Wales with Dragon Tours

By Joanne Kuzma
This item appears on page 26 of the May 2016 issue.
Elaine Kuzma in miner’s gear at Big Pit National Coal Museum — Wales. Photo by Joanne Kuzma

My mother, Elaine, and I took a 2-day private tour of Wales with Dragon Tours (1 Lake View Close, Llangors, Brecon, Powys, Wales, LD3 7US, U.K.; phone +44 0 1874 658102, As arranged by the owner, Mike Davies, only a week or two earlier, it cost £700 (near $1,005) and included a private van and an overnight stay at a B&B (with breakfast) but not lunch, dinner or entry fees.

Mike picked us up promptly at Abergavenny railway station at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015. Because the weather was rather poor, we all decided to slightly alter the original plans of outdoor attractions that day and switch to some indoor options.

First we drove to the Big Pit National Coal Museum ( We had about an hour-long wait before going down into the mine, since another group was ahead of us. They dressed us in hard hats and other safety equipment, and we had to take off anything with batteries (watches, cameras, etc.).

We took a cage down with one of the miners, and he led our group of 12 for about an hour. It was absolutely fascinating hearing how children as young as 6 years old had worked in the mines — very sad.

The tour was definitely a highlight, since going into a mine is probably not something most travelers do. The ground was a bit uneven, with some stairs, so it might be difficult for those with mobility problems.

There were also things to see there outdoors, but, as it was cold and rainy, we drove to Llancaiach Fawr Manor (, a manor house that has been restored and furnished as it would have been around 1645. 

There were guides dressed in period garb who talked in 17th-century speech. They explained what life had been like and what types of food were eaten. They also shared some history and other facts with us. It was very interesting and took about an hour. We could have seen some gardens too, if the weather had been nice. 

We then drove to Hay-on-Wye and spent the evening at a 17th-century inn called the Old Black Lion. The Cromwell Suite was very large, and the staff was accommodating when we asked for extra blankets. That evening, we chose to eat at a wonderful tapas bar about a 5-minute walk away.

 After a huge full English breakfast at the inn, Mike drove us for an hour through some wonderful countryside and explained about life in Wales. My mum especially enjoyed all the sheep flocks we passed.

We stopped first at Llanthony Priory. It was rather remote and had great views of the mountains (and a bathroom on site).

Next we drove to Tintern Abbey, a Cistercian abbey founded in 1131 that fell into ruin after its dissolution in 1536. Most of the walls are still standing and only the roof is gone, so it was very easy to imagine how beautiful it looked when it was a working abbey. We also drove by Raglan Castle and Caerphilly Castle.

By this time, we were a bit rained out and exhausted, so we asked to be driven around to view sites from the outside instead of going in. Mike was very accommodating, driving us around the country. We very much enjoyed just looking at the scenery.

It was an enjoyable trip. 


Erie, PA