The Royal Welsh Show, held towards the end of July, is considered to be one of the largest agricultural shows in Europe. It is run by the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society (RWS) which was founded in 1904 to promote all aspects of the countryside, with particular emphasis on that of Wales. It has a permanent site on the edge of Builth Wells, Wales, UK, which, when not being used for the RWS, is used for activities such as conferences and country fairs.
The site itself is deceptively large; it is probably best to think of it as three sites in one. The first site is nearest the gate area, and consists of various trade stalls, plus horticultural exhibits. The second site consists of the show arena plus the animal buildings, while the third site centres around a small lake and is dedicated to country crafts and leisure pursuits such as fishing and walking-stick making. The latter site is also where jazz and military bands can be found playing in the bandstand.
Don't let the word 'agriculture' put you off; the show probably has something that will appeal to most tastes. In addition to the more obvious attractions such as cattle, horses, and, yes, even sheep, there are displays of forestry crafts, handicrafts, bands, and an assortment of stalls selling things as disparate as car-cleaning kits, kites, and crossbows. There are invariably novelty events; in recent years there have seen 'choreographed' JCB diggers1, Royal Naval mast-manning, and Hungarian horse riding with one man standing on a horse controlling a team of several more horses.
Popular regular events include demonstrations of coracle fishing, tree climbing competitions and demonstrations of woodworking using traditional tools.
Despite its size, the showground gets very busy. Aim to be there as early as possible after the gates open at 8am to avoid much of the crowds. The other advantage of getting there early is that you will have a better chance of free nibbles in the various food halls near the entrance gates.
The stalls and tents near the gate area contain a few wine sellers, usually on the second or third level down. Their premises often have some sort of continental flag flying to guide you in. The staff are quite amenable to the public sampling their wares, even if there is no intention to buy, but be tactful - don't tell them outright that you won't be buying a couple of crates. This can be a good way of having a mid-morning break!
Parking is very well organized; all cars are diverted into one of several car parks. The showground is within walking distance of most of the car parks, but shuttle buses run regularly. Make a careful note of which car park you are in, and the location of your car; you will need this to ensure you board the correct shuttle at the end of the day.
If travelling from South Wales, don't even consider going by train. This was quite pleasurable several years ago, but the demand is now too high for the existing trains to cope.
Most hotels and public houses in Builth Wells are open all day for the duration of the show and do cooked meals (especially all-day breakfast). Prices tend to be a bit higher than normal, so be wary. There are lots of places on the showground where you can buy food, but again, the prices, although not extortionate, may deter a few people from buying. If you decide to take your own food bear in mind that you will have to carry it with you; the car parks are too far away to consider having lunch in the car as an option.
It is well worth buying a programme and checking what events are happening, but many people are quite happy to take potluck and amble round.
Pre-book tickets if there are a few of you; they don't even have to be on the same day, but you will save between a fifth and a quarter of the price on normal non-concessionary tickets. So a ticket priced at £10 would cost you £8.
Take a bag to carry anything you buy, get given etc. A small rucksack would be ideal, as you could use it to carry food and drinks as well.
Take a pen; there are lots of competitions to enter, some of them free, and although you may be lucky enough to pick up a free pen, don't count on it.
If you are offered a complementary 'Western Mail' newspaper, take it as it sometimes has a rundown on the day's events, and may have free competitions.
Wear a hat (or buy one when you get there); you are going to be out in the open air for a few hours, and even if the sky is overcast, the sun's rays are still getting through.
Wear sensible shoes. Assume that you will be walking miles (always true) and that some areas will be muddy (sometimes true). Suitable footwear includes trainers, walking shoes/boots - anything that you will be comfortable in when hot and having been standing for several hours. Unsuitable footwear includes most fashion shoes and anything with much of a heel.
Remember that if you are tempted to take very young children, it can be a very long and tiring day for them. Also, from their viewpoint, the crowds are likely to be very claustrophobic.