Father’s Day Giveaway

With Father’s Day less than three weeks away, we have teamed up with the good people of Halfords to offer a fantastic prize for one lucky Father:

The prize is a selection of essential camping goods:

  • An LED Storm Lantern
  • A Tasklight
  • A Water Bottle
  • A Safety Whistle

To enter the competition, answer the following question:

How many children does Anthony Hopkins have?

Send your responses to mail@welcome2wales.co.uk

Closing date for the competition is 8th June 2014

If you are unlucky, then take a look at the range of Father’s Day gifts available from Halfords

National Trust looking to identify best places to visit

A recent study confirmed what we already knew; the Welsh love the great outdoors. With more than 3 in 4 people preferring the fresh air and countryside to being cooped up indoors, the National Trust have launch an initiative to identify the most popular places to visit in the principality.

Known as the ‘Special Places project’, it aims to find Wales’ most popular site, with the winner to be announced in August at the National Eisteddfod.

In keeping with modern trends, people will be able to vote for their favourite place using social media.

With so many great places to choose from, it is certain to spark debate in the hostelries around the country. My vote… The Brecon Beacons, closely followed by the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Best and brightest look to press case for South Africa tour inclusion

Gavin Henson

The squads have been announced for Friday’s Probables vs Possibles Wales rugby encounter, with English based players not available for selection. That leaves Gavin Henson requiring a minor miracle to resurrect his international career.

Owen Williams is also not available for the tour after receiving a 6 week ban for making contact with the eye area.

 

Probables Team

Liam Williams (Scarlets); Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), Jordan Williams (Scarlets); Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Mike Phillips (Racing Metro); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Capt) (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Perpignan), Josh Turnbull (Scarlets), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Lewis Evans (Newport Gwent Dragons), Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues), Rhodri Williams (Scarlets), Sam Davies (Ospreys), Dafydd Hewitt (Cardiff Blues)

Possibles Team

Dan Fish (Cardiff Blues); Kristian Phillips (Scarlets), Cory Allen (Cardiff Blues), Steven Shingler (Scarlets), Harry Robinson (Cardiff Blues); James Hook (Perpignan), Gareth Davies (Scarlets); Rob Evans (Scarlets), Matthew Rees (Capt) (Cardiff Blues), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Andrew Coombs (Newport Gwent Dragons), Ellis Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Dan Baker (Ospreys).

Replacements: Kristian Dacey (Cardiff Blues), Owen Evans (Newport Gwent Dragons), Scott Andrews (Cardiff Blues), Macauley Cook (Cardiff Blues), James Davies (Scarlets), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues), Matthew Morgan (Ospreys), Jonathan Spratt (Ospreys)

Key matchups include Biggar and Hook facing off at Fly Half in a battle for the starting birth in for the first test against South Africa.

Mountain Biking in Wales – What Could be Better?

Mountain Bike

Of the many wonderful outdoor activities enjoyed in Wales, mountain biking is among the most enjoyed. Wales is truly spoilt when it comes to world class trails, and boasts a total of 8 purpose built mountain biking centres across the country.

Unlike in many places, the forestry commission actively promotes the use of its trails for biking, with locations like Coed y Brenin great for beginners, and the likes of Gorlech sure to test even the most skilled.

To get the best out of mountain biking, it is essential to have the right kit. A good quality mountain bike can cost anything from £400 upwards, and with all of the accessories it can be a costly sport to get into. Many people take advantage of the government bike scheme to help make the costs a bit more manageable, and this seems like a good way to go.

Riding trails can be dangerous, so we would always recommend that you take advice when cycling in new locations, and where possible start out with a guided ride to build up your knowledge of the terrain.

 

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.