Start your Cambrian Way tour at the beginning of the A470 in Cardiff Bay, the former docks area of the city which used to be the largest port in the world. It was once better known as Tiger Bay, due to the locally born singer Shirley Bassey. These days the Bay is one of the world’s largest regeneration projects. Central to the whole idea is the Cardiff Bay Barrage, which transformed the bay from mud flats to a massive freshwater lake. Highlights include:
The Wales Millennium Centre has already established its reputation as a unique and lively performing arts centre. More than just a theatre, visitors come from all over the world to enjoy performances ranging from blockbuster West End musicals, Welsh National Operas, Ballet and stand up comedy. There is a gift shop, café and bar on site.
The area around the Millennium Centre is known as Mermaid Quay with waterfront shops, bars, cafes and restaurants.
Another inspiring piece of architecture is The Senedd, which is the debating chamber of The National Assembly for Wales. The building was opened on St David’s Day, 1 March 2006. This building with its unmistakeable undulating roof and open design was conceived on the main principle of energy conservation. Incorporated in the design are renewable energy system and recycling features. Free of charge tours are available daily from 11am – 3pm. Groups should book in advance. A café is available in the Oriel, on the upper level.
The Norwegian Church is an old seaman’s mission in which the Cardiff born children’s author, Roald Dahl was christened. It is now a great little coffee shop and arts venue. The Cardiff Bay Barrage Coastal walk is 1.8 miles (2.9 km) long and starts from the Norwegian Church to the seaside town of Penarth. The path runs along the landscaped embankment excellent with views out over the sea and the city. For cyclists and intrepid walkers, the walk continues along the Cardiff Bay Trail circular route which is 6.2 miles (10 km) long. A useful dowloadable map can be found on the website.
A good choice of boat trips is available from the city centre and Mermaid Quay.
Choose to spend the day in Cardiff Bay or if you prefer to explore further choose St Fagans National Museum of History (20 min drive), The Royal Mint Experience in Llantrisant (30 min drive) or A Welsh Coal Mining Experience in the Rhondda Heritage Park (30 min drive).
Voted Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019 - the most prestigious museum prize in the world - St Fagans National Museum of History is Europe’s leading open-air museum situated in the grounds of St Fagans Castle, a late 16th century manor house. There are over 40 original buildings, which have been re-erected from sites all over Wales showcasing how people in Wales lived from Celtic times to the present day. Developments include a new welcome building including atrium, shop, café. The Weston Centre for Learning also includes a lecture theatre and activity spaces. Groups must book in advance. Coach parking is available. Entry is Free.
The Royal Mint Experience, Britain’s oldest manufacturing organisation and the world’s leading export mint, now making coins and medals for approximately 60 countries worldwide. Visitors can take a guided tour of the factory and explore the interactive exhibition. A Gift shop and café are available. Combine your visit with lunch or the Royal Tea Experience. Tailor-made and VIP tours are offered for groups up to eight pax. The VIP tour includes the original tour with a chance to meet the experts, see a World Famous Collection, discover how the coins are made on the factory floor and experience the Tool Room.
The Black Gold Underground tour at A Welsh Coal Mining Experience can cater for groups of up to 25 clients. Former miners are the guide and will provide a fascinating history of coal mining and life working underground. The tour ends with a ride on a virtual coal dram. There are exhibitions, an award winning chocolate shop, a crafting shop and a café on site.
Alternatively, for group Travel Trade only contact Groups@royalmint.com to book a package tour - 'Coin, Coal and Cheers' which includes a visit to The Royal Mint, A Welsh Coal Mining Experience and Hensol Castle Distillery. Tours cost £45 per person and groups will spend an average of 90 min at each site with around 20 min travel time between each site. The package can be split over two days and taken in any order. They can also offer a full day silver or gold package or a bespoke experience. Other packages are available, enquire directly.
Overnight suggestions: Cardiff or Vale of Glamorgan
Cardiff is a cosmopolitan capital city with lots of impressive historic buildings and good parks and gardens to visit. The city offers a variety of restaurants and bars, excellent shopping and plenty of culture.
Key highlights in the city centre include:-
Cardiff Castle is located in the heart of the city with over 2,000 years of history. Start in the contemporary interpretation centre and then choose to explore on your own with an audio guide available in ten languages or you can join one of their tours:-
- The House Tour run on the hour and last 50min.
- The Clock Tower Tours lasts 30min and is available on weekends and bank holidays from April to October.
- Other tours are available by pre-booking including the Connoisseur Tour, a Behind the Scenes Tour, Curator Tour (groups only), Film Location Tour, The Town Walls of Cardiff and the Ghost Tour.
A café and gift shop is available on site.
If your clients are having free time they may choose to discover more of the capital city onboard the hop-on-off Cardiff City Sightseeing Tour
You can book clients on these bookable walking tours of Cardiff:-
National Museum Cardiff tells the story of Wales from earliest times and is unique among British museums and galleries for its range of art and science displays. The National Museum of Art is also housed here and features one of Europe’s finest Impressionist art collections, including work by Renoir, van Gogh, Monet and Cezanne. Entry to the museum is free. Please note is it closed on Monday. There is also a gift shop, coffee shop and restaurant to enjoy.
The 74,500 seater Principality Stadium with its unique retractable roof was built for the 1999 Rugby World Cup and is now a major sporting and concert arena. A behind the scenes tour is a great introduction to the Welsh love of rugby and to find more out about the stadium. Tours take place on the hour between 10am and 5pm, duration is 1hr 15min. There are times when all areas won’t be accessible due to events and matches but mini tours are available (40min duration).
You may want to add an extra day in Cardiff so that more of the above activities can be included.
Overnight suggestion: Cardiff
Continue north on the Cambrian Way to Castell Coch or Caerphilly Castle.
Castell Coch (meaning Red Castle), a late nineteenth-century ‘fairytale’ castle situated on a wooded hillside on the outskirts of Cardiff. Lavishly decorated and furnished in the Victorian Gothic style representing a Romantic vision of the Middle Ages. There is a tea room located in the castle grounds. Coach parking is possible but groups must phone in advance of visiting.
Caerphilly Castle is the biggest castle in Wales and features the principality's only leaning tower. The ruined castle, which was constructed from 1268 by Marcher lord Gilbert de Clare, was restored and redecorated from 1928 by the Marquess of Bute. Visitors can explore the Great Hall and working siege engines once crossing the moat by the drawbridge. A wooden statue of the Marquess can be seen holding up the tower. The moat surrounding the castle is a haven for wild birds. There is a coach drop off point near the entrance of Castle Court shopping centre with parking at Crescent Road.
Castell Coch and Caerphilly Castle are are in the care of Cadw. Register with the Cadw Tour Operator Scheme (CTOS) to become a member of Cadw’s online group booking scheme. Members benefit from preferential trade rates and discounts, complimentary admission for your tour leader, complimentary introductions to Cadw monuments, enhanced information for existing tours and invoicing following your visit. Site Entry tickets are currently released one week in advance of visit. See Cadw Admissions for more information.
An alternative option, depending on your client's interests could be a visit to Nantgarw China Works & Museum. In the early 19th century Nantgarw Chinaworks made some of the finest porcelain in the world which can today exchange hands for tens of thousands of pounds. Due to huge losses firing the porcelain in the bottle kilns, porcelain was only produced for a few years before, ironically, the factory turned to making clay smoking pipes and stoneware. In 2018 the original secret recipe for the porcelain was recreated and Nantgarw is once again making world class china using traditional techniques and tools and all in the original premises. Alongside the mouldmakers, slipcasters and enamellers the Chinaworks has a superb display of Nantgarw porcelain, an active education programme running over 500 workshops each year, its own tearoom as well as a shop selling items made on-site. It is open Wednesday to Sunday 10:00 – 16:00. Tours are included in the modest entrance fee. Groups are welcome and have the option of a short 2hr visit to include tea, coffee and cake on arrival, an introductory talk and a dedicated guided tour or a longer option to include lunch and demonstrations of mould making, slipcasting and pipemaking. (Minimum group size 10 / maximum 35).
Continue your journey on the A470, options to visit include:-
Brecon Mountain Railway (Return journey takes 1hr 40min including a 35min stop at Pontsticill). The journey takes you through the scenic Brecon Beacons National Park along the full length of the Taf Fechan Reservoir to Dol-y-Gaer. The all-weather observation coaches are pulled by a vintage steam locomotive. At Pant station, there is a workshop where old steam locomotives are repaired and a footpath to a picnic area with views of the valley. There is also a licenced tearoom and gift shop. Free coach and car park at Pant Station.
Penderyn Brecon Beacons Distillery is situated in the small village of Penderyn, within the Brecon Beacons National Park. It produces the finest quality single malt whisky and also a range of Welsh spirits such as Merlyn Liqueur, Brecon Vodka and Brecon Gin. Visitors can experience the distilling, bottling process and the history of the whisky making in Wales, including sampling. Whisky master-classes are also available. Standard tours usually take up to 1hr. Group tours of up to 20 guests maximum must be booked in advance. Designated coach parking bays are available.
A good introduction to the Brecon Beacons National Park is to include a visit to the National Park Visitor Centre at Libanus. An hour here would give the opportunity for a photo, refreshment stop and a short walk with views of Pen y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales. Longer walks are available and information can be found in the shop. For those who want a strenuous walk, a 10min drive takes you to the foot of Pen y Fan (starting from Storey Arms) – 7.6 miles (4.7 km) with 530 metres (1,739 ft) of ascent. There are parking facilities available for coaches.
Overnight suggestions: Brecon, Crickhowell or Hay-on-Wye
Talgarth Mill is a fully restored, 18th century flour mill with bakery, gift shop and the Baker’s Table café serving local seasonal food and drink run by volunteers. The café is available for private hire. There is a riverside walk and gardens to also enjoy. Group tours of more than 20 guests will be split so that each mini group will get a tour whilst the other visits the café. Two weeks notice must be given in advance. There are no parking facilities but there is a free car park in town which is a 2min walk along the high street with designated coach spaces.
Free time at Hay-on-Wye, the town famous for its books. There are millions of them and they are everywhere. The castle, the cinema, the fire station and alleyways are all book shops. Hay Castle has opened to visitors for the first time in its 900 year history and group tours can be booked on request. It also hosts the annual Hay Festival in May which has placed the town on the world literary map. Oxford Road car park is a long stay car park suitable for all vehicles with designated coach parking.
The next stop is the Elan Valley, known as ‘the Lake District of Wales’ – a Victorian fantasy landscape of stone dams and immense man-made lakes. Learn about the building of the dams and what else the area has to offer at the Visitor Centre. A café and gift shop is available. Visitors can choose to just visit the centre or spend longer around the estate which is ideal for walking, cycling and driving. Guided tours of the estate with a ranger can be arranged. There is a detailed coach operators pack available for parties to get the best from the visit and advance booking is advisable.
Note for coaches: follow a clockwise route around the valley as the road is narrow in places.
Overnight suggestion: Llandrindod Wells
Explore the ancient Welsh capital of Machynlleth where the charismatic Owain Glyndŵr was crowned Prince of Wales in 1404. Find out more at the old parliament building, the Owain Glyndŵr Centre which has an interactive exhibition on the life and times of the Prince.
A 4min walk from the Centre takes you to the Museum of Modern Art Wales (MOMA). It flourishes in four beautiful galleries alongside Y Tabernacl, a former Wesleyan Chapel now used as a centre for the performing arts. Throughout the year a series of constantly changing exhibitions showcase modern Welsh art featuring Wales’s top artists. Free entry. There is a car park in Machynlleth town centre for access to both attractions.
Watch a range of craftspeople demonstrate their skills at Corris Craft Centre, home to nine craft studios including chocolates, jewellery, pottery, herbal remedies and more. There is a shop selling Welsh produce and a café. On the same site you will find King Arthur’s Labyrinth, Corris Mine Explorers and Dyfi Distillery for its award winning gin. There are parking facilities for coaches.
The Talyllyn Railway, inspiration for the Thomas the Tank Engine stories and the Ealing comedy. The Titfield Thunderbolt was the first railway to be preserved as a heritage attraction and was given a prestigious award for its contribution and inspiration to the heritage railway sector. The journey from Tywyn Wharf to Nant Gwernol takes 1hr and the return journey has an additional 30min stop at Abergynolwyn. At Wharf Station there is a licensed café, museum and railway shop and there’s a tea room at Abergynolwyn station. Only Tywyn Wharf and Abergynolwyn stations have coach access. Compartments are reserved for group bookings to which parties of 15 or more receive a discount.
Visitors can alight at Dolgoch Station for a walk to Dolgoch Fall Walks, a series of three cascades. Allow at least 1hr for a visit to Dolgoch Falls and bear in mind there are lots of steps. If you want to visit Dolgoch Falls but without taking the train journey then it can be accessed via The Dolgoch Hotel.
Overnight suggestions: Llandrindod Well or Machynlleth
Exploring the outdoors is fantastic fun, but please read up on the risks and make sure you are prepared.