Onsite Review: Wales

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Cardiff, Wales. (Photo credit: Paloma Villaverde de Rico)

Here’s a hodge-podge of sights visitors won’t want to miss when making their way through Wales’ southern area.

Abergavenny is an idyllic market town with picturesque streets lined with locally owned stores such as bakeries, butcher shops, and bookstores. Here, the historic town’s market hall is a must-visit: I walked in and the first thing I noticed were the flying pigs, and I knew I belonged in this quirky town. The flying animals might get the attention of visitors, but locals have all eyes on the stalls, selling all sorts of goodies, including unique souvenirs.

Afraid of the dark? The Big Pit in Blaenafon will give you chills. It’s a unique attraction that takes visitors 300 ft. underground with a real miner. It’s an eerie and haunting feeling to walk in the footsteps of miners from bygone times—including 5-year-old children who worked the mine and had only a single candle to guide them through the dark, cramped facility. The miner does such an eloquent job of weaving the tales of the mine that visitors will feel transported back in time with only the mine’s ghosts as company.

Wales is home to 641 castles, including Tretower Court and Castle, over 900 years old. The castle itself is now in ruins, although visitors can walk in and look around (beware the very steep stairs with no railing—fun!), and the court is home to rooms that replicate life in 1470. It’s pretty cool taking a self-guided tour and poking one’s head into rooms to see what life was like back in the 15th century. It’s the surrounding landscape, though, that really captivates, with grazing sheep, fairytale-like homes and green-cloaked hills that spread out for as far as the eye can see.

If your clients are traveling to Wales with children, a great option is hopping on the Brecon Mountain Railway, with all-weather observation coaches led by a vintage steam locomotive. The 90-minute trip heads into the Brecon Beacons National Park—the surrounding scenery is something to marvel at.

For book lovers, Hay on Way is the “way” to go. Coolest thing: Buying a book on castle grounds! There are myriad bookstores with so many literary titles it will take an English Literature grad’s breathe away. And it’s a beautiful town, too.

Cardiff, home to some 300,000 residents, is the country’s enchanting capital city and is very easy to navigate. Must-sees include Cardiff Castle, with striking mock Gothic decor. Do tell clients to head to the very top of the Norman Keep for a bird’s-eye view of the city. The Doctor Who Experience on Cardiff Bay is, well, a no-brainer for those clients who are fans of this TV show—even for non-fans, it’s pretty cool stuff. Also, don’t leave the capital without taking a few hours to discover the treasures housed at the National Museum of Wales (Monet lovers won’t be disappointed).

The Angel Hotel in Abergavenny is a boutique-style, 35-room hotel that was once a coaching inn. Look to book the Castle Cottage accommodation, a lovely restored 17th century accommodaion directly across from the hotel’s car park.

Oh, countryside living in Wales…we adore the inviting Lake Countryside Hotel in Llangammarch Wells, where after dinner drinks by the fireplace are de rigueur. It’s a delightful property, and the views all around are dazzling. Book a few nights here to truly enjoy the surroundings and to take time to get a few spa treats.

The chic Parc Thistle hotel offers spacious accommodations with nice views of the city, but its best feature is that it’s within walking distance of the city’s top attractions.

Why Wales Now!
Lauren Summers, Director of Marketing, Visit Wales North America, gives some insight as to why Wales should be on you and your client’s radar.

Wales is an enchanting destination; like someplace out of a story book—from the rolling green hills to the crisp, blue shores, the scenery is truly breathtaking. In Wales, you have so much at your disposal; the country is home to 870 miles of walkable coastline, 641 castles, six “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty,” six UNESCO World Heritage sites, three national parks, and two languages—English and Welsh.

Wales is perfect to include on a multi-destination trip to the UK and Ireland due to its central proximity. Wales is about two hours from London by train, an hour and a half from Manchester by car and two hours from Dublin by ferry.

I think it’s great to get out and visit the different regions of Wales. Each region depicts a unique part of the Welsh culture. When you are able to visit multiple market towns and seaside villages, and combine that with a visit to Cardiff it helps travelers understand the complete story of Wales—they can piece together the country’s history to better understand the present.

If you want to see more than one region of Wales, then you need at least a week. For travelers that are looking for just a small taste, they can spend about three days in the country and go in-depth into an area. For more on my interview with Summers, visit recommend.com.  

For more snapshots of my trip through Wales, check out Eye on the World: A Taste of Wales. recommend.com/departments/eye-on-the-world/eye-world-taste-wales.

contact information
Visit Wales: americas.visitwales.com