New Adventure for Wales as its named in Top 10 Destinations Worldwide!

In December we blogged that the Scottish city of Glasgow had been named a top twenty destinations worldwide for 2016; well now we can add the wonderful nation of Wales  to this years’ top international visitor destinations!

Wales - Rough Guide
Wales – Rough Guide

The leading global guide-book producers “Rough Guides” have named Wales amongst their top ten worldwide destinations for 2016. Amongst company including the nations of Kenya, Sri Lanka and El Salvador, Wales made number eight in the top ten and was described as “one of the finest natural playgrounds in Europe”. In fact, Wales was the only country in Western Europe to feature on the list and gained its nomination owing to its “fascinating history, incredible landscapes and unique culture”.

Based here in the Welsh capital city of Cardiff, adeo Travel are slightly biased when it comes to this particular destination (we might even have placed it at number one!) however there is no doubting that this year will be a big one for Wales. In 2016 Wales celebrates the “Year of Adventure”, an initiative launched to showcase Wales on the world stage – and it appears to be working. The year of adventure sets out primarily to exhibit Wales’ breath-taking natural landscapes, which in a country where 80% of the land is considered to be of outstanding natural beauty, is not too difficult a task. Stunning panoramas found here in Wales include those of its three national parks in the towering mountain ranges of Snowdonia, the barren moorlands of the Brecon Beacons and the rugged coastlines of Pembrokeshire.

Harlech Castle, Wales
Harlech Castle, Wales

However in 2016 Wales also celebrates the centenary of renowned author Roald Dahl who grew up in Llandaff in Cardiff and penned dozens of stories which have become loved by adults and children alike. Dahl’s books have spawned multiple film and musical adaptations; stage shows of Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have had runs in both the West End of London and New York’s Broadway, whilst The BFG is set to become a cinematic blockbuster with its Spielberg directed movie release coming later this year. To mark his centenary Wales is set to host a series of events and exhibitions dedicated to the Dahl and his works throughout the year and right across the country as well as in Cardiff.

So ranking in the top ten destinations throughout the world, why not enjoy your own adventure and add Wales to your 2016 vacation bucket list.

Discover Wales by car, coach or luxury mini-coach on one of our recommended itineraries:
Wales Explorer
Heart of Wales and England
Wonders of Wales
Castles, Coasts and Celts

Top Ten Walks in Wales

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts you’ll know that I’m something of an outdoors enthusiast. So living in Wales is ideal for me – there’s so much to do, from climbing to surfing; coasteering to kayaking. And hiking – most definitely hiking!

 

Wales is a bit of a walker’s paradise with wild moorlands, rugged mountain peaks and scenic coastal trails. And hiking is definitely the best way to get off the beaten track and explore the hidden beauty of the Welsh countryside.

Here, in no particular order, are the top 10 walks to try on your holiday in Wales:

  1. St David’s Head, Pembrokeshire

I plan to spend our next Bank Holiday weekend, coming up in just a few weeks’ time, exploring this section of the Welsh Coast Path. This spectacular stretch of coastline boasts golden beaches, ragged sea cliffs and an abundance of wildlife including seals and puffins!Pembrokeshire - Tenby (2)

  1. The Happy Valley Trail, Llandudno

This path through Happy Valley is an adventurous trek which leads to the Great Orme summit, a massive chunk of limestone rising out of the sea. You can reach the summit by cable car or tram but how much more satisfying to join the famous Kashmir goats in a scramble to the top?

  1. Isle of Anglesey Coast, Anglesey

The beautiful Isle of Anglesey is a walker’s haven, criss-crossed with tranquil lanes and paths. The coastal path is not for the faint hearted, climbing 4,174 metres during its journey, but is undoubtedly the best way to experience the wild coastal beauty first hand.

  1. The Branwen Walk, Snowdonia

Snowdonia - Harlech CastleHarlech castle is so impressive that they wrote a song about it: ‘Men of Harlech’. This walk through Snowdonia National Park is steeped in history and legend, taking in the mighty medieval fortresses, the town of Harlech, beach and dunes as well.

  1. The Dylan Thomas Walk, Laugharne

Track a ‘heron priested shore’ en route around the estuary where you’ll find the boathouse where Wale’s most famous poet wrote. With luck you’ll avoid ‘the pale rain over the dwindling harbour’, as you explore the ruins of medieval Laugharne Castle.

  1. Mount Snowdon, Snowdonia

There are many paths up Wales’ highest peak including the Pig and Miner’s path which both turn into motorways on a sunny day. If you’re feeling lazy you could hop on the Snowdon Mountain Railway Line and stop for tea and cake at the summit café.

  1. Pen y Fan, Brecon Beacons
Queues to pose on the summit of Pen y Fan!
Queues to pose on the summit of Pen y Fan!

The name Pen-y-Fan roughly translates as Top Spot. The regulars call the four-mile circular walk from the Storey Arms Outdoor Centre to the top of the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons National Park ‘The Motorway’, but the spectacular views bring them back for more.

  1. The Taff Trail and Cardiff Bay, Cardiff

Arguably the most popular walk in South Wales, the Taff Trail follows the River Taff all the way from Brecon, through the Brecon Beacons National Park, down to the Bristol Channel at Cardiff Bay.

  1. Rhossili Bay and Worms Head, Gower Peninsula

So called because of the resemblance of the rocks to the head of a dragon, the Worms Head walk is spectacular but requires careful planning. It is only possible to cross the causeway to Worms Head for 2.5 hours between tides. Never be tempted to swim the causeway if you are cut off; many people have lost their lives in the attempt.

  1. Elidir Trail, Brecon BeaconsBrecon Beacons (4)

The entrance to a fairy kingdom is reputed to be somewhere along the Elidir Trail, a tranquil walk which meanders among cascading and gushing waterfalls in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Want to experience some of these spectacular walks for yourself? Why not visit Wales with adeo travel! Explore North Wales with our Mountains and Medieval Fortresses tour or try our brand new Small Group tour: Castles, Coast and Celts

Our Top 10 Castles of Wales!

With more historic fortresses per square mile than any other country in Europe, it is little wonder that Wales is known as the “Land of Castles”.  In fact, the mountains, borders and coastlines of this small but varied nation were once home to more than 400 forts; whilst many are vanished remaining only as ruins or earthworks, today there still exists more than 100 historic monuments, fortresses and manor houses.  And for the modern traveller they make for a trove of historic treasures just waiting to be discovered.  Here are our top ten Castles of Wales!

10. Carreg Cennen Castle

Carreg Cennen Castle
Carreg Cennen Castle

A site dating back to 1300, Carreg Cennen Castle makes for an impressive sight towering some 900ft on a limestone precipice overlooking the Preseli Hills on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park in mid-Wales.

9. Raglan Castle
Unlike many of the Wales’ other medieval Castles, this Norman fort has a unique design, styled to appear like an elegant French chateau.  But don’t be fooled, it still offered fierce defences with its hill-top position and moat tower.

8. Powis Castle

Powis Castle and Gardens
Powis Castle and Gardens

Dating back to circa 1200, this castle in mid Wales evolved over the following four centuries and today is home to exquisite interiors and antique collections to include paintings, sculpture, furniture and tapestries.  And all surrounded by stunning grounds of classic Italian and French-inspired manicured gardens.

7. Chepstow Castle
Chepstow Castle is an imposing border fort overlooking the scenic estuary of the River Wye in South East Wales; the town where JK Rowling grew up, it is possible to see how the fortress may have influenced her works of fantasy and potentially inspired parts of Hogwarts Castle.

6. Castle Coch

Castell Coch near Cardiff
Castell Coch near Cardiff

Commissioned by the 19th century coal baron, the Marquess of Bute, Castell Coch is far more recent than many of Wales’ forts and offers a stunning Victorian gothic-revival, fairy-tale castle of spires and turrets scenically set amidst thick woodlands on the outskirts of Cardiff.

5. Harlech Castle
A UNESCO World Heritage Fortress, Harlech Castle perches on a hill-top on the North Wales coast overlooking the Irish Sea and offers a unique history; originally constructed to oppress the Welsh the Castle later fell to Welsh ruler Owain Glyndwr who held a parliament here in the early 1400’s.

4. Caerphilly Castle

Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle

Second in size only to Windsor Castle in Britain, Caerphilly Castle near Cardiff covers a site of 30 acres and demonstrates sophisticated 13th century military design with concentric ringed walls and extensive water defences.

3. Caernarfon Castle
One of Edward I’s “ring of steel” around North Wales and with unique polygonal towers, Caernarfon is a beautiful and well-preserved 13th century fortress which received more recent notoriety as the venue of Prince Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969.

2. Conwy Castle

“One of the greatest fortresses of Medieval Europe” Conwy Castle today holds UNESCO World Heritage status.  Impressive and imposing, the fort remains linked to the Conwy town walls which almost completely encircle this beautiful medieval market town to this day.

1. Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle Interior
Cardiff Castle Interior

An utterly unique castle located in the heart of Wales’ bustling capital city of Cardiff and overlooking acres of open parkland, Cardiff Castle combines Roman history, a Norman Motte and a glorious mock gothic Victorian manor complete with clock tower and opulent living quarters.

To explore the beautiful landscapes, cities, coasts and castles of Wales why not do so on the Wales Explorer self-drive itinerary as featured on our website here.  You can add the CADW Wales explorer pass which offers free admission to dozens of castles and historic sites across Wales.

A History of Wales, in an Afternoon!

From ancient castles to stunning scenery, there is so much to see in Wales that you could easily spend a week or two touring here; however if you have a limited time-frame and want to see England and Scotland too, many people spare just a couple of nights to get their taste of Welsh culture, and head for Cardiff, the Welsh capital city.  If this is the case for you then make sure you visit St Fagans National History Museum.

Cardiff Castle, Cardiff, Wale
Cardiff Castle, Cardiff, Wale

I had been to St Fagans several years ago, but only recently re-visited when some family friends were in the area.  Upon arrival, I was instantly reminded that it is a museum with a difference – there’s no peering at fossils through glass here!  In fact it is Wales‘ leading open-air, living museum located in over 100 acres of its own beautiful parkland and gardens in the grounds of St Fagans Castle, a 16th century manor house, on the outskirts of Cardiff and a stone’s throw from Cardiff Castle itself.

St Fagans Castle, St Fagans Museum
St Fagans Castle, St Fagans Museum

St Fagans aim is to provide visitors with a history of Wales throughout the ages from the earliest Celtic settlements through medieval history to our more recent industrial heritage.  And it does this not through stuffy exhibitions but by allowing you to actually walk through some forty real historic buildings, each of which was originally constructed in a different era of Welsh history and in a different corner of the country but painstakingly moved and re-erected brick by brick in the grounds of St Fagans.  The fact you can enter these buildings, restored to how they would have originally appeared with superb attention to detail, allows you to literally step back in time and immerse yourself in what life was like for the people of Wales.

Ironworkers Houses, St Fagans
Ironworkers Houses, St Fagans

Some of the highlights include traditional farm buildings (complete with their own animals!), functioning watermills, peasant cottages, a chapel, a school and various Victorian period shops including an operational bakery which still offers local Welsh treats prepared using traditional methods.  My favourite attraction however was the row of terraced workman’s cottages, typical of those you’ll find in communities throughout the valleys of South East Wales to this day.  At St Fagans however each of these six tiny identical houses has been laid-out and furnished to a different generation since the beginning of the industrial revolution.  As you wander into each cottage, into their little gardens and vegetable patches and along the changing cobbled path you can literally walk through the ages from the early 1800’s right through to present day and get a glimpse of Welsh life from previous generations and see how it has changed in such a short time.

So if you find yourself on a time budget in Wales next Summer, head to St Fagans National History Museum in Cardiff where you can experience centuries in half a day!

Celebrating Wales – St David’s Day!

What do leeks, small onion-like vegetables, and daffodils, beautiful glowing yellow flowers, have in common?  Well, quite a lot if you’re Welsh actually.

Wales Flag
Wales Flag – Welsh Dragon

Last Friday the little nation of Wales celebrated its National Day as it does every year on 1st March.  Whilst not as internationally well known as the celebrations of St Patricks Day, which come around just shortly afterwards, the festival of St David is celebrated just as vigorously by the Welsh, who are certainly a proud and patriotic bunch.  So who was St David and how do the Welsh celebrate?

A 6th century Welsh Bishop of Minevia, legend has it that St David made his way from Wales on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem where he was made an archbishop and returned home to become a renowned preacher and teacher setting up monastic settlements throughout the country.  His miracles include moving the earth itself as it rose up beneath him whilst he was giving one of his speeches.

Cardiff Castle, Cardiff, Wales
Cardiff Castle, Cardiff, Wales

Almost 900 years later, St David was pronounced a saint and today St David’s Day, which is celebrated on the date of his death, marks an unmissable highlight of spring-time in Wales.  Celebrations take place across the country in every town and village of this little nation but the centrepiece of the festival takes place in the capital city of Cardiff.  Here there are master-classes in Welsh culture and cuisine with language workshops of the ancient Welsh tongue and culinary expositions taking place offering tasty treats such as the traditional Welsh cakes, Cawl and Welsh Rarebit.  The hi

The Daffodil - National Symbol of Wales
The Daffodil – National Symbol of Wales

ghlight is a vibrant parade of red and yellow which marches through the city past the stunning Cardiff Castle and on to St David’s Hall.  Dancers and theatrical performers come together to create a grand spectacle showing off the symbols of Wales such as giant dancing red dragons, and children in the traditional dress of black chimney hats, frilly skirts and white shawls.  And of course no Welsh celebration would be complete without some fine Welsh music whether from the national orchestra, a rendition of the stirring national anthem, the traditional dulcet tones of

some of Wales’ world renowned male-voice choirs or some the country’s best known international divas such as Tom Jones or Shirley Bassey.

And of course the locals are out in force wearing their national symbols of Wales proudly on their breast – the lowly leek or the beautiful daffodil.