Explore Wales

Explore Wales
Wales, or Cymru in Welsh, has a storied history and seems to be littered with castles, with locals stumbling across ancient fortifications when out for their weekend walks.

The Welsh countryside is beautiful and wild, and visitors must go walking at least once, whether it’s around the Gower Peninsula or one of the national parks, including gorgeous Pembrokeshire Coast National Park or Snowdonia National Park where one might spot some wild ponies. Less wild but still gorgeous is Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, which has routes ranging from easy (two hours) to “scary” (10 hours). Watch out for other tourists, as the mountain is swarming in fine weather. For those less inclined to adventure, there’s a train to the top and a cafe at the summit.

Those looking for Welsh towns could check out the capital, Cardiff, with its own castle and a wonderful National Museum. Another town worth visiting is Carmarthen, a cobbled town with a 12th Century castle that was supposedly the birthplace of Merlin, which contains various other links to the mythical wizard. Travellers could stop by Laugharne, the stomping ground of Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, or the wonderfully named Mumbles.

Try learning some Welsh to use when thanking the one-fifth of the population who speak the language.  Learn about some of the fascinating Welsh history including the story of the warrior prince, Owain Glyndwr, who rebelled against the English in 1400, capturing much of the country and several castles such as the UNESCO listed Harlech Castle.

Speaking of history, Roman remains litter the country, including on the beautiful island of Anglesey, which also offers fantastic views out to sea.

Cardiff Castle
Tenby Harbour in the historic town Pembrokeshire

Places to Visit in Wales

  • Cardiff
  • Carmarthen
  • Swansea
  • Anglesey
  • Snowdonia National Park
  • The Gower Peninsula
  • Pembrokeshire
  • Laugharne

Unique Things to See and Do in Wales

  • Scale Snowdon (or take the train to the top)
  • Visit the capital of the country, Cardiff, and its National Museum, containing paintings by Monet and van Gogh
  • Check out Merlin’s birthplace, and other (supposedly) Merlin-related artefacts, in Carmarthen
  • Explore one of Wales’ many, many castles – there are about 600 in all!
  • Take a walk in the beautiful wild Welsh countryside – why not take the 870 mile coastal path, stretching the length of the country?

The Arthur Connection

Arthurian legend litters the Welsh landscape and history. Those in the know say it’s likely there was a Romano-British leader in the struggles against the invading Saxons in the late fifth century, with the legends we know today springing from later writers, such as Geoffrey of Monmouth and Alfred Lord Tennyson. Apparently, there are medieval Welsh texts which make mention of him as a war leader, not king.

Whether he was aided by the sorcerer Merlin and sleeps to this day, waiting for the hour of Britain’s greatest need, is another story altogether, but in this tradition, there are sights, objects and symbols scattered around Wales relating to these legends. For instance, the town of Carmarthen was supposedly the birthplace of Merlin, while a nearby hill is the place of his eternal imprisonment.

There are stones said to bear the hoof print of Arthur’s steed and there are two lakes in Snowdonia claiming ownership as the resting place of Excalibur, while a few places, including Bedd Arthur in Pembrokeshire, are said to be the King’s final resting place.

Even the Welsh flag plays tribute to this ancient leader, with its red dragon said to be from a prophecy of Merlin’s regarding the battle of the red wyrm (the Welsh) against the white (the English or the Saxons). Alternatively, the dragon can be derived from Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon (‘chief dragon’), who had a vision of a red dragon, said to be a sign he would rule.

Getting Around Wales

Cardiff Airport has international connections for both direct and connecting routes, but Wales is very well-connected by rail to cities in England, including London (which takes about two hours) and Manchester (roughly the same time). The domestic rail network is also an excellent option in the country.

There are low-cost coach options from London, Manchester and Bristol to various Welsh locations which are reliable and comfortable and offer free WiFi. Although, be warned, it can involve some late night departures.

The roads in and around Wales are well-maintained and driving is a breeze, however, there is a toll for crossing from England to Wales via the M4 and M48 Severn Bridges, which is £6.50 per car. Driving from London to Cardiff takes about three hours.

Best Time of Year to Travel to Wales

Prepare to get wet in Wales; the Met office characterises the climate as having weather that is “often cloudy, wet and windy but mild”. But don’t let this put you off – the weather can add atmosphere to the wild landscape.  Pack warm in winter with plenty of layers and wet weather gear.

Did you know…?

Roald Dahl was born in Wales, Philip Pullman lived in Wales and Beatrix Potter was apparently a frequent visitor. The Tudors (Queen Elizabeth I’s family) had Welsh origins.

UK postage stamp honoured Beatrix Potter; The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Did you ALSO know…?

Wales contains the longest one-word place name in Europe, the town of ‘Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch’, which in English apparently means ‘Saint Mary’s Church in a hollow of white hazel near the swirling whirlpool of the church of Saint Tysilio with a red cave.’

Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch name plate at the station
Average temperatures reportedly range from 10 degrees Celsius from October to March, to 20 degrees Celsius from April to September. Like many European countries, summer sees more tourists, with the peak season running from Easter to September or October.

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