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  Wales Travel Guide

 Best Places to Visit in Wales   

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Wales Travel  
 
If you are planning a trip to  Wales, you might consider purchasing the Great British Heritage Pass to save money on admission fees to many of the UK's best attractions. 

See the advertisement on the right edge of this page for more information.

Read our recommendations on the best places to visit in Wales. We believe that the cities and regions described below are the country’s key tourist destinations, contain Wales's best attractions and urge you to visit them during your travels in Wales.

England, Scotland and Wales are commonly referred to as Britain and formally as Great Britain.  In 1927, six northern counties of Ireland became part of this union and its name was changed to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly Known as the United Kingdom and abbreviated as the UK. 

When you see this map symbol, click it for a detailed highway map.  Also, the map has a  "satellite" button that will allow you to see the area from above.

 

Best Places to Visit in Wales Top of Page

Names in Teal are regions of Wales.

 

 

Wales

  • Wales offers a distinct landscape and culture.  Although passing into Wales is "seamless", it differs from England and the Welsh revel in the difference. "Ambiwlans" is ambulance, "gammon" is ham, and you might hear about witches on the local news (we did)! 

  • Wales lags England in economic development and evidence of the disparity is obvious, especially in towns and villages of former mining areas. 

  • Wales offers the tourist beautiful countryside, outstanding castles, and the stunning Snowdonia National Park.

        Yes, it's called an AMBLIWANS

 

  • Snowdonia National Park     

    • Over 800 square miles in area, Snowdonia National Park in northwest Wales, encompasses wilderness, agricultural areas and villages.  It offers a unique mix of recreation, conservation and community that meld with beautiful scenery and stunning vistas. 

    • See the  website of the Snowdonia National Park Authority for more information.
      • Betws-y-Coed is the main village in the Snowdonia area and is a good source for accommodations and information on the area.

      • While in Snowdonia, you might be interested in taking a ride on the Snowdon Mountain Railway that ascends Snowdon (the highest mountain in England and  Wales). 

      • The Railway is open only from mid-March to the beginning of November. This is a  rack and pinion railway  and the journey is 2.5 hours roundtrip.  The views from the top are gorgeous in good weather. 

      • The railway operates from Llanberis.  Visit their website for more information on the Snowdon Mountain Railway .

       

       

  • Castle Country

    • Wales offers the traveler a variety of castles of exceptional quality. The Castles were built to ensure the Welsh remained loyal subjects of the Crown.  The castles add both mystery and magnificence to the countryside and you should not pass up the opportunity to explore these monuments to the past.

    • Be prepared: most castles will not live up to your expectations regarding size and grandeur. Living in castles was tough duty, though not as difficult as living outside of one. 

    • Gwynedd, located in north Wales, offers several well preserved castles that were erected by King Edward in the 13th century to colonize the Welsh and to defend his recent victory over the Welsh forces. In all, about a dozen castes were constructed  in Wales by Edward or by others at his request.  The greatest of the new castles, however, were constructed by Edward's  architectural genius  James of St. George.

      • Each of the castles occupies a site that possessed significant defensive characteristics that were enhanced during the construction process. The plan for the new castles was to build them with a concentric design that incorporated massive gatehouses, where the sites allowed.

      • Wandering any of the castles recommended below will take an hour or two (depending on the size of the castle and its state of preservation). The castles and their namesake towns are well worth a visit. The finest castle, all UNESCO World Heritage Sites, are:

      Beaumaris Castle 

      • Beaumaris Castle, the last of the string of castles built by Edward, stands guard over the eastern end of Menai strait, a body of water that separates Angelsey from mainland Wales.

      • Many regard Beaumaris as the most beautiful of Edward's castles in Wales.  Its moat has been partially restored and its walls remain in good shape, although the castle was never finished due to a lack of funds and changing strategies. 

      • Beaumaris Castle has a concentric design and was constructed  to allow direct supply by ship.

       

       

       

      Caernarfon Castle 

      • Caernarfon Castle is regarded as the most impressive of the castles built by Edward.  In addition to its defensive purpose, many scholars have commented that it was also built to convince the local populace of  the king's determination to establish English dominance over Wales.  Caernarfon is the largest and most highly ornamented of the Welsh castles.  It was built with an unusual number of  towers and its curtain wall includes rows of different colored stones. 

      • In 1969, Caernarfon served as the location for the investiture of Charles, Prince of Wales.

       

      Harlech Castle 

      • Harlech Castle (close to the town of Harlech)  is sited in an attractive location on the shore of Cardigan Bay. A harbor was dug to supply the castle by sea, enhancing its strong defensive characteristics. 

      • Harlech Castle was endowed with a powerful gatehouse that included a number of unobtrusive defensive additions.  You will enter the castle through the gatehouse, so take a close look at the danger that waited for the enemy  who tried to enter this castle.

       

      Portmerion

      • Heading north from Harlech towards Snowdonia, you will near Portmerion, an idyllic, small village built to show the compatibility of development and natural beauty. Visit to see the village, its garden and for some fun shopping.  If the name sounds familiar, it may be because Potmerion Pottery (in Stoke-on-Trent, England) was founded by a daughter of the man who funded Portmerion's development.

        • Of course, the latest Portmerion Pottery is available in the Ship Shop in the village. 

        • Good values can be found at the Portmerion Pottery Seconds Warehouse, that sells factory seconds at great prices.

        • See the Portmerion official tourism website for more information.

       

      Conwy Castle 

      • Castle Conwy was sited to overlook the River Conwy and control its traffic for both supply and defensive purposes.  The construction effort at Conwy also included a town that is considered one of the premier examples of a fortified medieval town.

      • You will find the Conwy River Valley quite beautiful.  If you are interested in gardens, the Bodnant Garden, part of the National Trust, is a world famous garden noted for its botanical collection. 

        • The Gardens are located approximately 6 miles south of Conwy off the A470 (on the east side of the Conwy River Valley). 

        • See the National Trust web site for more information on Bodnant Garden.

       

  • Castle Ruthin (Ruthun)  
    • Located in Ruthin, the Castle (now a hotel) offers elaborately staged, fun-filled "Mediaeval Banquets", serving mead, good food, songs, and jests provided by fully costumed lords and ladies.  The event is worth the price, the entertainment professional grade, but the only silverware provided is a dagger - so make sure you trust your fellow lords and ladies! 

      • For more information on the "Mediaeval Banquet" see the website  of the hotel.

    • The castle  was built for Edward I by a lord who constructed it on his own land.  Although attractive, Ruthin is not in same league as the four castles referenced above.

     

  • Cardiff  Click for a chart of Cardiff's annual precipitation and temperature ranges 
    • Cardiff is the capital of Wales and busy, working city.  The Castell Caerdydd (Cardiff Castle) is the major attraction; The site has been occupied by a fortress of one sort or another for 1900 years and endured endless tinkering by the Romans, Normans, and the Welsh. The modern "castle" ( there is also a  Norman keep) was built in  the 19th century and has a beautiful interior.

    • Visit the town's official tourism website for more details on what to see and do in Cardiff.

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Additional Resources

The official tourism website for Wales in Visit Wales.  The website provides additional details on our recommended best places to visit, as well as details on attractions that did not make our list.

If you are going to be traveling in Wales, you might want to consider adding some of the destinations below.  You can research them through these links

Best Places to Visit in Scotland
Best Places to Visit in England

Best Places to Visit in London
Best Places to Visit in Northern Ireland

For country facts on the United Kingdom (which includes Wales), as well as travel information related to visas, driving rules, safety, medical conditions, visas and other travel-related information, see this page on United Kingdom Travel from the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. State Department.  Regardless of your home country, we think you will find the information provided to be useful when planning a trip to the England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or Gibraltar.

If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index or Googling ThereArePlaces.

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       Map of the Best Places to Visit  in the United Kingdom (UK)

 

               Map of the Best Places to Visit in the United Kingdom

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If you are  interested in castles, see our Guide to the Best Castles in England, Scotland and Wales.

 

 

 

 

 

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Castle Harlech, Wales

 

 

 

 

 

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The magnificant Caernarfon Castle in Wales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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