As Wales’ most popular heritage attraction, the National History Museum at St Fagans has long held a special place in the nation’s hearts.
And now the 62-year-old attraction appears to have won over visitors from across the border too after being named the UK’s favourite tourist attraction.
Which? Travel magazine’s survey of 3,001 people named St Fagans, in Cardiff, the number one UK museum or gallery, while a customer score of 90% – based on overall satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending the attraction to others – won it the title of the UK public’s favourite attraction.
It has also joined an elite group of UK attractions to have been awarded Recommended Provider status by the magazine, which also includes Colchester Zoo in Essex, Chester Zoo and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and Leeds Castle, Kent.
In the six decades since it opened to the public, more than 40 buildings have been resurrected in the 100-acre grounds of St Fagans Castle, a manor house dating back to the 16th century that was donated to the people of Wales by the Earl of Plymouth.
They include a traditional Welsh farmhouse, a Workmen’s Institute, a row of old-fashioned shops and St Teilo’s Church, which took 20 years to be moved from its parish to St Fagans stone by stone.
David Anderson, the director general of National Museum Wales, which runs St Fagans, said it is the museum’s ability to evolve and grow over the years that keeps people coming back.
He said: “It is such a Welsh institution. We have more than 600,000 visitors a year, 100,000 of whom are school children, and it is one of those places parents and grandparents have taken their children and grandchildren over the generations.
“I think every time people come, it is a little bit different as well because it is constantly evolving and the live demonstrations mean people can see something different every time.
“One of the things I love about it personally is that it can say it is a museum of the people for the people, and something which many in Wales have in fact contributed to, and still do.
“I think it has done so well, partly because it has got a very distinctive cultural identity. It belongs to a nation.
“I think people in Wales are naturally friendly and engaging and this comes across to visitors who come from over the border and overseas and people respond to that.”
Visitors to the museum reacted with little surprise at the news.
Grandparents Ieuan and Hilary Edwards, of Caerphilly, who were there with their two-year-old grandson Rhodri, said the accolade was well-deserved.
Mr Edwards said: “They seem to have done a lot of work over the last few years to freshen it up, but I think they’ve been really successful in sticking to that original idea of preserving the Welsh culture and heritage.”
Ted and Jackie Tedesco, on a visit to the UK from Buffalo, New York, said: “This is our first time to Cardiff and to Wales.
“We had read about this place and then the lady who runs the B&B we’re staying in said we just had to go, so here we are.”
Others praised the friendliness of the staff and the cleanliness of the site. Garden conservator Julie Coulthard, 37, of Ynyshir near Porth, Rhondda, has worked in the castle gardens for 11 years.
She said: “It makes me proud to know we have been recognised for all the hard work we put in.
“Even after visiting dozens of times, I think people can still find something new.”
Harriet Savage-Cripps, a manager at the museum’s bakery, said: “I think that what makes it unique here is its authenticity.
“For example, the bakery has been going for about 24 years and it has been a family business all that time.
“We’ve had regulars coming here for 20 years just for the bread and over the years they have become friends.
“It’s a lovely place to work – why would you want to be stuck inside in front of a computer all day when you could work here?
“We get people coming from all over the world. I’ve been here 14 years and I couldn’t work anywhere else now.”