Grand Tour: Wales

The Welsh preserve their language, music and hospitality as doggedly as they do their monuments. The castles evoke a faraway time. From village pub to country manor, visitors are welcomed with as much fanfare as a retinue of King Arthur’s knights. Strike up the harp and break open the ale. Eat, drink and reminisce the day’s adventures in convivial Welsh company. In a week you can drive through the hill country, along the north coast, then south to Cardiff. 
Plan Your Trip. This day-by-day guide lists details on lodging, restaurants, sights, and sports & recreation described in Wales: Castle Country. Use the websites, phone numbers, info and maps to plan your trip. Phone numbers are listed for travelers already in Wales. If calling from the US, omit the first 0 and add 011 and 44: (011 44) 1234 567 890. If your vehicle is equipped with a Satellite Navigation System, use the post code for directions.
Learn More. Visit Wales is the official travel site where you find information on attractions in every region of Wales. Look through the listings of historic sites, tours and lodging. Also check out the videos of Wales.
DAY 1 Travel Day
Fly from your gateway to Cardiff or Bristol.
Book a non-stop flight if you can to Bristol and return from Cardiff. Ask your travel agent to compare connections to Cardiff and to Bristol. Aer Lingus flies non-stop from 10 U.S. gateways. The Wye Valley, the starting point of the trip, is an hour drive from either city. Cardiff is the final destination.
Getting There
Aer Lingus
DAY 2 Wye Valley
Rent a car and drive to Wye Valley.
Compare the best car rentals and deals, at Car Rentals website lists 25 rental companies.
Car Rentals
Drive to medieval Chepstow.
Visit the castle, then drive or walk to Tintern Abbey. The ancient gateway to Wales, Chepstow has the first stone castle built by the Normans in the 11th century. For visitor information, stop at the Tourist Information Centre located in the car park at Chepstow Castle.The castle is open to the public daily throughout the year and ample parking is provided off Bridge Street immediately below the Castle. Life-size models depict Civil War battle scenes.
Chepstow Castle
1 Bridge Street, Chepstow
South Wales, Wales NP16 5LH
01443 336 000
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From Chepstow, take the Wye Valley Walk path to Tintern Abbey.
A walk is the best way to enjoy the natural beauty of the Wye. On the banks of the River Wye, this 12th century abbey church filled the poet William Wordsworth with “tranquil restoration.” By car, the distance is four miles.
Tintern Abbey
Tintern, Chepstow
Gwent, Wales NP16 6SE
01443 336 000
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Stay in the Usk Valley at Llansantffraed Court Hotel.
More a stately home than a hotel, Llansantffraed is managed by Mike Morgan and his family. The Raglan Suite on the first floor has a king-size four-poster bed, black marble bathroom and views of the lake.
Llansantffraed Court Hotel
Clytha Llanvihangel Gobion (near Abergavenny)
Monmouthshire, Wales NP7 9BA
01873 840 678
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Have dinner at The Hardwick in Abergavenny.
The organic Herefordshire beef is delicious as is the roast loin of Welsh pork with coco beans, spinach, dandelion and pancetta. End the meal with a plate of local cheeses: caerphilly is a mild white cheese with a crumbly texture.
The Hardwick
Old Raglan Road
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales NP7 9AA
01873 854 220
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DAY 3 Hay on Wye, Brecon
Browse the bookstalls and Norman castles at Hay-on-Wye.
Stop at the visitors center on Oxford Road for a map of this booksellers’ town. Poke around the secondhand book stalls at Hay Castle. Although mostly in ruin, the habitable part of the castle houses the collection of Richard Booth, the man who created the secondhand book capital of Europe. The town lies on the east bank of the River Wye and is within the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Hay on Wye
Oxford Road, Hay-on-Wye
Powys, Wales HR3 5DG
01497 820 144
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Visit the Brecon Beacons National Park Visitors Centre (Mountain Centre).
Offa’s Dyke path runs along the ridge of the Black Mountains, a popular site for pony-trekking. Option: drive along Gospel Pass Road to the car park at the base of Hay Bluff for a panoramic view of the Radnorshire countryside.
Brecon Beacons National Park
Libanus, Brecon
Powys, Wales LD3 8ER
01874 623 366
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Stay at Llangoed Hall, a five-star legacy hotel.
You may pass the stout, sturdy Welsh ponies grazing as you approach Llangoed Hall, the country’s premier estate and manor house. Each of the 23 rooms is decorated with Elanbach fabrics. The sitting rooms are scrumptiously decorated and as welcoming as you could imagine.
Llangoed Hall Hotel
Llyswen, Brecon
Powys, Wales LD3 0YP
01874 754 525
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DAY 4 North Wales
Drive to the North coast of Wales to Conwy Castle.
Head west to the castle coast of North Wales where you can visit this monumental fortress of medieval Europe.
Conwy Castle
5 Rose Hill Street, Conwy
North Wales, Wales LL32 8LD
01492 592 358
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Drive 3 miles to Bodysgallen Hall.
After you check in, have lunch or a traditional Welsh tea in a comfortable chair by the window. The tea room is a lovely setting to enjoy homemade scones with strawberry preserves and clotted cream; and Bara Brith, a moist brown bread.
Bodysgallen Hall
North Wales, Wales LL30 1RS
01492 584 466
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Take the train to the top of Mount Snowdon.
Ride Snowdon Mountain Railway to the 3,560-foot summit of Mount Snowdon. Trains have scaled this impressive peak on a unique rack and pinion railway since 1896. Visitors have varying luck with the weather as clouds often shroud the summit.
Snowdonia National Railway
Nant Peris Road
Gwynedd, Wales LL55 4TY
0844 493 8120
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DAY 5 Gwynedd, Anglesey, Llyn Peninsula
Drive 25 miles from Bodysgallen Hall to Caernarfon Castle.
Back on the castle trail, visit mighty Caernarfon, the haunt of Edward I who was relentless in his conquest of Wales. Edward’s military stronghold and dream castle,“the fairest that ever man saw”, makes you feel like you are walking into a tale from the Mabinogion.
Caernarfon Castle
8 Castle Ditch, Caernarfon
Gwynedd, Wales LL55 2AU
01286 677 617
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Drive 13 miles to Beaumaris on the Isle of Anglesey.
Have a pint and shepherd’s pie at Olde Bulls Head. The inn is a local gathering spot. Beaumaris Castle, Edward I’s imposing fortress, is within walking distance of the Bulls Head.
Olde Bulls Head Inn
Castle Street, Beaumaris
Anglesey, Wales LL58 8AP
01248 810 329
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Stay at Portmeirion on Llyn Peninsula.
Each cottage in Portmeirion village sports an eccentric style and name. Salvage from the London Blitz was artfully used by Clough Williams-Ellis in the construction. As you walk around the village, look for The Mermaid and Telford’s Tower. Browse in the pottery shop for one-of-a-kind tea pots. Have dinner at Portmeirion Hotel down on the seashore.
Gwynedd, Wales LL48 6ER
01766 770 000
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DAY 6 Carmarthenshire, Cardiff
Visit Carreg Cennin Castle.
In a remote corner of the Brecon Beacons, climb a path to Carreg Cennen Castle, a Welsh hillfort from the 1300s. The path leads through a passage and out onto a precipitous crag. Four miles south of Llandeilo.
Carreg Cennen Castle
Carmarthenshire, Wales SA19 6UA
01558 822 291
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Drive southeast to Cardiff and check into St. David’s Hotel & Spa.
The corner rooms are the most spectacular. The moment you enter the room, Cardiff Bay sweeps into view through high-ceiling glass windows. Slip into a plush bathrobe and bathing suit to enjoy the spa and hydrotherapy pools.
St. David’s Hotel & Spa
Havannah Street, Cardiff
South Glamorgan, Wales CF10
02920 454 045
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Visit Cardiff Castle, Llandaff Cathedral.
The Romans, Normans and the British Victorians have all left their mark on Cardiff Castle. Welsh Banquets are held throughout the year in the Undercroft, one of the oldest parts of the castle.
Cardiff Castle
Castle Street, Cardiff
South Glamorgan, Wales CF10 3RB
02920 878 100
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Have an early dinner at the Tides Bar & Restaurant.
Stuffed pheasant, chestnut stuffing and wild cranberry sauce is a savory Welsh feast.
Tides Restaurant, St. David’s Hotel
Attend a performance at St. David’s Hall.
Welsh choirs are renowned throughout the world but the national concert hall of Wales is their home base. The fine Welsh tenor Bryn Terfel may be on stage or a harpist, plucking a Welsh triple harp.
St. David’s Hall
38 Charles Street
Cardiff, Wales CF10 2
029 2087 8500
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CT EditorsPhotography by Visit Wales.

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