Among all the mainland countries that make up Great Britain, Wales is the smallest, and perhaps the most unique (yes, Wales is not England). The unique and gorgeous surroundings of Wales offer many wonderful reasons to visit. The southern part of the country has the cosmopolitan capital city of Cardiff. It also serves as a good base or a starting point for tourists to explore this spectacularly beautiful country. With its splendid castle, arcades, and historic buildings, it’s a city with plenty of places to visit and things to do. When you’re ready to venture further afield, you’ll find an abundance of attractions, including more than 400 castles and fortifications, gardens, breath-taking scenery, and heritage railways. Wales doesn’t just have sheep and pasture land for people to see. Whichever way you decide to spend your time in Wales, you are bound to enjoy and appreciate every minute of it. Aside from the sights and food, the Welsh are some of the most interesting, easy-going people you’ll find anywhere and they will make you feel very welcome, no matter which impossible-to-pronounce town you go to.
Here are the 15 best things to see and do in Wales:
1. Brecon Beacons National Park
Brecon Beacons National Park covers some of the most unbelievably gorgeous area of Wales. The national park is every hiker’s dream. It is bordered by two quite different sets of Black Mountains. The first, to the west, is the source of the River Usk, while to the east is the range famous for its wild ponies. Most of the mountains in this 520-square-mile park stand higher than 1,000 feet above sea level. Quite a few even go beyond 2,000 feet. The mountains are named after the red sandstone that causes them to resemble the beacons of light once used to warn of incoming invaders. While you are there, ensure that you explore the park’s many caves and waterfalls, especially Henrhyd Falls at Coelbren. Just outside the park, near Abergavenny, you can even take a guided tour of a coal mine at Big Pit National Coal Museum.
When most people think of Wales, one of the first images that pops in their mind is that of Snowdonia. It is a staggeringly beautiful range of mountains and hills located in the county of Gwynedd. Snowdonia consists of 14 majestic peaks towering over 3,000 feet above sea level. The most famous of the peaks is the majestic Snowdon, which rises to 3,546 feet above sea level.Snowdon’s summit is also accessible by train . The beautiful mountains and peaks of Snowdonia can be seen as far away as Porthmadog on the west coast. When you’re here, it’s easy to see why the area has featured so heavily in local legends, including those based around King Arthur, who locals continue to insist was Welsh (and Camelot was actually Wales). Snowdonia National Park is also one of the most popular hiking and climbing destinations in Britain, and extends from the coast all the way to Bala Lake.
3. Exploring Wales by Rail
Wales was once well renowned for its mining operations, in particular the mining of slate used for roofing. Intact, that style of roofing is still very common in Wales. While the majority of those mines and quarries have closed, the narrow-gauge railways used to shift goods (and later, Victorian-era tourists) around the country have been restored and now provide scenic excursions. More than 10 heritage railway lines travel to some of the most popular landmarks. Those landmarks include mountains, seaside towns, and castles. You can soak them all in by simply jumping on a steam train. Many of the bigger lines, such as the 14 mile-long Ffestiniog Railway which runs through Snowdonia National Park, offer unique train driving courses and volunteer opportunities to add to the travelling experience.
4. Caernarfon Castle
This magnificent castle was commissioned and constructed by King Edward I in the 13th century. It was established as a seat for the first Prince of Wales. The sprawling Caernarfon Castle is one of the largest castles in Wales. Consisting of 13 towers and two gates, the massive Caernarforn Castle is considered one of the most impressive and well-preserved medieval fortresses in Europe. The Caernarfon Castle is built on a site which featured an even older castle built during the Norman conquest of Britain. The Caernarfon Castle dominates the waters of the River Seiont and the Menai Strait on one side and is protected by a moat on the other. Its royal heritage continues to this day, and in 1969, it was the scene of Prince Charles’s investiture as Prince of Wales.
5. Devil’s Bridge and the Hafod Estate
Located 12 miles from the seaside town of Aberystwyth, Devil’s Bridge is actually three bridges spectacularly stacked atop each other, with the oldest dating from the 11th century and the newest built in 1901. They span the Rheidol Gorge, where the River Mynach plunges 300 feet into the valley far below. Follow the Falls Nature Trail to the bottom. It’s a bit of a climb back up – especially those steep, slippery steps of Jacob’s Ladder, the segment leading to the oldest bridge – but the views are incredible.
Afterward, visit Hafod Estate, 200 acres of lovingly restored woodlands and 18th-century gardens once considered the finest in Britain. While the manor house fell to ruins long ago, tourists can still enjoy pleasant hikes along well-marked trails which will take them past wonderful waterfalls, ancient trees, and the estate’s old, walled formal gardens. And if you’re looking for an idyllic cottage vacation, the wonderful old Hawthorn Cottage allows guests an unforgettable experience.
Dubbed the “Queen of the Welsh Resorts,” Llandudno is the largest seaside resort town in Wales. Located on the north coast with views across the Irish Sea, this picture-perfect tourist destination lies between the Welsh mainland and the Great Orme, a peninsula inhabited since the Stone Age. The town’s unique promenade is free of the usual seaside shops and cafés, which were wisely placed behind the seafront to ensure Victorian visitors a more peaceful experience. The best views of the town and its surrounds are from the Great Orme, easily accessible by a heritage tramway. Well connected by rail and road, Llandudno is a good base for touring Wales’ spectacular North Coast.
7. The Isle of Anglesey
The iconic Isle of Anglesey consists of a number of quaint, cute and small fishing villages sprinkled along its more than 100 miles of attractive coastline. Anglesey is separated from mainland Wales by the mile-wide Menai Strait. The strait can be crossed with the help of the Menai Suspension Bridge which was built in 1818. The Isle of Anglesey features some serene sandy beaches and landmarks such as South Stack Lighthouse. Anglesey’s mild climate has made it extremely popular among day trippers and campers alike. The small Holy Island, which is linked to Anglesey by a bridge is another popular holiday resort featuring two gorgeous promenades. The cute and tiny Salt Island offers spectacular views and a chance at some bird watching for nature lovers. Finally, tourists shouldn’t forget to visit one of the world’s most famous and ridiculously named towns and get some pictures clicked along with the sign board. Of course, we are talking about the town with the world’s longest name for a place: “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllandysiliogogogoch”. We didn’t make that up, watch this video to know more about this incredibly named town:
8. Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Llangollen Canal
It took 10 years to design and build the aqueduct that carries the Llangollen Canal across the wide valley of the River Dee in north east Wales, and it remains even today a feat of civil engineering, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 18-arched bridge is built of stone and cast iron, its arches soaring 100 feet above the river, and is more than 1,000 feet in length. In 1801, when the aqueduct was built, canals were an important means of transport for manufactured goods and raw materials, and aqueducts were a more efficient means of carrying them across deep valleys than staircases of canal locks. This one is the longest navigable aqueduct in Great Britain and the highest in the world. A narrow walkway with a railing allows pedestrians to cross the bridge, but it’s far more fun to cross it on a canal boat. It’s not for those with acrophobia, as the boat sits high on the shallow canal, and it’s a long way down to the river. For a less vertigo-inducing ride, horse-drawn canal boats take tourists on a tree-shaded stretch of the canal from nearby Llangollen Wharf.
Portmeirion is a beautiful hotel resort and visitor attraction on the coast of Snowdonia National Park in Gwynedd, North Wales. Built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975, Portmeirion was designed to resemble a quaint Italian fishing village. Visitors staying overnight get the whole place to themselves once the gates are closed, when they can explore its beautiful gardens, fountains, church, and the coastal paths of the lower village. This has been the location for numerous films and TV programs, including the 1960s cult show, The Prisoner.
10. Pembrokeshire Coast
The country of Wales, as a result of being surrounded by the sea on three sides, features some incredibly stunning and dramatic coastline. Some of the most imposing is to be found along the coast of the Pembrokeshire Peninsula, which juts out into the Irish Sea. You can explore it on foot along the dramatic Pembrokeshire Coast National Trail, finding villages like the picturesque little resort of Tenby, still partially enclosed by its medieval walls. Other Pembrokeshire coast highlights are Pembroke Castle, St. David’s Cathedral (in the town of the same name), and idyllic fishing harbours such as Laugharne, where Welsh poet Dylan Thomas lived for much of his life; his boathouse home above the bay is now a museum. And just like everywhere else in Wales, travellers don’t need to stay in basic bed and breakfast hotels. Adventurous travellers can find quaint and unique places to stay, including classic old farm cottages, gypsy caravans, or vintage railcars.
Located just a brief drive away from the English city of Manchester, the Northern coastal town of Conwy offers something for every kind of traveller: a stunning castle, medieval architecture, and plenty of shopping options. The best views of Conwy Castle and River Conwy, with its suspension bridge designed by Thomas Telford, are from the 13th-century town walls built by King Edward I to keep the Welsh at bay. The National Trust’s Aberconwy House is Conwy’s only surviving 14th-century merchant’s house and one of the first buildings constructed inside the town walls. Other interesting homes are the Elizabethan Plas Mawr, and the Smallest House in Great Britain.
12. Rhossili Bay
This three-mile stretch of golden sand and coastline is located in Swansea’s Gower Peninsula. Its vast expanse runs runs as far as the eye can sea and you won’t run out of places to have fun and frolic around on the Rhossili Bay.
In the year 2018, Rhossili Bay was voted Wales’ best beach. Aside from that, it has been named among the UK’s top 10 beaches for the last five years straight. Besides its jaw dropping and award-winning beauty, the surrounding coastline pubs like The King’s Head and Worm’s Head offer some of the best pub grub with a side of beautiful beer gardens views. The best thing? It’s all dog-friendly so your furry friends can join you for some fun in the sandy as well .
13. Bodnant Garden
A National Trust property, Bodnant Garden is one of the most beautiful gardens in Britain, created over many years by generations of the McLaren family and brought to its present heights by the 2nd Lord Aberconway. Highlights of the spectacular gardens are the grand formal terraces, overlooking views across the River Conwy to Snowdonia, and the famous Laburnum Arch. This curved walk of about 50 yards is covered with laburnum, whose abundant, long blossoms cover it in cascades of yellow in late May and early June. During Springtime, Dell, a deep valley of towering trees over endless streams, is abloom with ravishing rhododendrons. But the wide variety of flowering plants assures that the gardens are filled with colour throughout the whole season. The Bodnant Garden is also the home of 40 UK Champion Trees. These trees have been judged as the best examples of their kind across Great Britain. The elegant Georgian Pin Mill was moved here from Gloucestershire.
Located in Brecknockshire, this is every book lover’s utopia that is also the home to the famous Hay Festival.
For all booklovers, it doesn’t get much better than this. This little market town is a second-hand bookshop haven that’ll cater to just about every kind of literary tastes. Bookworm travellers can stock up on prime reading material from the beautifully restored Booth’s Books. For those who are interested in rare, and out-of-print, children’s books, Rose’s Books is the place to go. Not really interested in reading? Don’t worry, you can find shelter from all the reading at the Old Black Lion pub. It’s a perfect spot to sip on local ales and look at the people around.
15. Cardiff Market
No visit to the country of Wales can be complete without visiting the capital city of Cardiff, situated on the south coast of Wales. And no visit to Cardiff can be complete without visiting the Cardiff Market, a Victorian indoor market dating back to 1891.
From pots and pans to bread and butter, and from nuts and bolts to rock and roll, Cardiff Market brings you the finest Welsh wares all under one great glass roof. You’ll find a wealth of real gems and a chance to experience warm Welsh hospitality from the market traders