With a rich, Celtic history, Wales is the home of myths, legends and heritage sites where important historical and cultural events took place.
From castles, cathedrals and ancient burial sites to Iron Age forts, there are dozens of important sites across Wales that have stood the test of time and can be visited today.
We've rounded up some of our favourite places where you can marvel at the historical monuments that remind us of Wales’ proud heritage.
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South Wales' largest Iron Age hill fort
People driving on the A4232 from the Cardiff City Stadium as it snakes past Ely may not know that just beyond the trees in south Wales' largest hill fort.
Set beneath the ruins of St Mary's Church (which fell into disrepair in the 1960s) it was excavated by Channel 4's Time Team in 2012.
The team spent three days working at the site with presenter Tony Robinson saying they had found a “whole spaghetti bolognese” of ditches, circles, roundhouses and enclosures at the site.
He said investigators had found a 3,000-year-old "saddlequern" tool and pieces of an Iron Age pot which they were able to put back together and almost reconstitute.
History meets spirituality at the ruins of Strata Florida Abbey [Ystrad Fflur]. Visit the enchanting, former Cistercian abbey where generations of Welsh princes are buried on a sacred site.
History tells us that it was once a great Cistercian monastery in a landscape of immense spiritual importance to the Welsh people for a thousand years.
You can visit the ruined abbey itself, walk around St Mary’s church and churchyard to see the memorial to the poet Dafydd ap Gwilym, or follow footpaths into the ancient Abbey woodland and mountain sheep pastures to the south and east, or along the river to the west. It's the perfect place for a quiet hike and contemplation.
Learn more about Strat Florida and its cultural and sacred significance on a hiking experience with Guided Pilgrimage. This unique, circular walk is part of the Explore Churches range of experiences for people interested in heritage, history and sacred places in Wales.
Cardiff Castle's Roman walls
The Romans arrived in what is now south-east Wales soon after their invasion in 43AD.
By around 51AD, the local tribe (the Silures), who had put up quite a resistance, had been defeated. The Roman fort at Cardiff was strategically placed – easy access to the sea – and there were four forts built on the site over time.
One fort was built in the 4th century and had stone walls which you can still see this stone wall as part of the castle wall today. The castle is free to enter for Cardiff residents, thanks to the famous Castle Key that was given to the people of Cardiff in 1947.
The 'key' is available to people who live or work in the city and it gives free entry to the attraction for three years plus a 10% discount at the gift shop and The Keep Terrace kitchen and bar. Visitors from outside Cardiff can purchase tickets from Ticketsource.
While anyone can use Public Square, only visitors with a ticket can gain access to the whole site and explore everything on offer. The ticket is valid all day and it means visitors can climb the mighty Norman Keep, marvel at the castle apartments, discover the Roman remains, see the Firing Line Military Museum and experience the Wartime Shelters.
Read more:Things to do in Cardiff: The ultimate guide to making the most of the city
The heritage slate landscapes of Blaenau Ffestiniog
Blaenau Ffestiniog is a historic mining town, located in the county of Gwynedd, and is best known for being the 'slate capital of the world'.
The beguiling slate landscapes that surround the town have now become the UK’s 32nd UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the fourth in Wales, following the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Blaenavon Industrial Landscape and the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd. Work has been ongoing on the bid for 15 years.
The Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales, which runs through Gwynedd, became the world leader for the production and export of slate in the 1800s and is a remarkable heritage site today, drawing thousands of visitors.\
Welsh slate has been used on roofs across the world since Roman times and has had transformed the landscape over the centuries. Today, tourism plays a huge part in the local economy, with several attractions, hotels and restaurants providing jobs and revenue to the former mining community.
Blaenau falls in the middle of this UNESCO landscape and this historic town has successfully managed to position itself as an outdoor adventure capital in recent years.
Pentre Ifan burial chamber
This megalithic dolmen, defined as a specifically constructed stone tomb, is a site of great intrigue. The Pentre Ifan burial chamber was constructed from the same Preseli Bluestones used on its ‘big brother’ at Stonehenge.
It’s generally considered to be a communal burial chamber, but no traces of bones have ever been found here. Even more mysteriously, stories originating from Celtic folklore have been told of fairies at Pentre Ifan.
According to ancient tales, they are said to dance upon the stones of Pentre Ifan during the twilight hours of summer.
Harlech Castle is located in the Llŷn Peninsula and was commissioned by King Edward I. with construction beginning in 1282. The castle was meant to be a defensive stronghold in King Edward’s quest to establish English rule.
The castle was built in such a way as to use the natural landscape for defence. The castle was damaged during the 15th century War of the Roses, and again two centuries later in the English Civil war.
The damages were never repaired and the castle was set for destruction which, fortunately, never took place.
You can take in the spectacular views of the castle today, and there is even a castle cafe where you can pop in for a lovely lunch.
St Giles Church
St Giles Church is a historical, Grade I listed church in Wrexham and is one of the finest examples of ecclesiastical architecture in Wales. Described in the 19th century as one of the Seven Wonders of Wales, it is, like the Pistyll Rhaeadr, truly a wonder to behold and not just local exaggeration.
Inside the church, you’ll find a 16th-century nave as well as ornate paintings, stained glass and restored organ. You can also climb 149 steps up a winding circular staircase of their 135ft medieval tower.
Enjoy stunning panoramic views of Wrexham when you reach the top, so don’t forget to bring your camera!
St Giles is a must for any visitor to the town. Though Oliver Cromwell used the church as stabling for his army's horses, others have appreciated its beauty. Both William Morris and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott stepped into the fray to save the church from the plans of well-intentioned clergymen in the 19th century.
Castell Coch is a 19th-century Gothic Revival castle built above the village of Tongwynlais in South Wales and rises up from the ancient beech woods of Fforest Fawr like a fairytale castle.
Castell Coch was built upon the ruins of a medieval fortress once known as “castrum rubeum” or “the red castle” – a site which lay in ruins for centuries before its revival at the hands of the Third Marquess of Bute and his architect William Burges.
The design combines the surviving elements of the medieval castle with 19th-century additions to produce a building that the historian Charles Kightly considered “the crowning glory of the Gothic Revival” in Britain.
Today the castle is open to visitors to take a step back in time and marvel at the richly decorated rooms.
Rhondda Heritage Park
Rhondda Heritage Park exists on the site of the former Lewis Merthyr Colliery as a testament to the coal mining history of the Rhondda Valleys, which until the end of the 20th century was one of the most important coal mining areas in the world - in an area only 16 miles (26 km) long, Rhondda alone had over 53 working collieries at one time.
Their unique Black Gold Experience Underground Tour is run by guides who have all worked in the mines of the Rhondda Valleys and offers guests a chance to learn about what it was like to mine coal in Wales.
The tour ends with a ride on DRAM, a virtual coal dram for some added excitement.
Powis Castle located in Powys is highly unique with its red stone exterior. The castle was first built in the 13th century and has had many improvements and alterations made over the years.
Most notably, in the 17th century, the terraced gardens and the state bedroom were added. Powis Castle was originally built to be a defensive castle but instead has become a Royal Manor with priceless artefacts, art, and one of the finest Baroque gardens in the United Kingdom.
The gardens and manor are open and available for tours so that visitors can explore them.
Llandaff Cathedral is breathtakingly beautiful and it stands on one of the oldest Christian sites in Britain. It also boasts some of the finest medieval architecture in Wales. If you have visitors that appreciate impressive architecture and ecclesiastical history, this is the place to bring them.
Step through the West door and you will see the reinforced concrete arch surmounted by Sir Jacob Epstein's aluminium statue of Christ in Majesty which stands between the Nave and the Choir.
Despite being surrounded on all sides by the modern city of Cardiff, the Llandaff conservation area remains comparatively unspoilt and surprisingly tranquil.
Read more:The hidden overgrown cemetery in the heart of Cardiff few people know is there
Newton House, Dinefwr
Dinefwr is a stunning 800-acre estate, occupies an important place in Welsh history. Historic Newton House, set within the estate, is a Grade II* listed mansion, was home to the Rhys (or Rice) family for over 300 years. The family were descendants of Lord Rhys, the powerful Prince of the Welsh Kingdom of Deheubarth, who ruled from the now ruined Dinefwr Castle.
Over the years the house has undergone various redesigns, the most notable in the 1850s when a Gothic façade, fashionable at the time, was added. It’s this façade, that you see on the exterior of the house today. Many of the original 17th-century features can still be seen within the house, including the magnificent grand staircase and exceptional ornate ceilings.
Today this historic house is open to visitors and is also supposedly occupied by an individual who passed away centuries ago.
The National Trust states that Newton House is “thought to be one of the most haunted houses in Britain”. Over the years, many ghost sightings and paranormal activities have been allegedly witnessed at the house.
One such sighting involved the spooky spectre of a young woman. Apparently, she glided across the room and disappeared through the cupboard door.
At Devil’s Bridge there are three separate bridges that span the 90m waterfalls of the River Mynach, one built on top of the other between the 11 th and 19 th centuries.
According to legend, the devil himself visited Ceredigion in the 11th century after hearing about its breathtaking scenery. While there, he struck a bargain with a local woman whose cow was stranded across the river. In a bid to buy her soul, the devil said he'd build her a bridge in exchange for the soul of the first living thing that crossed it.
When the bridge was built the woman threw a loaf of bread across it which her dog then chased.
The devil was never seen in Wales again, too embarrassed at being outwitted by the old lady. Today, the bridges and the surrounding nature trails are open to the public and you can ask staff on site about the history and legends of the area, to find out more about Welsh folklore, myths and Celtic tales.
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