There are pure, raw history buffs and then there are those whose interest in the past has been heightened and enticed by the onslaught of drama-infused and historically inaccurate TV programmes, circa Netflix.
Either way, our appetite for history has never been more ravenous. The trickle-down effect is this: history inspired travel tours, popular culture references, TV programmes (Horrible Histories, anyone? Alternatively, Outlander for the more passionate and sex-starved) books, magazines, even summer parties now have an overtly historical overlay and veneer.
For wanderlusters aspiring for an engaging, thought-provoking and antiquarian inspired holiday, then Wales really has to be on your list. Punctuated with Medieval castles, a leftover from Edward ‘Longshanks’ I, Neolithic sites, Bonze Age forts, Black mountains, early century mines, Ice Age glacial rivers; history, nostalgia and remnants of a bygone age pervade this ancient land.
The problem with voracious history lovers is there’s a tendency to pack in every historical artefact into one short but overly antiquarian obese trip. Wales overflows with things to see, do and learn, and for those with an ounce of historical interest, here’s the places you must visit:
One of the greatest and most intact examples of early Medieval architecture, Pembroke Castle is a must-see for anyone looking to be transported into the past.
The birthplace of Henry VII (Henry VIII’s father) and the scene of historical and important battles and sieges, Pembroke Castle is a deep dive into the architecture, lifestyle and makeup of that time.
Also, you must go and check out Wogan’s Cavern, which is beneath the Great Hall. A formidable limestone cave, archaeologists have discovered stone tools here, showing that it was inhabited as far back as the Middle Stone Age. They also found remnants of Roman coins, an indication that the Romans used it as a trading area.
Barclodiad y Gawres
An impressive Neolithic burial chamber between Rhosneigr and Aberffraw, located on the southern coast of the island of Anglesey, North Wales. It’s a near perfect example of a cruciform passage grave, with its most noticeable feature being the decorated stones.
Carvings have been discovered, as well as the remains of a fire. This mysteries and historically significant site is also amidst beautiful, natural and wild terrain.
Note: it’s only possible to enter the chamber on weekends from April to October.
Great Orme Mine
This is the world’s largest prehistoric copper mine. Uncovered until 1987, this site represents one of the most astounding and unfathomable archaeological discoveries of recent times.
The site boasts five miles of tunnels and passageways, and was first worked on during the Bronze Age, approximately 4,000 years ago and the same time of Stonehenge.
What an anomaly; 3,000 stone hammers, pestle, mortars and other tools have been uncovered, including 30,000s animal bones.
Don’t forget to see the Bronze Cavern. It was dug out over 3,500 years ago!
Tinkinswood Burial Chamber
This Neolithic burial chamber housed over 50 individuals. Also founded were sherds of broken pottery and worked flint.
Around 6,000 years old, the surrounding area would have been desirable to any Neolithic peoples; a stream and fertile ground are nearby.
The tomb’s capstone is around 40 tonnes, the largest in Britain and the same weight as a lorry.
Fun fact: An ancient folk legend states that anyone who spends a night at this site before May Day, St John’s Day (23 June) or Midwinter Day will either die, go mad, or become a poet.
One of the greatest Medieval castles of Western Europe, Caerphilly Castle is the largest castle in Britain (bar Windsor, of course).
Caerphilly boasts many ‘firsts’: it was the first truly concentric castle in Britain, a military planned 13th century impenetrable fortress and the pride of Gilbert de Clare, Lord of Glamorgan (who built the castle to secure the area from aspiring Welsh leaders).
There are many formidable castles in Wales, but this one is very unique and special. Firstly, for its sheer size, but also because it’s an intact representation of 13th century military architecture.
Do marvel at the leaning tower! Such a unique and quirky additive!