For a small country, Wales offers an incredible diversity of landscapes and experiences, many of which remain surprisingly undiscovered. From pristine white-sand beaches and rolling, quintessentially Welsh valleys to tucked away villages, here six places you really should visit – but which you’ve probably never heard of.
1. The Tywi Valley, south Wales
In the southwest of the country, the Tywi Valley is home to some of Wales’ most magical scenery – indeed, it’s not hard to see why the legend of Merlin remains so prevalent in the area. The lush green hills are punctuated with ruined castles, the standout of which is romantic Carreg Cennan.
Thought to be built on the site of a fortress that was built by one of King Arthur’s knights, the castle commands a striking position three hundred feet above the Cennen River, with views over towards the Black Mountain.
A much more modern attraction can be found in the National Botanic Garden of Wales, the centrepiece of which is Norman Foster’s striking glasshouse, which transports you into a much more Mediterranean climate than you could ever hope to find in the country.
The real joy in the region is, of course, taking your time in a leisurely exploration, following the curve of the green hills and discovering the quiet villages that sit among them.
2. Strumble Head, Pembrokeshire
Winding country lanes lead to Strumble Head on the beautiful north Pembrokeshire coast, which is arguably the best site in Wales for sea bird spotting.
This peaceful spot – though expect to be buffeted by the wind a little – is a rewarding place for watching gannets, kittiwakes, guillemots and fulmars, among many other birds, as they swoop and dive, and if you’re lucky you might also catch a glimpse of porpoises out on the water.
The best way to reach the headland is on an invigorating walk along the Coast Path, from which you can enjoy some astounding cliff-top views – plus, you’ll also be able to discover the lovely little beaches of Aber Mawr and Aber Bach.
3. Ruthin, Denbighshire
Sitting in the fertile Vale of Clwyd, the attractive little hilltop town of Ruthin stands out in the area for its particularly fine food, and makes a great base from which to explore the gentle hills that surround.
The market town is especially notable for its clutch of appealing half-timbered buildings, centred around St Peter’s Square, of which the higgledy-piggledy Nantclwyd y Dre, which dates partly from 1435, is especially worth seeking out.
On the southern edge of town, the imposing red thirteenth century sandstone castle makes a nice spot for a drink among rather grand surroundings or for a wander among the resident peacocks.
4. Rhoscolyn, Anglesey
The island of Anglesey, joined to the mainland by bridges near Bangor, offers a surprising plethora of lovely sights. One of the nicest, though strictly speaking on another island entirely (Holy Island), is the tiny seaside village of Rhoscolyn.
The sandy beaches here are exquisite and make this the ideal spot for a few days’ chilling out; if you’re after more active pursuits, this is also a great place for kayakers.
Best of all, there’s an excellent pub here – the White Eagle – which boasts a huge deck that’s perfect for soaking up the views of the coast, ideally over a pint or two of cask ale or a plate of locally-harvested oysters.
5. Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, Glyn Ceiriog Valley
There’s not much to Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog (or Llanarmon DC as it’s commonly known) but that’s part of its charm. Sitting on the edge of the quiet Glyn Ceiriog Valley, this is very much a place to come to get away from it all.
The blissfully quiet valley was long a vital route into both Snowdonia and the heart of the country, and today it still makes a great choice for a stop as part of a wider exploration of the country.
For such a small place, there’s not one but two impressive inns here, which – combined with some lovely walks on the doorstep, through the valleys and onto the moors – make Llanarmon DC the ideal choice for a relaxing countryside break.
6. Portmelgan, Pembrokeshire
Accessible only on foot, Porthmelgan is a tiny and spectacularly beautiful beach – the kind you usually only dream of stumbling across in the UK.
Just a fifteen-minute walk along the coast from popular Whitesands Bay, known for its surfing, Porthmelgan makes a much quieter and less crowded choice than its neighbour. The sheltered cove is great for paddling and rockpooling – though strong currents unfortunately mean that swimming can be a bit dangerous here – and on summer days the sands are something of a suntrap.
When you’ve had enough of sunbathing, you can rejoin the wonderful Pembrokeshire Coast Path to soak up yet more fabulous views over the cliffs and sea.