Some places hold space in our hearts, and often we can’t explain why. For many, Wales is a mystery, this small country clinging to the side of England, both quiet and humble. And yet it is one of our favourite places in the UK. A country that is often overlooked, which we think is a crying shame.
Wales holds a special place in our hearts. We’re not sure if it’s the wild cragginess of Snowdonia that first caught our attention, or the endless castles to capture our imaginations, but whatever it was, we’re glad to know Wales.
If Wales is still a little unfamiliar to you, you should read our blog, ‘Everything You Need to Know About Wales’ to brush up on it. That alone should be enough to convince you to visit this wonderful region. And if you are swayed, keep reading, because we’d love to help guide you to some of our favourite places in Wales, from our favourite castle to our favourite view.
Where to start? Wales is surely the castle capital of the world, with over 600 on record. Today, at least 400 of those castles are still standing (or in ruins), so wherever you go in Wales, you’re likely to stumble across one of these grand monuments.
Choosing a favourite Welsh castle is like choosing a favourite flavour of ice cream. It shouldn’t be necessary, but we’ll do our best.
One that stands out is Conwy Castle, situated like the fortress it is in the northern Welsh town of Conwy. A true medieval fortress, this castle has been towering over Conwy with its watchful eye for over 700 years. Still in incredible condition, with plenty of restoration work having been done over the years, you can walk the complete circuit around the castle.
If you choose to climb the stairs, you’ll be rewarded with the most spectacular view of Eryri in the distance. This craggy mountain range is also known as Snowdonia and is one of Wales’ most popular destinations.
Just keep an eye out. Legend goes that two humble monks have haunted the castle for centuries. These hooded figures levitate in the air without moving, like everyone’s worst nightmare ever. But don’t let that put you off.
You might not think beach holiday when you think of Wales, but we can assure you, many of the beaches in Wales glisten just as brightly. It was a challenge to pick our favourite beach... so, instead we’ve narrowed it down to two with slightly different vibes.
The first is exactly the kind of beach you want to find in a country like Wales. Porth Iago on the Llyen Peninsula is a gorgeous clear-water, sheltered haven. Perched on the lookout above, an ancient hill fort keeps watch over the sand, water, and sky. If you’re a wild-camping enthusiast, you can do just that here. Imagine the sky at night. Reflecting diamonds onto the black sea beneath it, like a mirror reflecting the light.
Our other favourite is for the slightly more adventurous. If you’d like to do something a little more than lying on the sand gazing up at the stars or out at the undulating water (which sounds like absolute bliss if you ask us), give Broad Haven coves in South Pembrokeshire a go.
The gentle grassy landscape gave way to the undeniable wreckage of the sea, and here you’ll find limestone sea caves. Wander to the west and journey through the sea caves. You’ll discover two secret coves, Tevallen and Little Horn, which are connected by one of the caves. Don’t forget to bring your snorkel too.
Here’s something to keep your mind occupied while lying on the fine sands of Porth Iago, the water lapping gently against the shore, the sound of wind and water and gulls surrounding around you. With water so close, you might recall the myth of Cantre'r Gwaelod.
There’re plenty of amazing legends and myths in Wales. There’s the heartbreaking tale of Llywelyn the Great and his favourite dog Gelert. We’re not sure we can take talking about that at length right now, but feel free to read about that tragic tale here.
There’s the legend of Dinas Emrys, in which everybody’s favourite wizard Merlin makes an appearance.
There’s St. Dwynwen’s Day which is celebrated by the Welsh people every January 25th... because who doesn’t love love?
But it’s the story of Cantre'r Gwaelod that truly captures the imagination. This legend has inspired folklore, literature, and song for many years. The legend goes that beneath the water and sand on what is now known as Cardigan Bay to the west of Wales lie the hidden remains of a legendary ancient sunken kingdom.
There has never been any definitive evidence to support this claim. However, three recent storms (2010, 2014, 2019) stripped away some of the sand from the beach at Borth on Cardigan Bay, revealing the blackened petrified remains of an ancient forest. This vista of dead oak, pine, birch, willow, and hazel tree stumps are akin to gravesites left behind. The forest is estimated to have been submerged between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago. Evidence, perhaps, of this lost civilization.
We don’t know about you, but we’re dying to see this ‘Welsh Atlantis’.
You reminisce on an ancient sunken civilisation, staring out the car window as you cruise along the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Backed by hills, estuaries, valleys, and woodlands, this vast and wondrous coastline will have you wondering if there’re any other mysteries hidden beneath the waves.
You might even consider stopping along the way and getting out to stretch your legs. There’re over 600 miles of public footpaths and bridleways to choose from. Wildlife and history accompany you no matter where you go, the perfect companions.
And as you coast along, keep an eye out for the national park’s 11 Blue Flag beaches.
If you’d like to ensure you have the whole drive journey to keep your eyes on the gorgeous landscape, let someone else do the driving. Namely us, since we head through part of the national park on several of our tours.
Speaking of Pembrokeshire, we had a difficult time choosing what the ‘best view’ of Wales is. It’s debatable, and I’m sure we could be easily swayed.
There’s the Wye Valley, which has been recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There’s South Stack Lighthouse on a small island off the coast of Holy Island, Anglesey – an island off an island, if you will. It’s as picturesque as a storybook, with a spooky legend attached to its history to boot. There’s the aforementioned Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, its entirety something to marvel at.
But it’s somewhere specific within the national park that we think represents true beauty. A view worthy of a stop-and-stare kind of moment, and that place is Green Bridge. This naturally formed limestone archway stands guard over the rugged sea below.
One place stood out almost immediately for us. Perhaps we’re a little infatuated with Italy as much as we are with Wales. Perhaps we’re a sucker for coloured houses. No matter the reason, we can’t overlook the quirkiness of Portmeirion. This little village is a gorgeous combination of Italy and Wales, and if there’s one thing you must do when visiting any ‘Italian’ village, it’s exploring the streets.
The village’s creation can be credited to Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis and, strange as it sounds, the entire village itself is a visitor attraction and visitors must pay to access the streets of Portmeirion. It’s worth it, we promise, which is evident from the 200,000 plus visitors every year.
You can be one of them on our 3-day Snowdonia, North Wales & Chester tour from London.
Beauty draws attention. It’s no wonder Wales has seen a lot of attention over the years from film and TV makers across the world. You might be surprised how many times you’ve seen Wales on the screen and not noticed it. Doctor Who and it’s spinoff Torchwood filmed all across Wales, for starters. Then there’s the classic film Willow (1988), scenes of which were shot in Wales. Now with the series sequel coming to Disney+, it comes as no surprise that they are returning to this iconic land. Expect to see Eryri National Park, Pembrokeshire, and Neath Abbey.
On the complete other end of the storytelling spectrum, Netflix’s hit Sex Education is mostly filmed in Wales, much in the beauty of Wye Valley, and including Tintern, Monmouth, and Llandogo.
So, which one to pick? Well, we simply have to pick Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Fans will remember the heart-crushing scene outside of Bill and Fleur’s cottage when the trio bury the sweet and loyal Dobby the House Elf. This scene took place in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park on the sandy dunes hugging Freshwater West beach. While the film’s cottage no longer exists in this location, a shrine to Dobby remains where you can go to pay your respects to this beloved character.
We’re all about discovering treasures. That's what travel is about, after all. Discovering new places, new customs, new friends, new memories. Creating treasured moments. And Wales is the kind of place where adventure and passion come together in a way that will stay with you long after you return home.
We have several tours that journey into the Welsh countryside, into the villages and cities, exploring the history and customs of this wonderful nation. So why not join us?