We didn’t have much time in Wales before heading back home to Malta so we decided to spend our first day exploring Cardiff, with the second day devoted to a South Wales Valley Tour through Jan and John of Where When Wales.
Some travel junkies thumb their noses at the idea of doing guided tours — preferring to get a more hands-on, realistic experience by winging it and striking out boldly amongst the natives — but we’ve been really happy with the guided tours we’ve done, especially in places where we have just a few days.
Aside from the ease of not having to worry with hiring a car and driving on the “wrong” side of the road, I enjoy the photography side of things a lot more when I can just focus on being a tourist and don’t have the extra responsibility of paying attention to where we’re going, what turn we need to make, and so on.
The tour made for a long day, meeting the group at the steps of the National Museum at 9 AM and jetting around southern Wales for much of the day, getting back to Cardiff at just after 5 PM.
We got to see two more castles — Castell Coch and Caerphilly Castle — and then spent much of the day in the Brecon Beacons National Park, which is a little misleading as there are several small villages within the confines of the park so it wasn’t completely a nature trip.
Caerphilly Castle is one of the largest castles in the United Kingdom and was fun to visit as it hasn’t been completely restored (like Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch) so it had that ruined, spooky castle vibe going on at times, especially the leaning tower that seemed ready to topple over at any instant.
It was also interesting to see a lot of art projects incorporated into the castle grounds, including several aimed at getting school kids to contribute to various art projects installed throughout the castle.
Brecon Beacons was very beautiful, with the narrow winding road getting there providing a real sense of the Wales countryside and a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of Cardiff.
We stopped for lunch in the town of Brecon — the largest town in the park — and had time for a little shopping and wandering around before visiting Brecon Cathedral.
With over one million sheep wandering around the park, we saw plenty of them, including one that Sarah befriended towards the end of the tour, aided by Chex Mix and a banana.
We were dragging a bit towards the end of the tour but definitely enjoyed it and Jan did a great job of keeping us on track and on schedule for a lot of stops — no mean feat given we had a group of ten or so to herd on and off the bus at probably a dozen or so different stops throughout the day.[Gallery not found]