Cardiff Short Break – With or Without Grandchildren!

Cardiff has much to offer senior travellers when taking a short break, whether by themselves or with grandchildren in tow. STE’s Holiday Editor, Tony Taylor, and his wife took a trip down memory lane with their granddaughter.

The author and granddaughter at the Big Pit
Author and granddaughter at the Big Pit

We took our seven year old granddaughter to Cardiff for four nights – her first time away without her parents. Cardiff was chosen as we knew there is plenty to amuse a seven year old in the area, but also so she could meet some of her relatives in the Welsh Valleys.

The venues we chose to visit were Techniquest in Cardiff Bay, the Big Pit National Coal Museum at Bleanavon and St Fagans National History Museum in the western part of Cardiff. These proved to be good choices.

On our first day, we visited Techniquest, a science based activity centre at Cardiff Bay. The many hands-on activities enthralled our granddaughter. We arrived at 10.30, leaving for lunch at 1.30. There is a wide selection of eating places at Cardiff Bay. We then returned for the afternoon ending with an interesting talk/demonstration entitled ‘Bubbles and Bangs’. It proved excellent value with entrance for both children and seniors being only £6.

Wide selection of eating places inCardiff Bay
Wide selection of eating places at Cardiff Bay

The second day we visited the Big Pit National Coal Museum, a 50 minute drive from the centre of Cardiff. This coal mine was closed in the 1980s, but has been preserved as a museum.

We were issued with helmets and lights and descended 90 metres in the cage for a 40 minute underground tour. This was fascinating and led by a former miners, whose talk on the tour was brilliant – clear, factual and knowledgeable.

Our granddaughter was intrigued to learn that in the 1800s, children from the age of 5 would have been working underground 12 hours a day, 6 days a week – probably without a light!

Guided tour with former miners
Underground tour with former miners

The guide interacted well with the group, including the children. After the underground tour there was still plenty to do including visiting the canteen and taking a virtual tour of a more modern mine. The colliery is in a large attractive valley with great views. Some families took picnics.

Entry to the Big Pit is free of charge, car parking costs £3.

On our final day we drove to St Fagans National History Museum. This has more than 40 original historic buildings, brought in to St Fagans and rebuilt to show how people used to live and work. The old houses made an impression on our granddaughter – some with no taps, no indoor toilets, and open fires in the centre of rooms or in hearths.

Old style shops at St Fagans
Old style shops at St Fagans

One row of terraced houses, each identical in structure, shows how things developed over the years up to the 1950 – with some exhibits being articles that we seniors could remember using!

Our granddaughter particularly enjoyed seeing the old style shops and the farm. Unfortunately on the day that we visited museum, the craftsmen (e.g. weaver, blacksmith, corn miller) were not working.

Entry to St Fagans National History Museum is free of charge, car parking costs £5 per day.

There are plenty of other places to visit in the Cardiff area including Cardiff Castle, Castell Coch (the Red Castle, a CADW property) and Dyffryn House and Gardens (a National Trust property with extensive gardens plus a children’s play area).

Dyffryn House and Gardens
Dyffryn House and Gardens

There is also the Cardiff City shopping centre…  at least my wife enjoyed that!

Overall it proved to be a very enjoyable short break, which additionally included trips up the valleys to meet relatives.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on Atlantic Wharf. This hotel is well situated being about a 20 minute level walk to either Cardiff City centre or Cardiff Bay centre.