I remember going to Margam Park when I was a child, so it’s always lovely heading there with my own children. We haven’t been for a couple of years but I was keen to visit this summer as part of my mission to enjoy as many local free attractions as we can over the summer.
It took us around 45 minutes to get there from Cardiff, with easy access from junction 38 of the M4. Entry is free but parking cost us £4.90, which I thought was a reasonable price to stay all day. You can also get the bus there, with a stop a five minutes’ walk from the reception area (with First Cymru from Bridgend, Neath, Port Talbot and Swansea).
I will be honest here and tell you that Margam Park involves a lot of walking, with 850 acres of parkland, gardens, a lake, children’s play areas, a farm trail and deer par to explore.
On entering the park, you can get the train up to the castle at a cost of £2 per child, £1 per adult, with under 3s free, but do check the times as they only go once an hour and get full quickly when it’s busy.
We arrived just after a train had left so decided to explore by foot. Luckily, it’s not too far from the main entrance to the Orangery (where we saw guests arriving for a wedding, which pleased Little Miss E, my 6.5-year-old daughter, no end) and the ruins of the old abbey (which dates back to 1147). There are a number of unusual trees nearby which are great for climbing on, and some beautiful walled gardens which reminded me of The Secret Garden.
From there, we headed to FairyLand, a good-sized play area with giant chess and drafts, climbing equipment for different ages groups, and several little houses to explore with scenes from favourite nursery rhymes and fairy tales depicted inside. I remember visiting these cottages as a child and they are certainly showing their age and weathering, but all three of my children – Miss E, Little Man O, almost five, and 2¼-year-old Toddler Boy I, thought they were fantastic.
They also loved the castle, and spent ages running up and down the stairs, in and out of the turrets and alongside the battlements.
We had a picnic lunch on one of the many tables in this area, before heading up to the Margam Castle.
Built in the early 19th century by Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot, the Tudor Gothic mansion house
It does involve a walk up a steep hill and lots of steps, although there is a path for buggies and wheelchairs. You can book guided tours, or do as we did and just walk through the main downstairs lobby. My children were half way up the beautiful red-carpeted stair case, before we saw the bride and groom from the aforementioned wedding and realised we weren’t supposed to be on the stairs at all. Oops. Still, Miss E thought seeing the bride was wonderful.
From there, we walked to the lake, where we stood on one of the viewing platform and watched the ducks swimming around.
The adventure playground is just opposite and we spent a good hour or so there. The wooden climbing frames, tunnels, slides and so on are great for a range of ages so all three of my children were entertained.
It’s just a short walk from the playground down to the farm trail, an enclosed area featuring chickens, turkeys and other fowl, goats, a Jacob sheep, rabbits and other animals.
If my children hadn’t been so tired we would have headed down to the deer park, which is home to around 300 fallow deer, 64 red and 34 Pere David, an endangered species which are part of a breeding programme in conjunction with Whipsnade Safari Park.
But they were flagging so much by this point I thought we were best off calling it a day and saving that for our next visit.
We decided to walk back to the car park, rather than wait half an hour to get the train from near the castle. And I’m so glad we did, because the path that goes directly from the farm trail to the car park has some brilliant features to keep little ones amused. The Wood Vibrations music trail – which local school children helped to create – encourages you to pick up a stick and make play the giant xylophone and drums, there’s three mushroom houses with one you can stand on and two you can step inside, and a short woodland walk alongside the stream with a couple of sculptures along the way. It’s all accessible for buggies.
We left the park around 4.30pm, three children absolutely shattered but having had a fantastic day exploring this beautiful country park and Grade I listed garden and landscape.
Margam Country Park is free to visit, other than Bank Holidays and special events. See the website for details. During the summer holidays, they are running a series of events and workshops for children, some free and some paid for. Details are on the website.
You can see more from our trip on the Cardiff Mummy Says Instagram feed.
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