This post was originally published on castlesandturrets.com
Wales has always had a favourite place in my heart. In fact, Wales was the last place I went on holiday to before this pandemic started. Back in 2019 (which feels like a lifetime ago), I went with my family and had a fantastic day in a place that at first seemed like the middle of nowhere.
But Wales is a place that is full of hidden gems, and often, when you aren’t expecting to come across places you can have the most amazing time. It was at this holiday that my dad and I explored Valle Crucis Abbey – a true hidden gem. Near the horseshoe pass and an absolutely incredible place to find.
This is only one example of a place that can be found and explored in Wales and honestly, there are hundreds of amazing places to explore in Wales. The castles, the old pubs, the wild beaches – I could go on and on. It all depends on what you are after, what are you most interested in doing when you go and explore new places?
So if you are looking for ideas for your day out in Wales, then this post covers the best things to do during your trip!
Visit One of the Most Famous Castles in Wales: Harlech Castle
Can you really say you visited Wales if you don’t go and visit one of its castles? Wales is famous for its castles and there are plenty for you to pick from! There are four castles that everyone always thinks about when it comes to Wales: Beaumaris, Conwy; Caernarfon and of course, Harlech Castle.
These four castles are always thought of together, due to their connection to Edward I. Of course, these aren’t the only castles that you should visit in Wales and you could easily spend days exploring each and everyone that Wales has (although a castle holiday in Wales sounds absolutely perfect in my mind).
But when you are limited on time, you can’t always get to see all the castles that you want. So, I decided that Harlech is one that needs to be on people’s list to make the most of their day trip out in Wales.
There is an unspoken fierce competition from Conwy, Caernarfon and Beaumaris as to which is the better castle (and I can’t really answer that, and to be honest I think exploring all four would be pretty perfect). But I do have to say that Harlech Castle in Wales, is probably the most spectacular setting for any of Edward I’s castles in North Wales.
Why is Harlech castle the most spectacular castle? Well, it crowns a sheer rocky crag overlooking the dunes far below – waiting in vain for the tide to turn and the distant sea to lap at its feet once again…
One for the More Active Explorer: Witches Cauldron (Ceibwr Bay, Cardigan)
It’s not just castles that I’m interested in, but hidden gems like Ceibwr Bay. This is a site that is incredible just by being itself, but also there is a hint of beautiful mystery to it.
It is accessed along the idyllic Pembrokeshire Coast Path and makes for a great walk. This is a fascinating geological feature that was formed by a collapsed cave and can only be accessed via the waters of Cardigan Bay. This helps keep this place as a hidden gem, as you wouldn’t know it was there if you didn’t know what to look for.
If you are planning on visiting this place though, then it’s important that you go at the right time. You want to make sure that the conditions are just right. When you visit during the right time, you will be greeted by emerald green water in the cave (a pretty spectacular sight to see really).
This was first discovered by kayakers, but there is a legend that comes with this cave. The legend Is that Witch’s Cauldron is haunted by a witch who is said to devour anybody who enters alone, hence the name.
Don’t let this legend put you off though, this is certainly one place that you need to add to your bucket list and it can’t be missed!
Swallow Falls Waterfall in Betws-y-Coed
Betws-y-Coed (pronounced betsy-coe-ed) is a charming town to visit, and one that is full of places to see and explore. You’ve got Gwydir Forest Park, St Michael’s Old Church and Gwydir Uchaf Chapel to name only a few things that are in the area.
But one of the things that stands out, is the incredibly scenic waterfall just outside of the town.
Swallow Falls is an area of outstanding natural beauty where the River Llugwy flows through a narrow chasm creating a spectacular waterfall amongst a background of beech, conifer and birch trees.
The falls can be viewed from a location above the river with no strenuous walking or for the more energetic there are steps leading down to a platform close to the river edge
There are multiple viewing platforms along the waterfall so every time you visit you will see things from all angles.
If you do decide to visit then make sure to bring cash to pay for your admission. Exact change please, as you need to pay your admission at the turnstile (£2 for adults, 75p for children).
At times, the entry booth is unstaffed and access is granted through a turnstile. This means that you can visit the waterfall at any time. So you can enjoy this site whenever it suits you!
Tretower Court and Castle: Perfect for a Family Day Out
It would be remarkable enough on its own. But Tretower is two wonders in one. Just across the castle green lies an entire medieval court that became a byword for magnificence.
This is a wonder that spans 900 years of history and is a place that delights all members of your family. Perfect for those who love letting their imagination run wild! You’ll find the great hall laid out just as it might have been for a lavish feast in the 1460s.
This court became a magnet for medieval Welsh poets who drank its fine wines and sang the praises of its generous host. Now, thanks to meticulous restoration, you can vividly imagine being one of Tretower’s most honoured guests.
You can also take a stroll outside in the recreated 15th-century garden. You can walk among fragrant white roses that symbolise Sir Roger’s passionate Yorkist sympathies!
Beddgelert: A Charming Village in North Wales
This is a popular tourist destination and it’s easy to see why. This charming and scenic setting, with only a population of 455, is one that needs to go on your bucket list!
This isn’t just your bog-standard pretty village though, there’s actually a story that goes behind this village. The story is that it is actually named after a dog, and me being a dog-lover, when I first found out this little nugget of information, I thought great, how sweet.
But the story isn’t really as sweet as I first thought.
Legend has it that Gelert the dog belong to Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd. The story goes that Llywelyn came home one day to find his baby missing and Gelert with blood on his face. Believing that Gelert had killed the baby, Llywelyn kills Gelert. Shortly after, Llywelyn hears his baby crying next to a dead wolf that had attacked the baby and been killed by Gelert.
There are a few variations of this story and somewhere the dog actually lives as well (I much prefer this story).
You can visit the supposed grave of Gelert in town, although the “grave” was built by a local hotel owner in the 1800s to be a tourist attraction. So, it’s not the real deal.
Carreg Cennen: A True Gem of a Castle
This is a castle that I knew I had to add to this list of the best things to do on a day trip in Wales. This is truly one of my favourite places to have ever come across and is probably the first and only castle that has ever surprised me so much! Carreg Cennen is definitely one of my top five favourite castles!
This is a castle that you can find if you are in the Brecon Beacons (a fantastic place in Wales really) and is one that if you are in the area you really should visit. It is a castle that is often overlooked by Wales’ other most impressive castles, but it is not one to miss.
Perched atop a limestone outcrop since 1462, this is a hidden gem in South Wales that will impress many who look upon it. Despite being damaged by Yorkists during the War of the Roses, it managed to survive and let us fellow history/castle lovers explore its mighty grounds.
You will have to climb to the top in order to truly appreciate this castle, but it is manageable, and it offers spellbinding scenery of the Brecon Beacons to be enjoyed from this elevated position.
Enjoy the audio tours that can help you learn the history behind Carreg Cennen Castle, and explore the incredible cave below (just make sure to bring a torch that won’t die on you at the very bottom like mine did when I explored the cave.
This is a castle that you have to explore!
Wales has so many incredible places to explore, and not just all castle related either. There is something for everyone in Wales and it would be totally easy to spend a whole day out in Wales. I mean you could easily spend a week, or two, or three in Wales as there is so much to do.
Have you been to any of these places in Wales? If not, when travel returns to normal will you be visiting one day?
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