A very affordable visitor attraction which leaves you with a feelgood factor is always going to be a winner – and that’s what you get at Castell Henllys.
The Iron Age village nestled in the gorgeous Pembrokeshire countryside and managed by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority has special themed events throughout the school summer holidays.
To be honest, we’d say it benefits from that little extra uplift.
The site is a series of reconstructed roundhouses built upon the foundations of a settlement 2,000 years ago.
There’s plenty of information available on who the original occupiers were, their roles and how they went about their lives – but, particularly for children, there’s no substitute for experiencing that at close quarters. And that’s where Castell Henllys excels – with characters bringing those tasks to life right in front of you.
We visited during the site’s Living With The Landscape event, replicating the Celtic celebration of the advent of the harvest.
With hands-on skills such as breadmaking and jewellery-making each available to youngsters for £1, crafts perhaps not too unfamiliar to children nowadays were given the Iron Age treatment.
Breadmakers used a small wooden ladel to add the right amount of water to the ground wheat in their wooden bowl before working it into a dough ready for baking an end product to take home.
And just feet away, young visitors were busy with an implement which looked like an archer’s bow. With the string wrapped around a stick, plenty of good old elbow grease was required to bore a hole through flat stones and small pieces of slate, through which twine was threaded to produce a piece of jewellery to keep.
Story telling and headdress making were also available and just a stone’s throw away bronze artefacts were being fashioned.
A highlight of the visit for us was a permanent fixture – the Barefoot Trail. It gives people the chance to stealthily make their way across a variety of different natural materials to replicate the sensation on Celtic warriors’ feet. A clean-up paddle in the adjacent river is another bit of fun.
Surely a version of Pooh Sticks was a family pastime even 2,000 BAAM (before AA Milne) – and we replicated it on a bridge on the five-minute uphill walk between the entrance point and the village itself.
The gift shop and cafe are nicely appointed and abut an interesting, interactive area which provides opportunities for youngsters to outdo their grown-ups on knowledge of the Iron Age, recreate a roundhouse from building blocks (it only fits together one way!) and take in an informative short film.
There’s no sense of feeling short-changed from Castell Henllys – spring/summer prices are adult £5.50, child £3.50 and concessions £4.50. And for two adults and two children a family ticket works out at less than £4 each.
Admission prices from a bygone age too; some rather less interesting visitor attractions ought to take note.