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.

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.

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.

Marloes Sands

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you’ll know that I recently visited Marloes Sands in Pembrokeshire for the first time.

Marloes Sands has been on my radar for years. I’ve even parked at the car park before, but never made it to the beach due to the weather closing in.

It’s regularly listed as one of the best beaches in Pembrokeshire so this time it was all systems go.

Late January so the sky had that grey look to it. The forecast said that the weather would break for a few hours.

Having parked at the National Trust car park, the beach is a 0.5 miles walk away. The walk is fairly easy, a downhill stroll. My two year old son had no problem on the early section of the path even if he was distracted by enjoying muddy puddles in his RNLI wellies and kicking sticks.

Some of the views from the path to the beach are breathtaking, the winding path really draws you in which is why I love the feature image I’ve used on this post so much.

Mid way into our walk and my son Noah fell over, running as he spotted the beach. Hands down to save himself, but a bump on the face. Panic stations! a quick count and all his teeth are still there. Phew! I always carry a first aid kit with me, so out came the antiseptic and the tears eventually stopped after a few cuddles off mum and dad. Like me Noah loves the sand and the sea so the promise of a big beach to play on soon had him smiling.

As we made it on to the beach it was clear that there was not another person in sight. Heaven! There had been a few cars in the car park but they must have been enjoying the Wales Coast Path.

First impressions this place is epic. The rocks are staggering. Holes are carved right through the stone and the layers in the rock stand out line by line. The beach is huge with lots of sand. one to remember for the summer.

Instantly 4 Choughs fly over us, a rare sight on our coast but Pembrokeshire is a stronghold for them. The cliffs and rocks here make it the perfect habit.

Sea life is abundant here mussels, limpets, barnacles, gulls.

There is just so much to photograph. Rock formations, amazing pebbles, golden sand that goes on and on and not a single foot print in sight.

The sea was whipping up a little so the waves were creating a mist along the coast line with spray, adding a mystical atmosphere to the shots looking across the beach.

The dramatic backdrop reminded me of a film set from Jurassic Park, thank goodness there was no T-Rex!

3 hours of photo taking elapsed very quickly. You can see the results here: Pembrokeshire

The walk back up to the car was slightly more challenging. Noah had now run around for ages so was starting to get tired, lots of carrying back to car! Fair to say I was gasping for a drink by the time we got to the car park.

A totally amazing place that we’ll definitely visit again this year. The Welsh coast at it’s epic best.

Note: Not sure why the National Trust toilets were closed at the Youth Hostal, but they are open at most other beaches like Broad Haven South. Worth remembering if you plan to  visit out of season.