A short-hop across the Irish Sea, Wales offers a wide range of holiday opportunities, whether white water rafting in an adrenalin packed adventure trip, family fun throughout the mystical valleys of castles and dragons or enjoying a city break in the capital Cardiff. Here are ten great reasons to visit our nearest neighbour:
Wales Coastal Path Wales is the only country in the world to have a formal trail the whole way around its coast. The Coast Path (which is 870 miles long) winds its way through towns and villages, across cliff tops and sandy beaches, sometimes darting inland before emerging once again at a sheltered cove or tiny hamlet that you would definitely miss when travelling by car, bus or train. It will take you from the mouth of the River Dee, along the north Wales coast with its seaside towns, over the Menai Strait onto the Isle of Anglesey, from the Llyn Peninsula down the majestic sweep of Cardigan Bay, through Britain’s only coastal National Park in Pembrokeshire, along miles of golden sand, via Gower with its stunning scenery, along the waterfront of Cardiff Bay and Cardiff to the market town of Chepstow.
Cardiff The capital city of Wales makes for a great City Break destination such is its proximity to Ireland combined with Cardiff’s compact city centre and abundance of attractions and activities on offer. The Millennium Stadium is one of the best sports arenas in Europe and to experience a full house when the Wales rugby team are in action is as good as it gets from a sporting perspective. The city’s historic past can be explored at Cardiff Castle, while music and cultural events run throughout the summer months. Cardiff’s cuisine is enjoying a growing reputation with many excellent restaurants around the city centre, while the nightlife is legendary with around 150 pubs, bars and nightclubs to choose from.
Welsh Castles Wales is a land steeped in history and legend and what better way to explore both than to take a tour of some of the many castles dotted throughout its hills and valleys. The 3rd Marquess of Bute, once the richest man in the world, indulged himself by building Castell Coch, a late 19th century project built on the remains of a 13th century castle and is one of Wales’ most romantic places. The castle is located just outside Cardiff and easily accessible from the city. Powis Castle is over 800 years old and is a mecca for garden lovers, with mature gardens and formal Italianate terraces with original lead statues, lush herbaceous borders and exotic plants cascading from the walls. And strange things happen at the spooky Bodelwyddan Castle. Recent sightings include an apparition in one gallery, a ghostly soldier in another and shadowy figures drifting down the corridors. Caerphilly Castle, Castell Dinas Bran (or Crow Castle) and Beaumaris Castle are others worth a visit.
White Water Rafting Enjoy the thrill and adrenaline rush of white water rafting at several venues throughout Wales. The river rafting at Tryweryn is top class and allows you to go down the steep and rocky mountain river. There are two venues in Cardiff to experience the thrill of white water rafting and at Black Mountain Activities on the upper River Wye, you can tackle white water, rapids and the infamous ‘hell hole’. Canoeing and kayaking centres are also dotted throughout Wales making it an ideal adventure holiday destination, while most venues are also family friendly.
Coasteering Wales has mile upon mile of stunning natural coastline, hidden coves, towering sea cliffs, sea caves and secret beaches, making it the perfect coasteering destination. Coasteering is an increasingly popular adventure activity that involves working your way round a coastline at sea level in whatever way is possible. This may involve swimming, diving, jumping, climbing, scrambling, traversing and rock hopping all designed to be challenging but enjoyable. The Pembrokeshire Coast, Isle of Anglesey, Gower Peninsular and Llyn Peninsular provide some of the best spots to go coasteering in Wales.
Snowdonia National Park Located in north Wales, there are 100 lakes, 90 mountain peaks and 37 miles of pristine coastline and beaches in Snowdonia National Park. So why not climb Snowdon, the tallest mountain in Wales, or follow the Dôl Goch trail through the beautiful woodland and onto the waterfalls. The climb up Glyder Fach takes you to the famous large flat Cantilever Stone, which appears to be precariously balanced and makes for unique photo opportunities. Also the Mawddach Trail, which is considered to be one of the best walking trails throughout Britain, is a spectacular traffic-free trail following the beautiful Mawddach Estuary in the southern end of the national park.
Pembrokeshire Coast The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park covers approximately 240 square miles around the beautiful west coast of Wales. The national park has a varied landscape of rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, wooded estuaries and wild inland hills and the park also includes several offshore islands, some of which can be visited by boat. Oakwood Theme Park provides a great day’s entertainment with adrenalin rides and water slides, while whale and dolphin watching is possible with a voyage to Ramsey Island and Grassholm. Another great day out can be had by visiting St David’s Cathedral, officially Britain’s smallest city as the cathedral is built upon the site of a 6th century monastery.
Seaside Resorts The Welsh coast is blessed with many blue flag beaches and quaint seaside towns, which make for an ideal weekend away or family holiday. Mumbles, Tenby and Llandudno are amongst the most popular and you really are spoilt for choice with the quality of the beaches on offer. The beaches near Tenby are safe and sheltered and are ideal for families, Saundersfoot beach is a small but very popular resort with some spectacular views from the top of the hill, while Newgale is another enormous beach where you can take kitesurfing lessons. One of the most popular surf spots in Wales is Whitesands, where the surf break can be found towards the northern end. Swansea bay boasts five blue flag beaches, while Rhossili bay is regularly regarded as the best beach in Wales.
Cycling Holidays Wales has 331 miles of traffic-free tracks making it the ideal destination for a cycling holiday. The Snowdonia National Park boasts some of the best bike trails in the country. There are smooth trails for beginners like the Mawddach trail or you can try the long challenging climbs of the Gwydir Trail that weave through the forests. The north Wales Coastal Cycle route stretches for seven miles using the wide sea promenade that stretches from Rhos-on-Sea and Colwyn Bay to Pensarn, while the Elan Valley trail takes in some spectacular scenery along the nine-mile trail.
Celtic Manor The 2010 Ryder Cup revealed Wales as an ideal golf destination. And Newport’s Celtic Manor Resort is just one of around 200 tracks – including some of the world’s top links courses – all packed into a country that’s only 60 miles wide and 170 miles long. Royal Portcawl, Royal St David’s, Aberdovy, Pennard, Conwy and Tenby can all compare with the best courses in Ireland or Scotland, so throw the clubs in the back of the car, hop on the ferry and enjoy a few days golfing in ideal settings throughout Wales.
Getting there: Stena Line and Irish Ferries offer several ferry routes from Ireland to Wales. Aer Lingus have daily direct flights from Dublin to Cardiff.
For more information on Wales, visit www.visitwales.co.uk