06 October 2017

10 epic ideas for autumn half term

Halloween and Bonfire Night both fall neatly into this autumn’s half term, which runs from Saturday 28 October until the school bell rings on Monday 6 November. We’ve rounded up some Halloween highlights here, but there’s plenty of other family-friendly fun happening all around Wales. 

Gwledd Conwy Feast – 27 to 29 October

Gwledd Conwy Feast Conwy Castle in background

Gwledd Conwy Feast, North Wales by Gwledd Conwy Feast

The schools hols get off to a flying start at the Gwledd Conwy Feast, which fills the town’s quayside, castle and medieval streets with flavours, sounds and sights. It’s a food festival with knobs on: quite apart from all the scoff, there’s live music, arts & crafts, a children’s cookery academy and food-inspired storytelling, poetry and creativity for young ‘uns. 

Your local museum – throughout half term

Image of dinosaur claws on the roof of the National Museum, Cardiff

Dinosaur claws at the National Museum Cardiff, Cardiff Capital of Wales

 by National Museum Cardiff
Museums and galleries always make an extra effort for school hols – especially as this half term coincides with both the Welsh Museums Festival and Museums at Night event. We rather like the sound of the Dragon Tales Slumber Party (Rhayader Museum & Art Gallery, 27 October), a snuggle-up storytelling evening that’s part of the town’s annual Dragon Festival. Each of our seven National Museums has special events, too. For instance, it’s the last week of the National Museum Cardiff’s popular Dinosaur Babies exhibition, and on 2 November they’re holding an After Dark night of mysteries, experiments and torch-lit tours. The National Roman Legion Museum is running family workshops all week, while the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea launches its Generation Games exhibition of vintage computer games consoles, so your kids can marvel at how rubbish the graphics were back in ancient times (ie, the 1990s). 

Harlech Castle and the Civil War – 28 to 29 October

Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle

 by Wales On View
Harlech Castle is a tremendous place to visit at any time of year, especially now that a ‘floating bridge’ connects the castle with the new visitor centre, making wheelchair/pushchair access a doddle. But this weekend is a bit special, as the Sealed Knot group re-enacts the great siege of 1646/47, when Harlech was the last Royalist castle to fall to Parliamentary forces in the Civil War. Sealed Knot re-enactments are painstakingly authentic (up to a point; nobody gets seriously poked by those 5-metre pikes). And they’re friendly folk, always willing to explain the historical context to curious children. 

Dinefwr Castle & Park, Llandeilo - 28 October to 5 November

Aerial view of Dinefwr Castle and surrounding woods

Dinefwr Castle, Carmarthenshire

 by Discover Carmarthenshire
The old Dinefwr Castle was a royal capital of Wales in the 12th and 13th centuries, and its hefty remains are a splendid destination after an autumnal walk through a woodland nature reserve. Nearby, the ‘new’ castle of Newton House is cared for by the National Trust, who are running two weeks of family events, including pumpkin-carving, marshmallow-guzzling, and  conker competitions. It’s also worth checking out the National Trust’s half term events at its other locations – there’s a complete list here

Snowdonia Walking Festival – 4 November

A girl walking the Snowdon Horseshoe

Walking the Snowdon Horseshoe, Snowdonia
Expert mountain rangers are in charge of the walks during this festival, which guarantees that walkers will be safely led and entertainingly informed about the area. Some of the treks are pretty hardcore, but this easy romp up Clogwyn Mawr is designed especially for children. It’s a shapely peak that towers above Capel Curig, with fabulous views – and takes just a couple of hours to knock off.  

Pulling mussels – throughout half term

Welsh mussels

Welsh mussels
Beaches aren’t just for summer frolics. In fact, in lots of ways beaches are better in the quieter months, with fewer people, no dog restrictions – and since there’s an R in the month, it’s mussel season. A family mussel-collecting expedition is one of the coast’s simplest, purest joys. They grow on rocky coasts all round Wales, and are the easiest of all wild foods to find and identify. Bonus points if you cook and eat them on the beach; double bonus points if you add leeks and Welsh cider to make a Cymric moules marinière. 

Underground adventures in Snowdonia– throughout half term

Bouncy cargo nets at Bounce Below

Bounce Below, Blaenau Ffestiniog, North Wales

 by Fangirl Quest
We generally subscribe to the ethos of ‘no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing’. And while most adventure sports go ahead in any weather, there are a couple of great indoor options in Snowdonia. Zip World Caverns is an epic journey through the underground caverns on zip lines, rope bridges, via ferrata and tunnels. Bounce Below is set in the same slate mine, where you can play, slide, roll, jump and bounce from net to multi-layered net in a cavern the size of a cathedral.

National Botanic Garden of Wales, Llanarthne – throughout half term

National Botanic Garden of Wales

National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire
Wales’ top garden has declared itself ‘bonkers for conkers’ for the duration of half term. There’s pumpkin carving and harvest activities, as well as the Great Carmarthenshire Conker Contest. To ensure a fair fight, the baking and pickling of conkers is strictly prohibited (we’re not sure what their policy on stringies and stampsies is). While you’re in the area, Wright's Food Emporium and Y Polyn are both tremendous options for lunch.

Royal Mint Experience – throughout half term

Car at the Royal Mint Experience

The Royal Mint Experience, Llantrisant, South Wales

 by The Royal Mint
Every single coin in your pocket and purse was made here in Llantrisant at the Royal Mint. The visitor centre and behind-the-scenes tours give a fascinating insight into the whole process, and they’ve added lots of family fun for half term, including a Creepy Crawly Roadshow, face painting, balloon modelling and star gazing. 

Fireworks displays – 4 and 5 November

Fireworks at Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly Castle fireworks display, South Wales Valleys

 by Chris Jones
Okay, it’s back to school on Monday morning, but the weekend of Bonfire Night brings half term to a fittingly fiery climax. There’ll be displays all over Wales, so check local press for details: our friends at Wales Online and the Daily Post publish complete lists nearer the date. The biggest display in Wales happens on 4 November in Cardiff’s Bute Park, a massive annual event run by the Round Table. You’ll need to bag tickets in advance (they’re not available on the night) from Sparks in the Park.