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I sometimes feel like Wales gets a bit overlooked in the UK. Scotland has Edinburgh and the Highlands, England has London and quaint countryside villages, Ireland has Dublin and road trips and Wales sometimes gets forgotten which I think is a real shame because I love Wales and actually a couple of trips I’ve done to Wales in the last year or so are some of my favourite UK trips I’ve ever taken.
I’ve done a Welsh road trip and a trip to Wales with family, both in different places. So in this guide I’ve put together some places which are well-known and perhaps lesser know that should all be included on your trip to Wales.
The Brecon Beacons or Brecon Beacons National Park is located in South Wales and is also home to one of Wales’ big three mountains - Pen y Fan. There are six peaks in the Brecon Beacons, four main valleys and several lakes making it a very popular destination for hiking, although the conditions can be extreme so please be fully prepared if you intend to climb any of the ranges.
Pen y Fan has a relatively doable 4 mile (6.5km) round walk from the car park to the top, in good conditions this is very doable even with children and the path is safe and straightforward.
I’ve driven through the Brecon Beacons which is a great way to see the stunning landscape if you’re short on time. There are plenty of places to stop and take some photos or do a short walk to soak in the views.
Carreg Cennen Castle, Sgwd Clun-Gwyn Waterfall and Talybont Reservoir are all some attractions worth stopping at on your journey through if you’re heading to Swansea or Pembrokeshire.
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
I went to the Pembrokeshire Coast several years ago and it is still one of the most stunning coastlines I’ve ever seen. The stunning views and rock formations are amazing and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is a great way to park up and walk along to see as much of the coast as possible.
Pembrokeshire has more blue flag beaches than any other county in Britain, the sandy beaches of Broad Haven Beach are perfect for families. Church Doors Cove and Shrinkle Haven Beach are also gorgeous but a bit more of a walk to get to.
Carew Castle in Tenby is also a great spot to visit and the Castell Henllys Iron Age Village. Sadly I have no photos as my visit was pre-camera days!
The Wye Valley
I love the Wye Valley and it’s not far across the border from England so you could easily access it and spend a whole weekend in this area which is what I did most recently. The River Why runs through the Wye Valley with beautiful countryside, stunning cliffs and lovely villages and towns all over the area.
If you’re feeling active the Wye River is perfect for kayaking or canoeing down in the summer months which is also something we’ve done before. There are plenty of rental places and the river has lots of sand banks and meadows to stop for a drink and picnic, or pubs and rest stops along the way. There are even holidays specially designed to canoe the Wye and you canoe to your new accommodation location every day!
Also in the Wye Valley make sure to visit Tintern Abbey, these ruins are beautifully preserved. Eagles Nest, Devil’s Pulpit and Yat Rock all have amazing views of the Wye river and valley.
Symonds Yat, Llandogo, Ross-on-Wye and Monmouth are all worth visiting in the area too even just to stop for half an hour and explore the main streets, buy some local produce or honey and maybe grab a pint of Welsh ale in the local pub!
Puzzlewood is a great one to visit if you’re in the Wye Valley area too, although it’s actually in the Forest of Dean and just over the border back into England. But that means if you want a day out with the family you can easily pop here on a weekend. Puzzlewood is enchanting and it’s fairytale-like environment means it is often a filming location for many fantasy-style productions. Puzzlewood is a filming location for Doctor Who, Jack the Giant Slayer, Star-Wars: The Force Awakens, Merlin, The Huntsman: Winter’s War and more!
We wandered around here in about 2 hours but you might want to allow for longer if you have small children or mobility issues. There are also farm animals and information boards as well as a cafe. You could easily make it a day. Adult tickets are £7, Children £6 3-16yrs and a family ticket is £25.
Hay on Wye
Hay on Wye is a book lovers dream (I was in heaven). Hay on Wye is home of the world famous annual Hay Literary Festival. There are over 20 bookshops in the small market town, some with a variety of everything, some with specialisms sure as poetry, crime books, children’s books and even one with a traditional cinema in!
You can easily spend an afternoon wandering around here and hopping between quaint cafes and beautiful bookshops. For a fun cafe experience, head down to the river to The Bean Box. This is a pop-up style cafe in the back garden of the Bridge Hotel with lovely outdoor seating and a view of the river.
Would a trip to Wales be complete without seeing the stunning landscapes of Snowdonia National Park? There are several routes to climb Snowdon and most are very doable, I did one with my Grandma! You can read up on the six routes on the Visit Snowdonia website. Avoid Crib Goch and Watkins Path, these are both very much for experts. The alternative is to take the Snowdon Mountain Railway up to the summit and then walk back down to get the best of both. This is what we did on one occasion and it’s great for those with children or if you’re less mobile.
This is very much a stop for the camping fans out there but Shell island is a huge 300-acre campsite on a large and untouched area of beaches, sand dunes and countryside. The beach and sand dues are amazing to explore. The unique thing about it is that it kind of is an island, you can only access the camping area when the tide is out. When you arrive at Shell Island they give you a timetable of the tides for your stay and you will need to time your comings and goings to coincide with them, seeing the water come across the road and make it impassible for a time is really awesome to see.
In such a huge space there really is so much to do. The area is so huge that there are no designated camping spots, you pick anywhere as long as you’re approximately 20 metres from your nearest neighbour. We camped on the grassy scrub overlooking the beach and had a fire on the beach with smores and beers. There is also a shop, entertainment area and pub tavern on site for the evenings or when the tide is too high to leave.
I can also really recommend the pub in the nearby village on Llanbedr (when the tide is out!).
Portmeirion is a tourist town not far from Shell Island and Snowdonia, in the north of Wales. It was built in the style of an Italian village between 1925-1975 and is now entirely owned by a charitable trust and run as a hotel. It is a colourful place and very interesting with it’s Mediterranean and slightly Baroque style.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas and fun additions for your trip to Wales, if you visit any of them please do let me know!
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