An oft-forgotten jewel of the United Kingdom, the striking beauty and welcoming nature of Wales has to compete with the likes of Scotland, England, and Ireland for the time and energies of Northern travelers. No easy task, it doesn’t take long within Welsh borders to discover a unique landscape that simply must be explored.
It is a paradise for every traveler in search of activity, thanks to an extensive network of hiking paths, relaxation due to its stunning beaches, natural history as well as cultural heritage, and of course, friendly locals always keen to talk the day away. Here are 10 must-visit attractions and locations in Wales that will provide a limitless feast for the senses.
10 St Tyfi's Church, Llandyfeisant
Known locally as St Tyfi’s Church and resting on the western edge of Brecon Beacons National Park, this incredible building has a history that reaches back through the centuries like the Welsh greenery reaches across its walls and almost hides it from view.
An exploration of the grounds belonging to the magnificent 12th century Dinefwr Castle will eventually lead to the unexpected discovery of Ty Tyfi’s amongst the overgrown shrubberies and personality-bearing trees. The National Park that surrounds the castle make this an all-day destination so be sure to bring snacks as the last feast to take place here ended many hundreds of years ago.
9 Worm’s Head, Gower Peninsula
Making up the most south-westerly point of the famed Gower Peninsula, Worm’s Head was the first location to ever be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, thus granting it protected status and worldwide esteem.
Standing here, visitors can take in the vast Bristol Channel and bask in views across the typically-Welsh named Caerfyrddin towards Tenby and Saundersfoot. The famous writer Dylan Thomas was once stranded here during high tide, so unless you seek the inspiration that so energized him, be sure to check weather reports before moving out to the very tip.
Colloquially knows as ‘Aber,’ Aberystwyth rests perfectly in the middle of the dramatic and exciting Ceredigion coastline. A perfect spot for a short break while journeying around wonderful Wales, it features a stunning Victorian promenade home to the oldest pier in the country and several glorious vantage points easy to reach by foot or vehicle.
Take the longest cliffside railway in Britain if you are feeling adventurous and don’t miss the abundance of delicious food in the town center. A couple of spots well worth the price of admission are Pysgoty Fish House and Ultracomida, a Spanish flavored Welsh deli and tapas bar that oozes flavor and local charm from every weather-worn wall.
Taking to the skies for 3,560 feet, Snowdon is the highest point in Wales and on a clear day becomes the best place in the country to experience. Serviced by the United Kingdom’s only remaining rack-and-pinion railway and a gift shop pushing 200 years of age, this is an authentically Welsh day out not to be missed.
Several hiking routes grant access to the summit for those that packed their most resilient shoes and offer a wide range of difficulty to choose from. Rock climbers can also take to Snowdon and clamber across the same rough and rocky cliffs that Sir Edmund Hillary used to train for their eventual ascent of Mount Everest.
6 Wogan Cavern
The entire United Kingdom is covered in castles that tell tales from an age long gone, but Pembroke Castle is the Welsh region of Pembroke has something that gives it an edge over other historical strongholds in the area. Beneath the sprawling grounds is Wogan Cavern, an enormous natural cave.
Accessed via a gigantic spiral staircase within the castle, the eerie limestone space was created naturally through water erosion over centuries. Fortified with recesses designed for archers, it is believed to have been used for loading and unloading ships when the castle was at its peak. Today it is a compelling medieval stop on any Welsh itinerary.
5 Sol Cinema
The world’s smallest solar-powered movie theatre, Sol Cinema has won several accolades including best communication project in the Network Wales Awards. A traveling cinema, the 1960’s trailer journeys across Wales while screening films harboring ecological themes to groups of no more than eight at a time.
Designed and managed by Undercurrents, a British art collective, the cinema is powered entirely by the sun, not an easy task in the often moodily grey Wales. Able to store power, the trailer runs all day and night and may just be handily placed along your route as you venture across the delightful countryside.
It is a very competitive field, but Criccieth may just be the most gorgeous of the Welsh coastal towns. Home to the tragically beautiful ruins of Criccieth Castle dating back to the 13th century and granting views of the Snowdonia Mountains, this admirable town is the cure to any ailment a weary traveler may have.
While exploring the deteriorating castle, cast a glance across the Llyn Peninsula towards the Irish Sea and feel the calming Welsh winds curl across your smiling face. The town center is also well worth an investigation, even if all you do is wander into the incomparable Castle Inn and never leave.
3 Great Orme Tramway
The only surviving street tramway operated by cables, this slightly odd funicular is made up of two separate sections, requiring passengers to change over at the halfway point.
Originally crafted in 1902 to transport passengers to the summit of the Great Orme limestone headland, there was once seven cars, each named after a local Welsh saint. The varied history of the funicular also includes a brief period of service as the method for moving coffins to their burial serves at St. Tudno’s Churchyard, partway along the route. Thankfully, passengers these days won’t need to share with the dearly departed, instead accompanying the well and truly living to Great Orme for panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
2 Gladstone's Library
It is not uncommon to feel the slow-refusal of eyelids to remain open after a long day spent in the library, and at Gladstone’s this is heartily encouraged. The only residential library in the United Kingdom, visitors can simply retire to one of the 26 boutique rooms on-site to continue their reading or study before giving in to exhaustion and catching forty winks.
The library and guesthouse is the brainchild of former Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone and quite remarkably, many of the titles resting on its shelves have handwritten scrawls from the man himself within the margins.
1 Laburnum Arch
Spring in Wales is simply beautiful no matter where you are, but those on the lookout for some truly remarkable need look no further than Laburnum Arch. Once a year and for just a fleeting few weeks, glittering golden flowers spring to life from the branches of the wondrous laburnum trees and drape across a path to create one of the most stunning archways in the world.
Running a full 180-feet in length, it is said to be the longest of its kind in the United Kingdom. Earning the nickname ‘Golden Rain’ as a result of the effect the vibrant color created against an often weather-darkened landscape, this fleeting fantasy transports travelers into the pages of an adventure worthy of the Gladstone Library.