While the image of lush valleys and a laid-back lifestyle are right at the heart of a holiday in Wales, don’t think stunning landscapes and a bit of relaxation are the only thing on offer in this beautiful country. Don’t believe us? Check out our Wales travel guide – it’s full of handy hints, travel ideas and great stuff for families and groups of friends to do, and once you’re inspired to visit don’t forget to check out our fantastic range of holiday homes and cottages in Wales.
As anyone from there will tell you, Wales is very much its own country. It has its own culture to explore, its own language to hear and its own landscapes to discover. The fiercely proud people are also fiercely welcoming, quick to greet you with a smile and a pint, before showing off their spectacular nation. What they show you could vary from buzzing, cosmopolitan cities with lively festivals to breathtaking mountain ranges and the gorgeous coasts, hills and valleys that lie in between. For such a small country, Wales packs in loads, which means you could enjoy several holidays there without ever seeing the same thing twice.
Best places to visit in Wales
- Cardiff – Visit the castle, museums and chic restaurants of Wales’s vibrant capital.
- The Brecon Beacons – Hike through this stunning South Wales range.
- Tintern Abbey – Explore the spectacular ruins of a 12th-century monastery on the banks of the River Wye.
- Mount Snowdon – Summit the highest peak in in the country.
- Caerphilly Castle – Walk around the crenelated walls of a moated medieval castle.
- Broad Haven – Find your own patch of sand on one of Pembrokeshire’s loveliest beaches.
When to visit?
Pictures of Snowdonia covered in blankets of glorious white are certainly compelling reasons to visit the mountains of Wales in winter, but be prepared; temperatures drop to their lowest in January and February, and mountain roads are often close due to drifts. However, the countryside of Wales is an undeniably magical destination over the Christmas holidays.
Weather-wise, summer is the best time to visit, although in the peak holiday season of late July and August the national parks and coastal areas hike up their prices for the influx of tourists. Spring offers warm, dry days with lots of life in the farms and fields, as well as lower prices and fewer tourists crowding the main attractions. Autumn, when the Welsh castles are surrounded by glorious red and golden foliage, is stunning, but it’s also usually wet; October, in particular, tends to be the rainiest month. Basically you can travel to Wales at any time of the year, and you’ll find there’s plenty to get up to, no matter the weather.
How to travel to Wales, and get around while you’re there
- Airport: There are direct flights to Cardiff airport from most UK destinations.
- By train:Wales is separated, by dialect, culture and train routes, into two halves, North Wales and South Wales. There are main lines that run across the towns of the north, from Prestatyn to Holyhead, and the south from Chepstow to Pembrokeshire. Book tickets using National Rail.
- By bus: Buses afford greater flexibility as you travel around Wales, with no need to book in advance and routes that lead to many of the smaller villages. Traws Cymru operates longer distance journeys between them.
- By car: If you’re happy to drive around convoluted though scenic routes with winding roads, then driving is the most flexible option for travel within Wales. Rental Cars lists all the available firms in the country.
- On foot: The National Walking Trails of Wales crisscross the country and lead you to otherwise inaccessible areas of spectacular natural beauty. For the hardiest hikers, trek the perimeter of the country on the Wales Coast Path.
- The island of Anglesey encompasses the best of Wales’ landscapes, packing in hills, coast and deserted stretches of sandy shores into one compact space. Newborough, a woodland backing one of the best beaches in Wales, is a haven for wildlife, with harriers, skylarks and red squirrels living in the woods and marshland around the area. The views of Snowdonia across the sea make it a particularly stirring stretch of the island.
- Hunt in the hills for the hidden lakes of Wales. Llyn y Fan Fach, in the Camarthen Fans, is a scenic point surrounded by flat-topped mountains, which can only be reached by foot. Or head for the Blue Lagoon, in Pembrokeshire, a flooded slate quarry hidden by the indented coastline.
- Tucked away in the woodlands of Ceredigion is the network of rivers and walking trails of Hafod Estate. This is one of the best places in the west of the country for ramblers, with around 200 hectares to explore on foot. You’ll pass waterfalls, alpine bridges and rolling fields, so make sure you take your camera for these incredibly picturesque sights.
- Pistyll Rhaeadr is the highest waterfall in Wales yet remains something of a secret to the country’s visitors. Trek through the Berwyn Mountains, another unknown area in the heart of the nation, to reach this spectacular, 80-metre high natural landmark. You’ll also find Tan-y-Pistyll (the little house under the waterfall) here, where you can reward your efforts with a hot drink. Head there in the coldest months of winter and you may see the falls frozen in gorgeous icicles.
- The area of South Wales known as the Valleys captures much of the character and culture of the Welsh, and is rich with mining history. Some of the old mines have been turned into museums, such as the Rhondda Heritage Park in Trehafod, while the villages themselves possess an earthy charm.
Wales Travel Guide for families
Whereas many adults seek a holiday to regain some energy, kids tend to be most satisfied when they’re exhausted from all the fun. Children can easily wear themselves out during a week or two in Wales. Between kiddie-friendly sightseeing, coastal fishing excursions and getting a sugar high in a chocolate factory, children will barely have a chance to catch their breath.
And even when families aren’t hopping between attractions, Wales will welcome them with open arms. The wide open spaces are ideal for youngsters who have energy to burn, and there are lots of beautiful places to walk the dog too. It won’t cost an arm and a leg either; there’s loads that families can enjoy for next to nothing and even for free.
Take your pick from our list of kid-friendly activities, which will help make your family trip to Wales a great one. Alternatively, we’ve got a whole blog post full of great ideas for family friendly activities in Wales, so you’ve got no excuse for not getting out there and enjoying the countryside!
The best things to do with kids in Wales
- Heading to an adventure playground is always win-win from mum and dad’s point of view – the kids are entertained and get some exercise, and they’ll be tuckered out for what’s hopefully an early night!
- If you’re looking for a great park, Zip World provides miles of high-octane experiences with their huge zip lines – which you can even enjoy in a cavern underground!
- Of course, that majestic Welsh countryside isn’t going to explore itself. Grab a bike and head out on a little tour, or alternatively there are loads of tours on offer that will get you out into the wilds of Wales and appreciating everything that’s great about the great outdoors.
- One tour with a twist comes from the Welsh Bass Guide, which can teach you and the family the fun of wilderness survival in Pembrokeshire. Head out into the woods with your guide, where you’ll learn how early settlers survived while foraging for some ingredients to make an authentic meal cooked on an open fire.
- Many kids (not to mention bigger kids too) are utterly enraptured by trains. Wales is the perfect setting to indulge this interest, with steam trains running in Snowdonia, Llangollen and a whole load more. The landscapes alone are spellbinding – couple that with the romance of train travel and you’re onto a winner.
- Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways runs one of the world’s oldest narrow gauge railways, and their routes take in the mountains, fields and forests so you get to take in everything that makes the Welsh countryside so beautiful and unique.
Family-friendly walking and cycling routes
- Take a hike to a natural wonder the kids are bound to love – the Aber Falls in Abergwyngregyn. It’s only a three mile walk through the Coedydd Aber National Nature Reserve to this beautiful spot, which is actually one of Wales’s highest waterfalls.
- The coastlines of Wales provide ample opportunities for beautiful walks, and if the weather’s right you can even indulge in a little paddling! There’s a beautiful stretch between Aberdovey and Tywyn that takes about three hours, and you can even hop on the train back at the end if everyone’s feeling exhausted.
- The Elan Valley Trail makes for a beautiful run thanks to the four reservoirs you’ll be cycling around, but it’s quite a long run – 18 miles to be exact, so make sure everyone can go the distance before you set off!
- For a cycling route that takes in some of Wales’ art, culture and history, take the twelve mile trip between Port Talbot and Afan Forest Park. You’ll wind through woodlands packed with nature and home-grown artworks, before ending up at the Afan Forest Visitor’s Centre where you’ll find the South Wales Miner’s Museum.
At times, Wales feels like a country where there’s no need to actually do anything. Park yourself in a holiday home surrounded by the nation’s outstanding natural beauty and just bask in the glorious scenery, going for gentle walks through the valleys or watching the world go by from a quiet café or country pub. In Wales, just being there is often enough.
However, to do this would mean missing out on a broad, exciting range of ways to enjoy Wales, from riding boats around the dramatic coastline to plunging down the slopes of Snowdonia on a mountain bike.The wilderness lures adventurers with canyoning and caving, trekking and stargazing, while the fascinating museums lure those in search of intellectual pursuits. From the fast-paced to the snail-paced, our selection of grown-up group activities will take you from the tallest mountain peak to the depths of an old mine. Need more inspiration? We’ve got a whole blog dedicated to fantastic group activities in Wales!
Fun activities and things to do on your Wales trip
- The fantastic landscapes of Wales offer groups and friends a veritable playground when it comes to things to do – from nature trails to bike rides to wilderness training that teaches you how to forage, the list is as endless as it is tempting.
- Explore stunning Welsh lakes and rivers with Snowdonia Adventure Activities, which will take you to the very heart of the region’s beautiful waterways. You get a great choice of activities too, with kayaking, abseiling and mountain biking all perennial favourites.
- But Snowdonia has even more to offer in the form of Mount Snowdon itself. Make sure you head up this impressive mountain in the safest way possible with Climb Snowdon, whose expert guides can help you to the top no matter your experience or fitness level.
- But it isn’t just solid ground that can give you an adrenaline buzz in Wales. There’s plenty of lakes, rivers, reservoirs and seawater to give you a thrill, and with many companies out there offering courses and day excursions in water-sports and boating there’s no excuse for not getting out there and learning – unless, perhaps, it’s the middle of winter.
- One way to get your pulse racing is with a speedy motorboat ride – and Voyages of Discovery can sort you out with one that will have you reconnecting with nature – it takes you over to Ramsey Island bird sanctuary where you can meet some of Wales’ indigenous birds. They’ve also got other adventures on offer, so if taking to the water doesn’t float your boat (ahem) there’s bound to be something else of interest.
- One great way to unwind is to enjoy some of the wonderful natural wildlife of Wales, and there’s such a fantastic diversity of plants and especially animals, that anyone with even a passing interest in the natural world is bound to be fascinated. Whether you’re just enjoying the back garden of your accommodation or thinking of a more organised tour, make sure you bring your binoculars!
- Bay to Remember can get you out there and experiencing what’s possibly the ultimate nature excursion – spotting bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Mwnt.
- Another aspect of Wales’ wonderful rural environment is the relative lack of light pollution. If you’ve brought your binoculars along, take the opportunity on a clear night to revel in the majesty of the universe and do a bit of stargazing.
- If you’re looking for something a bit more in-depth, Good Day Out‘s stargazing evening doesn’t just instruct you on the best way to stargaze, you’ll learn all about the science and history of this venerable pastime too.
- The Welsh are rightly proud of their history and culture, which runs from Celtic ancestors to a vibrant modern-day arts scene. As a result, you’ll find a plethora of museums and attractions that celebrate everything Wales has contributed to the world, from ancient treasures to modern writers and everything in between.
- One delightfully quirky and interactive museum is the Big Pit, which delves (quite literally) into the history of coal mining. You’ll be able to take in everything the pit’s museum offers before donning your hard hat and heading an impressive 90 metres underground to see what life was really like for a miner in a genuine pit.
Wales, for the foodies
Wales is proud of its status as a separate country and, consequently, much of their food and drink celebrates this difference and independence of spirit. You’ll find the adjective ‘Welsh’ prefixing many of the ingredients and the best restaurants in the country almost invariably stock local, seasonal produce and serve up their take on regional dishes. To really understand the local gastronomy, consider taking classes and workshops where you’ll learn to cook like a true Welshman. Or perhaps take a tour of the places that produce some of Wales’ finest exports, among them some stellar craft breweries and a distillery.
Alternatively, look for the finest dining establishments, where celebrated chefs will cook up mouth-watering dishes of food that’s straight from the country’s farms and seas. The only trouble you might encounter is trying to understand Welsh menus. In which case, we recommend asking for a (five-minute potatoes) or a bara lawr (an edible seaweed).From Welsh whiskey to stuffed pig’s trotters, our favourite Welsh food and drink establishments and experiences serve up an eclectic mix. Hungry for more? Check out on our blog on the best foodie things to do in Wales!
Best places to visit in Wales for tasty food
- If you’re looking to celebrate or splash out a little, you might want to try the Michelin-starred Tyddyn Llan in Llandrillo. The impressive nine course tasting menu is a wonder in itself, though choosing between that and the delicious a la carte offerings is no easy task.
- Bar 44 in Penarth is ideal for a relaxing night out thanks to its laid back atmosphere and Spanish influences – choose a good red and enjoy some fantastic tapas dining!
- Though you can find some tasty-sounding vegetarian options on the menu, there’s no prizes for guessing what The Potted Pig in Cardiff specialises in. Dig in to some of their porky treats, from glazed ham hock to fried bacon cake. Yup, you read that right.
- Welsh cakes, aka bakestones, are a traditional sweet treat – kind of like a scone. But unlike scones, you traditionally don’t eat them with jam or butter (although some people do) – they’ve been popular in Wales since the late 19th Century, and can be small or large. They’re great with a cup of tea!
- Thanks to the lush landscape and abundance of green grass, Welsh lamb is a real treat. Enjoy it roasted, pan-fired or, if you’re feeling traditional, in the hearty stew known as cawl.
- For breakfast, why not try something a little out of the ordinary with some laverbread? Made from seaweed, this delicious fried dish goes particularly well with bacon and is about as Welsh as you can get.
- The delightfully named crempogs are buttermilk pancakes often served for afternoon tea, so if you’ve been out exploring the town and come across a tea shop, make sure you pop in to try some. Don’t forget a slice of bara brith too!
We hope we’ve inspired you enough with our Wales Travel Guide to go and check out this mighty little country for yourself! Our collection of holiday homes in Wales will have you smack bang in the middle of beautiful surroundings – whether you’re looking for rural and secluded, or somewhere a bit closer to the action. If you need a hand choosing where to stay in Wales, give our concierge team a shout!