we enjoyed this trip. It was a good learning experience and an enjoyable walk outdoors in the Spring sunshine!

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I love Cardiff

Recently I realised that it has been four years since we moved here to Cardiff. It feels like so much longer, memories of my home town where I spent the first 22 years of my life are getting a little hazy now. I feel totally at home here and I’m so glad we chose this city to move to. In celebration of this milestone, here are some of the things I love about Cardiff:

  1. The people. Yes, like anywhere else, you get grumpy people and angry people and generally rude people but on the whole, Cardiff people are friendly, helpful and quite laid back compared to other places. I was in shock when we first moved here and complete strangers kept saying hello to me in the street – nothing like the grumpy silence that was the norm in my home town.
  2. The Bay. Gorgeous views, lovely places to eat, a wildlife reserve and the Doctor Who Experience. What more could you want?
  3. Cardiff Castle. Even on a normal day it’s a great place to visit with it’s lovely architecture and stained glass windows. Big occasion days are frequent with lots of fun stuff going on for everyone to enjoy. Plus, owls live there, which just doubles the awesome, in my opinion.
  4. Shopping arcades. Filled with brilliant little independent shops and cafes, selling everything from board games to ice cream made with liquid nitrogen to liqueurs in pretty bottles, all sold by some of the friendliest shopkeepers I’ve ever come across. I also love the look of the arcades, they’re so wonderfully Victorian.
  5. The Museums. I was concerned that living further away from London would mean fewer trips to museums. I was totally wrong. In the city centre alone there’s the Cardiff Story Museum and the National Museum. We make frequent visits to both. Slightly further afield there’s St Fagan’s open air museum and Cosmeston medieval village and Techniquest in the Bay (a bit like the Science Museum in London).
  6. Green Spaces. Cardiff has lots of parks and other outdoor areas. My favourites are Heath Park (for the miniature railways) and Roath Park (for the boating lake and terrapins in the conservatory).
  7. Great for keeping active. You never seem far from a leisure centre, swimming pool or community centre in this city. My favourite swimming pool is the Cardiff International Pool in Cardiff Bay. For the kids, there are tons of play centres all over the city. If you’re looking for an activity for the whole family, Treetop Adventure Golf is in St David’s shopping centre.
  8. Christmas. Cardiff city centre turns into a magical place at Christmas time with pretty lights and decorations everywhere, Christmas markets with all sorts of independent businesses selling unique gifts and decorations and plenty of events going on. Cardiff Castle goes particularly Victorian – the Santa’s grotto there is enchanting.
  9. Independant cafes. From Selah in Llanishen to Cafe Barker in the Castle Arcade, Cardiff is home to so many gorgeous little cafes, each one with a unique feel to it. As a writer, there is nothing I love more than a peaceful hour in a corner of a cafe with my laptop and a big mug of hot chocolate. Simply wonderful.
  10. Patriotism. No, that is not a dirty word. I know these days it conjures up all kinds of ideas about racism and xenophobia but it doesn’t mean any of that here. The crowds on St David’s day, the support for the Welsh rugby team, the pride of calling such a brilliant city home. I really admire the Welsh for how much they love their country and capital. You’ll now regularly find me cheering at the television at a rugby game!

So there we have it. My ten favourite things about Cardiff. I hope to live here for many years to come and discover lots of other things to love about it.

Did I miss out your favourite things about Cardiff? Do share the love and comment!

Happy St Dwynwen’s Day!

Today is St Dwynwen’s Day. St Dwynwen (I think pronounced Dwin-wen) is the Welsh patron saint of lovers, making today the Welsh equivalent of Valentine’s Day. To mark this, my lovely husband gifted me a traditional Welsh Lovespoon (purchased from Castle Welsh Crafts, opposite Cardiff Castle in the city center).

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Lovespoons date back to the seventeenth century and are wooden with designs carved into the handle. The designs are symbolic and each carry a different meaning. For example, mine has a cross, which means faith or marriage, and two hearts, which means that we love each other. Once upon a time, the intricacy of the design would show off a young man’s woodworking skills to his potential bride and her father.

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I’ve threaded some green ribbon through mine, which I think looks lovely with the rich colour of the wood, and it’s now hanging above our living room window.

As well as my lovespoon, we also went into town to buy a new board game to play this evening from Rules of Play (obviously!). We picked Legends of Andor from Fantasy Flight Games, a cooperative game – expect a review at some point in the future!

Do you celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day? If so, what are your plans?