When planning your travels, it’s easy to think of the most exotic locations to go and visit as far away from the UK as possible. I know for me, at the top of my travel bucket list are places like Bali, Japan, the Maldives and Thailand.
But have you ever thought of a UK destination, such as Wales?
Here are some great reasons why Wales, my amazing home country, should be at the top of your list, even if only for a weekend break!
The Welsh countryside is spectacular. With sweeping mountains such as Pen Y Fan and Snowdon, and the Brecon Beacon’s National Park, it really is a magical place. On a warm day, the sun makes the green grass glisten, and you can leisurely relax atop the mountains, at one with nature. On a cooler day, mist tumbles over the treetops, creating an atmosphere that is unbeatable. And in the countryside, you may find cosy villages, with beautiful pubs, relaxing B&Bs, and a great community.
What to do in the Welsh Countryside?
A climb up south Wales’s highest mountain, Pen-Y-Fan, in the Brecon Beacons is a must when in the Welsh countryside. From the top of Pen-Y-Fan, you can see plenty, including the Bristol Channel, on a clear day. Another great location to visit is Snowdonia National Park, in the county of Gwynedd. Snowdon is at a height of 3,546-feet. Local legends are abound in Snowdonia, including the belief that King Arthur battled the Saxons at this very location.
Why not try one of these epic experiences?
Why visit Wales? It has mainly got to be for the abundance of magnificent castles! Wales is well known as the country of castles.
Steeped in history of kings and queens, many castles remain fully intact, and those that don’t still have that grandeur. Castles go up and down the Welsh cost, from North to South, and sit in the middle of modern day cities. A great castle to visit is Cardiff Castle, and many will let you know the Welsh history that shaped how Wales lives today.
If castles are your thing, consider Laugharne Castle. Great for children, and allowing pets inside, Laugharne Castle over looks Laugharne town, which is famous for its links to the poet, Dylan Thomas. Thomas himself once stayed and wrote at Laugharne Castle, and the castle is only a short walk from his boat house home, which is now a museum. Closed until April, it costs £4.20 to enter as an adult, and £2.50 for juniors. Children under five are granted free entry. Another great castle is Raglan Castle, in the south, just past the scenic Abergavenny town. Raglan Castle is now a ruin, but it still holds a punch when you see it for the first time in the countryside. Raglan Castle once denied Oliver Cromwell entry at the end of the Civil War. To enter, it is £7.30.
Wales had many mines and collieries, and many of these are opened to the public now, preserved and kept alive to remind generations of what once was. Big Pit’s coal mine, and Rhondda’s Heritage Park is a great day out, for families of all ages. Wales is also home to St Fagans Museum of Welsh Life, which sees buildings from all around Wales rebuilt as they once were, and opened to the public. Walk through houses from the 1800’s, as well as schools, churches and pubs!
Entry to St Fagans is free, though there is a £5 parking charge. Busy during the summer and bank holidays, the best time to experience St Fagans is during the week, or out of season. You can enjoy walking through history, seeing how people in Wales lived centuries ago, and spend the whole day there. Activities at the museum now include a tightrope walk.
You’ll find Big Pit in Blaenavon, a once booming town due to its links to the coal trade. Tours run from 10am-3pm, and entry is free!
You might not think of Wales as a destination for beaches.
Sure, you may not be able to sunbathe often – in fact, you might find yourself battling a strong wind and holding an umbrella against the rain on a Welsh coast, but that shouldn’t stop you. When the sun is in the sky, Barry’s Beach, the filming location of Gavin and Stacey, is swamped with people absorbing the sun, and cooling off in the Welsh water. Other beautiful Welsh beaches include Pembrokeshire, Tenby and Anglesey, where the famous lighthouse on the rock stands.
If privacy on the beach is your thing, try Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire. It can only be reached by foot, and was once voted one of the best beaches in the world. So private, it’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of busy life.
Harry Potter fan? Why not go to the beach used for The Shell Cottage in the Deathly Hallows movies, and the site of Dobby’s grave. Freshwater West, again in Pembrokeshire, is a prominent surfing destination and has plenty of dunes and wetlands where wildlife thrives. A great place to stay nearby is Gupton Farm, which is a National Trust campsite.
Wales has it’s own culture of Welsh pride, the land of song, and rugby. Whilst that’s very stereo typically Welsh, it really does have it’s pride of place. Visit Wales during the Six Nations, and you’ll be inundated with bustling pubs and Welsh rugby jerseys. Us Welshies also celebrate our St David’s day, where our patron saint of Wales is remembered and the whole country is in celebration.
And where can you stay? Well, there are many places offering accommodation for tourists in Wales. Airbnb have many places on offer, particularly in the city, and a search online will find you the best family run B&Bs and private apartments. But just for you, some suggestions might include The Celtic Manor, Newport’s luxury hotel, which once hosted Barack Obama.