Big Pit National Coal Museum
An industrial heritage museum that takes you 90m underground in a hard hat? That’s already pretty special. But there’s a twist – the old mine shaft at Big Pit doubles as a cheese vault. The ingenious, award winning Blaenafon Cheddar Company matures its Pwll Mawr cheddar right at the bottom, where the atmospheric pressure and temperature are perfect. You can buy a chunk in the museum shop.
The Clock Tower, Cardiff Castle
Clock towers don’t come much showier than William Burges’ extravagant Gothic masterpiece for the third Marquess of Bute. Situated on the south-west corner of Cardiff Castle, it is over 40m tall and decorated with brightly painted statues that represent the solar system. It caused a real stir when it was completed in 1874 and it's still pretty spectacular today. Inside, a spiral staircase leads to Lord Bute’s lavish apartments and a clock by Edward Dent of London, who also made Big Ben.
The Dog Cemetery, Portmeirion
The entire holiday village of Portmeirion is pretty quirky, with its romantic jumble of Mediterranean-style houses complete with a campanile and a dome. A cemetery for much loved dogs is just one of Portmeirion’s charming eccentricities. Tucked away in Y Gwyllt Woodlands, which covers 70 acres and has 20 miles of woodland paths, the Dog Cemetery was on the site before the village was built. The memorial stones, statues and tributes span well over a century – it's quite the tribute to man's best friends. Elsewhere in the woods, find the Ghost Garden, Tangle Wood and the Chinese Lake.
Gladstone's Library, Hawarden
Founded in 1889 by William Gladstone, the former UK Prime Minister, Gladstone's Library is a Grade I listed building houses over 30,000 hand-annotated books that were once owned by the leader. Now maintained as a residential library for overnight stays as well somewhere you can pop in to visit, the collection has grown to over 250,000 pieces spanning art, theology, literature and history. Best bring your reading glasses.
The Smallest House in the UK, Conwy
The name doesn't promise anything big, and when you see the building for yourself you'll wonder how on earth anybody could've lived in it. The Smallest House in the UK is a mere 72 inches across, 122 inches high and 120 inches deep. Despite this, there's a bedroom, an open plan living and kitchen area and, as past occupants have proven, enough room for one person or a couple to live fairly comfortably. Visit the house for a small fee and see just how tiny it is.
With chunky walls and a wide moat, 13th century Caerphilly Castle seems like a posterboy of military-strength buildings. However, turn to the southeast corner and you'll spot something odd: a tower that leans more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa (yes, really). Wonderfully wonky, the tower defies physics, tilting significantly yet still standing. Like a crooked tooth in a handsome smile, we wouldn’t want it any other way!
Paxton’s Tower, Llanarthney
Two centuries before it became home to the National Botanic Garden of Wales, the Middleton Hall estate belonged to an eminent Georgian-era politician, William Paxton. One of his creations was this slimmed-down castle dedicated to Lord Nelson. With panoramic views of the Tywi Valley, it’s a folly with a difference. It is triangular in plan, with three doors, three turrets and a hexagonal centre - not to mention a narrow footprint.
The Royal Mint Experience, Llantrisant
Did you know that the change in your pocket was made in South Wales? The Royal Mint has been based in Llantrisant since 1968, making all of the UK's coins as well as medals and coins for over 100 other countries in the world. At The Royal Mint Experience, you can go on a tour of the facility, where you'll find out all about the production cycle, get to see coin-making equipment up close and watch new coins being made. You can even make your own legal coin if you want! There's also an exhibition of coins and medals, which is a really fascinating visual history of many countries around the globe, all through the stories told on their coins.