With 641 castles, 3 national parks and 750 miles of coastline, Wales is the perfect place for independent travelers to go out and explore. Roughly the size of Massachusetts, the mainly mountainous countryside is often appreciated during a leisurely drive. If you don’t know whether you want to drive here, then let’s address the apprehensions that you may have. Yes, it’s true that the Welsh drive on the “wrong side”. It’s also true that there are a plenty of narrow roads and roundabouts. However, don’t let these thoughts become roadblocks for the ultimate adventure! Keep in mind that these British roads are some of the safest and best kept in Europe. Once you are out in the country, it’s easy to acclimate to the idiosyncrasies of the Welsh driving culture.
Welsh Driving Landscape
Where to start:
From London, the capital city of Cardiff, is just over 2 hours by train or just about 3 hours by car. There are a few options for you to consider:
•If you want to utilize this easy rail connection from London, pick up your rental car in Cardiff when you are ready to explore the country.
•If you want to have a rental car for your entire trip, but want to avoid the traffic of London, consider picking up the car at Heathrow Airport. This location is close to the M4 highway that takes you all the way to Cardiff.
For those of you considering starting your adventure in Conwy, on the northern coast of Wales, travel times are approximately 3 hours by train and about 4 hours by car from London. If you don’t want to drive from London, then there are a few options here to consider:
•Whether you’re departing from London, Edinburgh or Glasgow by train, you will need to make a connection in the charming town of Chester. Continue on to Conwy by train, or spend some time in Chester and then pick up your rental car and drive to Conwy.
When picking up your rental car, keep in mind that the rental is prepaid; however, there will be miscellaneous fees that you’ll be responsible to pay locally. For more details on what fees you may incur with your rental, check out this post.
What to see:
In the mythical country of Wales, castles and majestic scenery invite you to experience a rare slice of distinct British culture. You can castle hop, follow the footsteps of HRH Prince William, and get your fill of outdoor adventures. With so much to see and do, the choices can be overwhelming! Here are some of the top Welsh attractions:
South and West Wales
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park – Britain’s only coastal National Park. Did you know that the giant hewn rocks of Stonehenge were transported from Preseli Hills? At the Park, you can enjoy cliff-top walks, Celtic crosses, Iron Age hill forts, and unique islands home to rare wildlife habitats.
Laugharne Castle – Dylan’s ‘brown as owls’ castle. Turner’s watercolor wonder. An inspirational site built for comfort as well as conflict.
Blaenavon Ironworks – Any ol’ iron? Pushing the frontiers of technology, world heritage Blaenavon powered the Industrial Revolution.
Tintern Abbey – Early morning mist + an abbey = sublime. Wordsworth and Turner gazed in awe at this beauty. You will too!
Kidwelly Castle – One of the best-preserved castles in Wales. Its crowing glory, the twin-towered great gatehouse. Splendidly complete.
Caerphilly Castle – Too big for words! A watery mass of moats, lakes and islands surround the biggest castle in Wales. This giant was sometimes threatened, but stood strong throughout. A high point in medieval architecture and a model in fortress building.
North and Mid Wales
Isle of Anglesey – Home of HRH Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton, and the last outpost of the Druid culture.
Snowdonia National Park – Some say that Mt. Snowdon is the final resting place of King Arthur. On a clear day, you can see Ireland, Scotland, and England from the summit. Take the historic narrow gauge railway through the Park in Pullman-style carriages.
Llechwedd Slate Caverns – Spectacular tours take visitors deep into the excavated caverns to explore the underground world of the Victorian slate miners.
Plas Mawr – The finest surviving Elizabethan town house in Britain and home to the Wynn dynasty located in the medieval heart of Conwy.
Denbigh Castle – One of the crowning glories of the Vale of Clwyd. Its tripe-towered great gatehouse may be a bit of a mouthful, but it is one of Denbigh’s finest features. Look out for the Goblin!
Caernarfon Castle – The king of castles in the land of castles. On July 1, 1969, a historic moment occurred – the investiture of Charles as the Prince of Wales. On your visit, discover masses of passageways and walkways for you to discover. Majestic from all angles, this castle is simply massive at 1.2 acres in total – enough room for 5 Wimbledon courts!
Conwy Castle – A lasting monument to man’s engineering abilities with one of the wonders of the natural world as a setting. The rocks of Snowdonia complement the dark grey stones of this key strategic castle, which remarkably went up in only four and a half years.
Bodnant Garden – Close to Conwy, these are Britain’s finest gardens. Formal gardens combined with a woodland dell and the renowned Laburnum Arch. Particularly attractive in Spring when the rhododendrons are in full bloom!
Harlech Castle – If you don’t like heights take some deep breaths. Perched on a vertical cliff-face this iron fortress of a castle has 360 degree views. Not much escaped the beady eyes of the castle guards, but they could not hold it against the forces of Owain Glyn Dŵr, who captured this prized possession in 1404.
Have you been to Wales? What did you see? I’d love to hear from you!
After adventuring through Europe as an exchange student during high school, I always knew that I would work in a field that required me to travel. Lucky for me I was right! Over the past 8 years, my career at Avanti has spanned a few departments including Reservations, Customer Relations and Sales. My current position as Avanti's Inside Sales Manager allows me to interact with our staff, customers and partners - a perfect fit for me!
Out of the office, I'm pursuing my other interests - cooking, crafting and entertaining...whilst planning my next getaway.