Wales in a Week
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Make your first stop in Llangollen. It's an ancient market town situated on the banks of the beautiful River Dee under the watchful gaze of Castell Dinas Brân. If you're not lucky enough to be here for the International Musical Eisteddfod held each July, there's plenty to explore in its narrow streets.
Head to Conwy and to its castle - a great place to get lost. It has plenty of ramparts, towers, dark passages and dungeons. While you're in Conwy pay a visit to Plas Mawr, a restored Elizabethan townhouse and don't miss Britain's Smallest House.
Approx. distance: Llangollen to Conwy 49 miles (78.8 km)
Approx. driving time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Overnight suggestion: Conwy, Caernarfon
Start by heading south to Caernarfon Castle, a World heritage listed site. It's arguably the finest in Wales. Murder holes, five gates, six portcullises and a moat make for formidable lines of defence.
The Llanberis Road takes you past the foot of Snowdon, the highest mountain in England & Wales. Sir Edmund Hillary and his team trained here before embarking on their journey to the summit of Everest. If you stop at the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel, you'll see their signatures on the bar's ceiling.
Make sure you stop in Harlech and visit one of the 'Iron Ring Castles'. Situated high upon a rocky outcrop, its seaward side was defended by sheer cliffs, while a deep moat protected the other sides.
Visit Aberystwyth on your way south along the coast. Its a lively University town, and also home to the National Library of Wales - where many of the greatest literary treasures of Wales (and the other Celtic countries) are securely stored.
Approx. distance: Conwy - Caernarfon - Harlech - Aberystwyth 114 miles (183.5 km)
Approx. driving time: 3 hours 15 min / 3 hours if starting in Caernarfon
Overnight suggestion: Aberystwyth
A worthwhile detour inland takes you to Devil's Bridge, situated high in the foothills of the Plynlimon Mountains, 19 km east of Aberystwyth. The village has three claims to fame: the three bridges, the little narrow gauge steam railway, and the cascading waterfalls of the river Mynach.
The west coast is dotted with award winning beaches, rocky smugglers' coves and great cliff-top scenery. If you get close enough to the water, you may even catch a glimpse of the resident dolphins and seals.
Keep going south into Pembrokeshire. There are plenty of great places to visit in this area. Don't miss:- St Davids: the smallest city in Britain, more like a small village. This place is special, stuffed full of little art shops, galleries and tea rooms. And of course a cathedral. Tenby: wedged between two massive sandy beaches, it has a castle, town walls, a tiny harbour, and the best sand in Wales for making sandcastles.
Approx. distance: Aberystwyth - Devil's Bridge - Pembrokeshire 112 miles (180 km)
Approx. driving time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Overnight suggestion: Tenby
Take the coastal drive to Laugharne, where Dylan Thomas wrote 'Under Milk Wood'. You can still see his writing shed overlooking Carmarthen Bay.
Then drive towards Llanelli and the Millennium Coastal Park which occupies approximately 20 km of coastline on the Burry Estuary, overlooking Gower. It's a centre for lots of different leisure activities, including the continuous traffic-free cycle/footpath, championship golf course and watersports centre. The National Wetlands Centre of Wales is also located in the park. It’s Wales' best place to see wildfowl and waders.
Approx. distance: Tenby to Llanelli 58.5 miles (94 km)
Approx. driving time: 1 hour 35 minutes + 25 minutes if overnight at Swansea
Overnight suggestion: Llanelli, Swansea - search for accommodation
Explore Swansea and Gower today. The city's oldest building is the ruined Swansea Castle, standing out in more modern surroundings near the shopping centre. At the Dylan Thomas Centre you will find an intriguing exhibition on the poet's life and work. Just a few minutes walk from the city you'll find Swansea's Maritime Quarter. The former docklands have been redeveloped into an attractive waterfront, with its 600-berth marina as a centerpiece. The National Waterfont Museum is the place to learn about the industrial, maritime and social history of Wales and it's free.
Next, head to Gower. You'll soon find out why the 29 km long peninsula was designated UK's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Visit open moors, grazed common land, salt marshes and beautiful beaches. There’s also many historic churches, castles and prehistoric burial sites to explore. The Gower Heritage Centre based around an 800 year-old water powered mill, with craft workshops and tearooms is worth a visit.
Approx. distance: Swansea to Gower 8 miles (12.9 km)
Approx. driving time: 20 minutes
Overnight suggestion: Swansea
At Rhondda Heritage Park in the South Wales Valleys, ex-miners will take you to the pit bottom to explore the mine and experience life underground.
Continue north to Cyfarthfa Castle, set in 158 acres of parkland, in Merthyr Tydfil. There's lots of fine decorative art to admire in the museum and art gallery's Regency rooms. Find out about social and industrial history in the atmospheric basement.
Your next stop is the Brecon Mountain Railway, just three miles north of Merthyr Tydfil. These little, tall-stacked steam engines will take you on a seven mile trip through superb scenery in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Approx. distance: Swansea to Abergavenny including stops 75 miles (120.7 km)
Approx. driving time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Overnight suggestion: Abergavenny
Make your way to the quaint market town of Crickhowell. Allow time to explore the town as it's a delight for quirky shopping. The social hub is The Bear Hotel, an ancient coaching inn dating back to 1432 which has twice won the Best Pub in Britain award.
Your last stop is Hay-on-Wye. If you choose to take the slower scenic route to Hay then stop at Llanthony Priory en-route. Hay-on-Wye is famous for one thing – books. There are millions of them, and they are everywhere. The castle's a book shop, the cinema's a book shop, the fire station's a book shop, the alleyways are book shops. It also hosts an annual festival in May/June and has placed the town well and truly on the world literary map.
Approx. distance: Abergavenny to Hay-on-Wye including stops 37.5 miles (60.3 km)
Approx. driving time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Overnight suggestion: Hay-on-Wye