National Geographic have listed Wales in their top 20 places to visit in 2020, but of course I already knew that it should be top of your bucket list. I’ve been living in Wales for twenty years, growing up in mid-Wales before moving out of the seaside town of Aberystwyth to embrace the big city lights in Cardiff, where I’ve resided for the last seven years. In 2019, I decided to embark on a few Welsh Road Trips of my own, visiting places all over Wales on a low-budget adventure with my mates to discover more about the land I call home. I’ve put together my top tips and recommendations of where to go, where to stay and what to do when you embark on your own tour of Cymru next year. Beware, you may just need a raincoat.
Where to go:
Often overlooked when it comes to ‘Top Attractions’ and ‘Must see’ lists, Mid-Wales holds a nostalgic charm which you won’t find elsewhere. It’s Victorian towns are somewhat rundown, suffering from lack of funding plunged into the South. But the 1920’s style Piers which are now home to nightclubs and the tongue-tizzling smell of the chip fryers which fill the air will have you longing for your seaside holidays as a child.
Aberystwyth would be the top of my list, for it’s charm alone will intoxicate you, but the thirty-odd pubs all within a 0.5mile radius will also help you out. Thrust into the spotlight after it’s appearance in Netflix’s The Crown Season 3, this charming seaside town is the best place for a pub crawl #culture. Be sure to stop by Downies for an Admiral (a 4 shot of vodka and redbull – the cheap version– concotion which will set you back around £4.50), Rummers Bar for Live Music and The Academy for a game of pool and some people watching- this is the best place to line up the person you’re gonna wanna try and snog later on. There is two and a half nightclubs in the town, Pier Pressure which is for the young un’s and the Pier Brasserie which is a 25+ venue. When I say venue it’s basically a restaraunt of which they clear the tables to allow for a make shift dancefloor. My mum enjoys this spot, if that helps. Head here in the day for some decent food and to watch the famous starlings who live under the Pier. The star of the show is Why Knot Nightclub, which lives behind one suspect doorway. I hear it’s recently had a rennovation and you can now buy noodles from a food station inside the club. What more could you possibly ask for? (There’s a lot left to ask for tbh).
There is some gorgeous foodie spots in town, such as Baravin on the seafront which is probably as trendy as any Aber spot is going to get- they also do a great carbonara, more-ish handmade pizzas and gob-guzzling cocktails. The Ultra Comida is an olives, cheese and stuff shop with a few tables out back for some authentic tapas and wine. The owners run the much-loved Curado tapas restaraunt in the Capital City of Cardiff, so you know you’re in good hands. Y Hen Llew Du is a great spot for homemade pub grub at really decent prices, just beware of the Welsh Social Students who’ll plough in (pun intended) to the pub at night.
When it comes to things to do, this might be where it runs short. The town has several coffee shops you could tour, a seafront pier that any tourist to Aber has to walk down at least once (kick the bar at the end or it didn’t happen), a Castle (just about standing), a one-screen cinema which will transport you back in time and a cliff railway dating back to 1826. TBF I’m selling this pretty well. To soak in the scenery, head to Ynyslas beach a few miles outside of the town for a sandy escape and a Mr Whippy from the Ice-Cream Van which is usually there come rain or shine. A few miles out of town in the other direction you’ll reach Nant-Yr-Arian visitors centre which is famed for its mountain bike trails, scenic walks and daily red-kite feeding sessions. They also have a cafe where you can grab some cake and coffee if ya’ know, the fourteen coffee shops in the town centre weren’t doing it for you. Check out my vlog of Aberystwyth here.
Our best kept secret, North Wales is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth, if I do say so myself. The drive up from the South along the A470 is breath-takingly gorgeous, so much so you won’t give a toss that it’ll take your eight* hours to get anywhere. Full of myths, legends, lakes and Welsh Cakes there is no better place to soak in the fresh Welsh air than up in the Gogs’.
For the last couple years my family and I have been spending the half-term holidays up in Bedd Gelert, a small village in the Snowdonia National Park. It’s set in the valley and is a great place to base yourself if you’re tackling the mountains. An enchanting river runs through the dog friendly village, named after the Kings loyal dog Gelert #RIPBro. There’s a handful of cafés and a couple of pubs, including the Prince Llywelyn pub and hotel which does tasty homemade dishes and lets in your four-legged companions. A few doors down is Cafe Hebog, a rustic cafe serving up some mouth-watering dishes using local Welsh produce. Take a leisurely walk along the river or visit the Sygun Copper Mine nearby for a taste of Welsh history. If you’re setting up camp in Bedd Gelert, or anywhere in North Wales for that matter, mentally prepare yourself that you’ll have to drive to get anywhere or see anything.
The activities may be sparse, but let the nature around you become your day-out! Experience the elements of Snowdonia, the highest peak in Wales which is just a short drive away, or visit the quaint town Betws-y-Coed for some shopping and a slice of Bara Brith. When visiting North Wales, it’s rule of thumb you have to visit it’s most exciting adventure attraction- Zip World. Spread out across three different sites, Zip World is home to the world’s fastest zip line, the UK’s only mountain go-cart experience, the only Alpine Forest Coaster in the UK and an underground trampoline park, plus loads of other activties AND houses slate-cavern aged cheese – phew!
Where to stay:
Banish the idea that holidays in Wales mean staying in caravan parks (although there’s plenty of those around if you’re after one!), some of the UK’s best hotels sit proudly on our culture enriched soil. From the famous Celtic Manor Resort which greets your eye-line as you venture down the M4, to the 5-star St Davids Hotel & Spa in Cardiff Bay, the rugby star-spotting Vale Resort on the outskirts of Cardiff, and the recently named best hotel in Wales The Angel Hotel in Abergavenny, it’s safe to say we’re not short of luxurious spots. But head further afield to canolbarth Cymru and you’ll be treated to a slightly different staycation. Popping up across the lush landscape of the West are the perfect glamping pods and quirky homes for your big Welsh retreat.
Devils Bridge, Aberystwyth. A drop of luxury a short distance from the Hafod Estate in Devils Bridge, Brynllwyd Glamping Pod is the ideal escape to country living. I recently stayed over for my Mum’s birthday and we spent hours cooking pizza on the fire pit and lounging in the hot tub whose spot is perfectly aligned with a view of the sun setting over the rolling hills. There’s no tv here, but you do have your own private lake so I think that’s a fair exchange!
The world-famous village Devils Bridge is a short walking distance away, where you can grab a bite to eat at the Hafod Hotel, ride the Rheidol Steam Railway and explore the mythical waterfalls below the bridge said to be built by the devil himself.
Rates start at £120 p/night. Sleeps up to 5 people. Book direct over on the website or via Air B&B where you can save £25 off your first Air B&B stay with this link https://www.airbnb.co.uk/c/jessicad7768?currency=GBP
Sennybridge, Brecon. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous with your accomodation, this converted vintage chicken house aka Cluckingham Palace is just the spot for you to unwind and become one with the chickens which roam around it. Based in Sennybridge, just a short drive away from the town of Brecon, this is the ideal spot to set up camp if you’re exploring the local trails of the Brecon Beacons or heading up Pen-y-Fan. Think of it as camping but with a roof, the exotic indian designed hut sleeps two people and has a log burner inside to keep you warm. Outside is the toilet and a shower head, and the small cooking area where two freshly laid eggs await you.
There may not be a hot tub, but there is a victorian hip bath for your use where you can bask in the glory of the sun and the sheep-filled fields that surround you. There’s a couple good pubs close by (around a ten minute drive) where you can fill up on fish-n-chips before snuggling down by candle light in the converted chicken shed. Check out my vlog of my stay.
Rate starts at £50 p/night. Sleeps 2. Book via Air B&B and save £25 off your first Air B&B stay with this link https://www.airbnb.co.uk/c/jessicad7768?currency=GBP
Bustling B&B’s and quaint cottages are scattered across the Northern range, but my favourite spots include a hot tub and a hut. Do we see a trend occuring?
Bedd Gelert, Snowdonia.
A pricier alternative to the small wooden huts, the Forest Holidays luxurious log cabins are the ultimate spot to unwind. The Bedd Gelert site is still quite new, meaning everything is up to date and the hot-tubs blast out the bubbles for your relaxing big bath. Star-gaze from the tub with a glass of bubbly in hand, or cosy-down in front of the log fire and watch a movie from the film selection available.
There’s an on-site kitchen which can deliver pizzas and curries to your door, as well as on-hand staff who host activities for little ones. The Welsh Highland Railway stops at the camp so you can jump on and off to explore the surroundings, or wave to the passengers from your tub.
Prices vary. Sleeps from 2-10 people. Book direct at https://www.forestholidays.co.uk
Check out the other entries in the #12BlogsOfChristmas