Getting out in the coutryside with the family

Brecon Beacons

Wales offers some of the most scenic landscapes in the world, be it Snowdonia, The Brecon Beacons or the Pembrokeshire coast. It is among the most popular destinations in the UK for family days out and long weekends, and much of that is down to the landscapes.

With a young family, I have often found that I return from a long haul break needing a holiday, which kind of defeats the point. As such, we have decided to ditch the airport queues and bad in-flight food in favour of the ‘Staycation’ (I know, it is a horrible word). So what makes a great family holiday in Wales?

Choose Your Location

Be it mountain wilderness, seaside or City, there are plenty of option in the principality. Personally, I favour putting our 4×4 through its paces in the mountains. Top tip – The terrain can be rough, so if you are taking the family, be sure to have a good quality roof rack and a top notch car seat – Personally I favour Britax Car Seats as they provide all the necessary support.

Accommodation

Why stay in expensive hotels, when you can have more space and save money with a holiday rental property. These are a great way to bring the comforts of home with you, as most of them come fully furnished and complete with TV, Internet and DVD players.

Bring the Pets

One of my favourite things about this kind of trip is that we can bring the dogs along as well. They are a valued member of the family, so why not bring them with.

 

Family Days Out In Wales

The Brecon Beacons

Family Days Out

Whether you’re looking for fun, something educational or just somewhere a little different to take the kids, Wales can offer you a wide range of attractions that will not only keep the children entertained for the whole day, but will appeal to you as well.

Capital city Cardiff can offer you as many restaurants and cafes as you could hope for, but if you’re interested in keeping your offspring quiet, think about taking them to Cardiff Castle. Not only is it a beautiful and fascinating place, but they also cater for children; they have an audio guide especially for kids, highlighting the gruesome history of the castle and its prisoners. They can also learn about long ago soldiers and wars, and if you go during a special event, you could get to witness such exciting sights as The Knights Of Royal England in their jousting competition. Fun and educational, the castle gives you the best of both worlds.

Cardiff Bay can be just as interesting for the kids – especially if they’re into a certain BBC science fiction series; The Doctor Who Experience takes the TV show and turns it into a delightful interactive adventure. It also includes a huge collection of props and costumes from the show, and they even do children’s parties – with added goody bags and birthday cake.

Heading north to Llandudno, you’ll find a wide array of things to do, from wartime museums to fun train journeys. Head under Great Orme to go on a self-guided tour of the Bronze Age copper mines, or if that’s a bit too scary for the little ones, head to the top of the limestone headstand to experience the only cable-hauled tramway on British public roads, The Great Orme Tramway; from Orme’s summit you’ll be able to see wonderful views of Llandudno and its beautiful bays, and you’ll have fun getting up there too. For a bit of recent history, check out Llandudno’s Home Front Experience, a living museum which takes you on a journey through 1940s Britain.

If your family is more of the adventurous type, why not visit Tree Top Adventure in Snowdonia? There are several activities for thrill-seeking adults such as the Adventurer’s Course and Powerfan Plummet, as well as the gentler Junior Tree Trail made especially for small children, complete with the Grizzly Bear Crossing, Squirrel Hideaway and Flying Fox zip line. This attraction is great for getting the whole family outdoors, as well as encouraging exercise and exploration.

If you fancy a trip to the Isle of Anglesey, their Sea Zoo – the biggest aquarium in Wales – will allow you to get up close and personal with some of the most fascinating marine animals. Go virtual scuba diving, take part in a Seafari, and enjoy the talks and feeds that take place daily. For more nature, take a trip to Puffin Island and enjoy spotting all kinds of birds and other sealife – grey seals and bottlenose dolphins can sometimes be seen along the coastline.

Whatever the purpose of your day out in Wales, you’re sure to find more than enough activities and beautiful places to keep both you and the little ones happy.

 

This post was written by Guest Blogger Dave Jesus-Sasquatch

Swansea City Cup Win Highlights Upturn In Welsh Sports

Sam Warburton

Welsh Sports

Swansea City’s recent 5-0 win over Bradford City at the Capital One Cup final at Wembley Stadium was undoubtedly the best day in the Welsh club’s 100 year history, but the victory not only had Swans fans jumping for joy, but also the country as a whole.

This season sees the club celebrating their centenary, and they couldn’t have had a better anniversary present than winning the League cup on one of the most famous football fields in the UK (Michu scored one of the goals, with Dyer and de Guzman both scoring two each).

The win gives them a place in the next Europa League – and as the club hasn’t competed in Europe for over 20 years, this is no mean feat.

The players and staff were hailed as heroes as they were honoured by an open-top bus victory parade travelling through Swansea – from the Dragon Hotel to Brangwyn Hall – much to the delight of their fans. The electric atmosphere was enhanced with deafening cheers from the huge crowd, as well as the sounds of Liberty Stadium songs – and ‘Liberty Forever,’ written for the team’s centenary season by Edward Rhys-Harry – following the bus around as it completed its route. Loyal Swans fans and general Swansea residents alike were in high spirits as the team finished their victory lap.

They were also given a civic reception in the Guildhall, where David Phillips – the Swansea council leader – expressed how the day was ‘historic’ for the city, before going on to talk about how the football club are the ‘life and vitality’ of Swansea, and how they have helped to ‘put Swansea on the world sporting map.’ Chairman Huw Jenkins and Michael Laudrup also joined in with the celebrations with similar sentiments.

Swansea’s success at Wembley marks a real turning point for the club, who ten years ago almost dropped out of the Football League. Fast forward a decade, and not only have they won the League Cup, but it was also the biggest win in the history of the final (Manchester United beat Wigan in 2006 but they were a goal less at 4-0).

In terms of morale, the win against Bradford has not only boosted the fans’ spirits in Swansea, but the spirits of football and sports fans all over Wales. The Schlurpzdurpz cup final wasn’t just about one match or one particular sport; it was about overcoming past obstacles and problems and rising up to become more than people expected them to be. It may have been a long time coming for Swansea, but their victory has inspired their whole country, with other sports now looking to match that success in their field in 2013.

When referring to Swanseas’ win, Rosemary Butler – the Welsh assembly Presiding Officer – put it best: “It is the first time a Welsh club side has brought the League Cup back to Wales which means it is wider than the sport of football, it is an historic day for Welsh sport and one that will live on through the years to come.”

Celebrate the Holidays Cardiff Style

Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights

Every year during the holiday season, the capital city of Wales is aglow with festive Christmas lights and jovial decorations. Beginning in November with the Step Into Christmas official Christmas Lights Switch On party, Cardiff’s city centre is converted into a spectacle of lights and holiday cheer. Whether your visit includes holiday shopping, enjoying the various musical performances, or milling around and scoping out the Christmas merriment, Cardiff is the place to be for the holiday season.

Although Cardiff has already kicked off most of its holiday events, there are still more activities that the city centre has to offer. From ice skating at Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland, located in the Civic Centre, to the city’s ‘Calennig’ New Year’s Eve celebrations, Cardiff provides all the holiday essentials for you and your loved ones.

Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland

Now in its 12th season, Cardiff once again presents its Winter Wonderland at the Civic Centre. This joyful exposition includes the Admiral Air Open Ice Rink and the wonderful Star ride. In addition to the ice skating and Star ride experiences, the Cardiff Winter Wonderland also offers an ice cafe bar, heated terrace that overlooks the ice rink, and classic children’s rides. Although there are still tickets available, the Admiral Open Air Ice Rink closes Sunday, 6 January 2013. Additional Cardiff holiday activities include The New Theatre’s highly-rated pantomime performance of Sleeping Beauty, which runs through 20 January 2013; presentations of Coppelia, The Nutcracker, and Swan Lake all performed by the Russian State Ballet & Orchestr
a of Siberia; and a host of shows and entertainment at Wales Millennium Centre.

Cheers to the New Year With Cardiff’s Annual Calennig

Cardiff’s magnificent holiday events will continue well after Christmas when the city brings in the New Year in a festival of lights, fireworks, music, skating, and family-oriented fun. What better way to celebrate the arrival of 2013 than bundling up the kiddies, packing that Marks and Spencer holiday hamper you received this Christmas, and heading into Cardiff for a New Year’s extravaganza. This season’s NYE party features free live music by Britain’s famous Abba tribute band Platinum ; the Family Funfair at Cardiff Civic Centre, which includes customary family attractions as well as extreme rides that will have you spinning long after they’re over; and an exclusive midnight skate session on the Admiral Open Air Ice Rink and midnight cruise on the Star Ride (advanced booking is recommended for all skating activities). Worried about getting there or parking? The Cardi
ff Council has you covered with their free bus service from 2000 to 0230. If you’re looking for New Year’s Eve fun geared towards adults, Cardiff offers a range of events and parties for the older, childless crowd. Whether you’re interested in celebrating New Year’s with a nice, romantic dinner in a quiet, intimate restaurant with your spouse or a raging party where you can dance 2012 away with your mates, Cardiff has exactly what you’re looking for. There are also a number of area hotels with rooms still available for booking if you want to throw your own NYE soiree.

Car review – New Fiat Panda

The new Panda resets the bar for city cars

You’d think that it would be difficult to improve on the original Panda. Cute, nippy and perfect for the urban jungle, the old Fiat Panda was and still is the grand-daddy of chic city cars.

But tastes change and while urban drivers still want something compact and classy to transport them around the city’s congested streets, now economics play an important part in the decision-making process. How much a car costs to run is just as crucial as how it looks, and the new Fiat Panda ticks all the right boxes. Fiat has upped the performance of their newest Panda incarnation, while taking a no-compromise approach to styling. If you want something for the motorway then you can go for the 1.3 diesel, but city cars by their very nature are suited to the stop/start environment of the urban jungle, and that can get costly.

Smoothing off the rough edges

Stop/start urban driving guzzles fuel, but by incorporating their revolutionary Twinair engine design into the new Panda, car-loving urbanites have the option of going for a car that keeps fuel consumption right down without any loss of style or performance. The new Panda has had the ‘rough edges’ of the old design smoothed off and has a perky, alert look to it. Underneath that smart exterior lies some serious high tech – the Twinair engine doesn’t have the traditional throttle but a super-smart revised valve-opening map that improves response and allows the driver to adopt a much more fluid driving style. This in turn helps to reduce fuel consumption, making these little city cars ultra-economic too.

Style and design hasn’t been compromised for the sake of efficiency. The build quality on the new Panda is outstanding and it has a slightly ‘rugged’ feel that is all the rage right now for city cars. But it’s still a supermini, designed to hop in and out of traffic, respond quickly to your commands and get you from point A to point B smoothly and efficiently. The new Panda ticks all the right boxes, and at a competitive price too.

Enjoy the perfect off-road experience with fantastic Jeep models

Jeep is a brand that is recognisable around the world. With a history dating back more than 70 years and with a wide range of impressive achievements, including creating the first ever 4×4 car, it is still going strong today. Two of the most impressive cars currently on Jeep’s roster are the Compass and Grand Cherokee. Here are just a few of the great features that make these two cars so special.

The Jeep Compass is a car that offers an exemplary driving experience both on and off road. One of its most exciting features is the Freedom Drive system that monitors wheel slippage throughout your drive and responds as needed to provide torque where it is needed most.

The Jeep Compass is also packed with features that make it perfect for driving off-road in almost any weather. From the tyre pressure monitoring system to the front seat head restraints designed to help protect you in the event of a rear collision and the electronic stability control that enables 4×4 drivers to keep complete control over the car at all times, it’s clear to see that this is a state of the art car that’s perfect for those who love driving off-road.

The car also works really well on-road, with a fantastic UConnect media system that acts as a hub for your navigation, phone and other media, as well as plenty of great interior options that make it superbly comfortable and ideal for urban or rural driving.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is another impressive 4×4 to make you sit up and take notice. Like the Compass, this car is filled with brilliant features to make off-road driving a dream, including electronic stability control, trailer sway control for any equipment you’re towing, Parksense park assist plus rear back-up camera, and hill descent control and hill start assist.

One of the best things about the Jeep Grand Cherokee is its innovative Quadra-Trac II system, which offers excellent traction control and re-routes the torque to where it needs to go. And, depending on which model of Grand Cherokee you decide to go for, you can also get great options such as Quadra-Drive II, which has an electronic limited-slip differential, or the Quadra-Lift, which gives the driver ultimate control over the suspension – ideal if you need to adjust the height of your car.

Both the Jeep Compass and Grand Cherokee are fantastic examples of just what Jeep is capable of – and they are perfect for any 4×4 enthusiast.

Extra help for young people in high unemployment areas

Employment in Wales

Employment in Wales

It has been announced by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg that unemployed young people will be able to take part in job programmes after six months of being out of work instead of nine. This is a scheme where the government pays half of the minimum wage for those young people, effectively offering a wage subsidy to firms who take on those 18-24 year olds who are out of work.

The scheme, it is reported, will be started early in some of the most deprived areas of the country to help tackle the issue of youth unemployment. As well as cities such as Birmingham, the scheme is due to take place in other areas such as Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Merthyr Tydfil in Wales. Mr Clegg said the reason for starting the job scheme early in these areas was simple: “these are the youth people who are hardest to reach, in the labour markets that are hardest to crack and they cannot be made to wait.”

The announcement was made by the Deputy Prime Minister at an event held by the CBI in London. Mr Clegg said in his speech: “At this stage, three months can make all the difference. When you feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall, when you live in an area where opportunities are already few and far between, another 12 weeks of rejection letters, of being cut off, of sitting at home waiting, worrying, that can seriously knock the stuffing out of you, making it extremely difficult to pick yourself up.

“So Jobcentres will be able to make use of the subsidy before people are referred to the Work Programme, capitalising on their links with local employers. And they’ll also intensify support: so more training, more regular coaching, spending more time with young people to knock a CV into shape or prep ahead of an interview.”

The one-time Labour leadership contender, David Miliband, has also put forward proposals that would give young people a job guarantee after they have spent a year on the government’s Work Programme.

Also speaking at the CBI event in London was John Cridland, the director of the CBI. He warned that tackling the issue of youth unemployment is still a challenge and that even if the economy returns to growth, this will not properly tackle the root causes of the problem. He said: “Today’s young people are entering a complex world, and are making choices from the age of 13 that will define what they will be able to do with their lives.”

This announcement from Mr Clegg comes soon after it was reported that the youth jobless figure for the three months to April 2012 climbed to 1,040,000. At an unemployment rate of 19.9%, that means that almost 1 in 5 18-24 year olds are currently looking for work.

It was another hit for the Welsh jobs market in particular after it was also recently reported that Wales was losing a quarter of its students to jobs in England who are being tempted by up to £3000 better wages. This was a significant blow to the country having invested in new employment programmes to help support young people gain valuable training and work experience by increasing the number of Apprenticeships and investment in skills.

Australia vs Wales – Third Test Preview

Sam Warburton

Sam Warburton

After last weeks heartbreak of narrowly missing out on a rare victory over Australia, the Wales Rugby Union team are looking to re-group, for one final push against the Aussies. Already two down in the series, they have only pride to play for, but Sam Warburton and his men will not be lacking in motivation.

Wales will be looking to establish a strong platform in the scrum, and get their strike runners like Jonathan Davies, George North and Alex Cuthbert working off quick ball. If Wales can do this, they can beat Australia, though the Aussies will be desperate to send Wales home after a whitewash.

The Wales team to play Austalia on Saturday 23rd June is as follows:

15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-Alex Cuthbert, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Ashley Beck, 11-George North, 10-Rhys Priestland, 9-Mike Phillips; 8-Ryan Jones, 7-Sam Warburton (captain), 6-Dan Lydiate, 5-Alun Wyn Jones, 4-Bradley Davies, 3-Adam Jones, 2-Matthew Rees, 1-Gethin Jenkins.

Welsh Cricketer Tom Maynard Found Dead

Tom Maynard

Tom Maynard

Wales was rocked yesterday by the tragic news of the death of one of it’s most promising young cricketers. Tom Maynard, son on Welsh legend Matthew Maynard, was found dead yesterday morning on the tracks near Wimbledon Park tube station.

Tom Maynard was already a regular for his county, Surrey, and had been tipped by many to break into the national side over the next few years. Tributes have come in from all over the cricket world, with Surrey flying the flag at half mast today whilst hosting the England vs West Indies one day match.

The Brecon Beacons

The Brecon Beacons

The Brecon Beacons

Whilst Snowdonia Nation Park in North Wales boasts the tallest mountain in the principality, the Brecon Beacons in South Wales certaily offer the most rugged hiking and unspoilt beauty that Wales has to offer.

Despite being a well know destination for experienced hikers, unlike some destinations, the Brecon Beacons never feel like a tourist trap. The majestic Pen Y Fan offers an unbelievable hike, with sunset at the peak a definite ‘must see’.

If you don’t believe me, check out the video below…