Road Trippin’ Around Wales
Croeso i Gymru! Welcome to Wales – the most beautiful and road trip-worthy part of the UK. As if the ridiculously stunning landscape isn’t enough to entice you, the locals are friendly and the prices are about a low as you’ll find in the UK.
Despite visiting in December-January when it should’ve been rather bleak and miserable, my sister, Katie, and I were treated to blue skies almost all week long.
We arrived into Cardiff early in the morning, and as we walked (or rather..as I RAN, busting to pee..) through Bute Park on our way to the hostel, we admired the frosty grass and frozen leaves. Once we dumped our bags, we headed straight back to explore. Not only is this park beautiful, but it’s a little bit quirky too. We stumbled upon a Pumba-like sculpture tucked away in the woods and admired an intricate animal wall around the edge of the park.
Right next door, we found Cardiff castle. Walking in and around the castle offered stunning views as well as insights into the history of Wales. Inside the castle we roamed stunning, elaborately decorated rooms and found the most incredible library.
Other highlights in Cardiff included roaming the pedestrian streets, hopping between funky cocktail bars, gawking at street art and having a look around Cardiff Bay. While we were in town, there was a special exhibition called Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl. The short tour around this museum, obviously aimed at kids (but hey, we’re just big kids), informed us about Dahl’s life, highlighted many inspirations for his books and showcased some of his handwritten childhood letters.
A few days of slow-paced roaming around Cardiff was an ideal way to kick-start our road trip around Wales.
Our first day of driving took us all along the south coast of Wales, from Cardiff to Pembrokeshire.
We stopped by Swansea but quickly decided it didn’t have much to offer. Instead, we spent most of the day on the Gower peninsula. First, we walked around Mumbles Hill to see foggy views of the coast. Thankfully, by the time we reached Three Cliffs Bay, the fog had largely cleared. This beach was stunning – and given that it was bitterly cold and windy, we had it all to ourselves!
Our last stop for the day was Rhossili Bay, rated the most beautiful beach in the UK. While it was still quite foggy there, we managed to get decent views of the coast and its local sheep. So many sheep. A short walk took us further along the coast for more stunning views and a wicked sunset.
We spent the next day exploring the Pembrokeshire area, starting off with Pembroke Castle. It’s biggest claim to fame is that Henry the 8th was born there!
Fun fact: my parents have family trees that go back for ever and ever, which prove that we’re related to William the Conquerer. While at Pembroke Castle, we found out that a cousin of William the Conquerer once lived there… So basically, the castle is OURS. Amazing.
Next up, the lily pad lake with no lily pads! We didn’t really consider the fact that the lily pads would only be there in summer… But regardless, the walk around Bosherston was wonderfully picturesque.
A little bit further down the road, we found a beautiful coast line filled with a bunch of rock formations, including a ‘bridge.’ Pretty! While there, we froze our fingers attempting to eat lunch at a park bench. (Note to self: get gloves!) Therefore, we figured hot chocolate was a must at our last stop for the day, the adorable town of Tenby. Once we were suitably warmed with chocolatey goodness, we admired the gorgeous colourful streets of Tenby and the huge, stunning beach accompanied by a castle on an island! This is Wales: there’s always a castle. Â
Our third day on the road was a bit of a flop. After what felt like a very long morning of driving, we stopped at Llynau Cregennen to take in the view. The wind was sooo cold that we only lasted a few minutes. But it was beautiful – and this was our first taste of Snowdonia National Park!
Katie then found a random waterfall on the map that we decided we’d go check out. However…the road was awful, we had a little hiccup with the car and then once we were eventually “there” we discovered it was an hour walk each way to the waterfall. Given that we didn’t even know what we would find at this waterfall, we ended up skipping it! All that effort for nothing.
We stopped at Llyn Trawsfynydd, a beautiful lake, for lunch…where I once again froze my fingers. Where are those gloves I was going to buy!?
The next waterfall was much more successful. In that we actually saw it. Swallow Falls. Quite pretty. No walk or hike involved – it’s just a couple of meters from the road. Further along the same road we found Llynau Mymbyr, another lake with mountain views. This was stunning! The sun was just starting to set and finally our day was looking up.
We found two more beautiful sunset views, which the photos do not do justice at all!
When we arrived at the hostel, we were told that check in wasn’t til 5pm, so we had half an hour or so to kill. The hostel staff kindly suggested that we walk along one of the paths that lead up to Mt Snowdon (not the whole way though, obviously) This little taster got me super excited for the hike – however, I think it perhaps made Katie fearful for the day ahead!
The next day, at last, it was time to hike to the peak! Or, almost the peak, as the case may be…
We hiked up the Pyg track which offered continually stunning views of the surrounding mountains and lakes.
When we got to the last section, where the walking become more like rock climbing and the ground was covered in snow and ice, Katie wisely chose to head back. I, however, continued on for a little while. When I’d had a few minor slips and saw that everyone started putting on their cramp-ons…I thought perhaps it was time to give up. So close..yet so far!
Apparently, the beautiful blue skies that day gave a lot of people false hope. Many people continued hiking all the way up to the peak without appropriate gear and it resulted in numerous helicopter rescues. So, good thing I turned around when I did, I guess!
On the way down we took the Miner’s Track which was a steep decent and then a nice easy flat path most of the way, following various lakes and landing us right back at the hostel.
So…I didn’t quite make it to the top! Perhaps one day I’ll head back in Summertime.
Our final day in Wales included some quick photo stops, a flat tyre, many wrong turns, and a missed bus to London. Oops. But we made it eventually.
Stay beautiful, Wales. I’ll be back! Very soon, in fact. I’ve booked a few days in Brecon Beacons in January – lets hope I’m just as lucky with the weather this time! If you have any tips for the area, I’d love to hear them.