Back to the industrial age
Today, the coal-mining valleys near Cardiff relive the days when Wales was an industrial powerhouse. According to topschoolsintheusa, the town of Blaenafon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers two attractions from the Industrial Age: the Big Pit Mining Museum and the Blaenafon Ironworks Industrial Museum.
The bay of the seaside resort of Llandudno in the very north of Wales, which was already popular with the Victorians, is framed by the headlands Great Orme and Little Orme on the coast. Attractions include the beach and bay overlooking the Irish Sea, the 19th-century pier and the Great Orme funicular and scenic road.
Llangollen is tucked away in woodland above the salmon-rich River Dee in north-east Wales. The medieval bridge is particularly worth seeing. The Llangollen Fringe Festival is celebrated in mid-July each year. Close by are the Berwyn Mountains, the 13th Century Vale Crucis Abbey, beautiful Horseshoe Pass and the ruins of Dinas-Bran Castle.
On the north coast of Wales to the east of Bangor lies the historic town of Conwy, which has fully preserved town walls and the imposing medieval Conwy Castle to explore. Conwy Castle is built high above the town on a rocky outcrop against the dramatic backdrop of Snowdonia National Park. Nearby, the magnificent Bodnant Gardens invite to explore.
Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia National Park covers an area of almost 2200 square km. Located in North Wales, it is criss-crossed by several beautiful mountain ranges. The national park is named after Mount Snowdon, which at 1085 m is the highest mountain in Wales. Tourists come to hike, climb, watch wildlife, or just enjoy the scenery. Also popular with visitors are Betws-y-Coed in Gwydyr Forest, Bethesda south-east of Bangor, Bala Lake and its narrow gauge railway and Beddgelert in the Nant Gwynant Valley.
This region is one of the oldest tourist areas in Britain. The holiday resorts of Llandudno and Rhyl have lost none of their appeal to this day. The seaside resort of Llandudno on the Irish Sea is very popular nationwide. The town is an ideal base for exploring the beautiful hinterland and Snowdonia National Park. There are beautiful beaches at Rhos-on-Sea, Colwyn Bay, Abergele and Prestatyn. The town of Rhyl has a 5km promenade and excellent recreational opportunities. Other attractions include the ‘Pontcysyllte Aqueduct’ and ‘King Edward’s Castles and Walls at Gwynedd’, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. North Wales is also a walker’s paradise.
Harlech is on the northern tip of Cardigan Bay. Harlech Castle offers magnificent views of Snowdonia’s peaks. Harlech is also known for the song “Men of Harlech” which describes the defense of Harlech Castle in the 15th century. South of Harlech is Llanbedr, a popular sailing destination.
From the market town of Cardigan on the bay of the same name, visitors can easily detour around the area. Barmouth is a popular regional holiday resort. The city’s beaches are beautiful, as is Dyffryn Ardudwy, a few kilometers to the north. The pretty little market town of Dolgellau lies at the foot of the Cadair Idris. Mid-Wales is dominated by the Cambrian Mountains. Other interesting inland destinations include Builth Wells (cattle trade), near Aberystwyth and Barmouth, Strata Florida Abbey and the towns of Lampeter and Tregaron on the River Teifi. In Llandrindod Wells, elegant buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries recall the heyday of this ancient spa town.
Museum of Welsh Life
The Museum of Welsh Life (also called St Fagans National History Museum) is located in St Fagans, around 8 km west of Cardiff. It is a most interesting open-air museum where visitors can learn all about the history of Welsh housing – from the Celtic village to today’s modern Welsh homes.
Chepstow is on the border with England in the Wye Valley of South Wales. Chepstow Castle was built by William the Conqueror. Chepstow Castle features life-size replicas of the former residents and regents who resided at the castle. Opposite the Chepstow Castle car park, an 18th-century town house houses the Chepstow Museum. It provides information about the long history of the region. The narrow streets of the town of Chepstow are still partly surrounded by the medieval town walls. Roman ruins can be visited in nearby Caerwent.
Cardiff, the Welsh capital, has Cardiff Castle (Castell Caerdydd), a medieval castle and numerous 19th-century buildings. Archaeological finds, Welsh handicrafts and paintings by European and local artists are on display at the National Museum. The Romans laid the foundation stone of Cardiff Castle in Cardiff city center 2000 years ago. Cardiff Castle has been a Norman stronghold throughout history. However, the castle owes its current appearance to the Victorian John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute, who had the castle transformed into a Gothic fairytale castle. The Castle Interpretation Center tells the story of Cardiff Castle. Surrounding the castle is Bute Park.
Swansea and region
Swansea is a popular seaside resort that attracts water sports enthusiasts. Swansea Bay is home to a great beach and the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea Museum and the Dylan Thomas Centre. Almost a suburb of Swansea, the seaside town of The Mumbles has a Victorian pier, lovely restaurants and cafes and interesting shops. In Swansea Bay and on the Gower Peninsula there are numerous gardens and parks as well as almost twenty nature reserves. Gower’s south coast is a magnet for walkers and boasts the beautiful beaches of Oxwich Bay and Three Cliffs Bay.
Brecon Beacons National Park
In the interior of South Wales, the Brecon Beacons National Park, at the center of which is the Brecon Beacons, is a very popular holiday and excursion destination. Lively Brecon and the market town of Abergavenny are the best bases for exploring the beautiful rolling countryside, which alternates for miles of sheep meadows, streams, loose stone walls and steep rock climbs. The Brecon Mountain Railway is a narrow gauge railway that runs a short distance through the hills of Merthyr Tydfil.
Traveling through Wales by train
Numerous historic narrow-gauge railways run through Wales: A historic narrow-gauge railway runs from the university town of Aberystwyth, on Cardigan Bay, to Devil’s Bridge. The Talyllyn Railway travels through beautiful rolling countryside and ends in the town of Tywyn. The world’s oldest narrow-gauge railway, the Ffestiniog Railway, runs from Porthmadog, a popular holiday resort, to Blaenau Ffestiniog. The West Highland Railway steam train travels from Caernarfon on the north east coast of Wales through Snowdonia National Park and over the famous Aberglaslyn Pass to Pont Croesor. From Llanberis you can take the Snowdon Mountain Railway to the top of Mount Snowdon; the panorama is incomparably beautiful. Welshpool and Llanfair Railway runs through gentler countryside close to the border with England.
In North West Wales, the town of Caernarfon lies across from the island of Anglesey. The city walls and the well-preserved ruins of Caernarfon Castle from the 13th century are particularly worth seeing. In 1969, the castle was the scene of the awarding of the title »Prince of Wales« to the British heir to the throne, Prince Charles. Caernarfon Castle is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘King Edward’s Castles and Walls in Gwynedd’.
Isle of Anglesey
On the Isle of Anglesey, accessed by the remarkable Menai Bridge or by the Britannia Bridge, lies the evocatively named village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllantysiliogogogoch. The name plate of this place at the train station makes a nice souvenir photo. The island’s landscape has been declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Beaumaris, the largest town on the island, has a wide range of leisure activities. Worth a visit is Beaumaris Castle from the time of Edward I of England. There are also well-preserved megalithic complexes on the island.