How ‘Will’ completed Tŷ Hafan’s Half Taff Trail Challenge 2014

On our way

On our way to Merthyr Tydfil

Follow ‘Will’, the West Wales Holiday Cottages lucky mascot, (made by our very talented Linda) on his day out on the Tŷ Hafan Half Taff Trail Cycle Challenge 2014.

Will joined our team of 4 riders cycling 26 miles on Sunday 9 September 2014 from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff on the Taff Trail for Tŷ Hafan.

Tŷ Hafan, the Welsh children’s hospice provides comfort, care and support for life-limited children, young people and their families.

It relies on public support to help fund its work.

 

We're at the start - Rhydycar Leisure Centre in Merthyr Tydfil

We’re at the start – Rhydycar Leisure Centre in Merthyr Tydfil

Getting into position, ready for the off

Getting into position, ready for the off

Fell off before we'd even got to Check Point 1 but they had Wagon Wheels and Welsh cakes! So all good

We fell off before we’d even got here (Check Point 1) but they had Wagon Wheels and Welsh cakes! So all good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check Point 2 - lots of water for us to rehydrate

Check Point 2 – lots of water for us to rehydrate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Check Point, nearly there, not far to go now.

Last Check Point, nearly there, not far to go now

... and we did it!

… and we did it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A well deserved rest and cup of tea.

A well deserved rest and cup of tea.

Off to First Aid to patch up my wounds

Off to First Aid to patch up my wounds

Much better now

Much better now

 

Packed up and ready to go home

Packed up and ready to go home

Enjoying our after cycle snack of home made popcorn.

Enjoying our after cycle snack of home made popcorn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can’t believe how generously we have been supported: thanks to donations by many kind people we have raised over £1500 for Tŷ Hafan to date!

All of us would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to every single person who contributed.

If you would like to support the amazing work of Tŷ Hafan by sponsoring us, you can still do so on our JustGiving fundraising page.

 

 

 

 

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Black gold from the Welsh hills

These fine beasts may look like cattle to the casual observer but they have also been called ‘black gold from the Welsh hills’.  Black cattle have been bred in Wales for over a thousand years and as in Scotland, they were once used as currency, hence the ‘black gold’ description.

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Welsh Black Cattle – Aberdare Blog by Darren Wyn Rees at Penderyn

Welsh Black cattle, or their forerunners, existed as far back as Roman times and the breed may be based on cattle from the Iberian Peninsula.

The modern infrastructure of Wales such as roads and banking were shaped by the movement of these cattle with their drovers across the country.  Drovers took their herds along the Tywi Valley to Llandovery and onwards to Hereford and Gloucester and herds from South Cardiganshire reached Llandovery via Llanybydder and Llansawel.  The drovers returned home with large amounts of money, making them targets of bandits and highwaymen; the result was the formation of Banc yr Eidon in 1799, in Llandovery (the Bank of the Black Ox), which was later bought by Lloyds Bank.

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Two distinct strains of the breed were in evidence until recent times: The North Wales beef type and the dairy like South Wales animal.  The modern Welsh Black combines the best of both; beef ability with ease of calving and good milking for the rearing of strong calves.

The modern Welsh Black Beef Society was launched at a meeting in the Boars Head Hotel in Carmarthen in August 1904 and now has its base at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells.

If you are staying in one of our self-catering holiday cottages in West Wales, watch out for these fine animals grazing on fields along the coast and on the lush pastures of the area.

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The Dyfi Osprey Project and Dyfi area news

View from Borth

View from Borth

A recent trip around the Dyfi Estuary area organised by the Dyfi Biosphere Tourism Association and supported by Tourism Partnership Mid Wales gave us an insight into developments and new projects in this fascinating area.

The Ceredigion Museum

Ceredigion Museum

Ceredigion Museum

The old Edwardian theatre in which this impressive collection is housed is worth a visit in itself, so it’s worth making time to have a look at the interesting displays which give a great insight into the history of this part of Wales.  The museum is in the same building as the Tourist Information Centre near the seafront.  Throughout the year, lots of events are organised to appeal both to locals and visiting families.   See the Ceredigion Museum website for details.

Bringing back our village shop

Tre’r Ddôl is a village just to the east of Ynylas and overlooking the Cors Fochno bog. Having formed a group named Cwmni Cymunedol Cletwr, local people have invested much time and effort to inject new life into this conveniently-situated roadside services building on the south side of the A487. Thanks to the many volunteers who support this community-run enterprise, Cletwr Services is now a thriving café and shop selling fresh local vegetables, newspapers, milk and various health food products.  Fuel is no longer sold here but is available nearby.

Vale of Rheidol Railway

The Vale of Rheidol Railway

The Vale of Rheidol Railway

Many people might imagine that the railway goes from Aberystwyth to Devil’s Bridge non-stop, but this is a misconception. In fact, there are 5 intermediate stations which have been restored over the last few years as part of the Station Restoration Project, funded through the Rural Development Plan (a Welsh Government initiative) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

You can get off at one of the stations: Rheidol Falls, Rhiwfron, Aberffrwd, Nantyronen and Capel Bangor and do a walk, before returning to your point of departure on a later train. Maurice Kyle has brought out a new book ‘Railway walks in the Vale of Rheidol’, in which he details 26 walks starting from stations along the route. It has colour maps and photos and is currently only available from the railway shop. There are also leaflets available at booking offices and 6 of the walks are featured on the railway’s website. As the author is independent, the railway does not accept responsibility for the condition of the walks so those venturing out on any of the routes do so at their own risk.  More information is available on the Rheidol Railway website, but for timetable details a call to the very helpful staff may be of assistance in planning your trip.  Phone number: 01970 625819

Peaceful Places

14 churches and chapels along the A44 in North Ceredigion

This project aims to open churches to the public in order that visitors should be able to experience these buildings from new perspectives. A visit to one of the participating churches will give you a chance to learn about the lives of local people in today’s communities as well as the social history of past generations. There is so much more to churches and chapels than their primary purpose as places of worship; the buildings themselves can be appreciated for their architecture and craftsmanship as well as being centres of peace and tranquility in which to pass an hour or so during an active day out exploring the beauty of the countryside surrounding them.  Find out more on the Peaceful Places website.

Dyfi Osprey Project

Ospreys

Ospreys

This was among the highlights of the visit, as it is such a wonderful initiative on the part of the Montgomery Wildlife Trust who have just had success for the fourth year running in attracting a pair of ospreys to their strategically positioned nest on the Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve.  A pair of chicks hatched in early June and their progress is being monitored closely as is the behaviour of the parent birds, Glesni and Monty.

The new 360° observatory at Cors Dyfi

The new 360° observatory at Cors Dyfi

The male bird is displaying some unusual traits in that he is willing to take turns at feeding the chicks and even allows his partner some time off to do a spot of her own fishing!  The type of fish caught by the ospreys gives an important insight into the populations of the different species, which is another fascinating aspect to the project.  The fabulous new wooden observatory is equipped with telescopes to view live proceedings at the nest site.  Staff at the reserve are obviously very enthusiastic about every aspect of Cors Dyfi, and I was grateful to our guide, Kim, who was informative on a range of subjects including lizards, plants and birds.

Looking for places to stay near Cors Dyfi? Perhaps you might like one of our Aberystwyth holiday cottages or Machynlleth holiday cottages.

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The Royal Welsh Show 2014

It’s nearly time for The Royal Welsh Show again, starting on Monday 21 July and running until Thursday 24 July. This is an opportunity to see the some of the finest sheep, cattle and horses on display, but there is so much more to see.

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Have you visited the Fur and Feather displays? Last year we went on the day that rabbits were on display, I didn’t know that so many different breeds of rabbits existed!

 

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Next on our tour was the goat shed, the kids were so cute and put on a great display of leaping in the air for us.

 

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On to the pig shed, it was a hot day and most of them were sleeping, but this Oxford Sandy and Black sow and her litter were a great attraction.

 

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Then on to one of my favourites – the Food Hall! Walk round the hall, tasting all the goodies and deciding which tasty treats must be taken home. One of the temptations on offer were the individual cheesecakes, which to choose?

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The main arena was busy all day long with judging of the horses, other rings around the showground featured cattle, sheep, pigs and show jumping.

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The Royal Welsh Show is a farmers’ paradise, with a machine for every job and every size of pocket!

 

The Donkey Sanctuary stand

 

 

As we walked round the showground we came across the donkey sanctuary stand, the birds of prey, forestry and wildlife exhibits and so much more. We had to stop and sit down for ice-cream to give our feet a rest (any excuse!)

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Last year featured a fly past by a Hawker Hurricane, the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art, Falconry displays, this year the attractions include the RAF Hurricane and Spitfire display, John Parker and the Royal Mail Coach, Meirion Owen and the Quack pack and too many others to mention! There definitely is something for everyone to enjoy, well worth a day out wherever you are staying in Wales.

Draught horse in the woodland arena

 

 

For further information please see The Royal Welsh Show where you will find a list of what is on each day and ticket information.

 

If you would like to stay at one of our self catering cottages in Mid Wales, perhaps you can visit the show this year.

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Climbing the highest mountain in Wales for charity

The starting point at Llanberis

The starting point at Llanberis

 

The challenge started as early as 4am on Saturday 14 June, where I embarked on the adventure of travelling to and climbing Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) on behalf of ‘Cariad – Our Schools Need Defibrillators’. The coach journey was hot but straight forward and we arrived at the bottom of the mountain with the challenge ahead of us.

Misty mountain

Misty mountain

 

 

It was misty as we approached and I felt disappointed I wouldn’t be able to see the views.

 

 

 

Looking back

Looking back

 

But as I looked back I could see the potential of what was in front of me.

 

 

 

Snowdon Mountain Railway

Snowdon Mountain Railway

 

I guess I could have gone on the train! Although that would have spoiled the sense of achievement.

 

 

 

Mist is clearing

Mist is clearing

Go away low cloud

Go away low cloud

 

 

 

 

 

 

An hour and 25 minutes later and a lot of puffing and panting and I was at the top! The mist and low cloud lifting so I had the sense of being on top of the world.

Let the views begin!

Let the views begin!

Snowdon

Beautiful views

Snowdon

I felt very lucky

Snowdon

It was fantastic weather

After taking in all the views it was time to descend.

On the way down

On the way down

 

I felt very privileged to share this challenge with some lovely people for such a worthy cause. The coach journey back took a bit longer than expected and I arrived in bed at 2.30am on Sunday morning. I managed to raise £185 in the process, so thank you to every one who sponsored me.

 

 

If you would like to take on the challenge of Snowdon why not stay in one of our holiday cottages which you can travel from: Aberystwyth Holiday Cottages, Holiday cottages in or near Machynlleth or why not Snowdon Wharf in Porthmadog? Hope you get to enjoy the views too.

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Beautiful views from Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons

It was beautiful right from the start

It was beautiful right from the start

....this continued as we went up

….this continued as we went up

Higher and higher...

Higher and higher…

...and then we were there

…and then we were there

It was certainly worth the climb

It was certainly worth the climb

Come and stay in one of our Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages and you can enjoy the view too

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Llandeilo Festival of Music – July 2014

Between 12th and 20th July 2014, The Llandeilo Festival of Music promises to be a week to remember. The impressive variety of music is enhanced by the atmosphere of the venues in which it will be performed. All but three of the concerts will take place in St. Teilo’s Church in the centre of town, whilst the guitar duo will play in the National Trust’s Newton House in the magnificent Dinefwr Castle Park; the cello recital will be at Aberglasney House,  recently restored along with its 10 acres of flourishing gardens; and the jazz evening will take place at The Cawdor Hotel in town. Tickets may be in short supply due to restricted space so book now to avoid disappointment.

Numerous FREE day-time recitals will also take place at various venues throughout the week and there’s a flower festival and exhibition to enjoy.

St Teilo's Church Llandeilo

St Teilo’s Church Llandeilo

The festival trustees have worked hard to attract performers with high profile reputations in their field. Amongst them are three who were assisted in their rise to fame by winning prestigious prizes in the BBC Young Musicians of the Year Competition. Clarinettist, pianist and cellist, these are:

Virtuoso clarinettist, Michael Collins. Launching his career by winning the woodwind prize in the first competition (1978), he has since performed with many of the principal orchestras of the world and will join the London Winds Quintet on this occasion. He also gains an increasing reputation as a conductor.

Concerto soloist Lucy Parham, who has played with many leading orchestras in an impressive number of countries, first came to public attention as the Piano Winner of the 1984 competition.
Programme: Franz Liszt

Laura van der Heijden, the cellist who took the overall title of the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2012, has seen her career take off with bookings from many of the leading orchestras. Still only 17 years old, she has a great career ahead of her.
Programme: Schumann, Brahms, Bach, Shostakovich

Nuccia Focile, Soprano

Nuccia Focile

Operatic Soprano
Opera singer Nuccia Focile, a versatile soprano, has a wide repertoire including Puccini and Verdi and has appeared at many of the world’s leading opera houses.

Piano Accompanists
Accompanying Ms Focile, leading song pianist Gary Matthewman adds Llandeilo to his impressive list of famous venues.

Alison Rhind, who plays with Laura van der Heijden, studied at Chetham’s and is now on the team of accompanists there. She is also official accompanist for BBC Young Musician.

Duo
Mark Eden and Christopher Stell play classical guitar with enthusiasm and innovation and have become renowned internationally for their virtuosity.

Quartet
The St Petersburg String Quartet receive ecstatic reviews wherever they perform and have built a major reputation over nearly 30 years. First violin and cellist are founder members. Programme:Beethoven and Borodin, Bach and Glazunov

Quintet
The London Winds, founded by Michael Collins (see above) in 1988 unites some of the finest wind players in Britain. Their programme is sure to enchant and includes:
Rossini, Arnold, Ravel, Fauré, Barber

Band
The ‘J’ Word Band
will bring together some of the top jazz musicians of the country and continue the tradition of a really high-class reputation for the jazz concert of the festival.

Choirs
The opening concert will be given by the young John S Davies Singers, accompanied by the Westward Chamber Orchestra. Following the acclaim of their “Messiah” in 2013, this year’s rendition of Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus is eagerly awaited. The choir and orchestra were both founded by the musical director and have performed for over 35 years at festivals and venues throughout Wales including many concerts in St David’s Cathedral.

Soloists with the choir all have high profile careers and include Kate Woolveridge, the popular Welsh mezzo-soprano.  In 2012 she received the accolade of Inspirational Woman Of The Year as co-founder and musical director of the Forget-me-Not Chorus, which hosts weekly singing workshops for dementia patients in Cardiff.

Later in the week St. Teilo’s will reverberate with the sound of Côr y Waun Ddyfal, recent winners of the Youth Section in S4C’s* Côr Cymru competition. A solo performance by young violinist Charlie Lovell-Jones, accompanied by his father, Simon, adds to this exciting event. Charlie has already won many prestigious prizes including the violin prize in the Urdd National Eisteddfod four years running. The choir have also had success at the National and Urdd Eisteddfodau.

Leading Actors
Joanna David and Henry Goodman will join Lucy Parham in a performance relating the life and music of Franz Liszt.

*S4C is the prestigious Welsh-language TV station which was established at the same time as the English Channel 4 in 1982

For further information please see Llandeilo Music Festival where you will find dates and times of concerts, contact details for festival organisers and ticket sales.

If you would like to stay at one of our self catering cottages in or near Llandeilo, see our Holiday Cottages in Carmarthenshire Heart

Follow our link for more information about Llandeilo

 

 

 

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A Visit to Wright’s Food Emporium

On a beautiful sunny May morning, we visited Wright’s Food Emporium, the Carmarthenshire food shop and café run by Simon and Maryanne Wright, co-founders of one of our favourite restaurants, Y Polyn. Wright’s is a foodie’s heaven with a superb range of fresh local meats, charcuterie, cheeses, artisan breads and wine.

Shelves at Wright's Food Emporium stocked with bottles and jars

The cafe and shop have made their home in the old Golden Grove Arms in the little village of Llanarthne on the banks of the river Tywi, between Llandeilo and Nantgaredig.

Wright’s retains all the old charm of the original property with several linked rooms through which to roam. In one of the dining rooms a welcome log stove was burning.

Real fire burning in a dining room at Wrights Food Emporium

We sat in the sunny café courtyard, enjoying a cup of coffee…

Tables and chairs in the courtyard at Wrights Food Emporium cafe

…before looking around the rooms filled with local organic produce. For example, there was a delicious venison and hazelnut terrine, homemade foccacia (oh, that rosemary and seasalt loaf is sinfully delicious!), continental cheeses, unusual pastas and much more.

Shelves at Wright's Food Emporium filled with packets of pasta and pulses

Now, this is novel idea: if you pay a deposit on an enamel pie dish, you can take home and bake the freshly made pie of the day.  You can also buy bottles of wine, cider or culinary oil and bring them back for refilling. The choice of wines and cider available for refilling varies.

Check out the café menu for breakfast, cakes and ‘everything else’. (Warning: reading this menu will make you hungry!) The lunches are simple yet delicious, salads, breads, cheeses and the most wonderful, mouth-watering cakes.

At this time of year the countryside is just so beautiful – the bluebells are out and the woods are filled with their blue haze and scent in the warm sunshine – so we had a lovely scenic drive there. If you are staying in one of our holiday cottages in Carmarthenshire, why not make a real day of it by combining a visit to Wright’s with a day out at the nearby National Botanic Garden of Wales or the 12th Century castle and park at Dinefwr?

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Wright’s and are looking forward to going back for an extensive sampling session. If you’ve ever been to Wright’s Food Emporium, would you recommend anything in particular for us to try next time? Do let us know in the comments below.

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Cilgerran – Walkers are Welcome

Cilgerran is an historic village on the River Teifi in Pembrokeshire.  In 2008 the village became the first place in West Wales to gain ‘Walkers are Welcome’ status.

Ferryman's cottage, Cilgerran

Ferryman’s cottage, Cilgerran

Walkers are Welcome is a UK network of towns and villages, all of which have something special to offer walkers. Volunteers and local authorities are encouraged to work together to create and signpost collections of walks suitable for all abilities.

In 2013 with the aid of a grant from Awards for All Wales, Cilgerran residents produced an excellent book of 12 local walks.  The routes were all researched, tested and written up by volunteers from the village and surrounding area who also contributed illustrations and photographs.

cilgerran walks book The walks guide which is selling well,  includes maps and illustrations by Susan Martin who lives in the village and is the owner of Bryneirw, an 18th century cottage close to the romantic ruin of Cilgerran castle which overlooks the River Teifi.  Susan says of the project, “I really enjoyed getting out and exploring the countryside to draw the pictures for the walks.  I discovered some lovely places and it made me appreciate how many good footpaths there are so close to the village”

BRYNEIRW 001 a

Bryneirw

Take a walk around the village to see Cilgerran Castle in its beautiful location on the banks of the River Teifi or visit St Llawddog churchyard to see a megalithic standing stone still with visible writing. The nearby Welsh Wildlife Centre has a wide range of habitats and wildlife to explore, plus an excellent cafe.

River Teifi, Cilgerran

River Teifi, Cilgerran

Buy your copy of the walking guide at the General Stores in Cilgerran, at Awen Teifi (bookshop and gallery) or the Tourist Information office in Cardigan.

Explore the area further by staying in one of our North Pembrokeshire or Cardigan Bay holiday cottages.

 

 

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Events at Carew Castle and Pembroke Castle, Spring Bank Holiday 2014

Two of the grandest castles in West Wales - Carew Castle and Pembroke Castle - will be hosting a range of fun events for families during the late May Bank Holiday week, summer half term 2014. Here’s our handy guide to what’s on.

Events at Carew Castle

Contact number:  0845 345 7275

Carew Castle

1. Pembroke Dock Raptors
Have a close look at various birds of prey.  Hold the bird you like best and get a photo together.
Dates: Sat 24,   Sun 25, Mon 26  and Thurs 29 May 2014
Time: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Fee: included in admission but £3 for a 10-minute one-to-one session with a bird

2. Castle Capers
Contact Carew Castle on 0845 345 7275 to see which tasks are taking place on the day you plan to visit. It’s organised on a drop-in basis, but you need half an hour to complete your tasks. These include Medieval activities such as:
  – painting your shield for the tournament
  – practising weaving or calligraphy
  – making tiles
Dates: Tues 27,  Wed 28, Thurs 29 and Fri 30 May 2014
Time: 10:30 am – 12:00 noon and 2:30 – 4:00 pm
Fee: £1 per person

3. Brilliant Bats
Booking essential. In the evening of 27th,  join in a short walk to look for bats, use special detectors to listen to their calls and learn about their fascinating lifestyles.  Kit is provided but you need to dress appropriately and bring torches.
Dates: Tues 27 May 2014
Time: 8:15 pm – 9:45 pm
Fee: £5 per adult, £2.50 concessions

4. National Park Scavenger Hunt
Find clues and solve riddles to find out why the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is so special.  Have a chance to suggest how we can keep it that way.
Dates: Tues 27,  Wed 28, Thurs 29 and Fri 30 May 2014
Time: All day
Fee: No extra charge, included in admission fee

Events at Pembroke Castle

Contact number: 01646 684585

Pembroke Castle

1. Living history
The Knights of Longshanks take you back to the 13th Century to see how they lived, cooked and fought their battles.  Demonstrations of weapons and tools by professional re-enactment group.
Dates: Sat 24 and Sun 25 May 2014
Time: All day
Fee: No extra charge, included in admission fee

2. Knight School (50 minute sessions, suitable for ages 4-12)
This is a brand new event to teach new skills and knightly techniques including dressing up as a Knight or Knightess, marching in the Merrymakers’ Procession, learning knightly skills such as swearing allegiance, bowing and curtseying, shield designing, and using swords. Activities are supervised but a parent or guardian must be present at all times with children taking part.
Dates: Thurs 29 May 2014
Time: Sessions start at 10:45 am, 12:00 noon, 1:30 pm, 2:45 pm and 4:00 pm
Fee: No extra charge, included in admission fee

3. Keepers of the Castle
On your way around the castle you will come across some colourful characters performing their daily tasks within the castle walls.
Date: Mon 26 May
Time: 11:00 am – 4:15 pm Suitable for all ages
Fee: No extra charge, included in admission fee

4. Merrymakers shows 
An energetic musical romp through the castle’s rich history. Duration 40 minutes.
Date: Mon 26 May
Time: Starting at 11:45 am, 1:45 pm and 3:00 pm

5. Falconry Days
Black Mountains Falconry bring their falcons, owls, buzzards and hawks and put on fantastic flying demonstrations with audience participation.  Birds on display all day. Flying display 12:30 and 15:30 in the Outer Ward of the Castle – weather dependent.
Date: Tues 27 May
Time: 11:00 am – 4:30 pm

If you fancy attending any of these castle events and are looking for somewhere to stay near Carew or Pembroke, why not try one of our holiday cottages in South Pembrokeshire? Do share your photos of the events – especially the birds of prey and medieval knights or ‘knightesses’!

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