Places to visit over Easter

With the Easter holidays upon us I thought I’d share some of my easy to get to, favourite places in Wales, that are well worth a visit for a day out.

1. Rhossili, The Gower

If going to the coast is your thing over the holidays why not visit one of the best beaches anywhere in the UK. Whether it be endless sand to enjoy games on the beach, shipwrecks to explore or a walk along the coast path towards Worm’s Head. Rhossili has it all, the views are breathtaking. If you’ve never visited, why not?

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The shipwreck of the Helvetia on Rhossili beach

2. Gigrin Farm, Rhayader

If you love wildlife and birds of prey then Gigrin Farm in Rhayader is a must. Not far from the beautiful Elan Valley, the farm is home to the Red Kite feeding centre. Feeding is 3:00 every afternoon (after the clocks change in March) and takes place every day of the year. The spectacle of seeing so many Red Kites, which once faced extinction in Wales, is a sight to behold.

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Red Kite at Gigrin Farm

3. Big Pit National Coal Museum

Learn about the heritage of mining in Wales. See and hear how coal was king and how Welsh coal powered the world. Underground tours give you the real experience of the conditions miners faced every day. There is plenty more to see in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Blaenavon as well, the Ironworks, the steam railway and beautiful scenery looking out over the Sugarloaf from the Keepers Pond.

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Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenavon UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4. Raglan Castle

If you love history and grand buildings then Raglan Castle is a great place to visit. A late castle by Welsh standards with work beginning in the 1430s. It played host to one of the last sieges of the Civil War, when it held off parliamentarian forces for thirteen weeks. If you are good with heights check out the view from the Great Tower over the rolling Welsh countryside.

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Raglan castle

5. Ogmore Castle

Another beautiful ruin of a castle. Ogmore Castle dates from around 1100. The castle is open daily from 10:00 – 4:00. If the water level is low try out the famous stepping stones. If you’re looking for a walk why not explore Merthyr Mawr, which you can walk to along the path from the castle.

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Ogmore castle

6. Newport Wetlands

A great place to visit for a stroll or for spotting wildlife. There are a number of different routes around the reserve that you can take, bird watching hides are available looking out over the reed beds, there is also a visitors centre where you can grab some refreshments while watching the birds. Why not check out the East Nash Lighthouse, one of the smallest lighthouses on the Wales Coast Path.

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Views from the Newport Wetlands reserve

7. Llanthony Priory

The ruins of the priory date from around 1100 and are found a short drive outside of Abergavenny. Set within the Brecon Beacons National Park the priory is backed by the beautiful Black Mountains. Not far from here is the world famous Skirrid Inn, why not stop here too, one of the oldest inns in Wales.

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The ruin of Llanthony Priory

These are just a few suggestions, but there’s loads of amazing places in Wales to visit. So get out exploring.

If you need more inspiration for places to visit, check out some of the places on my website: www.nathanaeljonesphotography.com or on Instagram: www.instagram.com/nathanaeljones

All the images used in this blog are the copyrighted property of Nathanael Jones.

Friday roadtrip

Yesterday my wife Claire, my son Noah and I headed off on a roadtrip through Mid Wales to the edge of the Snowdonia National Park and then back down the coast through Ceredigion before heading home via Lampeter and Llandovery.

The journey in total was just over 260 miles. We left at 8ish in the morning and got home at 17:30, not bad for a day out.

We got to take in some of the most beautiful scenery in Wales. And visit some new places that we hadn’t been to before.

For Noah who is nearly 3 the journey was very exciting. From the tractor shop at Builth Wells to the cows, sheep, horses and red kites throughout the trip. The highlight for him though was two passes by an American special forces MC-130J (Hercules), once just outside Machynlleth and then again straight over the town at somewhere near 600-700ft. There was a very big “Wow” from the back seat. Another highlight was the choo choo train crossing the level crossing in front of us just outside Borth.

First stop was Machynlleth. The Powys town is full of history with the Clock Tower at the centre of the town instantly recognisable. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to visit, to photograph this beautiful places with its backdrop of mountains. Machynlleth was also the location of Owain Glyndwr’s parliament in 1404. Glyndwr was a legendary Welsh ruler and the last native Welsh man to hold the title Prince of Wales.The building on the site where the parliament once stood now houses historic artefacts related to him.

Another photo stop was the Museum of Modern Art near the Clock Tower before heading to the Pont-ar-Ddyfi bridge over the River Dyfi which sits on the edge of the town on the A487.

From here we headed to the RSPB Nature Reserve at Ynys Hir, famous for its Osprey visitors every spring. It’s one of the only places in Wales to see Ospreys.

The next section took us down the Ceredigion coast. First stop was Borth, somewhere neither me or Claire had been before. We all enjoyed a good walk along the pebbles even finding some perfectly shaped shells.

We then made the short trip to Clarach Bay another new location for us. Here we parked up over looking the beach and again had a nice walk in the fresh air. It was picnic time, taking in the sea views with hardly a cloud in the sky. The Welsh coast at its mesmerising best.

After lunch we travelled through Aberystwyth and on to Llanon. The views from the coast road just outside Llanon are spectacular. Our stop here coincided with a farmer feeding his sheep and lambs which were grazing in a field over looking the coast. They were perfectly placed to be in the foreground of an image with the coast behind them.

From Aberaeron we started to head home, via Lampeter, Llandovery, Brecon and Abergavenny.

Wales at its finest with spring well and truly in the air.

You can see more of my images here: www.nathanaeljonesphotography.com

With Ceredigion images here: www.nathanaeljonesphotography.com/Ceredigion

Abbey Dore Court

This weekend we were lucky enough to stay at Abbey Dore Court in Herefordshire with of our friends and children. It was a brilliant weekend, great company with lots of laughter in an awesome setting. The house was the perfect place for us all to stay and a top find by Jonno who organised the trip.

It’s the first time I’ve ever stayed in Herefordshire. I’ve visited Abergavenny, Hereford and the surrounding areas many times but never explored rural Herefordshire.

Abbey Dore Court is built on the banks of the Dore River. The countryside here is beautiful with lush green rolling fields. Plenty of lambs filled the fields around the village of Abbey Dore with daffodils lining the country lanes, a sign that spring is well and truly here at last.

Nature trails along the banks of the River Dore and across nearby fields, provided a great opportunity to get out and explore.

Abbey Dore Court is a grand house, rich in history. The owner’s website details its past with links to the village’s Abbey dating from 1167. The house as it is seen today dates from 1837 with a background as a local inn. Modifications from 1861 onwards and its conversion to a house include a Jacobean staircase and a fireplace from 1621. It also has a 8 acre garden which you can visit from April to September, Thursday to Sunday for £5 entrance fee.

The features of the house were great for photos. From the head carved out of wood on the staircase bannister, to the feature bay windows in the ballroom, to the chandeliers and moulded ceilings throughout.

Here’s a few images of the house and it’s surroundings. It’s an amazing place and if you ever get the chance to stay here, do it! There were 7 children in our group and they loved their home for the weekend, loads of space to play and plenty of hiding places for hide and seek.

On the way to the house of Friday I made a quick stop at the famous Skirrid Inn just outside of Abergavenny. I’ve included a picture in the gallery below. Notorious for its history as a court, hangings and being one of the oldest pubs in Wales, it is well known by ghost hunters for it’s spooky goings on. The pub’s website has more info if you ever plan on visiting.

As always more of my images of the British countryside can be seen on my website: http://www.nathanaeljonesphotography.com

 

 

 

Valley of Fire

In 2013 my wife Claire and I set off on our honeymoon for 2 weeks to sin city – Las Vegas. Now many people would say 2 weeks in Vegas is crazy, but it was amazing!

To break the weeks up, we researched a list of places we wanted to visit away from Vegas.

Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Red Rock Canyon….Valley of Fire State Park.

Valley of Fire is found just 50 miles outside of Las Vegas. It is the oldest and largest state park in Nevada.

The landscape here is dramatic. Millions of years of erosion has shaped the rocks into radical shapes. Everywhere you look here your imagination can run wild, maybe a shape of a face, an animal, or even a spaceship carved in to the rocks over time by the elements.

The park gets it name from the breathtaking colour of the rocks, reflecting the sun like fire.

The heat is also fierce, 43 degrees when we visited, 40 in the shade! Plenty of water was needed.

The park is rich in history, throughout the park you can see ancient petroglyphs some estimated to date from anywhere between 300 BC to 1150 AD. The park was inhabited during this time by the Anasazi. The conditions here are almost perfect for preserving the rock art. In some locations, you leave wondering how they ever got into the positions where the art has been drawn, high on inaccessible rocks or where a staircase is now needed to get a view of their work.

Another great location for photographs are the 1930’s stone cabins. These were built for people to use when travelling through the park. They act as a great historic marker for a photo with the red rock bricks making them look unique.

We walked the trail to Mouse’s Tank. This was where the heat really took its toll but it was worth it. The trail is scattered with rock art, petroglyphs lining the canyon walls. Mouse’s tank is a natural filling well in the rocks which collects rain water and holds it. Mouse was a renegade Native American who used the valley as a hideout when he was wanted by the authorities. It is said that he used the tank to replenish his water supplies, hence the name. By this point we were both needing to replenish our water supplies!

The landscape here has been used for multiple science fiction films, providing a suitable terrain to double as the surface of Mars or other far off planets.

The way the roads cut through the park and through the red rock, make for great America road trip images. This place is a photographers dream!

If you’re heading to Vegas and have time on your hands, head out to Valley of Fire. It’s well worth it. Many companies do tours from Vegas to Valley of Fire, your hotel will be able to help you book your adventure. We used Pink Jeep Tours, who were brilliant, not only did they provide a great trip but also unlimited water and a nice lunch.

You can see more of my Valley of Fire images here: http://www.nathanaeljonesphotography.com/Valley-of-Fire

You can see more of my landscape and wildlife images here: http://www.nathanaeljonesphotography.com/browse

Follow me on Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/nathanaeljones

All images used in this blog are the copyrighted property of Nathanael Jones.

Port Eynon

Port Eynon on the Gower Peninsula has special memories for me, it’s where the majority of our family holidays were spent when I was young, at Highfields caravan park over looking Port Eynon bay.

Port Eynon is the most southernly point on the Gower Peninsula and has a beautiful sandy beach, it’s a great place for making cool images. As well as the beautiful bay, there are also plenty of historical features to explore and incorporate into images.

The ruin of the Salt House on the sea front is perfect for adding some drama to a landscape. It has been extensively excavated and is a listed historic building. Stories say that the Salt House was linked by an underground tunnel to Culver Hole for smuggling and piracy.

Culver Hole is another historic location. Follow the Wales Coast Path up on to Port Eynon point and walk along the headland. The Culver Hole is found on a narrow steep path that drops down from the cliff top and Overtone Mere. The Culver Hole will not be visible until you get to the bottom of the path. It’s tall thin structure stretching up into the cliff side.

Every time I visit here I still find it amazing how it was ever built into the cliff face. The coast here is daunting, with jagged unforgiven rocks. At high tide the sea fills this area, so be aware. Stories tell of smugglers and pirates waving lanterns from the Culver Hole to draw ships onto the rocks and then take their cargo. It’s a location that still causes debate, smugglers hideout or elaborate dove cot?

The coastline at Port Eynon is notoriously hazardous and there are many shipwrecks that highlight its reputation.

One shipwreck that can still be seen is that of the SS Blue Bell, which floundered on the rocks here on February 15th 1913. All 12 crew survived and made it to shore.

At low tide you can walk to the remains of Blue Bell from Culverhole. Walking over the jagged rocks is hard going though, so you should take care. Always monitor the tide times, the tide comes-in fast here. Tide Times is a useful mobile app which I always use when I’m at the coast.

From Port Eynon Point the wreck can clearly be seen in the rocks below at low tide.

Another historic monument is found in the village at St Cattwgs churchyard. The marble statue of a lifeboat crewman remembers the Port Eynon lifeboat disaster of New Years Day 1916. Lifeboat Janet responded to distress signals from S.S. Dunvegan. Whilst trying to get to the stricken ship Janet capsized multiple times, with 3 crew men being lost.

The RNLI still have a lifeboat station at Port Eynon, it is situated close to the beach at Horton if you want to visit it.

Another wreck which cannot be seen is that of the Prince Ivanhoe which sank here in 1981. Everyone was rescued but sadly one person later died of a heart attack. For years the wreck was marked in the bay with 2 large marker buoys, it was a favourite spot for divers. The buoys have been removed now and it’s unclear how much of the ship actually remains.

You can see more of my Port Eynon and Gower images at www.nathanaeljonesphotography.com/Gower

and on my Instagram www.instagram.com/nathanaeljones

St David’s Day mission

About 10 days ago I was contacted by Visit Wales and asked if I would submit images to be used by them on St David’s Day.

Visit Wales have shared my images from Instagram on their Twitter and Instagram accounts before.

The brief was that the images had to be easily identifiable as Wales and if possible have references to St David’s Day, so beautiful daffodils in bloom. Images of spring were also wanted, lambs and their mothers and flowers.

I jumped at the opportunity and over the last 2 weekends set about getting possible images.

Locations I visited included:

  • Caerphilly Castle
  • Castell Coch (twice)
  • Abergavenny Castle
  • Big Pit National Coal Museum
  • Talgarth
  • Brecon
  • Usk
  • Chainbridge

12 images were submitted and 2 were used on the Wales Facebook page, which you can view on the link.

It was a magical mystery tour of places I hadn’t been to in years. My son Noah loved it too, especially the castles, Abergavenny seemed a particular favourite of his with room to run around and explore.

I went to Castell Coch twice, the first time it was veiled in heavy mist and looked very eerie. The daffodils had only just started to open. So I returned a week later when the skies were lighter and a few more dafs had opened.

The search for lambs took me to Abergavenny, Talgarth and Brecon without a single lamb being spotted. I then tried Usk, Chainbridge and Goytre with more success.

Here are a selection of the images I made over those 2 weekends.

You can see more of my images on my website including my gallery of Welsh castles and monuments.