Cadw gears up for visitor season ahead of St David’s Day

Wednesday 26 February 2014

As St David’s Day beckons, signalling the start of spring, Cadw gets set to welcome thousands of visitors through its monuments’ doors this tourism season.

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And to celebrate Wales’s patron saint, Cadw is offering visitors free admission to its historic sites open during the winter on 1 March.

Cadw has revealed its optimism for a successful tourism season this year, following high visitor figures during the main tourism season in 2013. The May bank holiday period in 2013 saw a 40% increase in visitors and the summer school holiday period saw an increase of 11% for paid admissions.

As well as good weather, globally popular TV and film could have been factors in igniting the nation’s enthusiasm for heritage sites, according to a recent survey by VisitBritain.

The tourism body revealed that visiting castles, stately homes and famous buildings in Britain is now a top priority for overseas visitors, who are keen to catch a glimpse of familiar surroundings from shows like Downton Abbey, Harry Potter and Doctor Who, with nearly 30% of all visits to Britain including a trip to built heritage sites.

And with the estimated expenditure by visitors to castles and historic places in Wales around £450 million annually, heritage tourism plays an integral role in Wales’s wider economy.

To improve the visitor experience Cadw has invested significantly in some of the main heritage sites in its care. A total of £610,000 has been invested in Conwy on visitor centre improvements and new interpretation, including work from five Wales based artists responding to the history of the castle in their own voices.

£376,000 has also been invested at Caerphilly Castle on works to the Great Hall and improving the interpretation, ranging from sculptured heads of historical characters, to light projections and sound effects, to improve the overall visitor offer.

Both projects form part of the Heritage Tourism Project, a project largely funded by the Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund to help maximise the economic value of heritage by increasing the number, length and value of visits to Wales.

Other improvements such as a new audio tour at Castell Coch and regular guided tours at several sites will be introduced to improve the experience, engagement and understanding of the unique historical monuments in Cadw’s care.

John Griffiths, Minister for Culture and Sport, said: 'Wales’s built heritage is a fantastic asset and one of the key strengths of our visitor experience. In fact, heritage sites account for 36% of paid admission visits in Wales each year.

'Our heritage is fascinating and unique, and through Cadw’s exciting programme of events and improved on-site interpretation, we hope to bring the sites’ stories to life in a fun and engaging way to appeal to a wide range of visitors and their interests.

'We hope to attract many more visitors through our monuments’ doors during the spring and summer months, to inspire both tourists and local people alike to explore and enjoy Wales’s rich heritage.'