Wales Travel Guide

A dictionary is unlikely to be any use to you in Wales, where even visitors from elsewhere in the UK have a hard time understanding the locals. This up-and-coming destination used to be known for not much else than its sheep but is today drawing modern travelers with its upbeat Cardiff, amazing hill walking and deserted coast.

Although often the most overlooked United Kingdom region, over eight million tourists discover Wales’ stunning landscapes, distinct culture and history, and renowned national parks each year, making tourism Wales’ largest industry.

Why You Should Go

What’s Cool: The recently resurrected Welsh language, low crime, historic medieval walled towns and castles, beautiful seaside resorts, friendly locals, stunning national parks, great golf courses.

What’s Not: Referring to Welsh people as English, a £50 (US$93) fine for smoking in public places, frequent rain, its isolated nature and its dull cuisine.

When to Go

The Welsh tourist season traditionally begins during the Easter weekend. Although Wales’ climate rarely gets too hot or too cold, weather can be unpredictable and rain is always a possibility. Summer is Wales’ most popular tourist season, but spring and autumn visits are recommended for tourists who enjoy mild weather without summer’s large crowds and higher prices. Winter is Wales’ rainiest season and many attractions are closed.

Getting There & Away

Cardiff International Airport, Wales’ largest airport, offers direct flights to and from several British and European cities, as well as buses, taxis, and trains to downtown Cardiff. International visitors may prefer flying to London’s Gatwick or Heathrow international airports, and driving the two-hour journey to Cardiff. There is also an excellent train network between London and south Wales, as well as ferry services between Wales and Ireland.

Health & Safety

Wales is considered one of the safest parts of Britain, and most violent crimes are a result of alcohol related behavior. Use common sense and avoid dodgy looking pubs around closing time. The National Health Service provides good treatment, although travel insurance is recommended for overseas visitors.

Food & Hospitality

Wales may not be a famous culinary destination, but Anglesey eggs, Welsh rarebit and cawl are among the local specialties. Despite its name, the Swansea dish called laver bread is actually puréed seaweed rolled into breakfast oatcakes or served warm on buttered toast. Wales started producing whisky in 2004 after a 100-year hiatus, most notably the award-winning Penderyn whisky. Wales is filled with accommodations ranging from seaside resorts to picturesque cottages, and the people are known for their warm hospitality.

Itineraries

All three major Welsh regions can be explored within a week.

  • Spend a day touring the southern coastal city of Swansea, birthplace of Dylan Thomas and gateway to the beautiful Welsh seashore.
  • The capital of Cardiff is worth a daytrip to explore Cardiff Castle, the Civic Centre, and the Victorian Arcades.
  • Two or three days exploring the western shoreline’s breathtaking coastline and historical attractions.
  • Another day to explore North Wales’ spectacular gardens.

Extra time

  • Three days exploring eastern Wales’ market towns, including Hay-on-Wye’s over 40 used bookstores.
  • Five days following the legendary trail of King Arthur and the magician Merlin, ending at the alleged site of the Holy Grail.

Highlights

great-little-trains: are the most unique way to travel across Wales’ gorgeous green countryside.

isle-of-anglesey: golden sand dunes, green countryside, and rocky cliffs are all located in one of the UK’s most unique landscapes, designated and preserved as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

gower-peninsula: the first area designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by the UK government.

blaenavon-industrial-landscape: this monument to Wales’ iron and coal industry is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

north-wales-castles: were originally built after England’s 13th century invasion of Wales and have been compared to the Middle East’s Crusader castles.

portmeirion: this fantasy Italianate village is most famous as the setting of the 1960s TV show, The Pretender.

ceredigion-coast: a beautiful whale, seal, and dolphin-watching spot.

pistyll-rhaeadr: gaze down on the valley from Wales’ highest waterfall, featuring a natural arch named the Fairy Bridge.

barafundle-bay: Country Life magazine named this beach along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path as Britain’s most ideal picnic spot.

Activities

Golf: Welsh golf courses are affordable and high quality with few crowds.

Mountain climbing: the mountains of Snowdon and Cadair Idris are Wales’ most famous and challenging peaks.

Hiking: Wales is a walkers’ paradise with picturesque trails at every turn.

Cycling: quiet roads, over 1,000 National Cycle Network paths, and challenging mountain biking routes make Wales a wonderful cycling destination.

Surfing: Llangennith is an unlikely but recommended surfing destination complete with surf shop and nearby pub.

Horseback riding: Wales is full of quality equestrian trails for riders of all levels.

Fishing: Wales’ coastline and over 200 trout and salmon rivers make it one of Britain’s top fishing destinations.

Coasteering: this swimming and rock climbing combination was created on Wales’ rocky west coast.

Castles and legends: Wales is home to over 400 historic castles, as well as the site of King Arthur’s legendary quest for the Holy Grail.

Festivals & Events

Most Welsh festivals successfully combine education with entertainment.

May: former American president Bill Clinton described Hay-on-Wye’s Guardian Hay Festival as ‘the Woodstock for the Mind’.

July: Llangollen’s International Eisteddfod attracts singers, musicians, and dancers from around the world.

October: Swansea’s three-week long Festival of Music and the Arts is the UK’s second-largest festival of its kind.

October to November: Swansea’s Dylan Thomas Festival celebrates Wales’ most famous poet.