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…

Take a Welsh Road Trip

The road trip may be an American tradition – but who says you can’t have an awesome driving holiday in Wales?

Not only is our beautiful nation filled with stunning natural landscapes, it’s also home to countless historic sites, tourist attractions, and friendly villages boasting excellent accommodation.

To give our readers some road trip inspiration, we’ve taken a look at three fantastic routes of The Wales Way.

The North Wales Way: Castles & Coastal Villages

The first of these routes is also the shortest, at 75 miles, making it ideal for a weekend break. The official route follows the North Wales Expressway and starts just outside Chester.

The first major attraction is the 13th-century Flint Castle, which sits on the River Dee. Come off the expressway at Conwy Road Bridge and you can pay a visit to another historic site: the spectacular Conwy Castle in the picturesque market town of Conwy. This formidable fortress was built for Edward I; two more of his castles, Caernarfon and Beaumaris, can be found just off this route on the Menai Strait.

This route also boasts highlights such as the Conwy Brewery, the Welsh Mountain Zoo, and the 19th-century South Stack Lighthouse. The village of Rhoscolyn on Anglesey, meanwhile, is the perfect place to stop for a spot of lunch and a stroll along the beach.

The Coastal Way: Beaches & Wildlife

If you’re seeking a longer road trip, try out the 180-mile Coastal Way, which runs from St David’s all the way to the Llyn Peninsula.

Early highlights include St David’s Cathedral, the Abeireddi Blue Lagoon, and the charming Melin Tregwynt Woollen Mill. As you head north you’ll have the opportunity to sample some local fare at the Bluestone Brewing Company, NOMNOM Chocolate, and Caws Cenarth Cheese.

The key attraction of the Coastal Way is the opportunity to visit gorgeous beaches and spot local marine life. At Cardigan Bay, you can hop on a boat and see dolphins and seals. Other fantastic coastal sites include the Borth Submerged Forest, Barmouth Beach, and the quirky village of Portmeirion.

For the ultimate coastal experience, extend your stay on the Llyn Peninsula, and spend some time exploring the gorgeous beaches. You can even take a boat over to Bardsey Island to do birdwatching and seal spotting.

The Cambrian Way: Mountains & Cities

The longest route in the Wales Way family is the Cambrian Way, which runs for 185 miles down the spine of Wales.

Starting in Llandudno, you’ll take the A470 into the heart of Snowdonia. Here you can visit the Swallow Falls, Surf Snowdonia, and Castell Dolwyddelan – not to mention hike, cycle or horse ride through the spectacular mountains.

Coming out of Snowdonia you’ll rejoin the A470, and drive through beautiful mountainous countryside as you come into the Brecon Beacons. Highlights here are numerous and include Pen y Fan, the highest peak in south Wales, Cyfarthfa Castle, and the Brecon Mountain Railway.

From here you’ll head into our vibrant capital city, Cardiff, where you can catch a game of rugby at the Principality Stadium, visit the historic castle and explore the museums, shops and world-class restaurants. With Newport and Swansea only a short drive away, you can easily continue your city tour of southern Wales.

The only question is… which route will you choose?

Photography supplied by Visit Wales Image Centre © Crown Copyright (2018)

The Best Walks in Wales – and Where to Stay Nearby

With its rolling green hills, gorgeous coastal paths, and impressive mountain ranges, Wales is a true haven for people who love to walk. If you’re planning a walking trip here, read on for a list of our nation’s finest walking routes – and the hotels where you can stay nearby.

Llangollen Canal – Pen-y-Dyffryn Country Hotel

For a gentle, scenic six-mile walk along one of Wales’ most famous waterways, book a stay at Pen-y-Dyffryn Hotel. From here, it’s just a 30-minute drive to the Horseshoe Falls, where you can embark on a walk along the Llangollen Canal.

This route will take you to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a feat of 18th century engineering rising 130 feet. Though dizzyingly high, the aqueduct is safely fenced, meaning you can bring your dog along to enjoy the view. At the end of your walk, return to the comfort of Pen-y-Dyffryn and enjoy a hearty evening meal in the award-winning restaurant.

The Gliffaes Tree Walk – Gliffaes Country House

Our second walk comes courtesy of Gliffaes Country House, in the heart of the Brecon Beacons. Book a stay here and you can explore 33 acres of grounds and woodlands.

To make the most of your beautiful surroundings, set aside an hour for the Gliffaes Tree Walk. This route will introduce you to the ancient oaks, beeches, redwoods and maples on the hotel grounds. It’s the perfect way to work up your appetite for afternoon tea, which is served daily between 4 and 5.30pm.

The Stackpole Wildlife Walk – Elm Grove Country House

The pretty village of St Florence in Pembrokeshire is home to the Elm Grove Country House, a 4-star hotel boasting 20 acres of lawns. Though there are plenty of excellent walking routes in the region, a favourite of the hotel’s owners is the Stackpole Wildlife Walk.

This walk begins at Stackpole Quay and heads south along Barafundle Bay, following the coast until Broadhaven Beach. From here it heads northwest to the Lily Pools in Bosherton, and up to the Eight Arch Bridge; crossing over will put you on a track heading east in the direction of Stackpole Quay.

Porth Clais to St Justinians – Twr y Felin Hotel

The Pembrokeshire Coast offers so much for walkers, which is why this is a favourite walk of Emma’s at Twr-y Felin.

Start at Porth Clais Harbour and head west to St Justinians. The walk features views of Ramsey Island and St Brides Bay and takes in one of the more rugged sections of the coastline, making you feel close to the sea and rock (but the route is not strenuous), which is great for bird and seal watching!

Brechfa Forest – Ty Mawr Country Hotel

If you prefer exploring dense woodland to open coastal paths, then Ty Mawr is the hotel for you. This award-winning establishment has plenty to recommend it, but the key draw for walkers is that it sits on the edges of Brechfa Forest. When you check in, the staff will be able to recommend a number of different routes, varying in length and difficulty.

Ceiriog Valley – The Mulberry Inn

The Mulberry Inn is another hotel where you don’t have to venture far to discover an excellent walking route. Situated in Llwynmawr, not far from Chirk Castle, this establishment boasts comfortable modern rooms, an 18th century bar, and pretty gardens. The inn is also surrounded by beautiful walking routes, and offers special discounts to walkers.

Laugharne & the “Dylan Thomas” Trail – The Browns

Our final destination is Laugharne, home of Dylan Thomas. For the ultimate Laugharne experience stay at The Brown’s (Thomas’s favourite pub) and take a stroll through the town and surrounding countryside.

One excellent route takes you from the centre of town to the Dylan Thomas Boathouse and then north to the Delacorse Farm, before looping back south via St Martin’s Church, where Thomas is buried.

 

© Crown copyright 2018 (Visit Wales)