Wales, in the southwest of the United Kingdom, is a place of great beauty, from its magnificent beaches, to its stunning mountain ranges. It’s a place of both culture and exploration. Full of ancient monuments and castles, Wales is steeped in history, both recent and ancient. Buildings dating from the Ancient Roman occupation, and medieval castles and cathedrals sit side by side with Victorian manors and sleek modern structures.
Less urbanized than the rest of the southern UK, the sheep-dotted landscape of Wales is a delight to nature lovers. Mount Snowdon in Snowdonia National Park is the highest peak in England and Wales at 1085m. It is famous for its challenging hikes, its views (you can see all the way to Ireland on a clear day!), and its associations with Arthurian legend. Those not up to making the seven-hour-long hike up to the summit, can even take the quaint Snowdon Mountain Railway, and experience the stunning views from authentic Victorian-era carriages.
Those looking for a less challenging hike may wish to visit Brecon Beacons National Park. Home to numerous Norman castles, it also offers more moderate walks, rock climbing, mountain biking, and water-sports. This mountain range, a short distance away from the capital city Cardiff, boasts picturesque hotels, inns and cafes as well.
Conwy Castle, built for Edward I in 1283, is one of the best surviving medieval fortifications in Europe. Built along with Caernarfon Castle to solidify English rule in Wales, it looks like a structure straight off the set of Game of Thrones! But, if it’s dragons you’re looking for, the massive 13th century Caerphilly Castle just outside Cardiff is the place to be. Featured extensively on the BBC TV series Merlin, Caerphilly is home to the Cadw Dragons, Dewi, Dwynwen, and their children Dylan and Cariad.
Tintern Abbey can also be found a short distance away from Cardiff. Though its roof has long disappeared, the abbey remains hauntingly beautiful, inspiring the famous poem by William Wordsworth we all read at school. Located in the dramatic Wye Valleys, the Gothic ruins are at the heart of some of the most picturesque countryside in the country.St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, also built in the 1100s, is still a functioning church, and houses an impressive collection of ancient books and artifacts.
The historical towns of Monmouth and Holyhead may also be familiar to lovers of history or Harry Potter. Monmouth, was home to medieval historian Geoffrey of Monmouth. On the other hand, the coastal town of Holyhead, off the Isle of Anglesey, gave its name to the fictional Quidditch team, the Holyhead Harpies.
Beautiful Beaches of Wales
Largely situated on the coast, Wales has some of the best beaches in the UK. Offering activities like swimming, boat rides, fossil hunting, and even surfing, these quiet beaches are among the cleanest in the world. Barafundle, Langland, and Tenby are just a few among the hundreds of beaches dotted along the coastline. There is also a rich history of pirates and smugglers along the more rugged areas of coast. Special tours exist for those who wish to explore the hidden caves or search for forgotten treasure!
Whether you prefer celebrated mountain treks, quiet seaside walks, or magnificent castles, Wales has something for everyone. Less expensive to visit than the more touristy London or Lake District, Wales offers a warm welcome to all who come here. Its capital Cardiff also serves as the perfect base for visiting nearby popular destinations, such as Bath, or the Cotswolds.