Beyond London – The Land Of Song
Snowdonia is the highest peak in England and Wales and at Plas Y Brenin – The National Mountain Sports Centre – you can take your first steps to scaling the peak. The centre has a range of outdoor activities on offer, from hill-walking and navigation to scrambling and mountaineering.
What goes up must come down, and at Zip World in Bethesda you’ll feel as though you’re flying as you experience speeds of up to 100mph on the longest zip-wire in Europe. And if you want to zip with friends, Zip World Titan near the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog has the first four-person zip line in Europe.
As you cross into Anglesey, make sure you stop at a town famed worldwide for the length of its name. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch means: ‘The church of St Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St Tysilio’s of the red cave’, and a selfie by one of its town signs is a must.
Created by the architect Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1976, the Italianate fantasy village of Portmeirion was made famous as the location of the surreally sinister 1960s TV series, The Prisoner. Portmeirion is made up of about 50 buildings, most of which are used as hotel or self-catering accommodation and surrounded by 70 glorious acres of sub-tropical woodland gardens. Many events, concerts and exhibitions take place here.
One of the most popular parts of the Brecon Beacons mountain range and national park is Waterfall Country, where rivers and brooks form wonderful and dramatic waterfalls as the water winds its way through the countryside and ultimately joins the River Neath. Take a walk through the magnificent countryside to see some of the most beautiful parts of Wales.
The incredible network of caves at the Brecon Beacons’ National Showcaves Centre for Wales has to be seen to be believed. The limestone mountains here are riddled with hundreds of miles of caves including this 16km network of passageways. Highlights include Dan yr Ogof Cave with its beautiful formations; the Bone Cave, so called because the remains of 42 people dating back to the Bronze Age have been discovered in its chamber; and the majestic Cathedral Cave, with its stalactites and waterfalls, which can now be hired as a wedding venue. There is also a shire horse centre and a farm.
Gower was the first place in Britain to be named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by virtue of its geology and outstanding coastal habitats and it’s easy to see why – it is stunning. The award-winning beaches are exquisite, particularly at Rhossili Bay, with its three mile-long sandy beach. Here, you can expect to see all kinds of birdlife, including guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes, on the jagged rocky island of Worm’s Head.
The only National Park in the UK that is focused on the coastline demonstrates the importance of the flora and fauna of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. It’s also said to be where coasteering started, a Welsh speciality that is a blend of rock hopping, shore scrambling and cliff jumping. Join one of the local groups for a unique view of the country.
South Wales has long been associated with coal mining, and visitors to the Big Pit National Coal Museum in Blaenavon can get a taste of Wales’s industrial heritage in a real mine. Blaenavon is a World Heritage Site and visitors can take an underground tour to get a taste of the working life of a coal miner.
The medieval castle at Caerphilly is Wales’s largest castle. It was built in the 13th century by Gilbert ‘the Red’ de Clare, a red-headed nobleman of Norman descent, and the impressive stone fortifications are surrounded by moats and watery islands that today make such a wonderful scene. More recently, it’s been used as a location for TV programmes Doctor Who, Merlin and Wolf Hall in which it doubled as the Tower of London. Don’t miss the views from the high towers across the moat.
Given that it’s the capital of Wales, Cardiff has countless sights – tour the Millennium Stadium where you can pay homage to Wales’ rugby heroes.
Cardiff Bay is another highlight as the old docklands have been overhauled and the area is now packed with visitor attractions, including an international arts centre and the Doctor Who Experience. For the best views of the front, make sure you take a thrilling boat trip across the bay.