For some reason, Wales wasn’t high on people’s lists when recommending places for us to go. In truth, it hadn’t been a priority for us during our brief stint living in northern England. But, having finally visited, I can honestly say that a week in Wales was a highlight of our time in Europe.
I will forward this itinerary by stating that Wales is a proud and beautiful country but, it is small and with a limited populace. This makes it perfect for people looking for an escape, a way to reconnect with nature or any history buff. On this, I will endeavour to outline a week well spent in the majestic Wales.
Day 1: Cardiff
The same as when visiting any country, exploring the capital is a necessity. And while capitals aren’t always the top highlight, they certainly offer perspective and insight into the feel of a country. Besides, I’ve not found a capital (link to Budapest, Vienna and Bratislava blog) without at least one worthwhile thing to do; case in point, Cardiff.
While one night in Cardiff was enough for us, there’s still plenty to do. The most important sight is, of course, a visit to Cardiff Castle. While you can enter the outer walls for free, I recommend buying a ticket as some of the rooms inside the castle are some of the most memorable and interesting I’ve seen across Europe. In saying that, there are only eight rooms or so accessible inside the castle, with a few more accessible with the premium ticket. Inside the castle, the banqueting hall, the library, and “The Arab Room” are the most notable of these and some absolute highlights from the whole of my time in Wales.
After the castle, the National Museum is apparently worthwhile, however, we ran out of time after enjoying the castle and wandering the streets and local shops. Similarly, if you can time your trip, you can also catch a rugby game and experience the passionate locals enjoying their national sport.
Day 2 & 3: Brecon Beacons National Park
You may have heard of this place for its walks and beautiful nature. While not as popular as Snowdonia National Park, there are certainly plenty of options here.
The most popular is Pen Y Fan. Being the highest peak in South Wales at just shy of 900m, it is very achievable with lots of different routes depending on your ability. If that doesn’t float your boat, there are also lots of waterfalls and trails one can explore on foot, horseback, or cycling.
Day 4 & 5: Snowdonia National Park
A must-do when visiting Wales is Snowdonia National Park. This place is on every itinerary and certainly lives up to the hype. For outdoor lovers, which I think is most people coming to Wales, some of the walks here are second to none. There are plenty of options to choose from including waterfalls, the highest mountain in Wales (Yr Wyddfa at just over 1000m) and numerous lakes.
Day 6: Caernarfon
The iconic Caernarfon Castle is another must-do on any Welsh visit. A World Heritage Site, it is most commonly known as the investiture sight for the former Prince of Wales, the current King Charles III.
The medieval town is small but pretty with plenty of shops and a nice beachside promenade, including the smallest house in the UK! For some reason, Caernarfon is also home to the smallest bar in Wales.
Day 7: Conwy Castle and departure from Manchester (via Chester)
Conwy Castle is a majestic structure right by the water. With paid entry, you can explore the castle, however, after Caernarfon Castle, our local hosts said we’d already seen the best, so we just explored the free surroundings. This included a portion of the medieval walls, a beautiful bridge and the waterside walkway with spectacular views of the castle.
We then finished our journey flying out from Manchester Airport, but on the way, we stopped in Chester, England. This is a very picturesque village very close to the border and well worth a stop for its architecture alone. If you haven’t visited Manchester either, I would recommend a stop there too, particularly for Christmas markets.
Overall, Wales was a very unexpected surprise with lots to do. While we could have spent a few more days, we think that a week is a good taster. Be prepared for rain and mud, lots of great hikes, and of course, friendly and passionate locals!