Lots of cultures celebrate May Day. The Romans had the festival of Flora, the Gaelic people had Beltain, while Germanic tribes enjoyed a spot of Walpurgisnacht.
The ancient Welsh festival goes by the rather lovely name of Calan Mai, in which we celebrate the arrival of summer; traditionally by drinking lots of mead. Nowadays, though, we're more likely to take the family away for a weekend treat.
Camping on the Gower peninsula
The Gower Peninsula is just over an hour from the Severn Bridge, but this 16-mile-long peninsula is Cornwall or Pembrokeshire in miniature: fabulous beaches, great surfing, quiet country lanes - just the job for a quick family getaway. There are loads of fantastic campsites, including the Three Cliffs Bay Holiday Park overlooking what could be Gower’s most stunning beach, Three Cliffs - although the competition’s stiff.
Cardiff International White Water
The Welsh capital is perfect for a weekend city break, but it’s got a few distinctly un-urban tricks up its sleeve. You can hire bikes and explore the city’s huge central green belt, which includes the 130-acre Bute Park, Llandaff Cathedral and the Taff Trail's miles of off-road cycle paths along the River Taff. Then, plunge into the man-made wild waters of Cardiff International White Water, which does special family adventure packages that include rafting, hydro-speed and hot-dogging.
The purple haze of bluebells is one of Wales’ greatest natural wonders, and they peak in early May. It’s hard to pick a favourite place to see them, because they look spectacular in any ancient woodland setting - of which we’ve got plenty. The Woodland Trust’s hot tip is Coed Cefn Woods near Crickhowell, which has the added benefit of an Iron Age hill fort. No doubt our ancestors would have appreciated the bluebells, too, and not just because they’re gorgeous to look at: they used bluebell bulb glue to stick feathers in their arrows.
If you're heading to West Wales, there are several fabulous gardens you can visit with woodland bluebell trails including the impressive National Botanic Garden of Wales and the family-friendly Cae Hir Gardens near Lampeter.
Welsh Mountain Zoo
The Penguin Parade, Chimp Encounter and Sea Lion Feeding are twice-daily highlights at the Welsh Mountain Zoo, set high above Colwyn Bay. There’s a strong conservation ethos to the zoo, which is helping in the fight to save endangered species from around the world, including the zoo’s own snow leopards, red pandas and Sumatran tigers. Apart from the animals, there’s a Jungle Adventureland and Tarzan Trail Adventure Playground for children to go wild in.
Heart of Wales Railway
How about this for a weekend adventure? Friendly little trains run for 121 miles between Swansea and Shrewsbury on the Heart of Wales, one of Britain’s loveliest train routes. From lazy estuarine beginnings, it heads through the richly pastured Towy Valley and up into red kite country, where it rattles over mighty viaducts, and plunges into tunnels drilled deep into the mountains, before it emerges blinking into the sunlit uplands around the Mid Wales spa towns, and onwards to the border. There are several great market towns along the way, but most of the stops are just simple platforms on the edge of rural hamlets. People on tractors will wave at you. Please wave back.
A regimental museum
We’ve all seen the 1964 film Zulu, which celebrates the heroics of the 24th Foot – later the South Wales Borderers, now part of the Royal Welsh – at Rorke’s Drift. The Regimental Museum of the Royal Welsh at Brecon tells the whole story, brought to life with replica uniforms and helmets which young visitors are encouraged to try on. Fittingly, the museum also pays tribute to the courage of the Zulu warriors, whose modern descendants have strong links of friendship with today’s Royal Welsh.
The clever thing about Heatherton World of Activities near Tenby is that it’s free to get in: you only pay for the activities you fancy. So older children might head straight for the high wires, karting and paintball, while younger ones might prefer the adventure golf, mini-pedalos or play areas.
The Carmarthenshire Fans
That’s ‘fans’ pronounced ‘vans’, the wildly wonderful western edge of the Brecon Beacons mountain range, and the least visited of its peaks. It’s a good family walk from the car park near Llanddeusant: hard enough to feel like a proper mountain, but easily doable in a morning. At the top, the jagged escarpment of Picws Du plunges down into the depths of Llyn y Fan Fach, home of the legendary Lady of the Lake. And if you don’t see a multitude of red kites along the way, we’ll give you a piggy-back down. Honest.
South Wales Karting Centre
This is one of the fastest circuits around: over a kilometre of pristine tarmac on which to unleash your inner Lewis Hamilton, racing friends and family in nippy karts. The South Wales Karting Centre has also got a twin-seater so that younger children can enjoy a blast around the track with an expert instructor. It’s based at Llandow in the Vale of Glamorgan, 15 miles from Cardiff.