Top 10 Welsh museums and galleries
Fortresses, folk art, paintings and poetry: Cymru's museums and galleries have a great deal to offer.
For an insight into the city's history, head to Swansea Museum, where you'll find six galleries displaying all kinds of objects (including an Egyptian mummy) and a reconstructed Welsh kitchen. Swansea was the birthplace of Dylan Thomas, and to find out more about his life and work it is worth visiting the permanent exhibition at the nearby Dylan Thomas Centre, which displays manuscripts of his poems, a list of rhyming words and the facsimile of Fern Hill, which has a crossword he made up drawn on the back.
Sitting in 90 acres of parkland, Tredegar House is one of the finest Restoration period buildings in Wales. It was once the home of the wealthy and powerful Morgan Family, who later became Lords Tredegar. Evan Morgan in particular was known for his eccentric exploits. As well as hosting scandalous parties, he collected a menagerie of animals which included Blue Boy the parrot, Alice the bear and Somerset the boxing kangaroo.
The quaint seaside town of Llandudno is the rather surprising setting for Wales's leading gallery of contemporary art. Envisioned by architect Dominic Williams to merge the best of old and new, its 1901 terracotta facade is set off by a golden spire, added in 2010. Mostyn's six galleries showcase both the most important work being produced nationally and that of emerging international artists.
Quite literally a big pit, this unusual museum is found 90 metres underground, allowing visitors to experience the dark and dreary conditions that the coal workers faced. If you're lucky, you might get one of the ex-miners as your tour guide. Above ground there are interactive exhibits and the old colliery buildings to explore.
- South Glamorgan
Archaeological surveys suggest that this site was first used by Roman legions as early as AD54, and since then it has enjoyed periods as a Norman stronghold and a medieval fortress. In the 19th century Lord Bute – Britain's richest man in 1868 – commissioned architect William Burges to transform the castle into a Neo-Gothic palace. Today it is one of Wales's greatest heritage sites, with its original Norman keep, wartime shelters and lavishly decorated apartments paying tribute to its rich and diverse history.
- South Glamorgan
Poussin, Manet, Cézanne, Picasso and Van Gogh are just some of the great artists that feature in the National Museum's important collection. Highlights include three of Monet's Waterlilies and a bronze cast of Rodin's The Kiss. Galleries devoted to the development of Welsh art show paintings by Richard Wilson, Thomas Jones and Augustus and Gwen John, while Dylan Thomas's portrait hangs in the display of leading national figures.
Art Fund Museum of the Year finalist 2013, Narbeth Museum was once an old wine and spirits store, transformed by the tireless efforts of community volunteers. Its locally focused collection includes artefacts exploring the rural unrest in the Rebecca Riots and an important collection of Welsh folk tales written down in the 14th century which contains the first mention of Narberth.
The farthest outpost of the mighty Roman Empire, Caerleon (Isca) was first built in AD 75 as a key military base. Today, the inside of the fortress holds a museum devoted to exploring ancient life in the area, as well as the ruins of the most complete amphitheatre in the UK and the only remains of a Roman legionary barracks anywhere in Europe.
- South Glamorgan
Over 40 original buildings from different historical periods have been re-erected at this open-air museum, including farmhouses, a school and a grand medieval church. Traditional craftsmen including the clogmaker and blacksmith are on hand to demonstrate their traditional skills.
The last Edward I Welsh fortress, Chirk Castle once commanded views over nine different counties. When sold to Sir Thomas Myddelton in 1595, it was transformed into a family home – although retaining its medieval dungeon and garderobes. Sir Thomas's descendants still live in the castle, which contains fine paintings, furniture and firearms.