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Exploring Wales

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Wales, a land of princes and druids, medieval castles and seaside resorts, mountains, valleys and lakes. From Llandudno, the inspiration behind Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, in the north to St Davids, the UK’s smallest city, in the west and the modern capital Cardiff in the south, Wales’ countryside bristles with culture, history and spectacular scenery.

The Snowdonia National Park dominates North Wales. Since 1896, visitors have been able to take the Snowdon Mountain Railway to the summit and can now spend time at a new visitor centre, Hafod Eryri, at the top of the highest mountain in England and Wales where, on a clear day, there are unrivalled views across the entire mountain range to the Irish Sea and the coast of England. You can also walk up well-established trails to the summit of Mount Snowdon, though it is advisable to wear suitable clothing as the weather can change in the blink of an eye at any time of year.

Snowdonia is about more than just mountains, however. Conway Castle is one of the best examples of a medieval fortress in Britain and a World Heritage site. Llandudno’s pier, flanked by the headlands Little Orme and Great Orme, is a listed Victorian monument while the beaches at Colwyn Bay, Llanfairfechan and Rhos-on-Sea are perfect for making sandcastles or taking a paddle. At the harbour town of Porthmadog, you can hitch a ride on one of three narrow gauge railways, the best known of which is the Ffestiniog. Steam engines haul scheduled trains along forest tracks to the Llechwedd Slate Mines at Blaenau Ffestiniog, where visitors can take a trip underground and experience what life was like for Welsh miners in the 19th century.

Across Thomas Telford’s ground-breaking suspension bridge which spans the Menai Straits lies the island of Anglesey. Another World Heritage site, Beaumaris Castle was one of the last to be built in Wales by Edward I and the accompanying Courthouse and Gaol are said to be haunted by the ghosts of Anglesey’s most infamous criminals.

Opposite Anglesey is Caernarfon Castle, scene of Prince Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales and arguably the most well known and easily recognised of all of Wales’ medieval castles, while further around the coast lies the village of Portmeirion. Built over more than 50 years in a neo-classical style completely out of keeping with surrounding towns and villages, Portmeirion was the setting for iconic Sixties TV series ‘The Prisoner’ and attracts thousands of visitors to the area every year.

Exploring Wales

Moving into West Wales, you arrive at St Davids. Granted the title of city St Davids is, in reality, little more than a village attached to a cathedral that has been the focal point for pilgrims since the 12th century. The coastline here is visually stunning but very rugged in places, though nature lovers will enjoy its abundant wildlife which is protected by the Pembrokeshire National Park.

Ancient castles at Pembroke, Carmarthen and Kidwelly are nearby, as is the resort of Tenby. Serviced by a harbour from which visits can be made to nearby Caldey Island, still a working monastery, Tenby’s beaches have a reputation as being among the best in Wales.

Heading inland, the Brecon Beacons National Park is Wales’ first European Geopark and a paradise for walkers, cavers and climbers. The area remains remarkably peaceful, despite being the principal training ground for the British Army’s SAS. However, if you prefer your entertainment a little less rustic, it’s not far to the Welsh capital Cardiff.

The Romans settled here 2000 years ago but Cardiff Castle only dates back to Norman times. It has a wonderful Gothic feel, however, and is worth the admission price if making a visit to the city. The Museum of Welsh Life, St David’s Hall, the Millennium Stadium (home of Welsh rugby) and the eerie Llandaff Ghost Walk are other attractions but one of Cardiff’s best attributes is the cosmopolitan atmosphere that’s been created by the renovation of many of the city’s less appealing areas, in particular Cardiff Bay. With easy access by road, rail and air, Cardiff shouldn’t be missed nowadays. 


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