Wales, that pint-sized country on the west side of everywhere, exemplifies the saying that "good things come in small packages". When we put out a shout for some original blogs about the "the wow of a holiday in Wales" we knew the travel blogging fraternity would come up trumps!
Our writers waxed lyrical about the south coast, from Cardiff and the Gower to Abergavenny to the underestimated Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. They shared trips to some amazing islands including remote Skoner Island, Barry Island and Anglesey. In the north, Conwy and Snowdonia got a big thumbs up, not least for the well-preserved castles, mountain peaks and thundering waterfalls. These handpicked accounts also include a solo road trip in a vintage convertible, fun ideas for exploring the Brecon Beacons in a motorhome, secret beaches and some great tips for family holidays. When it comes to making memories, read about dolphins and seals, puffin encounters, surfing, a shipping-container shopping mall and some great quad biking.
This fun round-up of things to do in Wales is packed with insider tips and highlights, whether you’re a history lover, nature-seeker, beach bum or outdoor adventurer 10. In fact, it will answer all your questions about things to see and do when holidaying in Wales, including some you haven’t thought of yet. Read on!
Abergavenny – the Gateway to Wales
Only ten kilometres away from the border with England, Abergavenny is seen as the "Gateway to Wales". There are plenty of things to do in Abergavenny and the surrounding area and it is the perfect place to base a visit to Monmouthshire and the Brecon Beacons.
With a history dating back to Roman times, Abergavenny Castle and Museum give you an insight into how the town was in days gone by. You can also visit the "three castles" outside the town: White Castle, Grosmont and Skenfrith or the magnificent Raglan Castle about ten minutes’ drive away. You can still see standing stones and an Iron Age Hill for on top of Table Mountain.
If you enjoy walking and hiking, there are plenty of trails in and around Abergavenny to go to. For a leisurely mainly flat walk, take a trip along to Castle Meadows. Taking you down by the River Usk, look out for sand martins, ducks and kingfishers that make the river their home.
Three mountains surround Abergavenny. Try Skirrid Fawr for a walk through the woods which open out to magnificent views over the surrounding countryside. Park your car in the car park at Blorenge and hike up to the top for views over Abergavenny, a rather strenuous hike, but worth it in the end. To the north of the town is Sugar Loaf which is quite close to the town and gives you a panoramic view over Abergavenny and the Black Mountains.
There is a market most days in Abergavenny Market Hall. For foodies, try to visit the Abergavenny Food Festival in September which brings together local producers to promote Welsh food and drink.
You can go canoeing or take a boat out on the Monmouth and Brecon canal at Goytre Wharf or a short drive away, on Llangorse lake, you can sail, windsurf, kayak or go water-skiing.
While Abergavenny may be the "Gateway to Wales", it is worth spending some time there before you explore Wales.
By Larch Gauld from The Silver Nomad
The Welsh roads really are great for driving on!
Growing up watching BBC’s Top Gear I’d seen many episodes showcasing the wonderful driving roads of Wales. The epic scenery complemented the show’s signature cinematography as Clarkson et al traversed the country’s pristine tarmac.
At the end of July I had the good fortune to have a week off so I decided to make a solo trip there to experience it for myself, and in a 20 year-old convertible. Even better, it turned out to be the hottest weekend of the year too.
After considering a circular journey around Mount Snowdon, friends instead suggested I visit the lesser-known area of The Elan Valley, an area in mid-Wales containing five Victorian dams.
So, with just a small overnight bag I drove to Wales and made the small village of Rhayader my base. It made the perfect starting point for a loop of the dams as well as it being a pretty little village in its own right. It’s also located next-door to a red kite sanctuary where you can see the daily feeding of hundreds of wild birds.
On the day of the drive I headed out from Rhayader to circumnavigate all five of the dams, ending the day with a short blast east to west for lunch at Devil’s Bridge. Here you can explore the beloved Punchbowl and nature trail. The whole Rhayader to Rhayader non-stop roundtrip takes just two hours, although you won’t be able to resist stopping off constantly to marvel at those 100-year-old dams. All this while asking yourself why you haven’t been to this wonderful part of Wales before?
By Steve Biggs from Biggsy Travels
Conwy, a stunning medieval town in North Wales
Conwy is a medieval market town located in North Wales. With a close proximity to the coast, Snowdonia National Park, Isle of Anglesey and myriad castles, waterfalls and other attractions, Conwy is a perfect choice for a holiday gateway. Whether you want to spend a weekend or base yourself here for a week, there are plenty of things to do in Conwy and around to keep you occupied.
I visited Conwy and other places surrounding Conwy with my husband and two kids. We spent a couple of days exploring Conwy and surrounds and can safely say it was a perfect family getaway, and we can’t wait to go back and explore more!
We visited Conwy Castle, one of the stunning 13th century castles and a fine example of military style architecture. Followed by this, Conwy Suspension Bridge, an iconic structure in the town and one of the first road suspension bridges in the world. Now part of National Trust, you can visit the bridge and the toll keeper’s gate. We walked the 1.3 km long Conwy Town Walls savouring the views it offered.
Conwy Quay is a buzzing place in Conwy with an array of restaurants around. We next visited Britain’s Smallest House, that is located near the Quay and ended our day watching the busy boats at Conwy Marina.
Conwy is a destination for all ages. Be it the town itself, or the attractions dotted around, they suit all kind of travellers. A romantic hideaway for couples, intriguing wildlife and stunning beaches for family travellers, hiking and walking paths for solo travellers – there’s something for everyone! With plenty of day trip options and attractions around, Conwy is a must visit place if you are travelling in the north of Wales.
By Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple
Wild bays and roaring surf on the Gower Peninsula
At 19 miles long and eight miles wide, the Gower Peninsula is one of the hidden gems of South Wales. It sprouts from the side of Swansea Bay, where it starts with the rugged inlet of Brandy Cove before unfolding in a series of undulating headland paths and sweeping scythes of golden sand.
The area isn’t as popular as Pembrokeshire, but we found beaches that can more than match their compadres in the west. One of the standouts is dune-backed and rock-ribbed Three Cliffs Bay, where a haunting Norman castle rises against the silhouettes of craggy coast peaks. Further along you’ll find laid-back Oxwich Beach – a favourite of ours, mainly for that excellent hotel-bistro! – and the quaint village beach at Port Eynon.
Inland, the Gower has other treats. We spent days there hiking the heath-clad tops of Cefn Bryn mountain or hopping fire-warmed pubs along the Loughor Estuary amid the pine woods and the samphire nurseries.
Real adventurers should not miss Llangennith. It’s considered the piece de resistance of the Gower Peninsula; a 2½-mile sweep of cinnamon-tinged sand that hosts some of the best surfing in Wales (good for beginners and families in the summer).
The south end of Llangennith is known as Rhossili. We discovered a gorgeous pub with a view, which was a fair reward after conquering the famous trail across to Worm’s Head – a tidal island that can only be accessed at certain times of the day.
We travelled to the Gower as a couple, mainly for the surfing. It was early spring, but the weather tends to be good in South Wales then, except the water’s super cold!
By Rich Francis from Surf Atlas
Wales by wheel!
A Wales road trip is so much fun regardless of your age or style of travel. Unlike the congested roads of England, the abundant space, nature and greenery make Wales the perfect place to drive around finding hidden gems… despite the fact you may get stuck on some small country roads behind a tractor! But no fear, it’s part of the charm of Wales!
As a relatively small country, it’s easy to drive around Wales and cover a lot of ground during a short trip. Many people don’t know it, but Wales is the only country in the world where you can walk the entire country by coastal path from one end to the other! However, a more relaxing option is driving around Wales, stopping off to walk on sections of the coastal path, as well as visiting beautiful beaches and quaint country towns.
Pembrokeshire makes an awesome place for a road trip and you’ll find natural gems like the Blue Lagoon, as well as Cardigan Bay where you can spot Europe’s largest bottlenose dolphin pod as well as an adorable seal colony. Don’t miss Pembroke Castle, St David’s town and Barafundle Bay.
Drive down to south Wales to explore the naturally beautiful Gower Peninsula and the Brecon Beacons. Up in the north of Wales, you can explore the colourful town of Portmeirion, climb Mount Snowdon and drive across the bridge to Anglesey Island.
All you need is a cracking road trip playlist and some car snacks. Enjoy!
By Rose Munday from Where Goes Rose?
There is nothing like a Welsh adventure
I have had the pleasure of going to Wales twice now and both times I have had amazing experiences.
There aren’t many places that I have been to that have such beautiful open spaces entwined in so much history that is just waiting to be explored!
I felt like I walked around with my chin on the floor everywhere that I went. In north Wales it was all about the scenery, the vastness of the colourful countryside that looked like it went on for miles, and waking up to find sheep in the back garden.
In south Wales, it was all about history, the things I learnt about Cardiff blew my mind. Did you know that Cardiff is known as the City of Arcades because it has the biggest concentration of Victorian, Edwardian and modern-day indoor shopping arcades in Britain? Also, Henry Morgan, better known as Captain Morgan on the rum bottles, was actually born in Llanrumney, Cardiff, in 1635. Crazy right?
The castles in Wales are like something out of a fairy tale, like Castle Coch near Cardiff, which was built purely for the rich to hold big parties but walking around the 700-year-old castle was just so surreal. Plus, it was where the TV show Knightmare was filmed. If you are too young to remember it, Google it, it was an awesome TV show.
I would highly recommend a Wales adventure to everyone; you will come away feeling like you have stepped through history.
By Suzy from Suzy The Explorer
Escape London with a cracking city break in Cardiff
I visited Cardiff in July 2020 as a staycation when international travel was beginning to include quarantine periods. Having never been to Wales before, and being less than two hours from London on the train, it seemed like a great option for my first visit to this beautiful country.
Cardiff offers a fun and vibrant city with heaps of history and plenty of Welsh charm. As well as being a fantastic city with some great up and coming venues. You can easily while away a day down at the bay, visiting the tranquil wetlands reserve where swans and geese float by. One woman even claimed to have spotted an otter!
There are some really lovely independent bars and cafes around the bayside to stop for food and drink on sunny terraces. My personal favourite was Gin and Bake on Mermaid Quay, two of my favourite things!
Within easy day trip distance, you have the Brecon Beacons National Park, the quintessentially British Barry Island beach, made famous by the iconic British TV show, Gavin and Stacey.
We hired a car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car right by the station and drove the easy hour and a half to the Brecon Beacons in order to tackle a very misty Pen Y Fan, which was a fantastic adventure with stunning views across the valley (until we went above the clouds at least)!
How better to round off a UK staycation than a trip to the seaside? A short train ride took us to Barry Island for a coastal walk and fish & chips on the beach, before returning to the city for a wander to the Castle and a final cocktail at Old Havana cocktail bar!
By Rhonna Spindley from Rhonna Elizabeth Explores
Discover puffins and more on Skomer Island
When a friend asked me to go and visit Skomer Island, I did not even know the existence of this island. It’s a small island of just three square kilometres located off the coast of Pembrokeshire in South Wales.
So, I did some research, and I realized that it’s one of the most important places in Europe for nesting birds, particularly puffin. In fact, between the end of May and the end of July they come to this territory to lay their eggs. When a chick hatches, its parents alternate feeding it, carrying small fish to the nest until it becomes independent. I immediately thought it would be a fantastic experience as a nature and photography lover that I am.
The island is open from April to October and access is only allowed to 250 people per day, the limitations are to preserve the wildlife heritage. You can not book in advance; who arrives first, first served. We arrived very early in the morning precisely not to miss this opportunity. We bought tickets at the Lockley Lodge at a cost of £11 for entry to the island and we were assigned the boat at 10:30am.
The boat trip lasts 15 minutes and already from the boat you are enchanted by the amount of birds. Upon arrival, after having walked more than 80 steps from the point where our boat left us, we are greeted by volunteers who explain some rules. On the island there are no cars – you can only visit on foot. We walked the paths and the puffin came close to us, it was an incredible experience. An unforgettable experience that I recommend to all nature lovers and photographers.
By Miry Ferrarin from Miry Giramondo
Motorhoming in Wales
If you’re planning to explore Wales, by far the best way to do it is with your own vehicle. It’s the only way to be able to go exactly where you want to, when you want to, and stop wherever you wish.
If you want even more freedom, you need to go motorhoming or campervanning around Wales, so you can park up and make a coffee or lunch whilst looking out over the stunning Welsh coast. You can even sleep at several locations along the coast.
We’ve been to Wales many times, both as a couple and as a family with our daughter. By far our favourite holidays have been a mixture of staying in one area (either with a van or in a holiday cottage) to explore that place and then hiring a van and being able to head into the mountains of Snowdonia or the wilds of the Brecon Beacons. The contrast between the two allows you to really get a sense of the ‘true’ Wales and there are so many incredible places to explore in the wilds.
One of our favourite places is the Brecon Beacons – home to wild moors, amazing driving roads and some of the best waterfalls in the UK. You can easily spend a few days exploring the region before returning to the hustle and bustle of city life.
If you visit, be sure to check out the National Showcaves – one of the largest cave networks in the UK, and also do the waterfall walk, which includes the waterfall you can walk behind at Sgwd yr Eira.
By Kathryn Bird from Wandering Bird
Amazing adventures on Anglesey
Wales is a great destination for any holiday maker interested in history, culture and the great outdoors. In terms of area Wales is a small country, so exploring much of what this pocket-sized land has to offer is easily achieved.
Located off the north-west coast of Wales is the isle of Anglesey or Ynys Mon as it’s known in Welsh. Anglesey is Wales’ largest island and is easily accessed from the mainland via two bridges. The Menai Bridge was the world’s first iron suspension bridge and is a marvellous sight to behold, especially at night when the bridge is illuminated.
On a trip to Anglesey be sure to visit at least one of Anglesey’s beautiful lighthouses. South Stack lighthouse, on the north of the island is a functioning lighthouse which provides visitors with guided tours and is also a top spot for spotting puffins. Twr Mawr in the south is located on a tidal island which offers spectacular views of the Snowdonia Mountain ranges.
History buffs should head to the World Heritage site of Beaumaris Castle and bird lovers shouldn’t miss Dingle Nature Reserve. However, Anglesey is most famed for it’s beautiful beaches. There are no less than six Blue Flag beaches along which to relax, enjoy a picnic or take a stroll whilst keeping one eye on the water to spot seals and dolphins.
Being from Wales I may be a little biased in my love for this great nation, however I can proudly say my solo campervan trip around North Wales and Anglesey was easily the highlight of my 2020!
By Lou France from Wandering Welsh Girl
Exciting things to do on a holiday in Wales
Looking for a summer staycation this year? Look no further than Wales! It may be the second smallest of the UK’s four countries, but what Wales lacks in size it certainly makes up for in beauty, charm and an abundance of things to see and do. Hike up the Welsh mountains, relax on the beaches or take a stroll along the scenic coastal paths. With numerous Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, Wales is a hit with locals and tourists alike and is up there with one of my favourite places to visit.
Depending on where you’re staying you can cram in a lot of sightseeing during your trip to Wales. If you’re booking a week-long holiday I’d recommend basing yourself near Cardigan Bay so you can enjoy coastal walks and sandy beaches. Only visiting for the weekend? Stay in the Welsh capital of Cardiff for a short city break and tick off the likes of Cardiff Castle and the Millennium Centre, or take a boat ride around picturesque Cardiff Bay.
If you’re up for a challenge, grab your walking boots and head for the hills, or the mountains to be more precise! Towering 1,085 metres above sea level, the magnificent Mount Snowdon in Snowdonia National Park is a tough climb which takes approximately six to eight hours in total, but on a clear day the views from the summit are absolutely incredible. I conquered Mount Snowdon a couple of years ago and it was an amazing experience! If you fancy a climb that’s less challenging try Pen y Fan, situated in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Its 886-metre-high peak takes three hours to climb and you’ll be rewarded with incredible views from the summit.
If the amazing mountain climbs, stunning coastal hikes and pretty sandy beaches aren’t enough to convince you to visit Wales, the traditional cosy pubs, excellent selection of wildlife and the friendliness of the Welsh people should help change your mind. I’ve been to Wales numerous times over the past 15 years and have enjoyed countless summer holidays by the beach as well as weekend breaks in the mountains, proving that Wales really does offer something for everyone.
By Jessica Buck from Journeys with Jessica
An exciting escapade in the Brecon Beacons
Wales is a superb destination to go on holiday, and an adventure weekend in the Brecon Beacons in South Wales should be on your Wales bucket list. If you enjoy something a little bit different and are ready for memorable outdoor experiences – it is the trip for you.
The Brecon Beacons is known as waterfall country, and the scenery is outstanding – which makes it the perfect place to explore. We went with a group of family and friends and did so many beautiful things together, including gorge walking, quad biking, and hiking.
Gorge walking was a particular highlight, as there were many different levels of the gorge and a plunge pool to jump in at the end of the activity! You should also experience the Four Falls Trail, a bucolic 4km woodland trail to four different waterfalls; we were really impressed with the water’s vitality from the falls. Another unforgettable experience was a quad biking tour at Dulais Valley Quads through the range of tracks – even though it was our first time.
Finally, nearby is the beautiful Pen y Fan, which sits 886m above sea level, and if you love hiking, you won’t be disappointed with the ‘mountainous peak’ – which is the name translated from Welsh. Quick – book your next holiday to Wales, unleash your inner child and have an extraordinary adventure. You won’t regret it!
By Rachel Hall from Average Lives
Cardiff – surprises in the capital of Wales
We are retired with time on our hands and so for the last couple of years my husband and I have been crossing the Severn Bridge to explore South Wales. We particularly enjoy visiting Cardiff, the capital of Wales.
There is a lot to see in and around Cardiff. My favourite building is probably the Castle which has changed from a Roman fort to a Norman stronghold and finally a Victorian Gothic fantasy.
Just round the corner is the National Museum of Wales which has a fine collection of impressionist paintings. If you go a bit further afield you should visit The Royal Mint at Llantrissant, watch coins being minted and even see the original mini car which was covered in pennies and used to publicise the Beatles’ single Penny Lane.
Another favourite of ours is St. Fagan’s museum where over 50 old buildings have been rescued and rebuilt giving a glimpse into Welsh history and everyday life in the past.
If you want to see a more modern side of Cardiff I recommend a visit to Cardiff Bay, home of the Welsh Parliament and the little Norweigan church where Roald Dahl was christened. For the more active visitor there is sailing, rowing or canoeing on the water, ice skating at the Viola arena or swimming at the international pool with its flume and lazy river.
If you enjoy shopping there is everything from the Queen’s shopping centre with its modern department stores to The Bone Yard, a shipping container village full of independent retailers.
In short Cardiff has everything you would expect to find in a capital city without the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh, London or Dublin.
By Anne Fraser from The Platinum Line
Wales really does have something to offer everyone & there’s never a bad time to go!
Despite spending most of my childhood school holidays in Wales it wasn’t until a few years ago that I dedicated some time to really explore this beautiful and highly-underrated country!
I’ve still got a lot more to see, but from what I have seen of the cosmopolitan city of Cardiff, the endless beaches in Pembrokeshire, the traditional seaside towns on the West Coast and the stunning mountains in the North is that Wales really does have something to offer everyone. What’s more, there is always a good time of year to visit Wales!
I have spent time driving around Wales, specifically around Pembrokeshire and I love this incredibly diverse county in the corner of the country and how many hidden gems it holds!
I’ve been lucky enough to spend hot summer days visiting popular beaches like Tenby and Saundersfoot along with hiking some of the Wales Coastal Trail enjoying my own company.
I’ve also spent wet and cloudy days camping in the Preseli Hills with family and visiting beaches in the rain that no-one else seems to know about! Aberfforest Beach is one of my favourites which is accessible via a country track only.
Although I’d always go for a sunny day on the beach, I have to say that Welsh beaches in the rain are still pretty lush and when it does rain there’s always a cosy cafe nearby to get a tea and a Welsh cake from!
By Ellie Quinn from The Wandering Quinn
#FindYourEpic when you visit Wales
Looking for somewhere gorgeous to stay in Wales? We’d love to show you round some of our handpicked holiday cottages in Wales…