Home to sweeping valleys, sandy bays and crumbling castles cloaked in Celtic myth, you don’t have to look far in Wales for adventure. Its cosmopolitan capital, Cardiff, is tailor- made for foodies and culture vultures, while further afield history and natural drama collide amidst miles of mountainous terrain. Despite the Welsh symbol being a fiery red dragon, local residents are well-known for their warm hospitality so expect to be welcomed as one of their own.
Why cruise Wales
Wales welcomes as many as 51,000* cruise passengers per year, and with good reason. With six cruise ports providing access to the country’s most spectacular sights, you can sail right into the beating heart of Wales and explore almost every nook and cranny… fuelled by Welsh griddle cakes, slathered with melted butter, of course. A new pontoon at Fishguard port enables large vessels of up to 185 metres to anchor off and tender in, making it possible for more cruise lines to include Wales on their itineraries. Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, AIDA Cruises and Regent Seven Seas all offer action-packed voyages to the Welsh shores, often taking in multiple stops around the British coast in destinations such as Edinburgh, Inverness, Dublin and Cork.
Best Places to visit in Wales
Stride the battlements of Cardiff Castle, lose yourself in Spillers Record Shop, packed to the rafters with vinyl, or hunker down in one of the capital’s excellent cafes. Feeling brave? Why not squeeze into a wetsuit and check out the Olympic standard white water rafting course in Cardiff Bay? As well as rafting, you’ll find canoeing, riverboarding and an indoor wave machine, perfect for surfing lessons, at Cardiff International White Water. An hour’s scenic drive from the city, the Brecon Beacons National Park boasts miles of wonderful walking amidst lush rolling green hills and craggy moorland.
As the gateway to the famous Gower Peninsula, Swansea offers the perfect springboard from which to explore the region’s dramatic limestone cliffs and golden sandy beaches. Start at the charming seaside village of Mumbles (try to catch the annual Mumbles Oyster festival for its plump, briny gems) and head as far west as you dare along 19 miles of pretty walking trails.
The gold-standard in mountain scenery, Snowdonia National Park in North Wales has it all ¬- lakes, glacial landforms and towering summits. Wrap up warm and choose your challenge carefully. Cadrair Idris has one of the most beautiful peaks, said to have been used as a chair by a Welsh giant for stargazing, while the Glyders (the 994-metre Glyder Fach and 999-metre Glyder Fawr) are two of the UK's finest mountains.
Wales has been described as ‘The Galapagos of the UK’, thanks to its smattering of islands. And the isle of Anglesy is one of its best. Classed as an official Area of Outstanding Beauty and home to six blue-flag beaches, the 125 mile-long Anglesey Coastal Path is the big draw here, hugging wild beaches, purple heathland and mud flats busy with birds. Keep your eyes peeled for swooping falcons, peregrines and puffins, as well as seals and porpoises frolicking in the waves below. Blow off the cobwebs with one of ten bracing, circular clifftop walks past lighthouses, neolithic burial chambers and bronze-age huts.
Highlights of Pembrokeshire’s rugged northwest coast include Barafundle Bay, a small pristine beach, backed by sandy dunes and thick pine trees, which on a sunny day looks more like the Caribbean than Wales. Stop off for photos at the picture-perfect Bosherston Lily Ponds, three flooded limestone valleys which, in summertime are swathed in a carpet of lilies. And make time to gaze on Abereiddy’s remarkable blue lagoon, framed by an otherworldly black sand beach. The lagoon’s extraordinary dark hue is due to it being formed in a slate quarry.
Best things to do in Wales
Marvel at medieval castles
Wales is said to contain more castles per square mile than any country in the world. More than 661 splendid castles, in fact, can be found within Welsh borders, in varying stages of decay. From the regal Caernarfon Castle, built by Edward I in the 13th century, and crumbling Raglan Castle to Penrhyn Castle, where filming took place for the hit series Game of Thrones, there’s something soul-stirring about each and every one of these fortresses.
Hunt for waterfalls
The valleys of South Wales are home to some spectacular waterfalls, and the Brecon Beacons National Park, dubbed Waterfall Country, is home to some of the finest. Well worth seeking out are the 90 ft (25m) high plunging torrents of Henrhyd waterfall, just a 20-minute stroll from the nearest carpark, and the Sgwd Gwladys, a 33-ft (10m) high beauty that spills into a natural pool popular with wild swimmers.
Climb a mountain
Adventurous types won’t be able to resist tackling Mount Snowdon. The highest mountain in Wales peaks at 3,560 ft (1,085m), from where you can take in views of the Welsh countryside, all the way to Ireland and Scotland on a clear day. We’d recommend taking the Snowdon Mountain Railway back down from the summit to give the old knees a well-earned rest.
Watch a rugby game
If Wales is known for one thing it’s for their love of rugby. Catch a home game at the impressive Principality Stadium in Cardiff, built to host the 1999 Rugby World Cup, or the 20,000-capacity Liberty Stadium in Swansea, home to local team The Ospreys, to soak up the electric atmosphere. Prepare to be deafened by the crowd’s enthusiastic singing of the national anthem.
Eat and drink with gusto
Wales is strong on local produce with Welsh lamb and black beef being the favourites on most menus. But look out too for a steaming bowl of cawl (a broth made with meat, leeks and potatoes), local sea trout and Laverbread (seaweed). Any afternoon activity should conclude with the scone-like Welsh cakes or bara brith, a rich fruitcake. Far be it from us to suggest that the Welsh like a drink (we’ll let you decide for yourselves) but what cannot be argued with is that Welsh vineyards, such as the Tŷ Croes Vineyard on Anglesey and the scenic Cwm Deri Vineyard in Pembrokeshire are on the up, producing increasingly drinkable wines. Pop along for a tasting and be sure to grab a bottle to enjoy back onboard the ship for the perfect sail-away sundowner. Purple Moose microbrewery near Snowdonia offers some truly unusual flavours including Chocolate Moose and Elderflower Ale, and keep an eye out for a unique Welsh Whiskey experience, coming soon, courtesy of the Penderyn Whiskey distillery.
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