Jumping off a cliff, visiting WW1 trenches, sea therapy and Roald Dahl may not be what might first come to mind when thinking of Wales. Yet such activities are not too surprising when you realize that 2016 is the Welsh ‘year of adventure’.
Wales is a land perfect for outdoor adventures. With a coastal path totaling 870 miles, and mountains and lakes in abundance, there are plenty of opportunities for mountain biking, walking, climbing, swimming, coasteering and more. Ever tried Kitesurfing or Kiteboarding? The Big Blue Experience in Pembrokeshire has been an established kitesports school since 2001, and runs courses to teach groups how to enjoy these exhilarating sports. All levels are taught, from beginners to advanced skills.
The National Trust’s Stackpole Outdoor Learning Centre is another top provider of outdoor courses for educational and corporate groups. One of its most popular activities is the Stackpole Sea Kayaking Festival in May when it will be offering guided activities around the Pembrokeshire coastline as well as live music and a talk on kayaking around Ireland. Geocaching, bushcraft, surf camps, environmental study and hiking can also be enjoyed at Stackpole.
Up in the Brecon Beacons, Wales Outdoors offers an unusual tunnel adventure involving walking through dark woods, canoeing through dark canal tunnels as well as various walking through a disused rail tunnel and the smallest tunnel humanly possible. This is definitely not for anyone suffering from claustrophobia!
If you prefer a calmer outdoor activity, SEAcotherapy might be the answer. This is a new retreat concept offering coast health and wellbeing packages at Aberdyfi on Cardigan Bay. The recent review of them by Outdoorempire says that SEAcotherapy is an innovative approach combining the healing powers of water, the power of the waves and mindfulness practices. Stays at the centre can also include Pilates, stand-up paddle boarding, pony trekking, rock pooling and art on the beach.
Relax and enjoy the spectacular views on a canal boat trip across the Pontysyllte Aqueduct – after all, it is only 126 feet above the ground and the canal itself just an iron trough 11 feet wide! This has to rank as one of the most memorable experiences possible. Lasting two hours, the boat can be chartered for private groups either in the day or evening. Light meals and Welsh cream teas can be provided on board. Alternatively, take a shorter, 45 minute horse drawn cruise along the Llangollen canal to the stunning Horseshoe Falls. This canal has been designated as a World Heritage Site.
Filmed in various Welsh locations, Knights of the Round Table: King Arthur, will be released in summer 2016. This is a country where the legends of King Arthur are very strong, and there are many reminders of his presence. It is said that Llyn Ogwen beside the A5 road, was the last resting place of his sword Excalibur. King Arthur’s Labyrinth is found deep under the mountains of southern Snowdonia. Visitors can join a mysterious hooded boatman and sail by underground boat through a waterfall to discover the legends of this great hero.
Bodelwyddan’s trenches are new for 2016.
Moving forwards several centuries to a very different wartime period, Bodelwyddan Castle plans to open a series of specially created WW1 trenches in June 2016. The grounds of the castle contain the archeological remains of practice trenches, which were once part of Wales’s largest training facility, Kinmel Camp. These trenches are regarded as the best-known surviving examples of their kind. Over the years, they have become partly filled in. Bodelwyddan Castle are creating a 200 metre series of life-size replica trenches which visitors will be able to walk in, and discover what life was like for the soldiers who lived and fought there. The series of trenches will include examples of all the different types of trenches that were involved including front line and communication trenches together with a replica dressing station.
Later this year, educational workshops relating to the trenches will be available. The Castle is also recreating a Victorian classroom for visiting schools, and expanding its popular Victorian Toys and Games room.
Roald Dahl will be a popular theme throughout Wales in 2016 as this year marks the centenary of his birth. The Welsh Government, National Theatre Wales, Wales Millennium Centre and Literature Wales have joined forces to launch a pan-Wales programme of events including various concerts and exhibitions. The highlight of the Centenary Festival will be a special weekend of events in Cardiff, the city in which he was born.
Entitled City of the Unexpected, the event will take place on September 17-18 and involve a variety of site-specific theatre, large scale events designed to bring the books and characters to life within the centre of Cardiff. The city will be turned into a world of Roald Dahl, and characters from various stories will be popping up in unexpected ways.
Corporate groups are being provided with new facilities at Caldicot Castle, where you can be taken back in time to the medieval era. With 60 acres of parkland, Caldicot castle can accommodate a wide range of team building activities. The Medieval Banquet is based on ingredients available at that time, with food being served on stoneware platters and eaten using daggers. A traditional tournament can be provided before the feast if required.
Food is the centre of another Welsh business keen to attract group visits of all kinds. Set on the banks of the Menai Strait, is the Halen Mon saltcote and visitor centre. Led by a trained guide, visitors can enjoy special ‘behind the scenes’ tours discovering the role of salt in Welsh history, culture and food. The tours provide an opportunity to find out what makes Halen Mon Sea Salt so special, the hand-harvesting process as well as a tutored salt tasting. Tours last approximately 50 minutes.
Not far away in the heart of the Conwy Valley is the Bodnant Food Centre where groups can choose from a selection of tailor made packages including experience a historical guided tour of the different food areas, wine-tasting or enjoy a cookery demonstration. Keen cooks can even take part in a team cookery challenge with some traditional Welsh recipes.