The country of Wales is rich in history, natural beauty and adventure activities; from ancient castles, award winning beaches, stunning mountains, hip and happening cities and an exciting array of festivals, there’s plenty to see and do.
Castles of King Edward in Gwynedd
Welsh heritage boasts over 600 castles: from ancient Roman masterpieces to 19th century millionaires’ follies. In fact, Wales is considered as the castle capital of Europe! And the most majestic examples are the collective Castles of King Edward in the north Wales county of Gwynedd. Collectively the four castles including 13th century Caernarfon Castle, enchanting Beaumaris Castle, magical Conwy Castle and photogenic Harlech Castle are considered the finest examples of military architecture within Europe. The well preserved castles and town walls collectively form a UNESCO World Heritage listing. In total there are three UNESCO listed properties within Wales, including Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal and the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape.
If you haven’t heard of Rhossili Beach, where have you been?! It was voted the tenth best beach in the world by TripAdvisor, beating Caribbean and Hawaiian beaches! Located near wales’ second city of Swansea, it’s also the best beach in the UK and its vast natural expanse of golden beach stretches for 3 miles (5km). Backed by grassy dunes, Rhossili Bay offers bracing winter walks, fantastic surfing opportunities and spectacular year-round views over the sea and welsh coastline. As a part of the Gower Peninsula it’s one of many areas of outstanding natural beauty in the country.
The small but perfectly formed city of St David’s in Pembrokeshire happens to be the smallest city within Britain. It’s also well known for being home to the largest (and incredibly spectacular) cathedral in Wales. The Catholic Church was originally founded in AD 589 and perfectly represents the classic British Gothic and Romanesque style. And further afield, St David’s is a pretty little city that you can wander on foot or by bike. The city is also surrounded by some of the finest coastline in Europe.
Brecon Beacons National Park
The wild and rugged Brecon Beacons covers 519 square miles (1,344 km²) in the heartland of Wales. The 2,907 feet (886 meters) tall point at Pen y Fan has long attracted climbers and mountaineers. There’s plenty to do besides hiking and bird spotting: there’s churches, castles and railways dotted throughout the park, as well as an ape and monkey sanctuary and a whiskey distillery! More details.
Snowdonia Mountains and Coast
If you hanker after a more challenging mountain climb, head to Snowdon which stands at an impressive 3,560′ (1,085 m) tall. The Snowdonia Park offers plenty of wholesome outdoor activities for all the family, from fishing, golf, white water kayaking and hiking. There’s plenty of amazing things to do inside as well (wales is subject to the great British weather after all) such as the National Museums of Wales, art galleries, craft shops, covered markets and traditional welsh foodie eateries.
The mid Wales region of Powys is home to Hay-on-Wye which is dubbed “the town of books” thanks to its cluster of around 35 independent book stores and the annual Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts. Since its inception in 1988, more than 80,000 authors, keen bibliophiles and industry types gather over the ten day event to attend launches, attend talks from prestigious authors, and of course, buy books. The next Hay Festival runs from 22 May to 1 June 2014. More details.
The village of Tintern lies within the south wales county of Monmouthshire, just over the border from England. It lies within the beautiful Wye Valley and is most notable for its impressive 12th century Cistercian Tintern Abbey. Founded in 1131 by the Lord of Chepstow, the impressive Abbey remains one of the greatest monastic ruins within the country. The wider Tintern area is also an area of outstanding natural beauty – don’t forget your walking shoes.
Image Credit; Herbert Ortner