Where To Go And What To Do In Wales
More and more people are opting for staycations as a trip with family or friends, and we can’t blame them. The UK, and Wales in particular, is a fantastic setting for a holiday. No airport queues, no panic about restrictions, just awe-inspiring beaches, adrenaline thrills, mountain ranges, and fun for all the family. To give you a head start on planning this year's big trip, we’ve put together our top ten places to visit in Wales.
- Snowdonia National Park
- Pembrokeshire National Park
- Brecon Beacons National Park
- Gower Peninsula
- Mid Wales
- The Borders
Keep reading for an intro to each of these amazing locations, and our recommendations on everything from what to do and where to stay in Wales.
1. Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia is an area of outstanding natural beauty covering 823 square miles in Northwest Wales. The area itself is centered around the mountains and glacial landforms of Snowdonia National Park.
Things To Do In Snowdonia
Keen walkers won’t be disappointed. Snowdonia boasts a range of hikes at varying difficulty levels as well as 14 peaks, the tallest being Snowdon itself at 3,560 feet. If you want the view without the slog, jump on Snowdon Mountain Railway, which plods along at around 5 miles per hour, giving you plenty of opportunities to take in the view, and drops you at the summit. For adrenaline junkies, visit Llechwedd Slate Caverns. Descend 500 feet inside the steepest mining cable railway in Europe, then head to the underground trampoline park, or take a turn on Europe's largest zip-lining zone.
Places To See In Snowdonia
Snowdonia boasts a plethora of beautiful villages, visit Bala lake where you can keep an eye out for the fabled monster ‘Teggie’, or Betws-y-coed, where children can delight over the fairy glen. For something a little different, spend a day in the Italian-designed village of Portmeirion, think stunning architecture, romantic clifftop views, and exotic woodland.
Where To Stay In Snowdonia
Anglesey — or Ynys Mon, in Welsh —is a beautiful island off the North-West coast of Wales measuring just 276 square miles. There are only two entrances to the island, the Britannia Bridge, and the famous Menai Suspension Bridge.
Things To Do On Anglesey
The coastline on the Isle of Anglesey is renowned for its beauty. Walk part of the 125-mile coastal path and take in the incredible panoramic views over the Irish Sea. Expect to find a hugely varied landscape, including salt marshes, woodland, coastal heath, sand dunes and cliffs. For the cyclists among you, take a trip on the Lon Las Copr, a 36 mile circular trail, FYI, investigations tell me that clockwise is the least uphill direction…
Places To See On Anglesey
On a tiny islet off Anglesey, you’ll find the South Stack Lighthouse, where you can take a guided tour, and watch for thousands of breeding seabirds including guillemots, razorbills and puffins. Make sure to wear your practical shoes for this one, you’ll have to battle 400 steps! If you’re looking for a romantic setting, head on over to Llanddwyn Island. Here you will find the ruined church of Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers. Llanddwyn beach boasts pristine sands, and you can look out for rare red squirrels in the local woodland.
WHERE TO STAY ON ANGLESEY
Situated in South-west Wales, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is renowned for its beaches. National Geographic magazine even rated the 186 miles of beautiful and varied coastline as the second-best in the World!
Things To Do In Pembrokeshire
For a family day out, visit Oakwood Theme Park which has rides and attractions to suit all ages, including the Megafobia roller coaster, a wooden structure voted the best ride in Britain, and third-best in the world. If you can’t wait to jump into the ocean, there are plenty of companies that run coasteering sessions. The craggy rocks along the coast offer perfect platforms to leap into those waves — you can even try cliff camping. For those of you that prefer a quieter (and less soggy) afternoon, take a boat trip to spot Harbour porpoises, bottlenose dolphins, minke whales, and even huge fin whales.
Places To See In Pembrokeshire
For a bit of history, why not take a trip to St Davids, Britain’s smallest city with a population of less than 2,000, and visit 12th century St David’s Cathedral. To add to your historic trip, visit Carew Castle and Tidal Mill, which has recently undergone a major renovation, and beautifully demonstrates the development from a Norman fortification to an Elizabethan country house.
For the literary-minded, renowned author Dylan Thomas resided in the local village of Laugharne from 1938 until his death in 1953. His boathouse home has since been converted into a museum, dedicated to his life and work. This area is also renowned for its excellent cockles, so make sure to pick up a tub while you’re there.
Where to stay in Pembrokeshire
4. Brecon Beacons
The Brecon Beacons National Park is home to some of the most stunning landscapes in the UK. Whether you’re looking for rolling valleys, wide-open hillside, beautiful forests, or waterfalls and caving networks, you’ll find something to make your jaw drop.
Things To Do In The Brecon Beacons
Archaeologists won’t be disappointed with the plethora of buildings and settlements that are easily found on any hike. Look out for prehistoric and Roman sites, including stone circles, burial chambers, and hillforts, as well as medieval castles and ancient churches. Hiking isn’t the only way to explore the terrain, hop on a mountain bike, or save your legs and take part in horse riding or pony trekking.
For the foodies, the Brecon Beacons is fast becoming a treasure trove of fine produce. Try a tot of Penderyn, the local whisky, and treat yourself to a tour of the distillery, sample local produce at one of the many farmer's markets, or book yourself a table at one of the renowned restaurants in the area. If you're a beer fan, check out the newly opened microbrewery and bottle shop in Three Cocks; Antur Brew Co.
Places To See In The Brecon Beacons
Welsh mountain ponies, red kites, red grouse, lesser horseshoe bats, the nature in the Brecon Beacons is remarkable. To get a closer look, head to the Llandeusant Red Kite Feeding Station, where you can sit in specially built hides only feet away from the diving birds. The Brecon Beacons also boast some of the highest quality dark skies in the UK, on a clear night, you can even see the Milky Way. There are a heap of dedicated dark sky areas where you can wrap up warm, take a flask of hot chocolate, and spend the dark evening mapping the constellations.
Brecon town is well worth a visit, with a wonderful Cathedral and the newly opened Found Gallery, which has rotating exhibitions of local artists.
Where to Stay in the Brecon Beacons
Aberystwyth is a vibrant and diverse town, which sits right in the middle of the rugged Ceredigion coastline.
Things To Do In Aberystwyth
A visit to the mile long Victoria promenade is a must. Walk along the seafront to the pier where there is a traditional arcade, and plenty of music, bustle, and activity. To the north of the promenade, you’ll find the world’s largest Camera Obscura, which provides visitors with a bird’s eye view of over 1000 square miles. To visit the Camera Obscura, you’ll need to hop on the Aberystwyth Cliff Railway, the longest cliff railway in Britain.
Places To See In Aberystwyth
If weather permits, stroll up Constitutional Hill and take in the views from the summit. The sunsets are rumoured to be spectacular as you take in the 360-degree view. Make sure to visit Aberystwyth Castle, which the English built to keep out the Welsh. It was subsequently captured from the invading English by Owain Glyndwr in the 1400s. In later years, the castle was turned into a Royal Mint that produced silver shillings for the crown. Over the years it has fallen into ruin, but there are still plenty of areas and rooms to explore.
Where to Stay In Aberystwyth
Cardiff, the Capital of Wales, is situated in the South-East of Wales and boasts a heap of activities, shopping excursions, and foodie treats for all ages.
Things To Do In Cardiff
A few miles outside of Cardiff you will find St Fagans National Museum of History, Wales’ most popular heritage attraction. Set in the grounds of the magnificent St Fagans Castle, over 50 original buildings have been re-built to give visitors a view of historic life in Wales. Visit the working farm, pick up a fresh loaf of bread from the old-fashioned bakery, or step back in time in the schoolroom. If you want to stay closer to the city centre, take advantage of the host of shops, bars, and restaurants that the city has to offer. For a bit of fun and theatre, book a table at The Alchemist where smoke and mirrors meet myths, legends and dragons, all in the shape of cocktails and all-day dining.
Places To See In Cardiff
You can’t head to Cardiff and not visit Cardiff Bay. Head out for a walk along the impressive Barrage and see if you can spot Cardiff-born Roald Dahl’s ‘Enormous Crocodile’, or head North to find the Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve, a former salt marsh which supports a rich diversity of plants and animals.
Where To Stay In Cardiff
7. Gower Peninsula
The Gower Peninsula was crowned the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956, and it is easy to see why! Situated just a short drive from Swansea, the Gower Peninsula boasts open, wild moors, dramatic limestone cliffs, and beautiful sandy beaches.
Things To Do On The Gower Peninsula
Beaches are a must in this area, visit surfers paradise Llangennith and book a surfing lesson, or test your nerve with professional coasteering guides who will show you the best (and safest) cliffs to take a leap of faith into the ocean. Why not take a short drive to one of the many seaside villages dotted along the coastline? Mumbles marks the beginning of the Gower Peninsula’s coastline, where you can visit a range of high-end shops, independent boutiques and quirky galleries. Have a tasty lunch of fresh seafood, and make sure you leave room for a trip to the famous Joe’s Ice Cream Parlour!
Places To See On The Gower Peninsula
Foodies will not be disappointed. Penclawdd cockles fresh from the Loughor estuary, melt in the mouth Salt Marsh Lamb, and laverbread (Welsh seaweed!) are well worth sampling. Walk off all these tasty delights by visiting one of the 1200 archaeological sites dotted around the area.
Where to stay on the Gower Peninsula
8. Mid Wales
Mid Wales encompasses the midlands in between North Wales and South Wales and is known colloquially as the Green Heart of Wales. Think bustling harbours, hidden coves, market towns, and dramatic hill walks.
Things To Do In Mid Wales
Visit The Magic of Life Butterfly House, where you will not only spot hundreds of exotic butterflies which fly freely around the centre, but also insects, plant life, and giant caterpillars! While you’re there, take a walk around the Rheidol Valley, make sure to wear your sensible shoes, as you’ll stumble across meadows, woodland, and even a few waterfalls! For the adventurers, head to The Silver Mountain Experience, which offers mysterious forests and abandoned mine workings, including Woo Hoo Wood for the younger family members, and the dreaded Black Chasm (rated 12A) known as Wales’ scariest underground experience!
Places To See In Mid Wales
Why not discover the beauty of the River Wye by hiring your own canoe? The Wye is one of the most beautiful rivers in the UK, and can be navigated without restrictions for over 100 miles. Expect to spot an array of wildlife, including kingfishers, herons, cormorants, swans, and otters. If you prefer to have someone else in charge while on the water, visit picturesque New Quay to take a boat trip, where you’ll watch out for bottlenose dolphins, seals, and seabirds.
Where To Stay In Mid Wales
One of Wales’ most historic towns, Cardigan is a town found in Southwestern Wales. It lies on the River Teifi, a short distance from Cardigan Bay.
Things To Do In Cardigan
Take a day out to visit The Welsh Wildlife Centre, just a 10-minute drive from town. Enjoy a sumptuous lunch at the Glasshouse Café, then head inside to find family fun, with adventure backpacks for kids, arts and crafts, nature and cycling trails, pond-dipping, and mini-beast hunts.
If you want to stay a little closer to home, visit some of the many vintage or antique shops in the area, then stop off at Bara Menyn (appropriately translates to bread and butter) for some locally made sourdough or a hot-pressed sandwich? And you should probably think about ending your day at the brilliant Pizzatipi, serving amazing pizza on the banks of the river.
Places To See In Cardigan
Make sure to visit Guildhall Market, where you’ll notice the fantastic gothic and Arabic architecture. Inside you’ll find a host of stallholders, offering all sorts of local produce. For the romantics, make sure to pick up a traditional Welsh Lovespoon while you’re there! Cardigan castle is also well worth a visit, a Norman fortress overlooking the River Teifi, which has been recently restored, and hosts an exhibition which explores the castle's 900 years of history.
Where To Stay In Cardigan
10. The Borders
The Wales-England border runs for 160 miles, all the way from the Dee estuary in the north, to the Severn estuary in the South. There are a host of towns and villages to visit along the borderline, including Chepstow, Monmouth, Presteigne, Welshpool, and Hay-on-Wye.
Things To Do On The Borders
Take a drive to the beautiful town of Hay-on-Wye, locally known as the Town of Books. If literature is your thing, you won’t want to leave! Head to one of the many book shops where you’ll find the latest novels, and dusty antique’s nestled among rare, out of print books. There is more to Hay than just books though, trawl through second-hand vinyl at Haystacks, or visit The Old Electric Shop which hosts live music and cocktails in the evenings. Without a high street shop in sight, it’s easy to get lost amongst the delightful delis and bakeries, as well as boutique shops and galleries.
Places To See On The Borders
If you want to see the views and beauty that the border has to offer without getting in the steps, head to Welshpool and hop on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, which links the bustling market town of Welshpool to the rural setting of Llanfair Caereinion. This narrow-gauge train hugs the curves and gradients of the countryside, so you won’t be short on views. Alternatively, why not book a canal boat trip? Narrowboats are perfect for exploring the Welsh countryside, including the Llangollen canal, and the Monmouthshire, Brecon & Abergavenny Canal.
If walking is your thing, you could check out the Offa's Dyke Path, which runs the length of the Welsh and is one of Wales' best long-distance walks.