South Wales

Brecon Railway

How to entertain children in South Wales ?

I spent an entertaining week based from Cardiff in Febuary 2010 visiting castles galore. Raglan castle is easily reached from the M4 approximately 20 minutes from Cardiff - one of the most well preserved of the Welsh border castles, and a former residence of the Duke of Beaufort - it is difficult to take a poor quality photograph.

I am told that the garden centre on the road to Abergavenny has excellent coffee. Take the road to Brecon, and visit Tretower House and castle - the castle is actually part of a farmyard but it is worth a stroll.

Raglan Castle

Continue on the road to Brecon and visit the farm shop in Bwlch - the Welsh Venison Centre - the pork and chilli sausages are outstanding and the pork pies looked rather good - deerskin rugs were on sale at £50; a very impressive farm shop - the Welsh cakes lasted for seconds!

Visit the regimental museum of the South Wales Borderers in Brecon ; an old fashioned style of military museum with plenty to see - the camping shop on the opposite side of the road has an extensive selection of useful kit. The museum quiz entertained a 10 and 13 year old and contains an excellent section on the Zulu War.

Continuing the loop to Cardiff, take the road to Merthyr and stop at the layby with the burger van and the views of the waterfall for a cup of tea. Continue your drive past Pen Y Fan which was snow covered in Feb 2010. Cyfarthfa Park is worth a detour - north of Merthyr on A470 - built in 1824 by a local 'iron baron' - an impressive country house museum and park - admission is free. The Penderyn whisky distillery is south of Brecon A4059 - I visited a few years ago - an excellent shop - Welsh whisky an acquired taste - www.penderyn-distillery.co.uk (external link) - check winter opening times before travelling.

A separate visit to the Brecon Mountain Railway (slightly difficult to find in the depths of Merthyr) is a good way to kill a few hours - beware in winter it can be seriously cold - my flask of hot chocolate was viewed with envy !

Good photographs can be taken at the halfway halt when the passengers have moved into the cafe.

Castell Coch on the north western outskirts of Cardiff was the children's favourite as it resembles a fairytale castle - a pass for the 3 great South Wales castles - Cardiff, Caerphilly and Castell Coch can save money.

Castell Coch

I stayed 2 nights at the Novotel in Cardiff in early March 2010. Swimming pool and gym on site available to guests and a very good breakfast!
10mins walk to city centre shops and the new St David's shopping centre is very good. Explore the arcades nearby which have lots of individual shops.
We ate at the 'dim sum and cocktail bar' at Mermaid Quay at Cardiff Bay. Fantastic food and a huge range of cocktails to choose from.
A short drive away is Cowbridge. Lots of lovely shops to look around and free parking in a huge carpark just off the main street about half way down. The Carousel Dress Agency is a must for some great bargains on designer dresses.

About 45 mins out of Cardiff and you are in the beautiful Brecon Beacons.
We stopped at the farm shop at Middlewood Farm at Bwlch, it had lots of local produce on offer from meat to bread to jams and preserves. Try the locally made fudge - very good.
A 15 minute drive east to Abergavenny, passing through the pretty town of Crickhowell to get there from Bwlch. Abergavenny castle is worth a visit, (free) it's all in ruins but there is a museum to visit and the views are pretty.

The new International swimming pool based in the sports village in the Bay has 5 slides which feed into a ' non-swimming' pool with an adjacent circular current. Lots of fun for small and mediunm sized children - changing rooms a bit grim as communal and combination of outdoor clothing and wet kit leads to mud.

The Dr Who exhibition in the Red Dragon centre is a must for fans of the recent TV series rather than the 70s and 80s - a quiz will amuse children and adults.
The fast food type eating looked pretty awful and I had a decent lunch for two for £18 in the Ba Orient mentioned above.

I visited the new military museum in Cardiff Castle - Firing Line - I dont rate it - a huge dissapointment - the two older museums had far more to see and the Tower housing the old Welch Regt museum was much more atmospheric. A word of warning - the web site suggests a discount for serving members of the Armed Forces - this proved difficult to negotiate at the Castle entrance who would like to charge over ten pounds per head. This museum seems doomed to fail unless it can deal with the admision policy !

I here great things about The Caesars Arms in Creigau - the menu looks outstanding and dining reports would be most welcome.
Finally I am pleased to report that the cafe in Howells Dept store is as it was 20 years ago - the scones are good !

Bullys 5 Romilly Crescent CF11 9NP 02920 221506

Booking essential at this French themed laid back bistro in Canton. Quite superb - some of the best food the routedoctor has encountered.


3 glasses of Cremant sparkling wine £15
Muscadet £21
Large glass of red La Planta £5

Starters £8-9
Main Lamb 19 , Beef £25 - both superb
Pudding approx £6

£180 for 4

Another choice from the Good Food Guide was Mint and Mustard 134 Whitchurch Road 02920 62033. A short taxi journey from the city centre to this suburb.

Dinner for 5 £104. This is not a standard Bengali curry-house but proper cooking. The dishes are more authentic, drier, subtle and dont leave the normal after taste folowing an 'Indian' !
Try the Pearl Quintette as a starter £10-95 - 5 small and unusual starters - superb.

The Kozhi curry was excellent and the usual Anglo-Indian options were on the menu.
The biriyani is served like a pie with a crust on top.

So thoroughly recommended that the routedoctor visited prior to the Welsh rugby victory in 2013.

Spice crusted lamb tikka, Rajasthani Lal maas and bombay chaat to die for. Jack fruit ice cream a little bland. Dinner for 2 with naan and drinks 60 quid.

The routedoctor recently entertained his 4 year old niece at the National Museum of Wales.

The art galleries within the museum would be worthy of the Tate and the childrens lunch box in museum restaurant - downstairs not the cafe in the main hall, provide healthy eating options for under £4.

Mint and Mustard was as good as ever - the Syrian beef curry most unusual.

Caesars Arms 02920890486

An odd sort of place. It doesnt look much from the outside and not dramatically better inside but a fine reputation for meat. The Welsh lamb, of course, was spot-on and the sirloin and rib-eye well cooked. Dinner for 4 £135.

Cardiff 2014

ffresh Wales Millennium Centre

Dinner for 4 with 2 glasses of Chardonnay at £7 for two and a bottle of Chenin Blanc came to £114. The food was of good/ standard restauarant quality - not Arbutus but the routedoctor's aged parents enjoyed the experience.

Parking a bit of an issue - this part of Cardiff was until the recent developments , like Kiev or Hackney and the nearby mult-storey car park does feel a little isolated at night.

Pier 64 02920 000064 Penart Marina CF641TT

A smart, trendy and a little glam. Referred to by some as the 'yacht club', £200 for 4. Burgundy at £26-95, 250ml rose £9-25.

5-95 for puddings.

Its fun, the crowd are Cardiff wealthy with the odd rugby player .. and others.
Would I come again - yes.

The Potted Pig St Mary's St Cardiff

We liked this for a quick lunch - in the basement of an old bank , the vaults are now the wine cellar and the place has an industrial feel.

Excellent burger and chips, gastro pub food, good rose wine and reasonably priced.

Disabled access. Do try.

There was a rumour that the The Purple Poppadom in Cowbridge Road CF11 9AJ 02920 220026 may acquire a Michelin star.
A similar concept to Mint and Mustard but a larger establishment.

Dinner for 2 £103 in October 2014 inc 3 glasses of wine. Expensive , but this is not your average curry house.
The routedoctor has eaten well in India in years gone by - this place is the real deal. Start with the streets of Mumbai at £6-50 and try the Raan Akbri 17-95 for main course.

Add Faraway Farm Shiraz £5-40 per glass.

A 10% service charge is added.

October 2014

Caesars Arms - food as good as ever. Not smart trendy Soho smart dining but high quality food and service.

Chapel Churchill Way CF10 2WF

Its worth a visit for the architecture in this stunningly converted former Welsh Chapel. The food is prepared from an open kitchen upstairs. A fun place for lunch but come for the atmosphere ...

Lunch for 2 £62 December 2014.


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