Iconic Views: Wales’ Most Instagrammable Places

Who needs the Amalfi Coast or the mountains of Austria when you’ve got unbelievable views right on your doorstep? Wales may be a small country, but it packs a serious punch when it comes to astonishing scenery. If you’re a keen photographer looking for the ultimate Instagram-worthy location, pay a visit to these spectacular Welsh destinations.

Fairy Glen, Betws-y-Coed

Travel to the scenic village of Betws-y-Coed in Snowdonia National Park and you can visit this atmospheric gorge on the River Conwy – for the reasonable entry free of just 50p.

The Fairy Glen – or Ffos Noddun as it is known to the locals – is thickly wooded on either side and bursting with beautiful wildflowers. Due to the structure and depth of the gorge, the river rushes through in a series of impressive, and extremely photogenic, cascades. Make sure you wander as far as Rhaeadr Y Graig Lwyd to snap photos of the beautiful falls.

St Govan’s Chapel, Buckspool

This astonishing place is located at the southernmost point of Pembrokeshire, a 15-minute drive from Pembroke. The 13th century chapel is a tiny hermit’s cell, built into the limestone cliff-face. Legend tells that St Govan was approaching Wales when he was attacked by Irish pirates – he escaped to the cliffs, where a cave magically appeared, allowing him to hide safely. To show his gratitude he built the chapel and lived there the rest of his life.

To visit you have to descend a flight of precarious worn stone steps – but it’s worth it for a glimpse of this special place and the surrounding views.

Castell Coch, Cardiff

Just a 20-minute drive from the centre of Cardiff you’ll find this 19th century Gothic revival castle, built on the site of an original 13th century structure. With its narrow windows, rounded turrets, and lush green surroundings, it looks like something out of a fairy tale.

Snap photos inside and out and take a scenic stroll through the nearby woodland.

Mwnt Beach, Cardigan

Wales is home to a number of beautiful sandy beaches, but there’s something particularly special about Mwnt. Situated on the west coast, a 15-minute drive from Aberteifi, this secluded little beach lies within a square-shaped cove and is notable for its immaculate golden sand and calm green waters.

Wander along the southern edge of the cove and you can get some fantastic photos of the pretty beach and the green headland beyond.

Llyn y Fan Fach, Brecon Beacons

Not only is this beautiful lake the perfect spot to take some magical photos, it’s also steeped in Welsh legend, supposedly the home of the Lady of the Lake.

The lake is surrounded by steep mountain ridges on its southern and western sides, which make for some incredible views. To get the best photos you’ll want to hike up the ridge and take your photographs from up high.

Castell y Gwynt, Snowdonia

There’s something very special about this summit in the heart of Snowdonia. If you’re into your mountaineering and you can make it to the top, which stands at 972 metres, you’ll be astonished by the views. The limestone rock has formed into craggy, pointed shards, which resemble piles of broken wood. As for the views from the top? Simply out of this world.

 

Images: © Crown copyright (2018) Visit Wales

Autumn Adventures in Wales

You don’t need to go Stateside to enjoy the autumn leaves, and what better way to enjoy the cooler days than to explore the colourful woodlands of Wales? With a wealth of opportunities such as hiking, mountain biking and watching the sky at night, treat yourself to a Welsh autumn break, or maybe surprise your loved ones with a holiday gift voucher!

Mountain Biking in Southern Snowdonia

Coed y Brenin is a world-class, purpose-built venue for mountain bikers, with eight specially designed trails as well as running, walking and orienteering routes. Set in the south of Snowdonia National Park, this picturesque spot makes an ideal location to visit on a weekend break or family half-term holiday. It has an excellent visitor centre, some comfortable walks where you can admire the falling leaves, and an all-access mobility trail. You can even admire the stunning landscape from the comfort of the cafe, and sample some of their home-made treats.

Hiking the Brecon Beacons

Autumn is perhaps the most dramatic season in the Brecon Beacons, with the falling leaves exposing the mountain flanks as they prepare for winter. If you’re up for a hike and some bird-watching, stop off at Craig Cerrig Gleisiaid & Fan Frynych. This extensive nature reserve covers 1200 acres of mid Wales, where you can also admire the autumn hues as you climb some of the routes up to the summit of Pen Y Fan.

Wales for Wildlife

Wales is a nature-lover’s paradise, featuring 11 RSPB sanctuaries and 216 Wildlife Trust reserves. Autumn wildlife to watch includes seasonal seals and porpoises in the islands off the Pembrokeshire coast, crested grebes near Bangor in North Wales, and wildfowl in the wetlands of the South. A highlight of the RSPB Newport Wetlands in October is the twilight flocking of 50,000 or more starlings, as they perform syncopated flight dances before dropping down to roost.

The Sky at Night

Wales has many designated Dark Sky Areas around its coasts and mountains, where you can get away from city lights and observe the heavens. At historic Penmon in north east Anglesey, for example, you can not only spot seals, dolphins and puffins off its shores, but find the astral animals of the zodiac. On the west coast, Penbryn Beach is a mile of golden sand that’s one of the best-kept secrets in Wales. Wonderful in the daytime, this is also a beautifully secluded spot from which to wonder at the beauty of the night sky.

Incredible Castles

What better adventure for inquisitive kids than a visit to a real life castle? Pembroke Castle is one of the most iconic of the Welsh castles, with a long history and stunning architecture, plus ongoing excavations and some great exhibits. With a fascinating reputation as the birthplace of Henry VII, the first of the great Tudor monarchs, Pembroke castle is also built over a natural cavern where you can find pipistrelle bats… and maybe a dragon! And if you’re arriving soon, castles all over Wales will open for free on 29/30 September.

Take a Welsh Adventure Before School Starts

The summer holidays tend to zoom past before we can even catch our breath, so why not make the most of those precious weeks and plan a few fun getaways with the family?

Visit Wales with your children and you can take them on some fantastic adventures around the country. Learn about local folktales and myths, and fuel their imaginations with atmospheric landmarks.

Arthur’s Stone, Gower

Take a day trip out of the city to visit Arthur’s Stone, Maen Ceti. Though officially the stone is said to belong to a Neolithic tomb, the myth tells that it’s a pebble from King Arthur’s boot. According to the legend, Arthur fished the pebble from his boot and threw it away, hard enough for it to travel from Carmarthenshire all the way to the hills of Gower – and in the process grow vastly in size.

Not only is this site the ideal adventure spot for kids interested in Arthurian legends, it’s also a beautiful place for an afternoon stroll. Another legend associated with the stone tells of its thirst – while there, tell your little ones to watch out for the stone getting up and going to the nearby stream for a drink!

Branwen’s Grave, Anglesey

Branwen is a major figure in Welsh mythology, the daughter of Llyr and the wife of the King of Ireland – a marriage that, in typical fashion, ended in disaster, tragedy and death. Local legend says that Branwen, who is also associated with Harlech Castle, was buried on Anglesey.

Today you can visit her supposed burial site, Bedd Branwen, a ring cairn with a small standing stone in the middle.

The Lowland Hundred, Borth

To visit Wales’ own Atlantis, head to Borth in Ceredigion, where you can view the remains of a sunken forest. Normally hidden under sand, it is only exposed in certain weather conditions. These ancient tree stumps – which died thousands of years ago – are believed to be proof of a lost country once inhabited by ancient peoples: Cantre’r Gwaelod, or the Lowland Hundred.

Various myths surround Cantre’r Gwaelod, many of which attribute the cataclysmic flood to human negligence. For the best chance of seeing this ancient forest, head to the southern end of Borth Beach at low tide.

The Lady of the Lake, Llyn y Fan Fach

Llyn y Fan Fach is a remote lake in the Brecon Beacons framed by a scenic mountain ridge. For slightly older children who are up to the challenge of a two-hour walk, this is the ideal day-trip destination.

The myth attached to this wild place tells the story of the Lady of the Lake, who rose three times from the water and was seen by a young man, enchanted by her beauty. The lady agreed to marry the young man, provided he did not touch her three times with metal. Needless to say, he did not manage to keep his promise, and his wife ultimately returned to her watery home.

Enjoy a picnic on the ridge overlooking the lake, telling your children to keep their eyes peeled for a mysterious woman emerging from the water…

Traditional Seaside Towns

Make the most of the beautiful weather this summer, and plan a trip to Wales for a long weekend by the seaside. Other UK hotspots such as Brighton and Blackpool may deliver on the amusement arcades, pubs and nightclubs, but Wales is hard to beat when it comes to traditional seaside towns and villages.

If you’re seeking a quiet getaway beside the sea where you can wander cobbled backstreets, visit quaint tearooms, and enjoy strolls along untouched stretches of beach, read on for some inspiration.

Beaumaris, Anglesey

Anglesey, a large island sitting just off the coast of North Wales, is the ideal destination for a summer getaway famed for its lovely beaches, excellent seafood and historic sites. In the town of Beaumaris, on Anglesey’s eastern coast, you can enjoy an iconic seaside experience.

Explore the famous 13th century Beaumaris Castle, wander down the quaint pier (first constructed in the 19th century), and admire the Georgian and Edwardian architecture on display, before heading to the beach with an ice cream.

Nearest Welsh Rarebit Hotel: The Bull

Aberystwyth, Ceredigion

Though this charming town is famous for its university, it transforms in the summer months when the students return home and holidaymakers arrive in search of sea, sun and sand. A historic market town with a sandy stretch of beach, it’s the ideal place to take a restorative seaside holiday.

The ultimate Aberystwyth day out involves a tour of the seafront 13th century castle ruins, a wander along the Promenade, which is lined with colourful Georgian houses, and a few hours spent lounging on the beach. Aberystwyth is also the starting point for the Edwardian Vale of Rheidol Railway.

Nearest Welsh Rarebit Hotel: Gwesty Cymru 

Tenby, Pembrokeshire

One of the most picturesque seaside towns in South Wales is Tenby, which is famous for its sandy beaches, medieval walls and offshore islands. Built on a hilltop and dotted with traditional pastel-coloured cottages and Georgian mansions, Tenby is an incredibly scenic town. Spend time here and you can laze down by the water, swimming, sunbathing and soaking up the views, or get lost in the cobbled backstreets, uncovering the town’s rich medieval history.

Nearest Welsh Rarebit Hotel: St Brides Spa Hotel and Grove of Narberth

Llandudno, Conwy

This seaside town in North Wales is perhaps the most historic resort on the list. Home to a 19th century pier, an Edwardian tramway and Bronze Age mines, it’s a place steeped in centuries of history. Llandudno was a favoured resort for the Victorians, and this can be seen reflected in its beautiful waterfront promenade, grand hotels, and attractions such as the Happy Valley; public gardens built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887.

Stroll along the immaculate beach, entertain yourself with the traditional amusements at the pier, and immerse yourself in ancient history at the megalithic hillfort and ancient mines.

Nearest Welsh Rarebit Hotel: St George’s Hotel, Sychnant Pass Country House and Bodysgallen Hall & Spa

Mumbles, Swansea

This historic resort area just outside Swansea first became a holiday destination in the early 19th century after the opening of a coal railway in the region. Home to a Victorian pier, an 18th century lighthouse and a hilltop castle, Mumbles is another seaside town steeped in history.

Mumbles is also an excellent place for foodies, known for its fresh seafood, superb ice cream parlours, and world-class restaurants. Who said a seaside holiday was all about fish and chips on the beach?

Nearest Welsh Rarebit Hotel: The Corran Resort & Spa and The Cawdor

Images supplied by © Crown copyright (2018) Visit Wales

Glorious Gardens

Summer has officially arrived, which means it’s time to slap on some sun cream, pull out that picnic blanket, and plan a delightful getaway in the UK. In Wales, you can make the most of the sunshine by heading to one of these gorgeous hotels, all of which are known for their fantastic gardens.

Tre-Ysgawen Hall & Spa, Anglesey

Tre-Ysgawen is a country house hotel and spa dating back to 1882 which is known for its fine dining. The gardens surrounding the hotel are a key attraction, and feature a laburnum arch, an old well, a snowdrop wood, and – most notably – a number of sculptures, including the 19th century “Lady”.

Bodysgallen Hall & Spa, Llandudno

This historic hotel is situated within 200 stunning acres of wooded parkland and gardens. Book a stay here and you can wander through the lovingly maintained grounds admiring the walled gardens, lily ponds, rockery, rose bushes, and follies. The crowning glory is the 17th century formal garden filled with precise box hedges.

Holm House, Penarth

Head to picturesque Penarth, a coastal town just south of Cardiff, and you can stay at Holm House. Penarth is known as “The Garden of the Sea”, so it’s fitting that Holm House boasts immaculately manicured gardens, where you can enjoy gorgeous sea views. Experience the luxury of a Holm House break by making use of this fantastic Midweek Sunset Escape offer, which includes a 25-minute spa treatment.

Bear Hotel, Crickhowell

Just named one of the Best Summer Pubs in Britain by The Times, The Bear Hotel in Crickhowell is the perfect place for a summer escape. Plan a stay in this former stagecoach inn, or simply stop by for lunch, and you can dine in the beautiful summer garden, which boasts some spectacular floral displays.

Lake Country House & Spa, Llangammarch Wells

You might book into the Lake Country House to enjoy the luxury spa treatments, but you’ll want to stay for the beautiful grounds. Stroll past the lakes and along the banks of the River Irfon, fish and play tennis, and spot resident woodpeckers in the trees.

Llansantffraed Court, Abergavenny

Llansantffraed Court is a hotel and restaurant housed in a spectacular redbrick building. Best known for its award-winning food, the hotel is also notable for its beautiful gardens. The 20 acres of grounds feature a walled kitchen garden, manicured lawns, ancient trees, a lake and fountain, and even a 16th century church.

Grove of Narberth, Narberth

The Grove of Narberth is a luxury hotel situated in the rolling Pembrokeshire hills, just a 12 minute drive from the coast. In the beautiful grounds you’ll discover centuries-old oaks and beeches, formal box hedges, a restored 17th century walled garden, and a kitchen garden. Visit during the summer, and you can expect to see rhododendrons and colourful flower borders in bloom.

Portmeirion, near Porthmadog

We couldn’t talk about glorious gardens without mentioning Portmeirion, the coastal town famously designed and constructed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the style of an Italian village. Visit this curious place and take a tour of the quirky, beautifully kept gardens. Notable features include the pagoda and lily pond of the Japanese Garden, the rhododendrons, and the monkey puzzle trees.