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THE CASTLES OF WALES

We have listed just a few of the large number of Castles in Wales and it is almost impossible to see them all even if you have a few weeks of travel time. The best way and cheapest way to see and also visit a number of castles that are open is to get a 3 or 7 day Explorer Pass – see www.cadw.gov.wales and also join the National Trust – See www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/wales which also highlights some of their properties, just one of them being a Mansion House in Newport called Tredegar House.

In most times if you head to a Castle you will also find a village or town nearby too – so you end up seeing the Castle but also the village or town where it is located and the countryside around it. In Carmarthen, for example (68 miles -110km- west of Cardiff) there is Carmathen Castle but also the National Botanical Gardens – a magnificent garden with lakes, massive glasshouse, trees, flowers and much more. See www.gardenofwales.org.uk

THE WELSH COASTLINE - A great drive

Having a car or hiring one to drive along the Welsh coastline allows you to both see the countryside and coastline, stopping where and when you want to.

There are so many nice places to see that it is hard to choose, but to give you a feel for just some of the places, we are suggesting the following itinerary, based on travelling small distances each day and staying in the village or town to see more -

  1. First place to stop is certainly in Cardiff itself – to see Cardiff Castle and the other places detailed above.
  2. Second Stop – is Swansea, just 34 miles (55 km) away from Cardiff, but stopping on the way at Port Talbot to see Margan Country Park –s ee www.margamcountrypark.co.uk a magnificent mansion and deer farm – with over 300 deer on a property covering 850 acres or grounds. Swansea is the second biggest city in Wales and was the home of Dylan Thomas. The National Waterfront Museum is here at Swansea Marina, and the beaches here along the Gower Peninsula are great. Look for Three Cliffs Bay, Rhossili Bay, Mumbles.
  3. Third Stop – head to Carmarthen – as detailed above, to see Carmarthen Castle and the National Botanic Gardens.
  4. Fourth Stop – from Carmarthen head to Pendine Beach – a great long sandy beach, and either stay here or follow the coastline and stay at one of these great little villages - Amroth, Tenby, Saunderfoot , Manorbier are on your way to Pembroke. Tenby has lots of things to do, and Manorbier has a castle while Pembroke has Pembroke Castle, which is one of the great castles in Wales.
  5. Fifth Stop - St David's – From Pembroke, you will head through Haverfordwest, the biggest town and on to St David's where St David's Cathedral is located, with great beaches here too.
  6. Sixth Stop - Aberystwyth – is a University Town on Cardigan Bay with a great long Esplanade beside the coast with the ruins of Aberystwyth Castle on the hilltop nearby. From St David's to Aberystwyth is about 62 miles (100 Km) and you will pass by many small coastal villages along the way here.
  7. Seventh Stop – Portmeirion Village. This is a village created between 1925 and 1975 that is a recreation of an Italian Village. It was created by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and has accommodation, interesting shops with lots of atmosphere. Something quite special. You can just visit, or you can stay here. It is 57 miles (91km) north of Aberystwyth and 21 miles (33km) south of Caernarfon.
  8. Caernarfon – is 78 miles (124km) north of Aberystwyth and this is where you will find Caernarfon Castle one of the best in Wales. This is the massive castle where Prince Charles investiture took place in 1969, giving the title "Prince of Wales'. The city itself also has other attractions too – including a Slateworks, Forest Park and Welsh craftwork to see.
  9. Eight Stop – head to the Island of Anglesey and Holyhead where the Irish Ferries make the 99 minute journey to Dublin in Ireland. Holyhead is about 30 miles from Caernarfon, so not far, and it is easy to drive around the island and get a feel for Anglesea and this ancient part of Wales. Perhaps the highlight of a trip here is to visit the Southstack Lighthouse, built on a rocky outcrop in 1809.
  10. Ninth Stop – Colwyn Bay, Ryll and Prestatyn – these are coastal resort beachside towns along the north coast of Wales facing the Irish Sea.
  11. FROM here you could head to Snowdonia, southwards to Llangollen or Welshpool to see Powis Castle and back south to Cardiff or east to Chester in Cheshire and onwards to other parts of England.

Llangollen is a really pretty town with about 3600 residents located on the River Dee. There are nice places here to eat and stay, with the riverside position being very attractive, with sheep properties in the countryside around here too. The Highlight of your time here could however be a trip along the Llangollen Canal, a 41 mile (66km) canal that runs into Shropshire to the Union Canal there. This canal runs through beautiful small villages like Chirk and Ellesmere, through the countryside, through tunnels and over high bridge aquaducts creating an amazing journey. There are a number of companies that have narrowboats to hire – and these are some of them – www.woolfallnarrowboats.com, www.chashardern.co.uk, www.cheshirecatnarrowboats.co.uk, www.norburywharfltd.co.uk, www.peagreenboats.co.uk, www.bettisfieldboats.co.uk , www.venetianhireboats.co.uk

Welshpool – is where the amazing Powis castle is located, managed by the National Trust. If you have every bought curry powder, you will know the name 'Clive of India' and in Powis Castle you will be able to see an amazing collection of Indian artefacts, textiles, furniture and decorative work. The Castle and its gardens are well worth seeing, and Welshpool itself a nice place to stay and get a feel for its atmosphere and lifestyle.

There are so many other places in Wales that we have not talked about, but hopefully what we have written here will entice you to visit Wales yourself and find new places that will inspire you.

Happy Travelling!

Geoff Stuart

Happy Traveller

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