Top 10 Sights in Wales
So what are the Top Ten must-see sights of Wales? Well the arguments raged for quite some time here at Out and About Towers, before we whittled it down to our Top Ten. So, in no particular order, these are the sights we rate the most highly…
The largest mountain in Wales is a large and very obvious focal point to the Snowdonian National Park and you need to plan your visit with some time to spare and only ascend the summit on a clear day. Whether you prefer to man-up and trudge up the path over several hours or take the easy option and hop on the train, doesn’t matter, the resulting panoramic view is one of the best you’ll find in Europe, let alone Wales. There’s also a great café at the summit where you can enjoy some local food while admiring the view. You can catch the train from Llanberis – visit www.snowdonrailway.co.uk for the current prices. Be warned, though, it does get booked up so either go first thing in the morning or be prepared to walk if you can’t get a ticket.
Imagine taking your favourite bits of architecture from around the world and then rebuilding them on the prettiest Welsh peninsula you can find. Sounds a bit crazy, doesn’t it? Yet that’s precisely the vision that Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis realised at Portmerion and the resulting village is a pleasingly chaotic collection of styles, colours and scales. Clough trained as an architect and was a keen environmentalist and Portmerion aimed to prove that sympathetic architecture can enhance rural areas. Every one of the thousands of visitors the town attracts each year, would agree that this man-made town is one of the prettiest you’ll ever see. Visit www.portmeirion-village.com to find out more.
Created by King Edward I, when it comes to imposing looking castles, Caernarfon doesn’t mess around and any invader looking to mount an attack would have got a crick in his neck trying to see to the top of the turrets. As a statement of power, Caernarfon takes some beating. The current building dates from 1283 and although the central buildings are long gone, the main structure is beautifully preserved. Climb to the top of Eagle Tower and you’ll enjoy views of Anglesey and the Irish sea in one direction and Snowdon in the background – wonderful. There is ample parking nearby and the historic town has lots of great pubs and restaurants serving local food – perfect! Visit www.caernarfon-castle.co.uk to find out more.
The best way to see the Menai Straits is undoubtedly by boat and you taking a boat trip in this area will also allow you to explore the whole of Anglesey, which won’t take more than a day and has lots of places to stop and explore. But it’s the pretty Menai Straits that is the most fun to chug along (there’s a speed limit at various points) and here you’ll find pretty houses and gardens dotting the banks as well as getting a stunning view of Telford’s superb Menai Bridge (as well as the slightly less impressive Britannia Bridge). You can board a rib ride boat at the Menai Bridge town jetty (see www.ribride.co.uk). After a hard day on the water, enjoy some fresh local seafood – the tidal sea conditions allow mussels and lobster to thrive.
There are not many places that offer a pretty harbour, an amazing strip of sandy beach, an attractive bay, a picturesque historic railway and plenty of rugged scenery to admire all in one place. It’s this incredible combination of natural and man-made attractions that has made Barmouth so enduringly popular. For a low cost family day, simply grab some fish and chips and flop the towel down on the wide strip of sand. Or for something more cultured, head for lunch or dinner at the small but superb The Last Inn, which serves excellent value food (our favourite is the cod goujons served with lemon and chive mayo – mmm!). There’s also several excellent ice cream parlours serving all manner of exotic concoctions, so this is something of a foodie favourite, too.
Llyn y fan fawr
The ‘Lake of the big peak’ is found in the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons National Park and can be found midway between Brecon and Llandovery, just off the road from Trecastle to Glyntawe – it’s a mile from this small road on foot. The lake was formed as a result of a glacier carving out a hollow in the rock and it overflows into the River Tawe. There are various walks detailed on www.walkingbritain.co.uk that you can enjoy around this lake and we could have picked almost any view in this region it’s that photo-friendly in all directions. The natural beauty of Wales doesn’t get much better than this.
Set in Pembrokeshire, Manorbier is set on the Pembrokeshire coast (a short drive from Tenby) and is centred around a glorious beach. As family-friendly beaches go, this one is a cracker with a sandy beach gently sloping into the lapping waves of clear blue water. It’s also said to be ideal for surfing. Kid’s will enjoy exploring the rock pools at the edge of the cove, while the castle in the backdrop just adds to the attractive scene. The castle can trace its roots back to the 11th century and was once described as ‘the pleasantest spot in Wales’.
At first sight, you wonder why on earth they built Harlech castle so high up on the hillside overlooking an eerie landscape of grassed over dunes (which were designated an area of Special Scientific Interest in 1953). These lead through to sandy beaches, but it’s the towering castle that draws the eye. It dates back to the 13th century and was originally designed to be accessed via its fortified dock – it was at sea level when it was originally built. Today, the view from the top of the castle is epic and gives a fantastic view across Tremadog Bay and across the estuary to Porthmadog. The town behind the castle is pretty unremarkable, but the castle is well worth the trip.
The smallest city on Wales had great historical significance due to its prominent position on the headland and its role as an early-warning station to spot invading ships was of massive importance. William the Conqueror visited it in 1080 and the building of the cathedral (which can be traced back to the sixth century) gave it city status. The cathedral overlooks the bay and is the jewel in the crown of St Davids, with the town centre mainly devoted to shopping and, pleasingly, a wide variety of pubs, cafes, restaurants and takeaways. Many tourist activities are centred around the town centre too and thrill seekers can sign up for a coasteering course.
Think of a perfect picture postcard coastal town in your minds eye. Imagine the aquamarine water, the cute little harbour next to golden sand and perhaps a collection of pretty houses each painted a different colour in the background. Now add a few sailing boats and perhaps an ancient monument on a hill. Picture it? Well, that’s Tenby, which must rate as the most attractive seaside village in Wales, if not Britain. It’s narrow cobbled streets and many restaurants make it a perfect place to unwind and no matter where you point your camera you’re sure of a great view.
Want to know more about things to do in Wales?
See our suggestions for top mountain bike trails, here.
Fancy something different? See the six weirdest Welsh activites, here.
We've also got some great Welsh travel features in the May 2013 issue of MMM.