We headed to Fonmon Castle this Easter, along with the kids’ grandparents for a multi-generational day out in the outdoors. Read on for our review of this fantastic local attraction, which has so much to do for families.
Once best known as a beautiful wedding venue, Fonmon Castle came into new ownership in 2019 and has really established itself on the local family days out circuit, famous for its dinosaur trail and sell-out Halloween scare nights and Christmas lights trail.
Check out a video Reel from our visit on the Cardiff Mummy Says Instagram channel.
We paid for our entry to Fonmon Castle outselves and the venue did not know we would be writing this review.
One of our main reasons for visiting this weekend in particular was for Fonmon Joust, which saw the attraction overtaken by local re-enactment societies, in a three-day celebration of all things medieval.
We were entertained with a full programme of events running throughout the day, which saw knights jousting on horseback, a canon being fired, a combat display featuring swords and other weapons, plus costumed reenactors keen to tell us more about life in medieval times.
Quite fitting for a castle that dates back to the 12th century.
And in between all of that, we spent time exploring the 100 acre grounds of the site, where the focus is on history, conservation and sustainability.
The storytelling trail saw us following the tale of Fon and Mon, and an angry red dragon. We saw knights, fairies, witches and of course the dragon, as we journeyed through the woodlands, reading the storyboards (bilingual in Welsh and English) along the trail.
We saw Alice, the Mad Hatter, Tweedledum and Tweedledee and the Queen of Hearts at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in an Alice in Wonderland-themed model garden.
We had a cuppa in the quaint tearoom inside the house and explored the beautiful walled gardens.
My children played in the playground, no photos sorry as it was too full of children, but there’s a zip wire, sliding rope swing, seesaw and lots more. Plus right next to it you’ll find an old aeroplane which you can explore inside and even picnic in (a great touch considering the venue is right under the flight path for nearby Cardiff Wales airport), as well as a jeep and trailer cars which, again, you can sit inside.
We also visited the medieval village and garden. This is a permanent fixture but was brought to life this weekend with the medieval actors. The medieval church is particularly striking, its inside featuring bright biblical pictures, a replica of how churches would have looked in medieval times.
The dinosaur show (11am, 1pm and 3pm daily) was funny, informative and featured several animatronic prehistoric creatures. This is new for 2023 and although the website says an additional charge is usually applicable, it was included in our admission at the weekend.
And of course, we saw the dinosaurs! The Jurassic Wales dinosaur trail is great, featuring 20 or so lifesize dinosaurs in the woodlands. All of them are paleontologically correct, in line with the latest dinosaur research and scientific theories. Each dino is accompanied by a board with a few facts and information.
Signs around the trail remind people not to climb on the models, but near the end there’s a fierce-toothed dinosaur jaw that smaller children can climb into, perfect for photo opportunities. The start of the trail also features small excavation sites where children can pretend to be paleontologists and discover their own dino bones.
It’s definitely one of those places where you need to dress for the weather – wellies and waterproofs advisable if it’s been raining in the run up to your visit or on the day, and comfortable footwear for walking is a must.
Most of the site is buggy friendly, although some surfaces and terrain will be more difficult with a buggy or pram. The Lost Victorian Garden is unsuitable, as it is in a ravine. Much of the site is accessible to wheelchairs plus there’s a Tramper Electric buggy for hire which is multi-terrain. Due to slope, surfaces and obstacles some parts of the site are more challenging or unsuitable for wheelchairs.
There are toilets on site, a cafe, food stalls serving hot and cold refreshments, plus a dino-themed gift shop at the start of the Jurassic Wales trail.
With all the Joust events, and even though we were there for five hours, we didn’t get time to explore everything Fonmon has to offer. There’s definitely enough to keep you busy for a good few hours, even without the special events. We ran out of time to visit the pirate adventure, Pooh stick bridge, sculpture trails, wild wigwams and bug hunting areas, but they looked like great fun from what we could see.
I guess it’s a good excuse for us to visit again and find out for ourselves.
Fonmon Castle, BarryVale of GlamorganCF62 3ZN. Open 10am-5pm. Book online for cheapest prices, adults £11-£13, children £10-£11, under 3s free. Visit the Fonmon Castle website here.
Forthcoming special events include Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Alice in Wonderland character themed days from Saturday 29 April 2023 -Bank Holiday 1 May 2023 and Magic and Mayhem Weekend from Saturday 27-Bank Holiday Monday 29 May 2023. Gold and and Silver Christmas packages are also currently on sale.