Exploring the Enchanting Beauty of Wales
Nestled in the western part of the United Kingdom, Wales is a land of rugged coastlines, lush valleys, and historic charm. Steeped in rich history and culture, this small but captivating country offers a diverse range of experiences for every type of traveler. From exploring medieval castles to trekking through breathtaking landscapes, Wales promises a memorable adventure that will leave you enchanted. Join me as I recount my journey through this land of legends and natural wonders.
Our first step was to the scenic Brecon Beacons, located in South Wales, which offers breathtaking views, rolling hills, and plenty of outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, and exploring waterfalls. It’s a haven for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. Here, we stayed in Llandadog a charming village close the mountains. The first morning of our holiday, we decided we’d climb the Black Mountain Range. I only made it up about 55 stories but our niece and nephews made it up to the top – 95 stories high with a captivating 360° view of the entire area.
We stayed in a charming AirBnB house just outside the village for the weekend. This gave us the time to taste the local cuisine – faggots, which are beef, liver and onion meatballs and a variety of Welsh meat pies – lamb and pea, chicken and beef and kidney. Everything was homemade and delicious. There also was an arts festival taking place with several dozen artists and artisans holding open houses in the area. So, we grabbed a map and checked a few of them out.
We dined at a fantastic restaurant and a charming four star hotel called the Plough Hotel and Restaurant, located just down the road in Rhosmaen. It’s definitely a country hotel, but the food is very urban and wonderful. We were celebrating my hubby’s birthday and there were six of us in total. They sat us in the conservatory, which is much more relaxed than their main dining room. I can tell you the staff were lovely, but sadly, not the friendliest or the most knowledgeable of people. Ultimately, that didn’t matter as you come for the food, and it is extraordinarily delicious. We first started off my sharing several of the “light bite” plates, which included the salt and pepper fried squid, tempura battered cauliflower florets and coriander & chickpea falafel. Each one of them had wonderful little homemade sauces which we devoured. We then ordered several mains to share, which included slow cooked Welsh lamb, Welsh sirloin steak, roast Gressingham duck breast, citrus & herb crusted salmon and the chicken chasseur. The chef should be commended, as the food was absolutely wonderful and we finished it off with local Welsh wine a Glyndwr Dry and an Australian Euca Hill Shiraz. Truly a delightful birthday dinner. Make reservations, as they are busy.
Saint David’s Cathedral and Palace
After our weekend in Llandadog (pronounced Shang a dog), we then started our car tour of Wales and our second stop was St. David’s Cathedral, situated in the city of St. David’s, Pembrokeshire. It is the final resting place of the Patron Saint of Wales, Saint David, and features stunning architecture and a tranquil atmosphere. St. David’s Cathedral is a significant religious site and a popular tourist attraction. The cathedral is in good condition however, the accompanying palace, located beside it, is in ruins. But this doesn’t take away from its natural beauty and immense size. The town itself is also charming, filled with cute little restaurants and charming locals. The only problem is trying to get a seat in a restaurant in this town. It is busy, busy, busy at lunch, so be prepared to wait. After lunch we then drove on to our stop for the evening in the delightfully tiny coastal village of Gwbert, located on the western edge of Cardigan Bay. It offers stunning views of the bay and is a great place for coastal walks, relaxing on the beaches, or exploring the nearby wildlife-rich estuary of the river Teifi.
In the morning we left in search of Llandewi Brefi (pronounced Shan da way Bref ee), is a small village in Ceredigion, Wales. It is known for two things: its connection to the legend of the “Llanddewi Brefi Leap,” where Saint David is said to have performed a miracle by making the ground rise beneath him during a sermon, and the BBC Comedy series “Little Britain”, where the gay character Daffyd Thomas, is the “only gay in the village”. It was hilarious to see the actual place in person.
Later that day we drove on to Aberystwyth, a vibrant seaside town and university hub on the west coast of Wales. It offers a mix of stunning landscapes, charming Victorian architecture, and a lively cultural scene. The town features a promenade, sandy beaches, and the iconic Aberystwyth Castle. We had fish and chips on the boardwalk and then explored the ruins of the castle.
Our next stop was Machynlleth, a historic market town in Powys, Wales. It is known for its rich heritage and connection to Welsh culture. The town hosts the annual Machynlleth Comedy Festival and is home to the Museum of Modern Art Wales, showcasing contemporary Welsh art. Here is we stayed in the most wonderful inn called the Plas Dolguog. It’s a charming and unique Inn and an event space for weddings and events. The rooms are all individually designed with a mix of old and new pieces, but the finishes like the baths were spa quality. We stayed in the Wagner Suite which was very luxurious and dramatic. A King size bed, separate sitting room with extra sleeping space/TV room, en suite ‘dressing room’ with roll top bath, balcony overlooking the Dyfi estuary and Snowdonia. The beds and linens divine. We also had the pleasure of having our breakfast prepared by the lovely chef we met. I had the pancakes with bacon and my husband had the scrambled eggs and bacon. A definite two thumbs up experience for us.
But while the food was great, the real highlight was meeting the Nigel (the chef). We asked him for recommendations for dinner and he recommended his own restaurant that he manages with his husband, Daffyd called the Black Lion Inn and Free House. It was located about a 10 minute drive from Machynlleth. The space is 500 years old and retains many of its original features and offers a traditional Welsh dining experience for the whole family. We had eaten a lot of meat on this holiday and so for this meal we chose a lighter fish option. We both had the prawn cocktail, followed by the Sea Bass. Several others in the room had more heartier dishes like the beef burger, which was piled high with four huge onions rings on top. Another guest was picking up a chocolate birthday cake the chef had made for them. It’s a small place, in the middle of no-where but packs a great culinary punch.
The next day we drove onto Portmeirion, a captivating village with a very interesting history nestled on the coast of Wales. With its vibrant architecture and picturesque landscapes, it exudes an otherworldly charm. Created by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, this Italian-style village is a delightful fusion of colors, gardens, and ornate buildings. Its unique ambiance fosters a sense of tranquility and whimsy, making it a beloved destination for visitors seeking a magical escape. Portmeirion also holds a special connection to the iconic TV show “The Prisoner”, starring Patrick McGoohan. The village served as the backdrop for the enigmatic and surreal setting of the show, where the protagonist, Number Six, battles against an elusive authority. Portmeirion’s eclectic architecture and its sense of isolation perfectly complemented the show’s themes of surveillance, control, and individuality, cementing its place in television history.
Betws-y-Coed in Snowdonia National Park
Betws-y-Coed, a charming village in Conwy County, North Wales. Nestled in Snowdonia National Park, it is surrounded by stunning landscapes, including cascading waterfalls and ancient forests. It is a popular base for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and exploring the natural beauty of the region. You can walk to the falls or take your car and drive to it. We actually did both and were not disappointed.
Wales, with its ancient castles, rugged mountains, and pristine coastline, is a destination that offers an immersive and authentic experience. From Cardiff’s modern allure to Snowdonia’s rugged grandeur, and from the medieval charm of Conwy to the coastal beauty of Pembrokeshire, each corner of this land has a story to tell and a picture-perfect moment waiting to be captured. So, pack your bags and get ready to explore the captivating beauty of Wales – a country that truly transports you to a realm of legends and dreams.
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