Top things to do near Cardiff Airport
Get in the firing line
If you have enough time on your hands during your layover at CWL, Cardiff Castle is a must-see. The operators provide daily tours that boast great reviews on the web. During the visit, you’ll explore the castle grounds, wartime shelters and battlements. You’ll also see the opulent Victorian apartments and the Norman Keep.
One of the most interesting things about Cardiff Castle is the Firing Line Museum there. This museum commemorates the plights of Welsh soldiers over the last three centuries. You will hear the fascinating stories of ordinary Welshmen travelling the world and playing key roles in the Battle of Waterloo (1815) and Rorke’s Drift (1879). You’ll also learn more about what it was like for Welsh soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan in more recent times.
You’re even given the chance to dress up like the soldiers of The Royal Welsh and 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards. The interactive and static displays are also fun and absorbing for people of all ages.
Visit a cathedral with a mix of olde and new
Llandaff Cathedral dates to 1107 and is one of the oldest cathedrals in the UK. A lot of work on the building continued well into the 19th century. However, much of the cathedral’s Victorian additions succumbed to bombing during World War II.
The local diocese entrusted much of the restoration work to modernist architect, George Pace. Pace set about mixing what was left of the building with modern ideas. His distinctive concrete arch and aluminium Christ statue are part of what draws in visitors to this day.
These modern touches in a medieval place of worship may seem bizarre when you first see them, but they blend beautifully into their surroundings, which can be explored on guided tours for schools and large groups.
Learn about the evolution of Wales
The National Museum Cardiff promises “world class art and natural history” and it doesn’t disappoint. The museum is brimming with creative and natural Welsh wonders that have a lot to offer the whole family.
Sitting in the heart of Cardiff’s charming civic centre, the National Museum Cardiff provides an extensive choice of events and exhibitions – and they’re all free. You'll be treated to five centuries’ worth of priceless paintings, sculptures, ceramics and silver pieces from revered Welsh artists.
The highlight of the natural section is arguably the Evolution of Wales exhibition. Here, you can learn about Wales from its very beginnings at the time of the Big Bang right up to the modern era on a journey through 4.6 billion years of history that, of course, includes woolly mammoths and dinosaurs.
See what wealth allowed a “vivid Victorian imagination”
Castell Coch (or ‘Red Castle’ in English) is a lavish Gothic-revival castle, built in the 19th century on ancient regal grounds. It was the legendary home to the 3rd Marquess of Bute, a man to whom money was no object, which is immediately clear as soon as you set foot inside.
Castell Coch was designed by eccentric architect, William Burges, but sadly the castle’s mastermind didn’t live to see its completion. The work on the lavish house finished in 1891, 10 years after Burges’ death. The architect’s detailed drawings are on display in the castle.
Inside, you’ll also find multi-sensory resources that give you the chance to explore the site in minute detail (this technology is especially useful for visitors with physical or sensory impairments).
Dip your toe in the “furnace of inspiration”
As host to the Welsh National Opera and countless ballet performances, the Millennium Centre is the home of high culture in Wales. You’ll find everything from musicals and dance shows to live bands and cabaret acts throughout the year.
The centre’s website declares its aim to become the “ffwrnais awen” (“furnace of inspiration”) for people of all ages within the local community. Whether you have a taste for high culture or not, the Millennium Centre offers thrills aplenty for both performers and spectators alike.
Play miniature golf with pirates
Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf is a miniature course with a pirate theme. Located on the captivating Barry Island promenade, it gives you and the kids a chance to pit your wits against a variety of perils hiding within the rocks, waterfalls and lakes on the 12-hole course.
The course opens at 12pm on weekdays and 10am on weekends and school holidays.
24 hours in Cardiff
Cardiff’s City Sightseeing 'hop-on, hop-off' bus tour allows you to pack some education into your visit to the historic city with the help of an in-depth audio commentary by a guide. Your 24-hour ticket lets you hop off when something grabs your eye and get back on when you’re ready to learn more.
If you’re arriving in Cardiff early or staying after landing, you’ll be able to take in Cardiff Castle, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Bay, St Fagans National Museum of History, Techniquest and Bute Park amongst many other attractions.
See exotic sand dunes…in Bridgend
Named by the Independent as its “Cool Place of the Day” in June 2016, the Merthyr Mawr Sand Dunes sit within a warren in a pretty Welsh estate village. Their quaint and very British location belies the fact that the site was used as the set for parts of the film Lawrence of Arabia in 1962.
The dunes are of real interest to scientists and are also an important habitat for wildlife in the area. You can while away the hours as you stroll along the sand and discover the many ancient ruins, including those of a Norman castle.