adeo Insights – Kevin Murray’s Diary: Week 4, South Wales

It’s all very well us telling you what to see and do when you come to visit Britain but who can give you a better insight into what you can expect from an adeo tour than our guests themselves! Our guest Kevin Murray has been kind enough to allow us to publish his trip reports detailing his travels through England, Wales and Scotland this Spring.

 

This week Kevin and Glenys cross the border to Wales, land of Dragons, and make their way along the beautiful South Wales Coast.

Next stop, Cardiff in South Wales, reached via the gigantic Severn Bridge. Here we visited Cardiff Castle, another spectacular site just oozing with history. The last family to own it undertook extensive (and expensive) renovations, restoring the ancient Roman walls and creating a sort of medieval dream world in the opulent residences.

Cardiff - Cardiff CastleWe spent another whole day exploring this surprising city, beginning with the extensive riverside parklands, then the Civic Centre and the National Museum with its comprehensive and informative display of the geological and paleontological history of Wales. Under unexpected blue skies we then wandered the streets, admiring the colorful low-rise buildings, the numerous pedestrian plazas and the attractive shopping arcades which make the centre of town very people-friendly. We also got to admire Cardiff‘s iconic Bay area, cleverly transformed from being the largest coal port in the world to a lively entertainment precinct dotted with some very impressive architecture, like the ginormous copper-sheathed Millennium Centre and the historic red-brick Pierhead building.

From Cardiff we ventured deeper into the mountainous Brecon Beacons area to the north, following the tortuous course of the Wye River through valleys painted with every shade of green. We explored the ruins of the surprisingly large Tintern Abbey, learning what life might have been like for a medieval Cistercian monk – not comfortable, that’s certain!

Brecon Beacons - Carreg Cennen CastleAfter overnighting at the lovely little village of Crickhowell, we caught a beautiful old steam train right into the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Expecting rugged mountains but finding green, rolling hills – albeit rather large hills! The scenery was spectacular, with the gleaming white new wool of this year’s Spring lambs dotting the bright green fields beyond mill-pond calm lakes and not a drop of rain in sight.

and so, on to Stackpole, our gateway to the glorious south coast of Wales, 200 miles of which is part of the Pembrokeshire National Park. We zigged and zagged along this rugged coast, exploring its windy headlands, sheltered coves and sandy beaches. We saw thousands of squabbling Guillemots vying for that crucial piece of ledge, high on pillars of rock thrusting above the crashing Atlantic waves. We wandered over headlands sculpted into magical shapes by sea and wind. We descended into a bleak stone hut wedged in a precipitous crevice where St Govan was supposed to have hidden from pirates. We explored the colourful town of Tenby whose pastel-shaded houses contrasted with the severity of the remnant castle ramparts.

Pembrokeshire - TenbyFrom Stackpole we continued northwards, hugging the Welsh coast. We followed the medieval pilgrim path to the smallest “city” in the world, St David’s. It achieves city status because of its cathedral, which is almost as big as the town. This beautiful cathedral with its impressive woodwork has been in more or less continuous use for over 700 years, even surviving the worst ravages of the Dissolution era. Next door to the cathedral was the Bishop’s Palace, which wasn’t so lucky. It is now in ruins but is intact enough to allow its English Heritage owners to use it as a background to cleverly convey what life must have been like in its heyday.

If you would like to explore South Wales, why not try our Cardiff, Castles and Coastlines self-drive tour or you could explore Wales on one of our popular small group tours!

Ten magical Scottish Islands to visit instead of Skye!

This morning we came into the office to yet another slew of enquiries for guests keen to visit the Scottish Isle of Skye, and it’s got us here at adeo Travel scratching our heads!

I mean, yes, the Isle of Skye is beautiful, yes, it’s full of wildlife, dramatic coastline and intriguing history. But, it is only one out of hundreds of incredible Scottish Islands – 790 to be exact – each one more spectacularly beautiful than the last.

So here are 8 alternative Scottish Islands to visit if you want to escape the crowds this summer and experience the wild and unspoilt beauty of the Scottish Isles.

  1. Islay
Isle of Islay
Isle of Islay

The ‘Queen of the Hebrides’ is probably best known for its whisky production. Despite its size, at just 600 square kilometres, this tiny island is home to eight working distilleries – it’s certainly the Whisky Capital of the Hebrides!

Visit if: You never say ‘no’ to a dram or two!

Don’t miss: Bowmore, the oldest distillery on Islay, founded over two centuries ago in 1779

  1. Jura

This island is famed for being where George Orwell retreated to write 1984 and literary buffs can still make a pilgrimage to the remote croft house where he lived. Orwell wanted to get away from it all and you can see why he chose wild, untamed Jura where wild deer outnumber people more than 10 to one.

Visit if: You’re a novelist having an existential crisis.

Don’t miss: The Corryvrecken Whirpool, one of the largest permanent whirlpools on earth and one of the most dangerous stretches of water around the British Isles.

  1. Harris

    Isle of Harris
    Isle of Harris

You might be surprised to learn that most visitors travel to this Outer Hebridian Island for its beaches. The dazzling white sands and turquoise waters surrounding the largest island in the Outer Hebrides are reminiscent of the Caribbean. With dozens of beaches to pick from, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Visit if: You’re a bit of a beach bum

Don’t miss: The volcanic islands of St Kilda, the most remote Islands in the British Isles.

  1. Orkney

Actually Orkney consists of around 70 Islands but I’ll ignore that. I’m going to leave it to the poet and storyteller George Mackay Brown, who lived on Orkney at Stromness, to sell you his island home. He wrote ‘The essence of Orkney’s magic is silence, loneliness, and the deep marvellous rhythms of sea and land, darkness and light.’

Visit if: There is a hint of whimsy in your soul

Don’t miss: The Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae which is thought to be older than Stonehenge and the pyramids.

  1. Iona
Iona abbey
Iona abbey

Iona is a mystical Island accessible only by foot-passenger ferry from Mull. The Island is infused with religious devotion and is known as ‘the cradle of Christianity’ in Scotland. Iona Abbey was founded by St Columba in 563 and continues to be an important site of worship and pilgrimage.

Visit if: You are in search of peace and restoration

Don’t miss: The Fairy Hill or Hill of Angels which has been the site of pagan and Christian rituals for centuries and has been strongly associated with the world of the supernatural.

  1. Arran

One of the most accessible islands, you can drive to Arran from Glasgow in a couple of hours. Despite being so close to the hustle and bustle of the mainland you will still be able to experience the relaxed, whimsical atmosphere of island life as well as the dramatic scenery and eclectic wildlife of the Inner Hebrides.

Visit if: You’re looking for a taste of the Islands of Scotland

Don’t miss: The spectacular Glenahdale Falls, accessed by walking through an Iron Age fort and Neolithic burial mounds known as The Giants Graves.

  1. Barra

    Barra airport
    Barra airport

Beautiful Barra is the most southerly of the inhabited islands in the Outer Hebrides. it was the strong hold of the Clan MacNeil and you can visit their ancient seat, the ‘Castle in the Sea’, sitting on a rock islet in Castle Bay.

Visit if: Your name is MacNeil

Don’t miss: The island’s unique airstrip on Traigh Mor Beach.

  1. Mull

The third largest of the Scottish Isles and one of the most accessible as it is served by three ferries. This island boasts a huge variety of flora and fauna including Golden and White-tailed Eagles, Otters, Whales, Dolphins and Basking Sharks.

Visit if: You are a birder or a twitcher

Don’t miss: The brightly painted waterfront houses of Tobermory.

 

If you’re tempted by any of these alternative Islands why not visit them with adeo Travel. You can visit by car on our Scottish Islands Self-Drive tour or a small group tour such as Orkneys and Scottish Highlands.

Or email us for a completely bespoke tour of the Scottish Isles!