I'm doing a little research about what to do at St Fagans. We are lingerers at places like this and we can only spend just 3-4 hours there at most, so what would you prioritize? It looks like the new-ish Bryn Eryr iron-age exhibit will be very cool. I'm hoping the "Llys Llywelyn - Medieval Court" might be open too, but I'm not able to find anything about it's status other than that the lesser hall building seems to be open recently. I just read this on the web: "...has visited dozens of times yet only today.. did he realize the existence of St Fagans Castle, an impressive Elizabethan manor house that is a Grade 1 listed building." Maybe this place is bigger than I thought. What did you find were the don't miss sights and activities (and why)?
I presume that you are using public transport? If so, you need the 32 or 322 bus out from central Cardiff. These buses are not run by Cardiff Bus so their Day to Go Pass is not valid. You will need to buy a ticket from the driver. Please note that some buses (322 I think) only stop in the village of St.Fagans - near the Church. Other buses stop/start from the car park area of the Museum - 32 I think. When outbound, tell the driver to tell you where to get off for St.Fagans Castle/Museum. Also be sure to go to the correct bus stop for the journey back.http://www.traveline.cymru - will be useful for finding bus services.
If you get off the bus in the village - walk alongside the wall to the electronic gate - push the button and the gate will open and you just walk in. This really is the land of the free!
3 to 4 hours should be enough time to see the whole of the site. Basically, it is divided into two areas - that which is near the Castle - which is really more of an Elizabethan Manor House built in the mid 1500’s rather than what you would think of as a castle. (For a true medieval castle - visit Caerphilly = a 20 minute train ride N of Cardiff). Around St.Fagans Castle are lovely gardens which lead down to a valley with ponds. (In spring, the valley has lovely wild flowers). At the head of this little valley are some of the buildings of architectural importance that have been moved from other parts of Wales. However, most of these buildings are in the western half of the grounds - don’t miss the little white church tucked away in the woods at the western end of the site. Between these two halves of the estate, the footpath leads you through a tunnel.
At present, much work is taking place to build a new interpretation centre. I am not sure how much will be finished by the time of your visit. Even if none of this were built, St.Fagans Castle & Museum is well worth a visit.
We'll have a rental car so will drive to St Fagans. Thank you very much for the information. It's good that you think it's possible to visit in 3-4 hours and see most everything. The St Fagans website has a lot of detail but not much high-level information to help the first-time visitor, IMO. For example, it would be nice to know when some of their new projects like the main hall of Llys Llywelyn and changes to the visitor's center are scheduled to open. Everyone seems to be excited about the Vulcan tavern; why? That sort of thing.
Vulcan Tavern is probably hype about their latest project of an old building.
If you are arriving by car, where are you coming from? It is a day trip or are you staying in the area? It makes a big difference as to how you enter St.Fagans. If coming off the M4 at junction 33, you take the A4232 expressway for just over a mile. When you see the brown signs for the museum turn-off, be sure to slow down in the slip road to about 15mph max as you have a very sharp turn - having come off a road where people are doing up to 70mph.
We'll be coming from the Llanelwedd area, having visited the Royal Welsh Spring Festival the day before. We're just passing through.
That means you will coming south on the A470. From Builth Wells to Cardiff, it takes me 1 hour 30 minutes - without stops. The first part of the journey will be in the middle section of the Wye Valley. Watch out for a hard right turn at Llyswen. This route is very scenic as you will be crossing the Brecon Beacons. When you reach Merthyr, you enter into the more populated part of Wales - the former coal mining area. Now the A470 becomes a dual highway so you should be able to do up to 70mph. (60 mph will have been the limit so far).
As you proceed south towards Cardiff, you will come to the junction for Caerphilly. Caerphilly is not a particularly attractive town but has a wonderful medieval castle. You may like to make the diversion to see this - best from the road on the west side. To make this diversion for a quick look at this castle & get back to the A470 would take about 35 minutes.
At the next junction going south on the A470, is another castle = Castell Coch. If you wish to see this, come off at the junction and follow the signs for Tongwynlais / Castell Coch. (I suggest you try and follow this road configuration on Streetview). In Tongwynlais, you turn hard left for the Castle - which is on a wooded hillside. (A shortcut route on some backroads also exists between Caerphilly & Castell Coch). To come off the A470, drive up to Castell Coch for a quick look & get back on the A470 just S of Tongwynlais would take about 20 minutes. (You don’t have to pay to see the outside - so drive right up to the castle ignoring the car parks. However, it is worth seeing inside). http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/castell-coch/?lang=en
When you re-join the A470, you are immediately by the junction for the M4 - which you take westbound to the next junction = 33. Then down the A4232 for about 1 mile to St.Fagans. Castle Coch to St.Fagans takes about 15 minutes via this route. When you leave St.Fagans, if you are going back to the M4 at J33, you must first proceed S on the A4232 expressway to the next junction and then loop back northbound. Click this link & you will see the road configuration between Caerphilly, Tongwynlias & St.Fagans. (The colours refer to live traffic speeds. The entry road to St.Fagans Castle/Museum from the A4232 is not shown but it is immediately S of where it says ‘St. Bride’s Road’). Zoom down for a closer look at junctions.