Kris and I have travelled through Wales quite a bit. As a born country girl, I do enjoy spending time where there is stillness and quiet. The city can get a little overwhelming for me at times.
Over the past few years we have made it a bit of a 'thing' to hire a car and leave the city every Easter. We travelled to Wales two years in a row as we loved it so much.
If you have 5-7 days minimum to explore Wales, below is our recommended trip starting South and heading North. You can easily spend less time and focus on a small area, but give yourself time and keep the pace slow.
1. Cardiff: The capital city in Wales and the home of Welsh rugby 's iconic Cardiff stadium. A overnight stay will give you time to wander the streets and see the fabulous Cardiff castle in the city centre.
There are plenty of pubs and restaurants tucked away that will satisfy anyone’s tastes and the buzzing nightlife if that is your thing. If you happen to get lucky with your timing, go see a rugby game. You will not be dissapointed with the entertainment.
2. Brecon Beacons: Somewhere I have yet had the chance to explore properly but we did manage a quick stop and hike. The Brecon Beacons is a National Park covering 1,344km2, so it is a desitination that needs extensive time to explore or multiple visits to experience some of the many wonderful hiking trails.
The one hike we did manage was the Four Falls trail (Llwybr Pedair Rhaeadr). As the name suggests, you pass four waterfalls throughout the hike and the final waterfall, Sgwd yr Eira, was the biggest and certainly most stunning! Uniquely you could quite comfortably walk behind the waterfall, just be prepared for a shower.
WHne I get the opportunity to come back to the Brecon Beacons I will write further posts and recommendations. The are so many hiking routes and such a calm and peaceful atmosphere throughout this National Park that it is on my list to return soley to spend time here.
3. Tenby: A couple of hours drive and on the Southern coast of Wales is the small town of Tenby. With a long costal beach that was relatively quite during our visit in April; in summer months I can only imagine how popular this would be for beach goers. The houses overlooking the coast were all painted in different colours, reminding me of Italy. There were more fish and chip restaurants than I could count on one hand and plenty of cafes overlooking the sea. The streets were small and quiet, and there was very much a ‘local/neighbourhood’ feel to this town. I fell in love with Tenby very quickly. I would recommend to stay the night in Tenby and take some time to enjoy it and it’s surrounding towns.
4. Aberystwyth: This is a nice beachfront town to stop in for lunch or stay the night. Again, if the weather is nice there is definitely a fun beach vibe along with a lively atmosphere. The town has many little local cafes and handmade craft shops. There is more of a tourist feel here, so there should be lots to entertain you...especially if you go during nice weather.
5. Devils Bridge Falls: A short drive from Aberystwyth is the Devil Bridge Falls. This was a fabulous walk through a National Park. For a small fee you can enter and take the trails that lead you to a number of waterfalls. It is a safe walk, some stairs and small inclines. Highly recommend.
6. Snowden: One of the iconic destinations in Wales. Whether you want to explore through the large Snowden National Park, or hike the mountain, there is so much to see and do. We have been fortunate to visit Snowden National Park many times and I always am in awe of how beautiful it is. There are many small towns dotted around the mountain with the most beautiful picture perfect scenery. You just have to drive around the roads of Snowden, get a little lost, and find a small pub to enjoy a hot drink or a cold beer. What I love about Snowden is that it can easily feel so far away from reality and like you are in a different country.
We have also been fortunate to climb Snowden. We woke up one morning and spontaneously decided, 'lets do it'. There are many routes to the top of Snowden and so choosing to climb in April when the weather was still cold we decided to pick a more simpler route. We set off with water, minimal food (not ideal), a flask of bovril (a hot beef flavored drink which was not my idea but proved to actually useful once it got colder) and some hiking sticks. As you can see we were not kitted in hiking gear, but found that sneakers were fine to wear, a jacket was necessary as well as gloves, and ideally a beanie as you climbed higher.
Climbing in April I was thrilled to see snow appear about halfway which of course quickly became thicker and the temperature much colder. The walk throughout was not too steep, more a gentle incline and had plenty of places to stop and rest if needed. There is a cafe half way (although closed when we went as not yet their peak season) so bring plenty of snacks and water in case this is not open. As we approached the top you tell as the path became more narrow, more rockier and a touch steeper. Finally after two hours we made it to the top and felt our sense of accomplishment. Sadly the views were minimal due to the thick cold fog, however we still celebrated with some victory photos and a short rest before starting the descend.
As a nice reward for our climbing efforts we went into the cafe which you can find at the bottom of the mountain. It serves the most amazing hot chocolate ever!!!...accompanied with a wood fire to warm yourself up with - it was heaven.
Note: When climbing in the summer months there is less chance of seeing snow which allows you to take different routes and is less dangerous
7. The Orme, Llandudno: Llandudno is one of the most Northern parts of Wales on the seafront. The Orme holds a special place for me as it is one of the first mini hikes Kris and I took together. We were fortunate that the weather accompanied us nicely, and the walk around the Orme took roughly two hours. There are many great places to stop and take photos with lovely ocean views in the background. There is a luge that runs during warmer months that overlooks the most Northern ocean. To top it all off, the cafe at the descent of the Orme served an amazing mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows. Give it a try.
8. Holyhead: Another northern point of Wales and where you can catch the ferry for a short trip to Ireland. Holyhead is a nice place to hike around. Spend 2-4 hours walking the trails to South Stack where there is a lovely view of a lighthouse. You can enter the lighthouse (for a fee) and many steps later. Personally, we enjoyed the view and decided that photos justified our hike enough. If you are lucky, you may see seals playing in the water.
Enjoy your journey and let me know if you come across any other hidden gems along your travels. Our ears are always open to new suggestions.