Conwy Castle, Plas Mawr, Caernarfon Castle, Harlech Castle and St Davids Bishop's Palace are in the care of Cadw. Register with the Cadw Tour Operator Scheme (CTOS) to become a member of Cadw’s online group booking scheme. Members benefit from preferential trade rates and discounts, complimentary admission for your tour leader, complimentary introductions to Cadw monuments, enhanced information for existing tours and invoicing following your visit. Site Entry tickets are currently released one week in advance of visit. See Cadw Admissions for more information.
Make your first stop in Llangollen. It's an ancient market town situated on the banks of the beautiful River Dee and the by the landmark of Castell Dinas Brân. Visit Plas Newydd, a gothic fantasy house built by 'The Ladies of Llangollen' in the eighteenth century. 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.
Continue to Conwy via the scenic Horseshoe Pass (A542) and through the Vale of Clwyd.
Once in Conwy visit Conwy Castle - a great place to get lost. It has plenty of ramparts, towers, dark passages and dungeons. Continue to Plas Mawr, one of the finest examples of a an Elizabethan (16th Century) townhouse with colourful plasterwork.
Afterwards, take a walk along the quayside to see the Smallest House in Great Britain.
Approximate distance: Llangollen to Conwy 49 miles (79km)
Approximate driving time: 1hr 15min
Overnight suggestions: Conwy or Caernarfon
Start by heading to Caernarfon Castle, a World Heritage 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 and Wales. Sir Edmund Hillary and his team trained here before embarking on their journey to the summit of Everest. Take a refreshment stop at the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel, to see their signatures on the bar's ceiling.
Continue to Harlech Castle and visit another 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.
For smaller groups / FIT tours an alternative suggestion is to visit to Yr Ysgwrn, a traditional Welsh Farmhouse in a peaceful location with scenic views. It was home to Eisteddfod winning poet ‘Hedd Wyn’ who was killed in the First World War. Tickets are available for prebooked groups of ten or more with different packages available. If travelling by coach, check with the venue as there are narrow roads.
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.
Approximate distance: Conwy - Caernarfon - Harlech - Aberystwyth 114 miles (183.5km)
Approximate driving time: 3hr 15min
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 Vale of Rheidol Railway little narrow gauge steam railway, and the cascading waterfalls of the River Mynach.
Alternatively, Llanerchaeron (National Trust) is just outside Aberaeron. This 18th century Welsh gentry estate has survived virtually unaltered for years – so be prepared to be taken back to bygone times. Highlights include the working organic farm and large walled kitchen garden, which has retained its original layout. Group rates are available for pre booked groups. Also available are 7 and 14 day touring passes for international visitors.
The west coast is dotted with award winning beaches, rocky smugglers' coves and great cliff-top scenery. If you get close enough to the sea, you may even catch a glimpse of the resident dolphins and seals.
Continue south into Pembrokeshire. There are plenty of great places to visit in this area. St Davids is the smallest city in Britain. It is more like a small village but holds city status due to St Davids Cathedral. This historic building dates back to the 6th century and is where St David (the patron saint of Wales is buried). Visitors can also visit St Davids Bishop's Palace next door.
There are also little art shops, galleries, tea rooms and the Oriel y Parc Gallery and Visitor Centre. Continue to Tenby, a pretty, pastel coloured seaside resort town where there is a harbour providing daily boat trips, four sandy beaches, a castle with town walls plus plenty of souvenir shops and eateries.
Approximate distance: Aberystwyth - Devil's Bridge - Pembrokeshire 112 miles (180 km)
Approximate driving time: 2hr 30min
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. Visit Dylan Thomas Boathouse still furnished today as it was whilst he was writing Under Milk Wood to learn about this influential Welsh Poet. Discount rates are available for groups of five or more. Enjoy refreshments in the café or at Browns Hotel where he was a regular visitor.
Continue to visit the National Botanic Garden of Wales, the centre piece is the world’s largest single-spanned glasshouse, designed by Lord Foster, housing the Mediterranean climate zone plants surrounded by a range of gardens across 560 acres. Visitors can learn about plant evolution, the use of medicinal plants including the Physicians of Myddfai. Discounts are available for groups of ten of more.
Llanelly House is located in the centre of Llanelli. Thanks to modern technology visitors learn about the residents and their influence on the town and industrial history of the area. Discover the relationships of the Stepney & Chambers families and find out about the Georgian and Victorian society as well as the scandals of ‘upstairs downstairs’ life.
Group rates are available including an afternoon tea with private dining and it is advisable to allow approximately 90minutes.
Approximate distance: Tenby to Llanelli 59 miles (94 km)
Approximate driving time: 1hr 35min (2hr if overnight at Swansea)
Overnight suggestions: Llanelli or Swansea
Explore Swansea and Gower today. The city's oldest building is the ruined 13th century Swansea Castle standing out in more modern surroundings near the shopping centre. At the Dylan Thomas Centre visitors can find out more about the poet's life and work. Guided tours of the exhibition at the Dylan Thomas Centre can be arranged for groups of all ages.
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 centrepiece. The National Waterfront Museum is the place to learn about the industrial, maritime and social history of Wales. Entrance is free and in additional, pre-booked groups benefit from 10 per cent off in the museum café and restaurant on a minimum spend of £5 per person, 10 per cent off in the museum shop on a minimum spend of £5 per person, guided tours and complimentary refreshments for the coach driver.
Next, head to Gower, this 18 miles (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 are 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. The centre offers groups guided tours, guided and themed walks, Welsh cream tea, meals and craft workshops and activities.
Approximate distance: Swansea to Gower 8 miles (12.9 km)
The first stop is Penderyn Distillery, nestled in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons National Park is the home of the award winning Penderyn single malt whisky and other spirits. Tours (one hour) and Masterclasses (two and a half hours) are available. Your clients will meet the distillery team who explain the history of single malt whisky making in Wales, and the distilling and bottling process at first hand - they get to sample the spirits too! Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.
Continue to Merthyr Tydfil and visit Cyfarthfa Castle, set in 158 acres of parkland. 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. It’s one of the ‘Great Little Trains of Wales’ that travels through the Southern Brecon Beacons National Park and along the full length of the Taf Fechan Reservoir. The journey starts at Pant Station and takes 1 hour 30 minutes including a 25 minute stop at Pontsticill. A discount is available for groups of 20 or more booked in advance. A licensed tearoom and gift shop is found at Pant Station and a café and picnic area at Pontsticill Station.
Alternatively or if times permits head to the World Heritage Site of Blaenavon and to the Big Pit National Coal Museum. Your clients will enjoy a multi-media tour of a modern coal mine with a virtual miner in the Mining Galleries, exhibitions in the Pithead Baths and historic colliery buildings and of course the underground tour. There is a Coffee shop and canteen on-site. The canteen is closed during the winter months but is available for private hire all year-round. Big Pit’s Underground Tour is free but there is a small charge for a timed slot during some school holidays and on weekends. Groups of 10 or more can book their timed tour in advance. Pre-booked groups can benefit from 10 per cent off in the museum café and the museum shop on a minimum spend of £5 per person. Guided tours and behind the scene tours are available on request and complimentary refreshments are offered for coach drivers.
If time permits enjoy a wander around the market town of Abergavenny.
Approximate distance: Swansea – Merthyr Tydfil – Blaenavon - Abergavenny 61 miles (98 km)
Approximate driving time: 1hr 35 min
Overnight suggestion: Abergavenny
Your last stop on this tour is Hay-on-Wye. If you choose to take the slower scenic route along the Capel y Finn Road, please note that this is only suitable for smaller minibuses or cars 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 courtyard of Hay Castle is a book shop, the cinema's a book shop, the fire station's a book shop and even the alleyways are full of book shops. Hay Castle is now open to the public following an extensive renovation project. It also hosts an annual Hay Festival in May/June and has placed the town well and truly on the world literary map.
Approximate distance: Abergavenny to Hay-on-Wye including stops 37.5 miles (60.3 km)
Approximate driving time: 1hr 45min
Overnight suggestion: Hay-on-Wye