There is nothing quite like a road trip to really explore a country and get to know it like a native. Wonderful Wales, the stunning and mighty country of myth and folklore, coastal paths and snow-capped peaks, stunning castles and world-class National Parks, pristine sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, is a road-trippers dream. Plus it is home to Tom Jones, 10 million sheep and Uncle Bryn and Nessa, which in my mind, makes it a winner already. Wales takes life at a slow pace and has a laid back, old fashioned atmosphere; the people are some of the friendliest in the world, and whether you are in one of the cosmopolitan cities like Cardiff or Swansea or on a remote hill in the Brecon Beacons, you can be sure of a warm welcome. A road trip across this fascinating country will reward you with an extraordinary array of sightseeing opportunities, including an abundance of wildlife - puffins, seals, dolphins - a glorious network of heritage steam railways, jaw-dropping scenery, hundreds (and I mean this literally) of medieval castles and fortifications, rugged mountains, vast lakes and a neverending coastal road with secluded bays and turquoise waters around every corner. It is a well-visited country, but a lot of Wales is totally unspoiled and often very quiet, so you can find empty beaches and little-known hiking routes should you wish for a peaceful escape. Wales is brimming with B&Bs and hotels, but for off-the-beaten-track living and some of the best views on offer, staying at a Welsh campsite can make your road trip truly epic. Imagine sitting back with views across Mount Snowdon and a campfire burning or watching the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean with dolphins playing in the waves. Wales is a land of adventure, beauty and culture and it is just waiting to be discovered.
Start your epic voyage in the vibrant city of Cardiff, a city bursting with its love of sport, music and the arts; home of the oldest record shop in the world, the Welsh Millenium Centre and the birthplace of the legendary Shirley Bassey. There is so much to see and do here, including the medieval Cardiff Castle sitting right in the middle of the city, Cardiff Bay and nearby Caerphilly, the largest castle in Wales. But if the roads are a-calling, then crack on with it and head to the mountains. Leave Cardiff on the A470 and travel north, driving through Pontypridd, Merthyr Tydwil and into the Brecon Beacons National Park, with stunning mountainous scenery at every corner including the largest peak in South Wales - Pen Y Fan. The Brecon Beacons are the perfect place to start to your road trip if you are looking for a bit of adventure. One of three National Parks in Wales, the Brecon Beacons offers stunning landscapes, breathtaking waterfalls, deep caves, high peaks and is a true explorers paradise. It is worth spending a few days here as there is a huge amount to see and do, with stunning show caves (Dan yr Ogof), amazing castles (Carreg Cennen and Brecon), beautiful waterfalls and several pretty towns including Hay on Wye and Crickhowell. An excellent place to stay bang in the middle of all the action is (the award-winning, no less) Pencelli Castle Caravan and Camping Park, at the edge of Pencelli village and about four miles away from the historic town of Brecon. It is the perfect location for touring the Brecon Beacons, whether on foot, bicycle, horseback or canoe (there's an adjoining canal). The park is within walking distance of some of the highest peaks in the area and the Taff Cycle trail passes right by the campsite entrance, so there is no excuse not to do some serious exploring. The peaceful campsite is a lovely retreat at the end of a hard days hiking and a great place to relax and take in the breathtaking landscape of your first stop-off.
Leave the beautiful Brecon Beacons behind you and carry on north, staying on the A470 through Builth Wells and Rhayder - you will be driving through some absolutely stunning Welsh scenery so keep the camera close by. On route, there are a few small detours worth taking so you can stop off and really take in the surroundings; Craig Goch Dam in the gorgeous Elan Valley and some of the many reservoirs including Llyn Clywedog, Cabon Coch and Claerwen. Come off the A470 at Dollgellau and take the A494 all the way to your next stop - Bala - which is located in Snowdonia National Park. The Snowdonia National Park is one of the world's most dramatic and stunning landscapes and it is easy to see why it acted as inspiration for JRR Tolkiens Middle Earth; all brooding mountains, vast slate quarries and steep inclines. Bala Lake is the largest natural lake in Wales and is surrounded by peaks and walking trails, and an excellent base camp for exploring this part of the National Park. Just 100 yards from Bala Lake sits Pen Y Bont campsite, where you can make your home for as long as you like surrounded by breathtaking views and masses to do - so don't rush off anywhere. A trip on the Bala Lake Railway takes you alongside the lake and through some of the peaks of the National Park or if you want to be on the water rather than skirting around it, then have a go at one of the many watersports on offer at the lake. There are several excellent walking and cycle routes very close by and Pistyll Rhaeadr - the highest waterfall in Wales - is 20 miles away.
When you have exhausted everything Bala and its surrounds have to offer, or rather, when you're too exhausted to offer any more, pack up, hop back in the car and keep going north to Conwy County. No huge journey here, it's only an hour or so to get right up to the northern Welsh coast and a bit of seaside action after the rugged and rolling landscapes of the Snowdonia National Park. And you will not be disappointed. Llandudno has Wales's longest pier, and the sandy stretches of Ryll beach, Conwy Bay, Rhos-on Sea and many others are close by. Great Orme Country Park next to Llandudno is two miles long and rises 207m above the sea, offering magical cliff walks and abundant wildlife, or take the easier route and jump on the Victorian Great Orme Tram which travels up through the Nature Reserve to the spectacular summit with sea views as far as the Isle of Man, Blackpool and the Lake District. If you need a place to stay, a couple of miles inland you will find Bryn Ffanigl Ganol Caravan and Camping Park; a rural spot with glorious rolling green hills as a backdrop and 360-degree panoramic views from every pitch. You're in the middle of everything but feel in the middle of nowhere here. The campsite is near the sea, close to the medieval town of Conwy with its extraordinary UNESCO Castle and city walls, and also close enough to explore the northern part of Snowdonia. Don't leave in a hurry.
Less than a one-hour drive from Llandudno and are you getting fully into Mount Snowdon territory. The highest mountain in England and Wales, Snowdon dominates the skyline of north west Wales and the 1085 metre peak is quite something to behold. Staying in or around the village of Llanberis - a gorgeous lakeside location near the foot of Mount Snowdon - means you are in a great position to complete the 6-8 hour climb (and return) if you're up to the job. If that idea is way too bullish, never fear, the peak is still in your sights, with a trip on the Snowdon Mountain Railway, carrying you all the way to the top of the mountain and back again without so much as breaking a sweat. The Welsh heritage railways really are superb, and another excellent journey here is aboard the Llanberis Lake Railway - a five-mile trip past the 13th Century Dolbadarn Castle, the twin lakes of Llanberis and along to Penllyn - offering excellent views of Snowdon. For a quiet place to camp with some of the best views around, head out to Tyn-yr-Onnen Caravan and Campsite, set on a traditional Welsh sheep farm and the perfect spot for those who want to stay off the beaten track and sit back and admire the mountain views. From this stopping point, you could also explore a little further afield and head over to the pretty Isle of Anglesey and Holy Island for a day trip. Otherwise, it's time to get back on the road and head a little way south and over to the Riveria of Wales.....yes, it's time for some beach action in Abersoch.
Leave the rugged Snowdonia National Park behind you and drive out past Caernarfon and its towering medieval castle, down to the southern side of the Llyn Peninsula and to the sandy shores and beautiful seas of Abersoch. Warmed by the gulf stream and lucky enough to have its own balmy microclimate, Abersoch is a great place to come for some beach time and sunshine. It is time to park up for a bit, remove your hiking boots and potentially dial things up on the adrenaline sports front. Abersoch, aside from an awesome beach holiday destination, is home to a multitude of watersports activities; anything from surfing and SUP-ing right out to coasteering and powerboating. The calm water in Abersoch Bay is great for wakeboarding and sailing, and surfers can get their fix at the beaches which are more exposed to the Atlantic swells - Porth Neigwl (Hells' Mouth) and Porth Ceiriad. Bear Grylls owns and lives on one of the islands just off Abersoch - St Tudwal's - and he also runs survival courses up here so if you feel like busting out your inner action man, now is the time. If hardcore activities aren't your thing, and you'd rather have a flat white than a flat stomach (that's me), there are loads of other things to do; take a boat trip to watch seals and dolphins in the wild, hire a bike or explore the lovely shops and cafes on Abersochs bustling waterfront. The popular campsite of Tanrallt is a great place to stay, one and a half miles from Abersoch and only a mile from Hell's Mouth beach, and offers some peace, quiet and beautiful countryside away from the busy village.
Take the A497 out to Porthmadog and drive back into the Snowdonia National Park and south towards your next destination, a true seaside gem of a place - Aberdyfi. On the way - if you have time - make a stop off at Portmerion, the Italian-inspired resort village which really needs to be seen to be believed. You have to buy a ticket for entrance but once in, you can spend as long as you like exploring the wonderfully colourful and slightly eccentric buildings, gardens, fountains and shops. There are a couple of places to stay if you want to remain behind after everyone else has left, otherwise grab an ice cream at the Italian Gelataria and be on your way. Cling to the coastal roads all the way down if you can, past Harlech and its huge coastal fortress (and I use that word in its mightiest possible form) of Edward II, and Barmouth; although it makes the route slightly longer it is a gorgeous drive. Wales was the first country in the world to have a designated coastal path all the way around it, and when you arrive at the Cardigan Bay coastline, you'll find spectacular scenery all the way down and right through Tywyn to Aberdyfi. The Tywyn to Aberdyfi 4 mile stretch is one of Wales's best blue flag beaches and that is the next stop on the road trip. Aberdyfi itself is a very pretty seaside village in southern Snowdonia with a huge sandy beach backed by dunes, a quaint harbour for crabbing and fishing, crystal clear waters for sailing and swimming and stunning views out across the estuary. There are many places to stay here and it is a fantastic place to camp out and chill out, not to mention being a good base for some lovely day trips: Dolgoch Falls, Bird Rock and, a bit further afield, the rather extraordinary Devils Bridge Falls. The bridge itself is actually three bridges stacked on top of one another and it has a sinister fairy tale to go with it. Follow the Falls Nature trail through the ancient wooded gorge to get to the 300 foot Mynach Waterfall. It's quite a sight. If this is too far for one day, you could always stop here on the next part of your road trip on route to Aberystwyth.
Your scenic coastal route for the next stretch takes you all the way along the beautiful western coast of Wales, out of Snowdonia and down through picturesque towns and villages such as Aberystwyth, Aberaeron, Aberath, New Quay and Cardigan. The coastline is peppered with gloriously secluded bays, vast stretches of sandy beaches and seaside towns with colourful cottages and harbours full of fishing boats. Your end point is Fishguard in the heart of the Pembrokeshire National Park - one of the most magical places in Wales. And let's face it, it's up against some pretty stiff competition. The long coastal path is a haven for walkers, cyclists, wildlife spotters and nature lovers; it twists and turns along 186 miles of breathtaking coastline with rugged cliff tops, sheltered smugglers coves, wide beaches and winding estuaries. Take a boat out to watch seals and dolphins playing in the waves or further afield to Skomer Island to see puffins in the wild. Fishguard Bay Resort, standing proudly on the cliffs, is an incredible place to pitch your tent for the night, with eye-popping sea views and vivid sunsets. They also offer luxury lodges here too, some with hot tubs, so if you fancy a bit of a treat then this is the place. While staying here you will find Pembrokeshire offers every form of outdoor activity you could imagine, as well as adventure parks, theatres, incredible places to eat and beautiful towns and villages to explore. Highlights include the Preseli Hills - the source of the famous Stonehenge bluestones, Pembroke Castle, and the ancient burial stones at Pentre Ifan.
Start your journey by saying adios to the bottlenose dolphins and journeying south on the A487 coastal path. If you want to speed things up, then stick to the inland A40 all the way to Camarthan, but the coast route provides a couple of lovely stop-offs and is well worth the detour; the gorgeous Blue Lagoon at Abereiddi, St Davids - the smallest city in Britain - the bustling waterfront at Milford Haven and pretty Barafundle Bay. Arrive at the lovely town of Mumbles on the Gower Peninsula for the last stop of the road trip. The Gower Peninsula is a stunning 19-mile stretch starting at Mumbles, and was the first nominated Area of Outstanding Beauty in the UK. It is gorgeous. Beautiful long sandy beaches - including Rhossilli Bay, Llangennith Beach and Pobbles Bay - the water is crystal clear and the pristine sands are some of the best you will see. If you can get in, book a pitch at Three Cliffs Bay Holiday Park, perched in an enviable position right by the beach with panoramic views out over Three Cliffs Bay. Gower is a paradise for all sorts of outdoor activities and a place to enjoy nature at its best. Whether you are surfing the waves at Llangennith, hiking the coastal paths or simply relaxing on the beach, the Gower Pennisula is the perfect place to end your epic road trip.
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