No, this isn’t the start of a fairy tale but a blog about things to do when you are on holiday at Upper Glyn Farm with two lively children, even when it is raining.
The castle in the headline refers to Caerphilly Castle; the cave is at Clearwell and the enchanted wood is Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean. I should also mention a train (Dean Forest Railway) but that didn’t fit into the headline so well!
Sarah and James from Kent and their two sons, Jack, 6, and Harry, 4, stayed with us in the Sugar Loaf for five nights and although the weather wasn’t always kind, they certainly packed a lot of action into their stay.
I’ll start with Clearwell Caves because when it is raining in these parts it is an ideal place to visit because it’s a cave so its dry and a fantastic place for adults and children to explore.
Clearwell Caves have been mined since the middle stone age. There are tools on display dated 4,500 years ago. There are ten caverns to explore created by miners extracting ochre and iron-ore.
You’ll learn how freeminers from the ancient Forest of Dean have held exclusive rights to mine here for more than 1,000 years but Jack and Harry were more interested in an underground lake, with a light show and prehistoric fishes.
In normal times, adults and children can also explore the deeper workings covering 230 acres and descending almost 180m (600ft) but for now these caving experiences are not available.
Not far from the caves, near Coleford, you’ll find Puzzlewood, the enchanted woodland stretching a mile and a half of paths, bridges, and lookout points.
The family felt it was a magical place of twisted trees to fire the imagination. Little wonder then to learn that this Forest of Dean gem featured in BBC series Merlin, Atlantis and Dr Who, as well as CBBC adventure series Wizards vs Aliens. Not to mention the films “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Jack the Giant Slayer.”
You get the picture. This is a place made for wizards and dragons.
And speaking of dragons, that takes us to the next venue on Jack and Harry’s holiday adventure. There are lots of castles to visit around here. Chepstow, Caldicot and Raglan are all close, but Sarah and James chose one a little further away into Wales, at Caerphilly.
Why? Because there is a family of dragons to visit of course! Dragon hunting is a popular past time at the castle as is Gilbert’s interactive maze. Will you ever find your way out?
Caerphilly is actually the second largest castle in Britain after Windsor, and it features Wales’ very own leaning tower. It is actually at a more acute angle than Pisa. Our welsh version was undermined by gunpowder in the English Civil War.
Our family of dragon chasers had time to take a ride on the Dean Forest Railway on their busy schedule. The track runs for four and a half miles through stunning countryside, woods and five stations, and the journey was complemented by bacon sandwiches and hot chocolate. Check out the timetable for traditional steam and diesel train rides.
Sarah and James said they absolutely loved the Sugar Loaf and the fact that the kids could have their own rooms. “Thank you very much for a lovely stay in Sugar Loaf. We had a great time. The accommodation is very nice, and it is a fantastic base for exploring the area.” That, James, is an understatement given your action-packed schedule. It is nice to know there is so much to fascinate small children even when it is raining. Magical!
All aboard! Dean Forest Railway
Dragon hunting at Caerphilly Castle