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.