Wales Travel Guide
Our luxury experts have compiled a guide to some of the best places to visit in Wales during your luxury cottage holiday
Wales is famous for its beautiful green valleys, hills and mountains, with Mount Snowdon in the north being the crowning glory. It’s an incredible place for a luxury cottage holiday, especially if you’re looking to enjoy the fresh air, come rain or shine. The beaches of Pembrokeshire and the Gower Peninsula offer wide open spaces, wild beauty and a feeling of seclusion, which on a sunny day is hard to beat. Wales also boasts one of the world’s highest concentrations of Dark Sky Reserves making it excellent for stargazing. Rich in culture, history and tradition, Wales is a treasure trove of beautiful places to explore all year round.
The Brecon Beacons National Park covers 520 square miles of south and mid Wales, just west of Herefordshire. Named after the Central Beacons which rise to 886 metres tall at Pen y Fan, the Brecon Beacons attract visitors who come for the scenery from the countryside and valleys, to forests and waterfalls. Welsh Mountain Ponies roam free in the secluded uplands along with a thriving population of red kites, whilst there’s plenty of history, myths and legends too. The busiest towns include Abergavenny, Brecon, Hay-on-Wye, Llandovery and Talgarth, so whether you want an action-packed break, or to relax and take in the scenery, there’s always something to do.
"Named after the Central Beacons which rise to 886 metres tall at Pen y Fan, the Brecon Beacons attract visitors who come for the scenery from the countryside and valleys, to forests and waterfalls."
Scenic drives, such as along the Black Mountain Road, offer superb panoramic views, whilst steam train journeys can be enjoyed on the Brecon Mountain Railway. In the north of the park, take woodland walks in the ‘Waterfall Country’, whilst the Brecon Beacons’ Dark Sky Reserve status means that star-gazing here is incredible. For industrial heritage head to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Blaenavon, whilst ancient stone circles and medieval castles will transport you further back in time. Popular festivals include the Hay Literature Festival and the Brecon Jazz Festival, while gourmands should head to Penderyn Whisky Distillery and Michelin-starred restaurants such as The Walnut Tree near Abergavenny.
Pembrokeshire boasts the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and is one of the most popular places to visit in Wales for its beaches and the spectacular Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. Explore the stunning beaches and enjoy water sports such as stand-up paddle boarding, kite surfing and sea kayaking. Experience encounters with wildlife and dine on superb fresh seafood in vibrant towns including the smallest city in Britain, St Davids, with its charming cathedral and art galleries. Visit popular beach resorts like Tenby – known for its pastel-coloured Victorian houses, and Saundersfoot, with its wide Blue Flag beach which is popular with families.
"Pembrokeshire boasts the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and is one of the most popular places to visit in Wales for its beaches and the spectacular Pembrokeshire Coastal Path."
Barafundle Bay is considered as one of the UK’s most beautiful beaches, whilst Freshwater West is popular with surfers and those wanting a lobster sandwich from the Café Mor beach truck. For a serene scene, visit the Bosherston Lily Ponds, which are home to a group of otters, while nearby you can walk to tiny St Govan’s chapel which is carved into the cliffs. Wildlife boat trips to Ramsey Island or Skomer offer the chance to see puffins and seals, whilst Pembroke Castle, which was home to Henry VII, is a good day out and hosts events including a Christmas market. If you like wine, don’t miss out on a glass from Cwm Deri Vineyard, which can be enjoyed with a superb local cheese board and delightful orchard views.
The Gower Peninsula was the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and stretches for 19 miles incorporating protected heritage coastline, beautiful beaches, limestone cliffs and woodlands. It’s a hotspot for beach-lovers, walkers, horse-riders and water sports fans, yet just a short drive from the city of Swansea, where Dylan Thomas lived. The Gower Peninsula begins at the pretty seaside village of Mumbles on Swansea Bay, then leads on to the most beautiful of landscapes around the peninsula. Foodies should be sure to try the local fresh from the boat seafood, salt marsh lamb and laverbread made with seaweed.
"The Gower Peninsula was the UK's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and stretches for 19 miles incorporating protected heritage coastline, beautiful beaches, limestone cliffs and woodlands."
Mumbles is a great place to absorb some history at the medieval Oystermouth Castle, the 18th century lighthouse, or the Victorian Pier, while high end shops and independent boutiques will keep you busy. Beaches are begging to be explored on the Gower Peninsula and there are plenty of good ones: Caswell has great family facilities, Rhossili Bay stretches for 3 miles, Pwll Du is small and secluded, and Llangennith offers great surf. For walks, there is The Gower Way and the Wales Coast Path, but the walk from Rhossili Bay to the iconic rocky bluff of Worms Head is a great adventure when the tide is right. The Rhossili Downs are also great for mountain biking and paragliding, whilst for culture vultures there’s The Dylan Thomas Trail, The Gower Festival of classical music and the Gower Folk Festival.
Abersoch is one of the top places to visit in Wales for water sports enthusiasts. Home to the well-regarded Abersoch Sailing Club, which is an RYA-affiliated club offering tuition for various levels of ability. Along with family-friendly activities such as pony treks, boat trips and a great craft centre, there is plenty to keep everyone entertained. Abersoch is quite a fashionable spot to head to during the summer months where you can enjoy the sheltered golden sands of the local beaches. The varied bistros and bars and the laid-back vibe make it popular with tourists and the favourable micro-climate helps too.
"Abersoch is one of the top places to visit in Wales for water sports enthusiasts. Home to the well-regarded Abersoch Sailing Club, which is an RYA-affiliated club offering tuition for various levels of ability."
Abersoch’s pretty Porth Mawr beach, which is lined with beach huts, is a great place to base yourself for the day and admire views of St Tudwals West and Ynys Tudwal Fach islands. Meanwhile, Porth Niegwl and Abersoch Quarry Beach are a short drive away and often less crowded, but are popular for surfing. There are gentle strolls from the village, or for longer walks and bike rides head to the Wales Coast Path. If golf is your thing, Abersoch Golf Club offers an 18-hole course with a mixture of links and parkland. For days out, drive to Snowdonia National Park, or visit Criccieth Castle.
Porthmadog is a harbour town with a rich maritime heritage and along with nearby Portmeirion, the perfect place to explore the Welsh coast and countryside. This bustling harbour is where visitors join boat trips for sightseeing and wildlife tours. Porthmadog’s location on north Wales’ beautiful Llyn Peninsula is sandwiched between mountain scenery and golden beaches, whilst the town has a variety of restaurants and shops for everything you might need. It’s a lovely place to be based for exploring many of north Wales’ best attractions and conveniently placed for access to Snowdonia National Park.
"Porthmadog’s location on north Wales’ beautiful Llyn Peninsula is sandwiched between mountain scenery and golden beaches."
If you like the idea of exploring by train, from Porthmadog you can take a scenic ride on either the Ffestiniog Railway to Blaenau Ffestiniog or the Welsh Highland Railway to Caernarfon. Porthmadog is also within a very short drive of Portmeirion, a colourful village built in the style of Portofino in Italy. It has lovely Italian gardens, woodland walks and sea views, and was also used as the set for television series, ‘The Prisoner’ in the 1970s. Other places nearby that are great for a day out include the picturesque harbour village of Borth-y-Gest, as well as the castles at Criccieth, Harlech and Caernarfon.
Snowdonia National Park, is at the very heart of north Wales and covers 832 square miles that incorporate the Llŷn Peninsula Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Conwy Valley. Known in Welsh as ‘Eryri’, meaning ‘the place of the eagles’, it’s easy to see why people regularly come here for the breathtaking mountain scenery. Renowned for its vast spectacular valleys and for Mount Snowdon itself – the highest mountain in Wales and England, this is the place for adventure, adrenaline-pumping activities and incredible walks, whilst taking in the rich heritage of the area too.
"Known in Welsh as ‘Eryri’, meaning ‘the place of the eagles’, it’s easy to see why people regularly come here for the breathtaking mountain scenery."
If you aren’t a climber, you can still reach the summit of Mount Snowdon via the popular Snowdon Mountain Railway, either way the views of the lakes and peaks will stop you in your tracks. For more scenic railway adventures, the Ffestiniog Heritage Railway is delightful. Popular towns and villages include riverside Betws y Coed; lakeside Bala; Beddgelert named after the heroic hound, Gelert; Harlech with its impressive castle; the slate mining town of Llanberis; and the popular seaside resort of Barmouth. Thrill seekers should check out Zip World for all sorts of ‘sky rides’ through the forests and Adventure Parc Snowdonia for the world’s first inland surfing lagoon. Given the sheer variety of things to do, it’s no surprise Snowdonia is one of the most popular places to visit in Wales.
Anglesey is an island connected to the North Wales mainland by two bridges that cross the Menai Strait, most notably Thomas Telford’s impressive suspension bridge. Measuring just 276 square miles, but with a variety of landscapes, Anglesey is perfect for outdoor pursuits. Picture 125 miles of coastline, much of which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with sand and pebble beaches, cliff top walks, forested nature trails and flower-filled heathland. The island also has a strong sense of identity and a growing food scene, with Anglesey Sea Salt – considered one of the finest in the world, being a great example of when the two come together.
"Measuring just 276 square miles, but with a variety of landscapes, Anglesey is perfect for outdoor pursuits."
Walking, cycling and horse-riding can be enjoyed along the Anglesey Coastal Path, whilst boat trips around Puffin Island are a great way to spot marine life. South Stack Cliffs nature reserve is good for birdwatchers and the lighthouse here offers tours of the engine room. Stunning beaches abound: try Newborough Warren for views over the water to the Welsh mountains, walks to Llanddwyn Island with its ruined church and lunch at one of Anglesey’s most talked about restaurants, The Marram Grass. Anglesey is also home to fine buildings including Plas Newyd house and gardens, and the 13th century Beaumaris Castle, whilst plane spotters should head to RAF Valley where Prince William was posted.