Elis James, who was born in Pembrokeshire and grew up in Carmarthen, today launches hundreds of free offers to say thank you to people who buy National Lottery tickets and give them a chance to see how their money has transformed the UK’s heritage over the past 25 years.

To launch #ThanksToYou for 25 Years, Elis James visited Cardiff Castle, one of the hundreds of National Lottery funded places in the UK that are offering either free entry or other exclusive offers to people who turn up with a National Lottery ticket from 23rd November to 1st December.

He appears in a tongue-in-cheek film telling viewers he has ‘bought’ the 900-year-old castle and gives his own unique guide to its history. Watch the full video here – you could be mistaken for thinking he owned it!

Considered to be Cardiff’s historic heart, Cardiff Castle is a Grade I listed Scheduled Monument and is now one of the major visitor destinations in Wales. In 1998, the Castle was awarded more than £6.7 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for an extensive restoration project. It not only conserved the exteriors and interiors of the various buildings on the site – including Wales’ most ornate architectural icon, the Cardiff Clock Tower – but it also created an interpretation centre that ensures the steadily growing number of visitors can be welcomed and managed.

Comedian Elis James, who was born in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, and grew up in Carmarthen, said: “It was great fun exploring Cardiff Castle, which has been restored thanks to National Lottery funding. It’s real shame that I wasn’t given the keys to the castle, but it was fun pretending it was mine. I’m very happy to be supporting this project and the £10bn funding that National Lottery has given towards hundreds of other treasured and historic places across the UK.”

Elis James joins three other celebrities, who all seem to think they live in treasured and historic places across the UK: Derry Girls’ Jamie-Lee O’Donnell at SS Nomadic in Belfast, rapper Big Narstie at Kenwood House and Love Islander Anton Danyluk at Scotland’s Abbotsford with a special cameo from his mum.

The tours showcase just a handful of the thousands of treasured and historic places funded by the National Lottery over the past 25 years, which together have brought about a renaissance in UK’s heritage.

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the National Lottery Heritage Lottery Fund, said:

“Over the past 25 years, money from the National Lottery has quite simply made the UK a better place to live. Since 1994, more than 44,000 heritage projects have been awarded over £8 billion (via The National Lottery Heritage Fund). Our heritage has been completely transformed. This is our way to say thank you for all your support. “

Thousands of our most beautiful, iconic and historically important sites have been opened up to the public and given a new lease of life, from castles to museums; historic houses to gardens and waterways; from steam railways and canals to historic ships and places that mark our greatest industrial and scientific achievements. 

As a result of this funding:

  • Brand new museums and galleries have opened including National Waterfront Museum Swansea (£11.1 million awarded in 2001), Big Pit: National Mining Museum of Wales (£5.2 million awarded in 2000) and around 900 more refurbished and modernised.
  • Over 400 buildings have been taken off national heritage at risk registers
  • More than 120 ships and boats have been saved, preserved, refurbished and opened to the public including the Mary Rose, HMS Caroline, the Daniel Adamson and SS Great Britain.
  • Landmark historic sites have been restored, improved or opened up to public including Stonehenge, Jodrell Bank and the Tower of London.
  • Over £900m has been invested in more than 6,000 places of worship in the UK, including major restoration projects at St Davids Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, York Minster, Lincoln Cathedral and Bevis Marks Synagogue.

Some of the most-visited tourist attractions in Wales – from Snowdonia National Park in North Wales to the Brecon Beacons National Park in Powys and St Fagans National Museum of History in Cardiff have received National Lottery funding. These locations attract millions of visits each year and are a major contributor to the Welsh economy.

There are 26 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the UK, 22 of which have received National Lottery funding. Over 19,500 historic buildings and monuments have been restored thanks to National Lottery players.

It’s not just the big things. More than 3,000 people have undertaken work-based training in heritage skills. And National Lottery funding has helped close to a quarter of a million volunteers engage with heritage.

To celebrate The National Lottery’s 25th birthday, iconic venues such as Dyffryn House and Gardens in the Vale of Glamorgan will also be opening their doors to the public with free entry or other special offers anyone arriving with a National Lottery ticket from 23 November – 1 December, as part of the celebration Thanks To You for 25 Years. The offer also includes free entry at 100 National Trust Properties, special guided tours and free days out at some amazing places such as the National Trust Powis Castle an Gardens near Welshpool.

And it’s not just heritage sites taking part.  A National Lottery ticket will also get exclusive discounts and special offers at National Lottery funded arts, sports and community attractions - all the places that make the UK such a great place to live.

Visit thankstoyou.org.uk to find the full list and search all the offers taking place in your area and filter by specific interest, everything from free entry to a Royal Navy Submarine, to discounted theatre tickets and free guided walks at some of the beautiful RSPB conservation areas.