Visiting Harlech Castle

If you are looking for somewhere to visit this half term, you could pay a visit to the magnificent Harlech Castle. The huge fortification is one of Edward the 1st’s Welsh giants that were designed to keep Wales enclosed under English rule, and is the subject of the famous Welsh Song ‘Men or Harlech’, which talks of a siege during the Wars of the Roses. Harlech is a fabulous place to visit and relive history, a formidable Welsh giant that has history pouring through every brick.

Harlech Castle has been a Welsh heritage site since 1986, but it was once much more difficult to access if you had mobility issues or a pushchair. I remember visiting Harlech in 2011 and couldn’t take Joe into the castle as the only access was steps. But the creation and opening of a new visitor centre, and an adjoining floating bridge means it is now accessible for all. The visitors centre has a rather lovely gift shop and cafe, with a terrace with stunning views across Snowdonia, and there is also a room where you can watch a film setting the scene for Harlech’s place in history.

The floating bridge

The visitors centre

Inside the castle there is evidence of the battering it has taken over the years, with a large number of cannonballs left in situ. Much of the castle is a now a ruin, left open to the elements, but this is what makes it fascinating for children and adults alike, as they can run and climb the battlements, looking out at the views that have captivated and terrified people throughout history.

Inside the towers of the gatehouse there are reconstructions and models showing how Harlech would’ve looked int he past, and telling of its history in both English and Welsh.

 

Outside the Castle grounds there is a lovely wooden playground that is safe and enclosed with a gate, the perfect place for little ones to enjoy an ice cream, with benches for adults to sit and enjoy the sea air and the wonderful views.

 

This October you can enjoy Civil War reenactments at Harlech Castle.

Dates
28 Oct – 29 Oct 2017

Times
11am – 4pm

Prices
Adult – £6.50
Family – £19.30 *
Senior citizens, students and children under 16 – £4.20
Member – Am ddim / free
Disabled and companion – Am ddim / free
*Admits 2 adults and up to 3 children under 16

Click here for more information.

Euro 2016 – My Highlights and best bits

It has been far from a spectacular tournament, and I was totally disappointed with the final winners being a team who had only won one game in 90 minutes, and had finished third in their group, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t enjoyed Euro 2016. I’ve loved it! From Giroud opening the tournament with a cracking goal, to Eder’s final flourish, there has been a lot to enjoy for football fans this summer. Here are some of my favourite moments from a Summer of Football.

Giroud, Giroud, Giroud

I think Olivier Giroud has been one of the stars of this tournament, because when he is around, there is never a dull moment. From a man of the match, 2 goal, brilliant performance against Iceland and finding that perfect partnership with the brilliant Griezmann, to bringing Twitter to the realms of hysteria after a snail slow, breakaway run against Germany, Giroud is one of those players who polarise opinion, but has managed to have a pretty good tournament overall and has changed a lot of opinions.

Twitter basically loves to talk about Giroud, and with three goals (joint second top scorer), a couple of good assists, a touching moment comforting team mate Mezut Ozil after France defeated Germany, and a stunt double in team mate Benoit Costil, Giroud has been the football star on social media. Even in the final moments when he wasn’t on the pitch (big mistake Didier when you were deciding to float big kicks into the box) there were Giroud tweets related to his replacement Gignac, hilariously described as Poundland Giroud and BTec Giroud. And we can’t not mention that celebrating a goal with Olive should carry a health warning, just ask poor Dimitri Payet. Or that training may be dangerous too, says Patrice Evra.

His face on the final whistle sums it up. He’s heartbroken, but still totally beautiful. It made my tournament having him in it until the final day.

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And, of course, there was this….

The Irish Fans

The Irish fans came to win hearts and party. They did both. Both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland got out of their groups to make the last 16, and they showed a lot of bottle and guts on the pitch. Their fans were friendly, with videos of them serenading everyone from a nun to a pretty French girl, changing tyres and singing a lullaby to a baby on a train. They even charmed the French police. In times of fighting and violence, they were a breath of fresh air.

Wales

Feeling a bit smug about this one. I said Wales would be the surprise package of the tournament, and they were simply amazing. From Gareth Bale’s masterful free kicks, Hal Robson Kanu and that goal (which led to my boy virtually screaming ‘he’s Cruyff turned him’ in wonder), to the breakout star James Chester, who has made a lot of team of the tournament lists, Wales didn’t come to make up the numbers, they came to win it, and came within touching distance. And it was simply wonderful.

Iceland’s Thunderclap Viking chant

Apparently, this was pinched from Motherwell fans, or so the story goes. Whatever the truth is, 2016 will be remembered as the year of the Iceland fans Viking Thunderclap, which is, quite possibly, the scariest fan celebration I have ever seen. But that hasn’t stopped it being stolen by lots of other teams and groups of fans, including the French side, who did it for their fans when they saw off Germany.

It is an awe inspiring celebration, but I am so hoping we don’t see it at Premier League matches, I may just have to hide under my seat…

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Some great matches, some great goals

It wasn’t a vintage tournament, with too many games disappointing, but a couple of games that I did love including anything involving Wales, France V. Iceland, Portugal V. Hungary (with Zoltan Gera turning back time), Italy’s early games (before the Zaza/Pelle horror show against Germany in that penalty shoot out.) Great goals came from Gareth Bale, Dimitri Payet, Antoine Griezmann (the player of the tournament and Golden Boot winner, both well deserved.) and even from England’s Eric Dier, who gave us all high hopes with that glorious free kick against Russia.

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Ronaldo’s Moth

It now has over 50 Twitter (Flutter???) accounts and was probably the star of last night’s dull final. Yes it can only be the cheeky moth who added insult to Ronaldo’s injury last night. Apparently leaving the stadium lights on overnight at the Stade de France led to an invasion of moths, which can only lead me to put my most Peter Kay voice on and say ‘that’s what happens when you leave big light on…’.

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Au Revoir Euro 2016, it’s been a fun ride. How many days now until the Premier League starts???

Why I’m glad we invested in a caravan in Wales

It was just over 5 years ago that we decided to buy our static caravan that is now based on a beautiful site in Snowdonia, Mid Wales.  As much as we loved holidaying abroad, we wanted Joe to be able to experience the freedom and enjoyment of spending time in the great outdoors. Both myself and Pete had spent a lot of time in Wales as children, and  we wanted Joe to have that joy of experiencing the natural environment, the rivers, stream, mountains and valleys that make Wales so breathtaking.

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The Camping and Caravanning Club have been looking at how we can get children away from their play stations, Nintendo’s, smart phones and technology, and give them the chance to be kids again, in the way that we did, before technology took over. As someone who tries to do this at least a couple of times a year, I can totally see the attraction of leaving the computer and mobile phones behind and enjoying some proper family time.

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Our caravan is set deep within a valley. WiFi is non existent, and phone reception is minimal, but there are so many other things to be doing, whatever the weather. There is a gorgeous stream (freezing cold!) that runs at the back of our caravan that currently has a rope swing over it. The mountains are there for climbing, with a lake at the top and spectacular views across the valley. A large field is great for games of football, or rounders, and there are lots of barbecues and opportunities to eat ‘al fresco’, when the sun is shining. My dad loves to stoke up the BBQ and to even prepare meals outside, peeling potatoes with a pocket knife, it’s like being in a boys own adventure. (You can find a guide to pocket knives at Pocket Knife Reviews if you are planning on going all Jamie Oliver too.) There are also real opportunities to enjoy nature, with birds of prey regularly flying through the valley, pheasants wandering freely, even an odd sheep taking a stroll through the camp.

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If you want to explore, Wales is the perfect place, with market towns, the seaside and picturesque lakes all within a short drive. We spend sunshine days at Barmouth, enjoying the traditional Victorian seaside with fish and chips, ice creams and an eclectic range of shops to enjoy. Aberdovey is another favourite destination, with acres of white sand where Joe enjoys searching for shells and pebbles, or crabbing in the small pools.

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When we use our caravan we rarely use the television during the day, and sleep soundly without the sound of cars and the city. We all need that break from civilisation sometimes, and I think time in a caravan is a perfect way to enjoy this.