Wales is a unique country within Britain, with 641 castles; Wales has more castles per square mile than any other country in the world. It’s very colourful history and distinct culture has influenced the Welsh literature, music and food. For a small country, Wales has a varied and dramatic landscape.
Upon arrival at Manchester airport your coach will take you to the ancient market town of Llangollen situated on the banks of the beautiful River Dee under the watchful gaze of Castell Dinas Brân.
Forced to climb to the summit, modern visitors experience the struggle and the exhilaration that the castle’s medieval inhabitants must have felt. Without a doubt, the walk is a breath-taking challenge.
Later on you will head to Conwy, enclosed within a ring of 13th century walls and protected by a mighty castle, this is one of the world’s finest medieval towns. You will visit Plas Mawr, an architectural gem and one of the finest surviving town houses of the Elizabethan era to be found anywhere in Britain.
Overnight in Caernarfon
The day starts with a visit to Caernarfon Castle, a brute of a fortress. Caernarfon Castle’s pumped-up appearance is unashamedly muscle-bound and intimidating. Picking a fight with this massive structure would have been a daunting prospect.
Following the visit, you will leave Caernarfon for Snowdonia National Park.
The Llanberis Road will take 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. A stop at the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel to see their signatures on the bar’s ceiling is a must.
From here you will visit Portmeirion, a unique coastal village built in the contrasting Arts and Crafts style and the Palladian style.
Continuing southwards, you will drive via Harlech to the lively University town of Aberystwyth, home to the National Library of Wales, where many of the greatest literary treasures of Wales (and the other Celtic countries) are securely stored.
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: three bridges, a 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.
You will keep going south into Pembrokeshire where there are plenty of great places to visit in this area. We will visit St Davids: the smallest city in Britain, more like a small village, stuffed full of little art shops, galleries and tea rooms and of course a cathedral.
Our next stop is 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.
Today you will take the coastal drive to Laugharne, where Dylan Thomas wrote ‘Under Milk Wood’ and where you can still see his writing shed overlooking Carmarthen Bay.
Continue your journey 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 a variety of different leisure activities: including the continuous traffic-free cycle/footpath, championship golf courses and water sports centre.
The National Wetlands Centre of Wales is also located in the park and it is Wales’ best place to see wildfowl and waders.
This morning you will explore Swansea. The city’s oldest building is the ruined Swansea Castle, standing out in more modern surroundings. Swansea’s Maritime Quarter is the former docklands and has been redeveloped into an attractive waterfront, with its 600-berth marina as a centrepiece. At the National Waterfront Museum you will learn about the industrial, maritime and social history of Wales.
You will then head towards Rhondda Heritage Park in the South Wales Valleys, where ex-miners will take you to the pit bottom to explore the mines and experience life underground.
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.
Overnight in Cardiff
This morning you will start by visiting St Fagans on the outskirts of Cardiff. Here, you’ll travel back centuries when you visit the National History Museum with its reconstructed cottages, farmhouses, rural workshops, mill, chapel, village store and so on.
After lunch, visit Castell Coch, a fairy tale castle peeping out of the trees north of Cardiff.
Part of the Marquis of Bute’s legacy to the city, Castell Coch is the whimsical brainchild of architect William Burges. Take a look at Lady Bute’s tower bedroom; it comes with a fabulously painted double dome featuring twenty eight frolicking monkeys – quite risqué in its day.
Continue to Cardiff Bay and at your own leisure enjoy the shops and restaurants, take pictures of the Senedd – the Welsh Assembly Government’s eco-friendly debating chamber, enjoy a Cadwalader’s ice cream or why not visit The Doctor Who Experience the first ever interactive Doctor Who exhibition that invites visitors to star in their very own Doctor Who adventure.
Overnight in Cardiff
You start your day at Cardiff Castle, a big calm cube right in the city centre. Originally a Roman fort, it’s now a mixture of buildings from all eras. Ultimately, it was the Marquis of Bute again, one of the richest men on the globe, who transformed Cardiff Castle into the mock gothic extravaganza we have now.
Sadly it is time to bid farewell to this fantastic land and make our way back to the Cardiff Airport and your onward journey.