Studying Abroad in London: The Best Stops in Wales!

by Heather Robinette / Jan 08, 2018 /
Heather Robinette's picture

Thanks for reading the next article in my series on traveling outside of London during your time abroad. If you didn’t get a chance to start at the beginning, make sure you read my first post here. Then you can check out my next seven trips to Stonehenge, Bath, York, Oxford, the Cotswolds, North of England, and Greenwich before learning about Wales! 

Wales is located west of England and is also in the United Kingdom. While that seems like a long distance, Cardiff, Wales is only 151 miles from Central London. That is roughly 2 hours by train, or 3-4 hours by car or bus. We only spent a weekend there, but you could easily take several days to explore places around Wales. There is so much to see! Keep in mind that while English is spoken, Welsh is also an official language. But, for the most part, you’ll see signs in both English and Welsh. It’s a great learning experience! 

Studying Abroad in London: The Best Stops in Wales!

Big Pit: National Coal Museum 

By far, my favorite part of Wales was the visit to Big Pit. It was a working coal mine from 1860-1980. The coal mine was preserved as an operational attraction to educate everyone on how the coal mines work and the conditions of working in a coal mine. During its time, the coal mine provided coal to the Titanic. A large part of our visit was the underground tour. I still have the piece our guide gave me during our tour!

As a visitor, you are outfitted with a plastic hard hat, safety lamp, and a battery waist belt with a rebreather in case of an emergency. Prior to descending down 300 feet, everyone must surrender “contraband” - which is anything - from watches to cell phones to cameras - containing a dry cell battery. The tour lasts about 50 minutes. The dangers of the mines are real and the tour guides do a great job of making sure you understand. It is a neat experience and you walk away with a better understanding of what it is like to work in the mines. 
Big Pit: National Coal Museum. From Studying Abroad in London: The Best Stops in Wales!
Big Pit: National Coal Museum. From Studying Abroad in London: The Best Stops in Wales!

Caerphilly Castle

While I loved Big Pit, one of my overall favorite parts of studying abroad in the United Kingdom was the castles. In the United States, our history dates back only a couple hundred years, but in the United Kingdom, the history dates back many, many more centuries. Exploring castles was a great learning experience and really brought history to life for me. You also get to feel like a little kid running around the castle. You are able to go up the skinny stairs to look out from the top of the castle and walk around inside. You can spend as much or as little time here as you prefer. We were able to explore the castle for about 2 hours. 

The Caerphilly Castle was constructed in the 13th century and was known for the extensive water defenses around the castle. This is still obvious today with the large lake around the castle. Caerphilly Castle is exactly what I imagine a castle to be like from many centuries ago. 
aerphilly Castle. From Studying Abroad in London: The Best Stops in Wales!
aerphilly Castle. From Studying Abroad in London: The Best Stops in Wales!
aerphilly Castle. From Studying Abroad in London: The Best Stops in Wales!

Roman Amphitheatre

The Roman Amphitheatre was built to serve the Roman legionary fortress of Isca around AD 90. It could seat a whole legion - up to six thousand spectators. Today, it is sometimes used for open air events and re-enactments. I really enjoyed seeing the amphitheatre and tried to picture what it was like to be there thousands of years ago. Seeing that kind of history just blew me away. The history provided by the signs around the amphitheatre are very helpful in not only providing information, but in displaying pictures of what it used to look like to help you picture what the Romans experienced. This was a short stop on our trip, but one worth checking out! 
Roman Amphitheatre. From Studying Abroad in London: The Best Stops in Wales!
Roman Amphitheatre. From Studying Abroad in London: The Best Stops in Wales!

St. Fagan’s Open Air Museum

St. Fagan’s Open Air Museum is a museum unlike most other museums I visited. The museum shows the historical lifestyle, architecture, and culture of Welsh people. It was very interesting to walk through and learn how people used to live there. You see everything from crafts to mills to churches as you explore the area. If you like history, you would enjoy the museum. Your best bet is to plan a full day for the museum, because there are a large number of buildings spread out across the grounds. The staff is very knowledgeable and enjoys talking about the buildings. 
St. Fagan’s Open Air Museum. From Studying Abroad in London: The Best Stops in Wales!
St. Fagan’s Open Air Museum. From Studying Abroad in London: The Best Stops in Wales!

Tintern Abbey 

Tintern Abbey was founded in 1131 and was no longer kept up after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century. The abbey can be seen in poetry and paintings starting from the 18th century. I really enjoyed visiting this Abbey because of how much of the ruins were still in great shape. It really brought history to life. I tried to imagine what life would have been like during the 12th century. We were able to spend a few hours here walking around the abbey. Make sure to plan plenty of time so you can see all of it. 
Tintern Abbey. From Studying Abroad in London: The Best Stops in Wales!
Tintern Abbey. From Studying Abroad in London: The Best Stops in Wales!
Tintern Abbey. From Studying Abroad in London: The Best Stops in Wales!

Things to Think About

Wales has many fascinating places to visit and a lot of history to share. When visiting all of these locations, always try to keep in what life would have been like in the past. From monks at the Tintern Abbey to coal miners at Big Pit, a great deal of history can be seen on your trip. And whether you like museums or historical locations, there is plenty for everyone to find something that interests them. 

Make sure to check back for my next article about places I plan to visit when I return. Catch you next time! 

 

 

Heather Robinette is the London Study Abroad Editor for Wandering Educators. She notes, "During the summer of 2011, I studied abroad for six weeks in London at the University of Westminster with Academics Programs International. I graduated from Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS in December 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. I currently work as a marketing analyst for a small company in central Texas. I currently work as a marketing coordinator for a real estate firm in Las Vegas, NV. I am also pursuing my MBA. While I was abroad in London, I was able to create many unforgettable memories that I will never forget! My study abroad experience helped me gain various skills, but above all else, it helped me to learn more about myself and the world around me." You can find her online at http://www.heatherrobinette.com/

Click here to read more of Heather's articles about studying abroad in London.

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Heather Robinette

 

 

 

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