The capital of Wales and surrounding area is a wonderful introduction to the very best the nation has to offer visiting groups. Ancient to modern, entertaining to educational, these are some of the Welsh jewels to look out for.
Over 2,000 years of history is on display at Cardiff Castle, as the ancient stronghold has been a Roman garrison, Norman castle, Gothic fantasy and air raid shelter tunnels during the Second World War. The Interpretation Centre is the ideal place for groups to begin, as the exhibition and film give the best introduction to the 2,000 years of history. Visitors can then collect a personal audio guide before venturing out to explore the grounds, battlements, wartime tunnels, Norman keep and spectacular Victorian apartments. There are also guided tours of the castle apartments led by one of the expert guides to explore the lavish and opulent interiors. Each breathtaking room is rich with murals, stained glass, gilding and superb craftsmanship, created by ‘eccentric genius’ architect William Burges in the 19th century.
Group visits are welcome and discounted tickets are available. Cardiff Castle has a downloadable Groups Brochure available on its website and groups must book in advance. There are coach drop-off points immediately outside the castle and coach parking nearby.
T: 029 2087 8100
The New Theatre’s magnificent Edwardian building is nestled away in the heart of Cardiff’s city centre. Close to many major hotels and restaurants, the venue boasts a traditional and comfortable air-conditioned auditorium, spacious bars and a function room. Throughout the year a varied programme of drama, musicals, ballet, comedy and children’s shows is offered.
Groups visiting the New Theatre are taken care of by Chris Blackler, who has been group organiser for an amazing 23 years. It is her personal service such as pre-booking interval ice-creams and giving out any tourist advice parties may need that makes group bookings so popular at this venue. The New Theatre also offers generous group discounts, flexible payment times and a very welcoming atmosphere, with friendly staff and drop off/pick up points outside the door.
Chris: 02920 878 878
DOCTOR WHO EXPERIENCE
The Doctor Who Experience, based in Porth Teigr, Cardiff Bay, opened less than a year ago after running successfully for a year at London’s Olympia. The site is the culmination of extensive regeneration in Porth Teigr, and is based just a stone’s throw away from the BBC’s Roath Lock Studios where the television series is filmed, so props are often on display just days after they’ve been seen on screen. The Experience has received rave reviews from the press and visitors alike. Series 7B of Doctor Who has just begun to air on BBC One and the show has its 50th anniversary in November
A fully contained adventure walk-through experience, the attraction lets visitors join the Doctor on a journey through space and time, encountering some of the best-loved and scariest monsters from the hit international television series. Special scenes filmed with current Doctor Matt Smith combine with amazing special effects and the chance to enter a recreation of the modern TARDIS interior topped off by a breathtaking 3D finale. When visitors emerge from the adventure they step out into the largest collection of Doctor Who props and exhibits ever assembled, which includes items old and new such as the Silent Spaceship, a Zygon and an Ice Warrior. The Doctor Who Experience is constantly updated with all of the latest monsters and props from new episodes of Doctor Who, so there is always something new to see on return visits.
The Experience has just opened a brand new area which features the show’s artwork and design notes, while a new exhibition takes a look at the artistry of the makeup teams who have worked on the series over the past 50 years, showcasing their work in a mocked-up makeup truck. The final new section will focus on the iconic wardrobe sets of Doctor Who and will feature a mocked-up wardrobe truck complete with clothing rails, costumes, notes and sketches.
There is a coach drop-off point at the front and facilities include The Blue Box Café, disabled facilities, a shop and a large room available for group hire.
T: 0844 801 3663
LLANCAIACH FAWR MANOR
Llancaiach Fawr Manor overlooks the Glamorgan Uplands just as it has done since about 1550. It has been restored and furnished to how it would have been in 1645, with accurate reproductions – many of the originals can also be viewed in the Museum of Welsh Life at St. Fagans. The manor was built for Dafydd ap Richard and was designed to be easily defended during the turbulent reigns of Tudor kings and queens. It is one of the finest examples of a semi-fortified manor in Wales today. The original defensive design incorporated a single entrance, four-foot thick walls enclosing spiral stone staircases for access between floors and stout wooden doors. When these were securely closed, they split the manor in two and ensured that the inner east wing provided a safe and secure place of refuge during troubled times. The manor has played a part in many key historial periods and was visited by King Charles I for lunch on August 5th 1645! The gardens too have been sensitively restored and grow many plants that are of the period of the manor but very rare elsewhere, including ‘Catshead’, ‘Decio’ and ‘Paradise’ apple trees in the orchard.
2013 events include May Day celebrations, the Caerphilly Motoring Festival, children’s activity days and a 1940s dance. As well as exhibitions, the manor has great facilities including free coach parking, a shop, café and restaurant. There are discounted rates for groups.
T: (01443) 412248
ST FAGANS: NATIONAL HISTORY MUSEUM
St Fagans is one of Europe’s leading open-air museums and Wales’s most popular heritage attraction. It stands in the grounds of the magnificent St Fagans Castle, a late 16th-century manor house donated to the people of Wales by the Earl of Plymouth.
Open to the public since 1 November 1948, during the last fifty years over forty original buildings from different historical periods have been re-erected in the 100-acre parkland, among them houses, a farm, a school, a chapel and a splendid Workmen’s Institute. Traditional crafts and activities bring St Fagans alive, in workshops where craftsmen still demonstrate their traditional skills and often sell their work to visitors. Native breeds of livestock can be seen in the fields and farmyards, and demonstrations of farming tasks take place daily. Visitors gain an insight into the rich heritage and culture of Wales, and the Welsh language can be heard in daily use among the craftsmen and interpreters.
The Museum is one of the UK’s top ten free attractions as voted by users of TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel review site.
T: (029) 2057 3500
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS CARDIFF AIRPORT
For those jetting into Cardiff by air, the Holiday Inn Express at Cardiff Airport offers a convenient base for arrivals and to explore the city from. They have a complimentary hourly shuttle service to the airport itself with a journey time of just two minutes and offer good value ‘Park, Stay and Go’ packages, with guests able to leave their vehicle for up to 15 days. Cardiff city centre is 25 minutes’ drive from the hotel.
Complimentary breakfast is served from 4am and there is an evening menu of bar meals available for guests. Business guests are well looked after with a meeting room, high-speed internet throughout the hotel and a 24 hour business centre.
T: 0871 423 4876
The Cardiff Bay area has been extensively regenerated through a venture which began back in 1987. Projects have included the Senedd, home of the National Assembly for Wales, the Wales Millenium Centre (home to the Welsh National Opera) and Mermaid Quay. The quay has a beautiful waterfront location in the heart of Cardiff Bay, less than a kilometre from the city centre, and is a mix of modern restaurants, bars, cafes, shops and entertainment venues. The availability of cuisine from around the world is a reminder of the cosmopolitan past of this area, when migrants formed communities in the docklands. As well as the restaurants and bars, the designer shops and Cardiff’s first comedy venue The Glee Club means that Mermaid Quay attracts visitors in both the daytime and evenings, and a varied programme of events throughout the year keeps locals and tourists alike returning regularly. The opportunity to dine and drink alfresco while enjoying beautiful views across Cardiff Bay gives the area a European feel and holiday atmosphere.
T: 02920 480 077
WALES MILLENIUM CENTRE
One of the key projects of the bay redevelopment, the Wales Millenium Centre is an arts centre and entertainment hub for Cardiff. One large theatre and two smaller halls are complemented by shops, bars and restaurants, and the centre houses the national orchestra, opera, dance, theatre and literature companies. A varied programme of opera, ballet, dance, comedy and musicals runs throughout the year. The building itself has become a landmark for Cardiff and was designed to use local Welsh materials including slate and wood. A calligraphy inscription on the dome is a poetic quotation from Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis. The Wales Millenium Centre welcomes groups and has a dedicated email address and ‘Group Organiser Resources’ area of the website to make organising easier. In 2012, the venue was voted the UK’s most coach-friendly visitor attraction of the year at the Coach Tourism Awards.
T: 029 2063 6464
Just 25 minutes from Cardiff in the beautiful Vale of Glamorgan, Fonnom Castle is one of the few medieval castles still lived in as a home. 16th Baronet Sir Brooke Boothby and his family have opened their 800 year-old doors to group visitors to offer select afternoon or morning tours and exclusive afternoon teas or buffet lunches. 45 minute tours take visitors through the fascinating history of the castle, its architecture and interiors and its collections of art, china and rare books. The Fonnom Castle gardens are a visitor attraction in their own right and are worthy of exploration by both enthusiasts and amateurs.
Fonnom Castle makes special efforts in welcoming groups to the site. Because the Castle is still family owned and managed, each tour is arranged in advance and every group enjoys exclusive use for the duration of their visit, so visitors can design their own itinerary and go at their own pace, making a visit to Fonmon Castle both personal and special. Each group is welcomed by the experienced tour guide and although the castle does not have a permanent tearoom, the family has opened the beautiful Georgian stucco-ceilinged library in the heart of the castle for a truly luxurious hospitality experience. In winter the roaring log fire is lit, while in summer, French windows lead out to the elegant sweeping lawns. Group tour guests are seated at round tables decorated with fresh flowers, white linen and fine china to enjoy home-cooked food prepared by a member of the family in the castle kitchens – you cannot get further from self-service and a plastic tray! There is ample free parking.
Info: Drivers get free entry
T: 01446 710 206