Summer has faded, but autumn is a golden time for tourists to head to Wales with a host of brilliant things to do.
And if you happen to be in or around the Welsh capital in the coming weeks you will be more than spoilt for choice with everything from concerts and exhibitions to food festivals and sightseeing tours to keep you entertained.
Heck, there's even the little matter of an international sporting event on our doorstep in the shape of the Rugby World Cup.
So where to start?
Millennium Stadium Tour, Cardiff
Exterior view of the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. 1st, December, 2008.
Let's kick off (pardon the pun) with some rugby! It is, after all, our national sport. And with many of the Rugby World Cup games taking place at the home of Welsh rugby—the imposing Millennium Stadium, which looms large over Cardiff—you have the perfect excuse in September and October to sample the magic of the egg-shaped ball.
Tickets sell like hotcakes, so you may be unable to get your hands on any for the matches (check out tickets.rugbyworldcup.com
just in case) but you can still experience the thrill of the sport with a tour of the stadium. Visit the changing rooms, see the magnificent pitch from a VIP hospitality suite and even lift a trophy in the President's Box, which is usually reserved for royalty. Tours are still in operation, despite the Rugby World Cup, so visit millenniumstadium.com
for dates and prices.
By the way, if you can't get tickets to any of the matches, it's well worth visiting Cardiff on one of the days Wales are playing (Wales vs. Uruguay on September 20 and Wales vs. Fiji on October 1) to experience the amazing atmosphere and hear those in red jerseys singing their hearts out! Be warned, the city centre will be jam-packed so book any hotels and restaurants well in advance.
Kick-offs and Keepsakes at National Museum Cardiff
Staying with the rugby theme, the nearby National Museum Cardiff is hosting a brilliant exhibition about the sport until November 15. Kick-offs and Keepsakes
looks at the story of rugby through Welsh eyes. It features memorabilia from the Welsh Rugby Union’s archives and stories and images relating to the Rugby World Cup and its amazing history.
Among the unique items on show is a hand-carved whale’s tooth from Tonga and a unique totem pole from Canada. Bet you never thought you'd find them in Cardiff.
While at the museum—the building is a work of art itself—take the opportunity to explore its incredible galleries, which boast one of the finest collections of European art, including Pierre-Auguste Renoire's La Parisienne, better known as The Blue Lady. There's also a fantastic dinosaur display to keep the little ones happy. And one of the best things about your visit? Entry is free.
Abergavenny Food Festival: September 18, 19 & 20
Once you've worked up an appetite at the Millennium Stadium and museum, it's time to sample the best in Welsh cuisine. Lava bread or Welsh cakes anyone?
The Abergavenny event, which is just a train ride away from Cardiff, is now circled in every self-respecting foodie's diary. Showcasing the finest Welsh produce there will be a host of celebrity chefs on hand, including Raymond Blanc and Tom Kerridge, a food academy, talks by experts, craft beers, a meat market—and that's just for starters.
If you're never happier than when you're exploring historic sites, you're in for a treat throughout September as CADW—the body which looks after Welsh heritage—is opening its venues to let visitors explore nooks and crannies not usually open to them.
Among the many unseen gems taking part in Open Doors is the 17th century Home Farm of the Ruperra Estate in Caerphilly, which once provided the food for the Morgan of Tredegar living at the castle.
Talking of Caerphilly, the town's castle is among those which will be holding a host of activities during the weekend of September 26 & 27 to celebrate Open Doors.
So what better excuse do you need to immerse yourself in Welsh history? Other iconic venues also taking part include Tintern Abbey, Chepstow Castle and Castell Coch, the 'fairytale castle' nestled in woodland on the edge of Cardiff. Visit cadw.wales.gov.uk/opendoors
for full details.
Cardiff Castle's Open Air Cinema, including a behind-the-scenes tour
Another historic venue which all tourists should visit is Cardiff Castle, smack bang in the middle of the city and very easy to get to.
And there are two special events happening there this autumn. Firstly, movie lovers are in for a cinematic adventure when an open-air cinema is held in the castle grounds from September 18 to 20 at 6pm each day. Back to the Future is the first offering. Monty Python will be screened on day two and Mamma Mia! will round off the film weekend. Make sure you pack a picnic and a rug as it's not usually very tropical in Wales in September.
Those who want to see inside the castle itself can enjoy a regular house tour (£12 adults, £10.50 seniors, £9 children) and for an extra £3 they can add on the house tour, which takes them inside more of the opulent rooms.
On October 22 at 6pm there will be a special behind-the-scenes tour, so rather like with CADW's Open Doors series, visitors can see parts of the castle which usually remain firmly locked to the public. At just 50p more than the regular tour, this is well worth the price. Just think of the boasting you can do when you see your friends.
Opera at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay
Cardiff's docks played a major part in Cardiff’s development by being the means of exporting coal from the South Wales Valleys to the rest of the world, helping to power the industrial age.
Today the area has undergone a major transformation and has a host of waterfront bars and restaurants.
The focal point is the Wales Millennium Centre, which stages some of the biggest touring musical productions and provides a home for arts companies like Welsh National Opera, which is currently staging a triple bill of work at the centre as part of its autumn season: I puritani, Orlando and Sweeney Todd.
If you love the arts, then a tour of the WMC is a must. Explore the dressing rooms, the 1,900-seater auditorium and stand on the very stage where international stars like Bryn Terfel have performed.
Talking of Terfel, he's one of the autumn's hottest tickets and will be performing in a production of Tosca
at the venue on November 2
. Visit wmc.org.uk
Treorchy Male Voice Choir
No visit to Wales is complete without experiencing the thrill of hearing a male voice choir—the hairs on the back of your neck really will stand on end.
And one of our most famous exports is the Treorchy Male Voice Choir
, which has been recognised as one of the greatest choral ensembles of all time for 130 years.
The choristers have won a plethora of accolades and performed all over the world but you can see them on home turf at the Parc and Dare Theatre in Treorchy on October 22 or at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff on November 21. (By the way, the college, which is now housed in a stunning new building in the shadow of Cardiff Castle, is well worth a visit in its own right).