Saint Fagans National Museum of History, based just outside Cardiff, is an open air museum featuring the social history of Wales; its people, its buildings and its culture.
Set in 100s of acres of beautiful countryside, set on the land of St Fagans Castle, the outdoor museum contains more than forty re-erected buildings, painstakingly rebuilt brick by brick, from their various locations across Wales. All the houses are from different periods and from different social backgrounds.
The idea for the museum was based on Skansen, an outdoor museum in Stockholm, Sweden, where most of the wooden buildings were easy to take apart and reassemble. What is so impressive is that in St Fagans, as most Welsh buildings were masonry, this was of course much more difficult. Furthermore, St Fagans continues to add to its impressive collection with the promise of a public house being added in 2018.
St Fagans makes for a fascinating day out for both adults and children alike. The set up of the museum means you get to walk around and explore and visit the different houses which are fully decorated in the style and decor of the time.
On paper, this could sound pretty boring to some kids (and adults). When I tried to sell it to mine they asked “why would we want to look round old houses?” But, when we’ve been they have loved it!
One of our favourite things to do is to walk around the old miners terraced cottages, which were built in Merthyr back in 1795 and were moved to St Fagans in the early 1980s.
The cottages are displayed at different periods of their history, namely 1805, 1855, 1895, 1925, 1955 and 1985. This shows how the decor and contents and even their gardens changed over time.
Kids love spotting the differences between the houses and what developments have taken place between them such as the introduction of lighting and later on a bath in the kitchen. It helps them visualise and sense what it was like to live such a long time ago without television.
The Llwyn-yr-eos farm is also wonderful to look around. It was built on the estate of St Fagans back in the 18th century and is decorated as it would look in the 1930s with gas lighting and comfortable decor.
In the outer farm buildings you will spot the chickens and pigs. There were some adorable piglets when we were there.
Another highlight is the village centre where you can visit the old style iron mongers and shop from the 1920s, have a locally sourced ice-cream, traditional sweets and pick up some freshly baked bread. It really is like stepping back in time.
While we were there we also visited the vintage fun fair and slot machines where you can change your money for some old pennies to use on the old traditional slot machine games.
We had a picnic on one of the outdoor picnic tables but there is a decent cafe / restaurant there too if you prefer. There is also plenty of outside space to lay down a picnic blanket on a grassy area. There is more outdoor fun to be had at the small play area which has ride along tractors.
There really is so much to see and do there that you will struggle to fit it all in on one visit but as entry is free you can return as often as you like. It is not surprising St.Fagans Museum is one of the UK’s top ten free attractions as voted by users of TripAdvisor.