Wales… Rugged Beauty Oozing with
Wales Coastal Tour day by day…
A coastal tour of Wales gives you a good sense of the beauty of the place and its people. The Welsh are fiercely independent. Their rugged mountainous landscape helped isolate and protect them from English rulers for hundreds of years. Today, though long a part of the United Kingdom, they maintain their unique culture.
Every signpost is written both in English and in Welsh. Welsh are bi-lingual with both languages taught in school. You’ll have no trouble chatting with shopkeepers or mingling with the natives. But you’re likely to hear this Celtic language spoken by the locals.
Do keep in mind… YOU are the one with an accent. Take your time and slow down just a little so they have a chance to understand you. I have found this trick works well over all the UK.
At every turn, you know this place is
The coastline is spectacular. There are over 100 castles still standing. You can also visit some of the many standing stones/ burial sites. There are 29 listed on the national heritage website. Some are easily accessible. Others take a bit more work to get to.
If you’ve got a week… or two or three, it’s a great country to explore. I recommend starting with the coastline as it’s more easily accessible. There are lots of great B&B’s, Inns… even castles where you can stay.
You could probably do a coastal tour in five/six days if you are pinched for time. Having toured these roads I recommend at least 8, plus a travel day to get from the US to Cardiff and then an additional travel day from Manchester back home. You could easily extend it to two weeks or more and explore the in-lands more extensively.
Or, if you want to make a loop, that too is possible and I’ll show you how. You could also reverse the trip and fly into Manchester and finish in Cardiff. Fly home from Cardiff, or train to London.
To Wales Day 1: Depart US for Cardiff
British Airways flies from numerous US cities into Cardiff. If you choose another airline and fly to London, you can take the train from there to Cardiff. This will avoid driving in London traffic… something even the locals avoid.
Wales Day 2: Explore Cardiff
Since you’ll probably be jet-lagged, take the day and relax. Explore Cardiff. You’ll find multiple museums, gothic Cardiff Castle and a revitalized, and thriving waterfront. Fabulous shopping, restaurants, and entertainment will keep you more than busy. Here’s a great link for 24 hours in Cardiff: http://www.visitwales.com/explore/south-wales/cardiff.
Wales Coastal Tour Day 3: Cardiff to St. Davids
Round up your car and time to head west. Today you’ll drive 111 miles from Cardiff to St. Davids. The trip only takes about 2-1/2 hours so you have time to detour and explore if you wish. St Davids is the final resting place for Wales Patron Saint. It is Britain’s smallest city. Nestled in picturesque Pembrokeshire, next to the River Alun it is compact and easily walkable. St David’s is rich in history. The cathedral and monastery… old and new are fascinating. The area is blessed with stunning coastlines and opportunities for hiking and camping.
You’ll find numerous Inns and diverse properties to choose from. Want budget friendly? You can find hostels. But as I’ve gotten older, those have less appeal. I want memorable experiences.
If you want a quiet escape, consider the exquisite 10th Century Roch Castle. Castle on the outside. Totally renovated inside. It’s rated the best luxury hotel in Wales.
It’s in a tiny hamlet on the way from Cardiff to St. Davids. But it’s an experience of a lifetime: https://www.rochcastle.com/. Built on a hill the views from the upper levels extend for miles and are mind-boggling. You can even see to the sea on the south.
Roch Castle has two sister properties located in St. Davids, Twr Y Fellin, and Penrhiw. Twr Y Fellin has a lovely restaurant and should you wish, they will transport you from Roch Castle into town and back home again. Just make the arrangements in advance.
Wales Coastal Tour Day 4: St. Davids to Pentre Ifan
and then Barmouth.
It’s about a 3.25-hour drive from St. Davids to Barmouth. With lots of quaint towns and stunning coastal views, it’s an easy way to spend the day.
But if you want to see standing stones, there is an amazing one called Pentre Ifan a short detour off the main road. Traveling up the A487 and then taking the shortest side road it’s about 26 miles from St. Davids. (Google map it so you have an idea where you’re headed.)
It’s located up on the hills off a narrow road. There is a place at the side of the road to pull off then follow the path adjacent to the cow pastures to the site. It’s from the Neolithic age. You can see for miles across the hills of Wales. You can feel the power in the place. Lofty, commanding. In the distance, you can see the deep blue of the sea. As with many of these more isolated sites, it’s you and the stones with their history and stories.
From Pentre Ifan, it’s 2-1/2 hours via the A487 to Barmouth. You still have plenty of time to stop and explore on your day. Barmouth is small but situated for exploring. Located in county Gwynedd are more ancient sites and standing stones than any other area in Wales.
There are lots of cute little beach-town shops, restaurants, pubs and places
to stay. OR….just half a mile north is T’yr Graig Castle on the beach side of the main road on a rocky rise about 200 feet above Barmouth. The name in Welsh means house on the rock.
Needless to say, the views are stunning. Built by gun-manufacturer WW Greener as a holiday home for his wife it has kept its historic Victorian nature. Many aspects of the home, including woodwork, tiles, stained, glass, even the house design were completely custom. If you check out a copy of the floor plan in the main entry, you see that the house, viewed from above, resembles the shape of a double-barreled shotgun. A nod to the builder’s craft. Contact T’yr Graig Castle directly for the best rates: http://www.tyrgraigcastle.co.uk/.
Depending on what you might want to explore in this Snowdonia region of Wales you can decide to stay in the Barmouth area or shift northward.
Wales Coastal Tour Days 5-7: Caernarfon and
Caernarfon 39 miles (about an hour) north is a good choice as is Bangor, about 90 minutes away. Both cities offer access to the interior mountains and more historic sites. They also are fun to explore on their own. You’ll find well-preserved castles in both cities that are open to the public.
The Isle of Anglesey is just across the iconic bridges from Bangor. You’ll
discover lots of history tucked away on this land associated with legends.
Built on some of the oldest rocks in the region, it is home to nearly 150 historic sites ranging from prehistoric burial tombs to castle fortifications. You’ll find miles of stunning beaches, cliffs to hike along and lots of tranquility. Tucked away you can find deluxe resorts. One lovely manor, Tre Ysgawen exemplifies relaxation, health wellness year around. If you want a quiet escape positioned well to explore Anglesey, this just might be your spot. http://www.treysgawen-hall.co.uk/.
Make the drive to Anglesey and discover the rich history and legacy of the Druids. On the more isolated west coast, you can find tombs and markers of their past dating to 3000 BC. It may take a little “Google” detective work before you go, or talk with the locals as you explore the area.
If you Google Anglesey and bring up the map of the area you will find over
14 historic sites including castles, Roman and other ancient sites within a short drive on the mainland and on the island. Spend your first night in Caernarfon, you could work your way north and spend another near Bangor or on Anglesey as you explore.
There are a string of historic sites along the east side of Anglesey just across
the bay from the mainland. Edward I built Beaumaris castle as a state of the art fortress. The last of his “iron ring” of castles, it’s goal…subduing the Welsh. Today, CADAW manages its remains as a tourist attraction. The second castle on Anglesey is Castell Aberlleiniog, but there are many more historic sites near here to explore.
One note: weather on the island can be changeable. I recommend packing a raincoat.
Wales Coastal Tour Day 8 Colwyn Bay & Ruthin
This lovely bay with its seaside town is less than an hour from Bangor. On
your way be sure to stop at Conwy Castle. It is massive, towering and looms over the bay. Allow yourself plenty of time to visit and explore before heading inland.
I enjoyed Ruthin, the county town in Derbyshire built around the hill and topped with its castle, town square and the oldest part of the city. It’s about 26 miles (45 minutes) from Colwyn Bay. If you want to skip it and head north to Manchester and your flight home… we’ll leave you here. It’s just over an hour and a half from Colwyn Bay to Manchester.
At the very top of the hill in Ruthin sits Ruthin Castle. Narrow arched
entrance passes you through the castle walls into its protected grounds. Ancient red brick towers above you. This was a fortress, not someone’s Folly. Explore the grounds. Note where brick colors change. It’s a clue to building additions. When you are centuries old… owners needs change.
Inside you will find every creature comfort, fabulous food and attention to detail. Contact the hotel directly for the best rates: http://www.ruthincastle.co.uk/.
If you opt to stay in the city, be sure to venture up and walk the grounds. They are exquisite.
If you stay in the castle… take time to walk down and explore the city. It is charming and you get an interesting sense of how people lived in the castle at the top, supported by tradespeople below.
It’s just over an hour and a half from Ruthin to Manchester.
If you’re flying home from Manchester you need somewhere not far from the airport. As a large city, traffic is something you must allow for. I’ve stayed in several different places. My favorite is Wilmslow Lodge @ Coach & Four. This traditional pub great food and the adjacent lodge is in the suburb of Wilmslow. A coaching inn it has provided respite for travelers for over a century. It offers easy access to Manchester airport and the local train system. If you’re in a shopping mood you’ll find great options a short walk from the property. As always, contact the hotel directly for the best rates: http://www.wilmslowlodge.com/.
Extend your Wales coastal tour and loop back to Cardiff:
If you’ve got a few more days and want to make a loop so you can fly in and out of the same airport that is easily possible. (If you’re using Manchester as your gateway, simply make your loop in reverse.)
The quickest route is using the A5 to the A49 freeway. You can cover the 154 miles in about three and a half hours. But there is a lot to see here so I recommend taking at least a couple of days to explore the “Midlands”. Oswestry, Shrewsbury, Telford, and Ludlow are all worthwhile visits. Known for their history as market towns they beckon you to wander their narrow streets.
You’ll still find markets daily in Ludlow. Every kind of thing imaginable. Food, baked goods, jams, honey, crafts. We even met a falconer with his hawk.
When you visit Ludlow, be sure to visit the Feathers Inn. Built in 1619 over an existing core, it’s known for its Tudor architecture and Jacobean furnishings. You’ll find it friendly and accommodating, with good local foods in the restaurant/pub. Whether you stay there or not, Feathers is a “must see”. They’ll even let you see the rooms directly above the lobby where Jacobean leaders used to meet.
It’s a great location just a short walk from the marketplace and castle. Reports say the Feathers is haunted. Be on the lookout, just in case. Be sure to contact the hotel directly to get the best rates: https://www.feathersatludlow.co.uk/.