Sometimes you just need to notice the things around you.
I’ve lived in Wales for most of my life but I’ve never really paid attention to the beauty of this country. I’m surrounded by things I take for granted, beautiful mountains, enchanting valleys, phenomenal waterfalls…
My family decided to road trip around Wales and take in some of the wonderful sights that we’ve taken for granted, fantastic places that I wanted to share with you.
So from South Wales to North Wales, here are 10 places that are absolutely worth visiting…
1: Raglan Castle (NP15 2BT)
Wales is full of wonderful castle ruins, some you can visit for free, others you can visit for a small fee to contribute to its preservation. For those of you that may not be familiar, these are genuine castles real kings, queens, and very rich people lived in them long ago, they’re a true joy to explore and take a step back in history, you’ll see a few in this list.
Lets begin with Raglan Castle, based on the east side of South Wales, this castle is quite modern in comparison to other Welsh castles and was started in the 1430s.
Raglan Castle is quite magnificent, through the angular, Tudor styled gatehouse you will see the magical moat full of all manner of wildlife. This castle was used in the filming of BBCs Merlin, and the magic remains. Raglan Castle is a worthwhile location, owned by CADW, entry is only £4.50 per adult.
If you’d like to visit other sites nearby, you can find White Castle only 8.1 miles away, Monmouth Castle 8.9 miles away, and Skenfrith Castle 10.7 miles away.
2: Four Falls Trail (Brecon Beacons, Gwaun Hepste Car Park)
This walk, although strenuous, is certainly worth it. You can follow the signposts for a 5.5 mile walk along the River Mellte to see four fantastic waterfalls in Waterfall Country (Sgwd Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd y Pannwr, and Sgwd-yr-Eira).
It’s well signposted so you won’t get lost, one thing to note however is that while it is relatively moderate effort most of the way, to get to Sgwd-yr-Eira there are a lot of steps and that was hard work!
It is beautiful, and you can see the copper deposits in the river and walk behind the Sgwd-yr-Eira. If you’re that way, it’s certainly a great place to visit. You can also visit the Henrhyd Falls not too far away which you can also walk behind.
There are a few other waterfall trails in the Brecon Beacons that you can find here, some even have downloadable audio commentary: http://www.breconbeacons.org/waterfall-country-walking-trails
3: The Black Mountain Range
Not to be confused with the Black Mountains to the east, the Black Mountain Range is part of the Brecon Beacons National Park. You’ll find lots of sheep and ponies on it and plenty of places to park to take photos, have a picnic and go for a walk.
According to breconbeacons.org: “The Black Mountain range stretches approximately from Ammanford in the south-west to Sennybridge in the north-east. It culminates in the summit of Fan Brycheiniog (802m), contains the two enchanting glacial lakes of Llyn y Fan Fach and Llyn y Fan Fawr, and is separated from the Fforest Fawr massif by the Tawe valley.”
Here you can find an old Limestone Mining entrance and keep a sharp eye out for Red Kite birds of prey that are common in this area.
Not far from here is the magnificent Carreg Cennen Castle (SA19 6UA) which I haven’t actually visited yet but it is certainly in my plans!
4: Manorbier Castle (SA70 7TY)
This castle is smaller than expected but Pembrokeshire Falconry holds events every Friday which are worth seeing if you are interested in birds of prey. Marketed as a ‘working castle’ Manorbier can be used as a wedding venue, and what a place it would be for a wedding! They also hold theatre shows as well.
Overlooking a gorgeous unspoilt beach, this castle was the birthplace of Gerald of Wales. There are some parts to explore and you can climb to the top of some turrets for a fantastic view. You can also bring dogs if they are kept on a lead, and there is a lovely little café with locally made cakes and ice creams.
5: Pistyll Rhaeadr (SY10 0BZ)
Moving up to Mid Wales, located in the Berwyn Mountains, Pistyll Rhaeadr is Wales’ tallest single drop waterfall at 240 feet high. There are a few different walks to this, you can choose a short 2-3 minute walk to its base or a longer walk to the upper fall.
There is a car park for a charge of £3, but we opted to park for free just a 5 minute walk down the road.
This spectacular fall is surrounded by lush forest and is a great place for photos, I imagine it would be nice to paddle in too, but it was raining when I was there.
6: Elan Valley (LD6 5HP)
Located in the county of Powys, not far from Birmingham and Cardiff, this place is magical. Honestly, out of everything on this list, the Elan Valley took my breath away.
The Elan Valley is 72 square miles of historic landscapes and thriving wildlife. According to their website, “The dams and reservoirs, the working legacy of remarkable Victorian engineering, add to the captivating and ever changing scenery.”
The Elan Valley is totally free to visit and you should absolutely see the miles of breathtaking scenery. There is an atmosphere to the Elan Valley that is like being in a separate world of myth and magic.
7: Lake Vyrnwy
From the website: “Just on the edge of The Snowdonia National Park and south of Lake Bala, Lake Vyrnwy is set amidst the remote and beautiful Berwyn Mountains. With spectacular waterfalls, and unspoilt open countryside, a visit to Lake Vyrnwy is a wonderful day out for all the family. A short drive from the Shropshire border (The Welsh Marches) it is an easy day out from Birmingham, Liverpool, Chester or Manchester and is the perfect base for exploring Snowdonia, The Welsh Marches and the coast from Harlech to Aberystwyth.“
While not quite as spectacular as the Elan Valley, Lake Vyrnwy has a wonder of its own and is a great place to start if you want to explore Snowdonia.
8: Snowdonia National Park
So this is a big one, but so worth it! It was a misty day when I visited but that just added to the mystical splendour. With it’s lush green scenery, streams, rivers, and waterfalls, lakes, trees, and so much more Snowdonia really is a diamond of welsh beauty.
Make sure you take a drive along the Llanberis Pass for some amazing scenery.
Keep an eye out for little side roads too, make sure you don’t get lost though. We were looking for a specific small road for a great view of Tanygrisiau Hydro Electric Power Station at Blaenau Ffestuniog, unfortunately the road we were looking for was closed, but we found another with a walk at the end along a river with a beautiful waterfall.
9: Conwy Castle (LL32 8AY)
After driving past Caernarfon Castle we literally stumbled across Conwy Castle. We were driving along and all of a sudden, there it was, looming above is in all its magnificence!
Conwy Castle is far bigger than you expect, it has turrets to climb, wall walks to traverse and rooms to explore. The castle has walls encompassing the town and sits on the edge of a harbour.
From the CADW website: “Built for Edward I, by Master James of St George, the castle is amongst the finest surviving medieval fortifications in Britain. In a word, exceptional. You can’t fault it, from the grandeur of its high towers and curtain walls to its excellent state of preservation. An estimated £15,000 was spent building the castle, the largest sum Edward spent in such a short time on any of his Welsh castles between 1277 and 1307. Money well spent.”
Conwy Castle is built on a bed of rock creating a great level of security. This castle is awe-inspiring and worth a visit.
10: Swallow Falls (Betws-y-Coed, LL24 0DW)
This is a great place to wind down from the splendour of the other sites.
From the website: “This waterfall on the Afon Llugwy has become a familiar natural celebrity over the past 100 years and has featured on film, postcard and canvas. While its principal viewpoints are situated on the south bank of the Llugwy with the convenience of ample parking along the A5 and within the hotel car park, it is observed far more dramatically if approached on foot along the northern bank.”
What magnificent things to see are there near your home?