Wales: Travel Highlights for St David’s Day

St David’s Day is the feast day of the patron saint of Wales, and falls on 1st March every year, the day of his death in 569. It’s a great time to celebrate all things Welsh, and has been a national day since the 1900s.

Spring is a good time generally to travel to Wales – all the flowers are starting to come out, but the high summer crowds have not arrived. The weather is often ideal for walking, biking and getting about in the crisp but not freezing air as you absorb all that this spectacular part of the world has to offer. It’s a time of year when colours look gorgeously fresh as well, so it can feel very energising.

What to visit…

The Gower Peninsula

gower peninsula

The Gower Peninsula was the UK’s first place to become an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1966. Surrounded by the Atlantic and the Bristol Sea, Gower’s truly spectacular landscape is dotted with castles, prehistoric stones, churches and other reminders of Wales’s rich past. All these are set against a breathtaking backdrop of beaches, valleys, woodland and stunning clifftop views.

Mumbles

mumbles

Mumbles is often referred to as the Gateway to Gower, as it marks the start of this stretch of coastline. It is a popular area of Swansea and an old haunt of Dylan Thomas. Cosmopolitan yet cosy, and with some great shopping and eateries, Mumbles is a fantastic area to visit because there are lots of things to see and do. There is a lighthouse that was constructed in 1794, a Victorian pier, Oystermouth Castle, and incredible sea views.

Pendine Sands

pendine sands

This is a glorious seven mile stretch of beach on the Welsh south coast, along the shores of Carmarthen Bay. It reaches from Gilman Point at its western end to Laugharne Sands in the east. Pendine village itself is nearer the western end. Used as a track for motorbike and car racing in the early 1900s, the beach has been described as “the finest natural speedway imaginable,” and it was used as a firing range in the Second World War. The Museum of Speed is open in Pendine village in the summer.

Caerphilly Castle

caerphilly castle

Used as the backdrop for the popular TV series Merlin, and offering free entry on St David’s Day, Caerphilly Castle is one of western Europe’s great medieval fortresses, and the continent’s second biggest castle. It’s famous for its great hall, gatehouses and ‘leaning’ tower, and is surrounded by extensive artificial lakes. Work on building it began in the 13th century – as part of Gilbert de Clare’s campaign to conquer Glamorgan.

Fairbourne

Sunset and reflection on baech at Barmouth, Wales UK

This delightful village and seaside resort is on the coast of Barmouth Bay, in Gwynedd, south of the River Mawddach estuary and surrounded by Snowdonia National Park. The area boasts a two mile Blue Flag beach of golden sands, is accessible for wheelchairs and prams, and the beach is fronted by tank traps known as Dragon’s Teeth, which date back to World War II. At the same time, the popular narrow-gauge Fairbourne Railway links the village with Penrhyn Point in the warmer months, and the Barmouth Ferry leaves from the seaward end of the railway.

Caernarfon

caernarfon castle

The royal town of Caernarfon has been inhabited continuously since pre-Roman times, and is dominated by Edward I’s medieval fortress, where Prince Charles had his investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969. The castle is probably the most famous in Wales, thanks to its commanding presence and sheer scale. The town itself has everything a visitor could need, with plenty of good places to eat and stay.

Cardiff

cardiff

There are so many reasons to visit and enjoy the Welsh capital and its line-up of unique attractions, from its quality shops to the enticing blend of modern architecture and historic buildings. Cardiff Bay has entertainment for everyone. Stroll around Bute Park, take in Cardiff Castle, and visit the Doctor Who Experience – or perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to catch a game at the Millennium Centre?

Easy to get to and around, Cardiff really is a city with something for everyone.

Snowdonia National Park

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Located on the west coast, Snowdonia National Park covers over 820 miles of diverse landscapes, and is Wales’s biggest national park. It’s also home to the highest mountain to be found in Wales, as well as the biggest natural lake and an array of beautiful villages, such as Betws y Coed and Beddgelert.

This is also a great place to immerse yourself in Welsh history and culture, since over half the population is Welsh-speaking.

Other highlights

Ystradfellte

With so much to take in and experience in Wales, these highlights are just the start! From the waterfalls at Ystradfellte to Dylan Thomas’s house at Laugharne, from the Pembrokeshire coastal path to the red stone walls of Powis Castle and the majesty of Tintern Abbey – there’s something new to experience each time you visit.

Cottage of the Week – Captain Cook’s Cottage, Seaview, Isle of Wight

Nestled near the seafront in the delightful fishing village of Seaview on the Isle’s northern coast, this charming holiday cottage is the perfect place to relax, unwind and soak in the sights whilst you breathe the wonderful sea air.

Captain Cook’s Cottage is one of  several family-sized holiday properties set within the same development. Enjoy cycle rides, bird-watching, gentle walks, exploring coves and beaches, a host of nearby attractions and the quaint streets and gentle ambience of the village itself.

Sleeping 8, Captain Cook’s Cottage is the ideal retreat for larger families and groups – and when you factor in the other properties sleeping between 4 and 8, you’ll find the perfect setting for family gatherings and celebrations.

View more on the property listing on cottages4you.

Cottage of the Week – The Windmill, Tynlon nr Rhosneigr

Featured on Channel 4’s ’Restoration Man’ with George Clarke, The Windmill (ref 29567) has been the subject of a simply stunning restoration, which makes this a cosy and quirky place to stay. With stunning views over the surrounding countryside and full of original features, this property is oozing with character. Sleeps 4. Find more info and make a booking on the property’s listing on cottages4you.

Our top romantic spots for St. Valentine’s Day

When did you last send a Valentine’s Card? As far back as the 18th century, lovers gave tokens of their affection on this day, and despite the commercialisation it’s still a great reason for spending time with your loved one.

You needn’t venture far as the UK has all the stunning scenic locations, cosy eateries and dark starry skies to guarantee a good time. And what’s more in the winter season it really will be just the two of you.

Click on an image below to start the tour – and find some stunning last minute romantic accommodation on cottages4you.

Welcome to Wolf Hall…

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Mantel’s novel

Have you been watching the BBC’s latest historical drama? Overshadowing the King, the Queens, the costumes and corsetry, the stars of the show are undeniably the stunning filming locations. Luckily, many of these castles, courts and manor houses are open to the public – so you can get your own little piece of the action!

These venues are already increasing in popularity thanks to the series, so don’t miss out. Harvey Edgington, Head of Film and Locations at the National Trust, told The Times he expects a significant increase in the number of visitors to the houses and castles features in the series. He added: “they are all within a short distance and you could feasibly do the whole trail in a weekend.”

‘Wolf Hall’ Producer Mark Pybus was quick to praise the many National Trust properties used during filming: “the advantages of filming in a historic location are massive,” he said. “It also helps the actors, if they’re stepping into the buildings that Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell walked around in it helps bring a realness to the project.”
You too can immerse yourself in the history and heritage of these properties and soak up the atmosphere. Whether you choose to make it a romantic retreat, or explore with friends and family – there’s something to keep everyone interested.

Why not take a trip to Montacute House in Somerset?

Montacute House: Greenwich Palace in 'Wolf Hall'

Montacute House: Greenwich Palace in ‘Wolf Hall’

As well as representing Greenwich Palace in the ‘Wolf Hall’ adaptation, this Elizabethan manor has also appeared in major films such as ‘The Libertine’ and ‘Sense and Sensibility’. You’ll recognise it from the ‘Wolf Hall’ series as Henry VIII’s main London seat and the site of Anne Boleyn’s arrest.

You can literally come face to face with the past here, with more than 60 Tudor and Elizabethan portraits in the Long Gallery. The ever-changing gardens around Montacute are worth a walk in any weather.

Take a look at Barrington Court, Somerset

This Tudor house was restored by the Lyle family in the 1920s and represented York Place, the home of Cardinal Wolsey, in the BBC adaptation of ‘Wolf Hall’.

It was specially dressed for filming, but is usually free from collections and furniture – allowing you and your imagination free reign. Outside, you’ll find breathtaking gardens and working orchards.

Feel the magic of Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire

Lacock Abbey: Wolf Hall's exterior

Lacock Abbey: Wolf Hall’s exterior

Lacock Abbey is open to the public all year round and visitors of all ages are likely to be familiar with this building from TV and film. As well as representing the exterior of Wolf Hall, the Abbey has also appeared in ‘Cranford’, the ‘Harry Potter’ films and ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’.

The Abbey does not only share this television link with the king. The real Henry VIII actually sold the Abbey, following the dissolution of the monasteries, to one of his couriers who converted it into a house.

Chastleton House, Oxfordshire, is well worth a visit

Chastleton House was built between 1607 and 1612 by a wealthy wool merchant as a demonstration of his status and power. His descendants couldn’t afford to update the building and so it remains a stunning ‘time capsule’ in its original form. You may have to book in advance as tickets are ‘timed’ to restrict visitor numbers, giving you an authentic feel for the history of the place.

In ‘Wolf Hall’, Chastleton’s small stone courtyard provided the backdrop for the dramatic scenes of Cromwell’s childhood, while interiors represent Wolf Hall, the Seymour family seat and the place where Jane Seymour first catches Henry’s eye.

Great Chalfield Manor and Garden, Wiltshire

Great Chalfield Manor is a moated manor built between 1465 and 1480. Another popular filming location, it has been seen in ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’, ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ and ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’.

For ‘Wolf Hall’ its interiors stood in for Austin Friars, Thomas Cromwell’s home.

The gardens are the jewel in the Manor’s crown, with terraces, topiary houses, a gazebo, lily pond, roses and views across the spring-fed fishpond.

For history buffs with an interest in all things Henry VIII…

– Blickling Hall in Norfolk is a Jacobean house that stands on the site of a former medieval manor thought to have been the birthplace of Anne Boleyn. The manor was bought by Anne’s great-grandfather and Anne’s ghost is said to haunt Blickling on May 19th, the anniversary of her death.

– The current Nunnington Hall, in Yorkshire, evolved from Tudor beginnings. William Parr, brother of Henry VIII’s sixth and last wife Catherine Parr, inherited Nunnington Hall but his involvement in the scheme to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne led to his estates being forfeit to the Crown.

Holy Island Priory

Holy Island Priory

– If you’re heading to the Scottish Borders, Holy Island is a scenic spot to visit – but you’ll have to wait for low tide in order to drive across the access road. Henry VIII took over Lindisfarne Priory on Holy Island as part of the dissolution of the monasteries. Located close to the Scottish border south of Berwick upon Tweed, Holy Island was strategically important as a deep water harbour.

– Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire was once one of the richest religious houses in Europe. Its ruins are now the most complete Cistercian abbey remains in the country. The ruins can be viewed at a distance from ‘Anne Boleyn’s Seat’ in Studley Royal Water Garden, so named because of the headless statue which stands there facing them.

To complete your authentic historic holiday experience, why not choose one of the traditional Tudor properties in the hand-picked cottages4you collection?

Cottage of the Week – Apple Tree Cottage, Isle of Wight

If you’re after the ultimate, idyllic village break then we’d like to recommend our new featured property of the week on the Isle of Wight. This charming Grade II listed thatched cottage is located along the village road, close to the local shop, post office and pub. It’s been lovingly restored and modernised to offer homely comfort – with beams and ornamental fire surrounds – alongside more modern conveniences. Sleeps 6 and 1 pet. Find more info and pricing on the property’s listing on our website.