Our Grand Tour is ideal for a first visit to Wales, taking in a sampling of the best cities and towns, the country’s industrial heritage and its superb mountain and coastal scenery. Fans of Neolithic cromlechs, ruined abbeys and stately homes should follow our Historic Buildings itinerary, while the more energetic will want to sample items on our Active Wales menu.
If you’ve only got ten days and want to tick off Wales’ acknowledged highlights, hit these.
South Wales’ industrial heritage: the powerful Big Pit mining museum and the evocative ruins of the Ironworks.
Ground-breaking architecture, top-notch culture and blistering nightlife in the cool Welsh capital.
Welsh natural heritage at its most stunning, the Gower peninsula boasts wide-open beaches, rocky bays and steep cliffs.
4 St Davids peninsula
Sample some of the finest sections of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, and stay in delightful St Davids.
5 Cadair Idris
The folds of this fine mountain harbour old castles, churches and a steam railway, the Centre for Alternative Technology and the sublime Mawddach Estuary.
Hard-working narrow-gauge railways, slate-mining heritage and nuggety villages in inspiring mountain scenery.
The whimsical Italianate beauty of Clough Williams-Ellis’ “home for fallen buildings”.
8 Conwy and Llandudno
A domineering castle and ancient houses within an intact ring of walls make Conwy an essential stop, best visited from Llandudno, with its grand seaside architecture, and blustery walks on the Great Orme.
A canal aqueduct, a heritage railway, a hilltop castle, an abbey ruin and the home of the Ladies of Llangollen all wedged into a bucolic valley.
Edward I’s massive castles across north Wales and the wonderful St Davids Cathedral are well known and covered elsewhere: here are a few equally fascinating monuments which can be inspected in a week or so.
1 Tintern Abbey
Admire the wonderful roofless ruin that inspired Wordsworth’s lines, by the placid River Wye.
2 Soar-y-Mynydd chapel
Wales’ most remote chapel, in the wild countryside of Mynydd Eppynt.
3 Carreg Cennen
The most wonderfully sited of all the native Welsh castles, high on a cliff.
4 Pentre Ifan
Wales’ largest burial stone with its 16ft-long top-stone precariously balanced on stone legs.
5 Penrhyn Castle, Bangor
Old masters in a grandiose Victorian mansion that loves to show off its slate-mining wealth.
6 Plas Mawr, Conwy
A superb example of an Elizabethan town house.
7 Plas Newydd, Llangollen
Fascinating mock-Tudor bolt hole of two aristocratic Anglo-Irish ladies.
8 Erddig, Wrexham
A Downton Abbey feel to the relationship between servants and masters at this stately home.
You’ll enjoy that slice of bara brith or pint of Purple Moose all the more if you’ve earned it hiking, biking or surfing. Set aside a week or more.
1 Whitewater rafting: Cardiff
Abundant thrills and spills on these superb man-made rapids.
2 Surfing: Gower
Suit up and surf some of the UK’s finest waves among the bays and beaches of the glorious peninsula.
3 Coasteering: St Davids peninsula
Jump off rocks into the sea, swim across bays and explore caves.
4 Walking: Pembrokeshire Coast Path
Spend a few hours or a few weeks exploring the gorgeous coves, windswept headlands and long beaches of this magical coastal walk.
5 Mine exploring: Corris
Get kitted out with harness and headlamp and listen to arcane tales of mining life in an abandoned slate mine.
6 Mountain biking: Coed y Brenin
Among the very best of many fine places to ride off-road in Wales.
7 Rock climbing: Llanberis Pass
The ultimate mountain challenge in the home of Welsh rock climbing; some climbers engage the guiding services of nearby Plas y Brenin.
8 Walking: Offa’s Dyke Path
Set aside a couple of weeks if you want to tackle the whole of this classic 177-mile long-distance walk which largely follows the ancient earthwork along the English border.