With its dramatic coastlines, jagged mountain ranges and softly undulating valleys, Wales offers a vast range of impressive landscapes to explore. Despite its beauty, it remains relatively low on the tourist radar, meaning that areas such as Pembrokeshire and the Brecon Beacons offer the beauty of Cornwall and the Lake District with none of the crowds.
Steeped in history and myth, the land of Druids and dragons has plenty to delight the modern visitor. While this guide covers four of our members’ most popular regions – the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire, Snowdonia and the Gower Peninsula – we can plan staycations across the country. Whether you’re a regular visitor or it’s your first time exploring these incredible regions, our specialists are here to plan an unforgettable staycation in Wales for you and your loved ones.
Explore Waterfall Country
Just north of Pontneddfechan can be found a series of spectacular waterfalls, as four rivers – the Nedd, the Pyrddin, the Mellte and the Hepste – cut gorges through permeable limestone as they wind down from the moors of Fforest Fawr. Known as Waterfall Country, this region is best reached from the car parks near Ystradfellte. The most impressive fall is Sgwd yr Eira, where a path leads you behind the cascading water itself. Please note the walk is relatively long, on uneven terrain, and not suitable for wheelchairs or buggies.
Glide down the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal
For a different perspective on the region, take a leisurely canal boat trip through the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Once a vital part of the transport infrastructure for Wales’ industry, the restored canal now offers an idyllic, peaceful journey, hugging the contours of the hillsides, and is often voted the prettiest voyage in Britain. Its towpaths offer the chance to explore further on foot or by bike, with plenty of wildlife to spot en route. Plus, we can pinpoint a selection of the best canalside pubs, restaurants and cafés perfect for your staycation in Wales.
Get your literary fill in Hay-on-Wye
Tucked in the northeast corner of the Brecon Beacons, under the slopes of the Black Mountains, the historic market town of Hay-on-Wye has become synonymous with the book trade. It is known as “the town of books” thanks to its glut of characterful bookshops and its hosting of the annual international Hay Festival, which attracts world-famous writers, cultural figures and heads of state. The festival went digital this year but is scheduled to return in May 2021.
Take a trip to Skomer Island
A short ferry ride from Martin’s Haven near the beautiful beaches of Marloes Sands will take you to the otherworldly Skomer Island, where southern Britain’s largest colony of nesting seabirds perch on the dramatic volcanic cliffs. A colony of a different kind can be explored inland, where ancient standing stones, earthworks, burial cairns and the remains of dwellings reveal the existence of an Iron Age civilisation. Look out for basking sharks, dolphins and porpoises on your journey, too.
Discover the hidden secrets of Pembroke Castle
Surrounded by water on three sides, with a commanding position atop a limestone crag overlooking the town as well as two tidal inlets, Pembroke Castle dates back to Norman times and is the birthplace of Henry Tudor – later crowned Henry VII. With walls 7m thick and 75m high, it is one of the largest castles in Wales. It’s well worth an afternoon exploring, not least to discover the secret underground passage that leads from the Great Hall to the harbour.
Visit the source of Stonehenge at Preseli Hills
It may not be a high climb by Welsh standards, but Preseli Hills is popular with walkers for its spiritual, historical and cultural importance. Signs of early Celtish settlements are dotted across the hills and an imaginary line, the Landsker, marks the divide between English and Welsh speakers (the Welsh having been driven here by the Romans). Just as significantly, the rocks that form Stonehenge’s monoliths were mined here, and are unique to the area.
Explore the great and small of Wales in Conwy
A walled market town centred around the fairy-tale Conwy Castle, a medieval World Heritage site, Conwy boasts two architecturally important 19th-century bridges – Thomas Telford’s Conwy Suspension Bridge, designed to match the castle’s towers, and Robert Stephenson’s Tubular Bridge. This is also where you’ll find Quay House, officially recorded as the smallest house in Great Britain, measuring just 3.05m high by 1.8m wide. The views from the walkway along the city walls afford some spectacular views across the rooftops and over the estuary.
Ride the Talyllyn Railway
Originally opened in 1865 to transport slate from the quarries at Bryn Eglwys to the coastal town of Tywyn, this small-gauge railway was closed for industrial use in 1946 following a major rockfall, but was subsequently renovated and reopened as a tourist route by a group of amateur enthusiasts. Visitors can now enjoy the incredible views, including the Dolgoch Falls and Fathew Valley, along the seven-mile route.
Climb (or ride) Mount Snowdon
The highest mountain in Wales and, at 3,560ft, the highest peak in Britain outside of Scotland, Snowdon is officially the busiest mountain in the UK. This is partly because its six main routes cater for walkers of most abilities – although even the easiest path requires a final scramble over rocks to reach the summit. For those who prefer their panoramic views without the strain, there is the Snowdon Mountain Railway. For the 2020 season, the railway terminates at Clogwyn Station, three-quarters of the way to the summit; please ask us for updates.
Visit Worms Head when the tide allows
Only accessible at low tide, Worms Head is a narrow island stretching out into the Atlantic from the western tip of Gower Peninsula. It is well worth visiting for its spectacular cliff-edge views out to sea, as well as many natural features, including the Devil’s Bridge archway joining two of the island’s sections. Be sure to keep an eye on the tide timetables, as the journey requires a scramble over a rocky causeway.
Take the six-castle trail
Gower boasts six castles – Bovehill (or Landimore), Oystermouth, Oxwich, Pennard, Penrice and Weobley. They vary in state of preservation, from ruins (Pennard) to near-complete restoration (Oystermouth, which includes a 30ft-high glass viewing platform and educational space), and some are on private land (Bovehill, Penrice), but all are worth tracking down to get a sense of the grandeur of Gower in the Middle Ages.
Ride the waves of Rhossili Bay
Often voted Britain’s best beach, Rhossili Bay’s stretch of gently arcing flat sands beneath the steep-sided Rhossili Down is hugely popular with walkers and surfers. But you may recognise it from a famous bank advert, featuring a horse racing across the bay. A number of local stables offer you the chance to relive the experience and exhilaration of riding through the waves yourself.
If you’re looking to stay in the Lake District, read our recommendations for the top 10 essential experiences to add to your itinerary.