After I crossed the border from England in my little economy class rental car, I set off to explore Wales for the first time. I didn’t realise it would all be so easy, as I merely approached a tollgate, paid the 6 pounds to the cash collector, and all of a sudden I was in Wales. Cold, rainy, foggy Wales. As someone who comes from a typically cold climate (Tasmania, Australia), I’m not one to complain about the weather. Besides, it can really add to the character of a place. While Wales might have been wet and miserable on my arrival, this did allow for tourist attractions entirely to myself (ever tried an umbrella!?) and hardly any vehicles on the road. All in all, it was an adventure.
I was off to explore the South of Wales specifically, as I had just under a week in the land of the Welsh. If I had it my way I would have stayed as long as it took to explore the entire country, as I instantly fell in love with the people, laid back lifestyle, and of course those quaint little towns and villages periodically popping up in each day’s adventures.
So if you’re heading South in Wales, I’ve got you covered…
A Guide to Visiting the South of Wales
This guide covers my 5 day itinerary in the South of Wales. There is so much to see and do in such a small amount of time, so it is with regret my itinerary does not include larger cities like Cardiff and Swansea. Instead, this itinerary gives focus to small towns, charming seaside villages, and of course, castles!
Day One: The Wye Valley, Tintern Abbey, Raglan Castle, Abergavenny
As you cross over into Wales from England, you will notice the differences almost immediately. Suddenly there are large sweeping valleys in your view (if it is not clouded by rain and fog, of course!) as well as gorgeous mountains and all manners of rich green in all forms: grass, trees, and hedges. This of course requires adequate irrigation, so do expect some showers throughout your visit.
Be sure to take the time to take it all in when driving through the Wye Valley. Great points of interest to stop at include Tintern Abbey, Raglan Castle, and the small(ish) town of Abergavenny. Stop off at Cwtch Cafe on Cross Street for a delicious coffee + cake combo for under 5 pounds.
Overnight: Felin Fach
Tonight I stayed at the Felin Fach Griffin Inn, which was a great stopover strategically as it was a mere 25 minutes from Hay-on-Wye (tomorrow morning’s first stop). The hotel is small and charming, however you won’t be able to connect here as there is no wi-fi or televisions inside the room unless you request from housekeeping. Of course for some people this is a chance to switch off! Just be sure to bring a good book. Also don’t venture beyond the hotel for dinner this evening, the so called “pub meal” on offer is splendid and incredibly gourmet!
Day Two: Hay-On-Wye, Llandeilo, Laugharne
Start day two at Hay-On-Wye, as you’ll want at least a couple of hours to wander around this small town that manages to pack a lot in. It is renowned for being the “town of books” and rightly so, as there are more book shops here than you can count on your fingers and toes.
Next stop is another small town named Llandeilo. This town is full of great shops if you’re looking to purchase some tweed, home goods, or sweet treats from the popular “Heavenly” sweets shop. Be sure to drive through the town afterwards and you will see (brown coloured tourist) signs to the nearby castle. It is well worth a visit for its’ views over the sweeping valleys.
Next stop is Laugharne, another small town with a great castle to visit. You should be able to find a park further down the street (100m past the castle) for free. From there, follow the road through to Pendine and take the turn for Amroth. You can either stay in Amroth or follow through 5-10 minutes to the gorgeous seaside village of Saundersfoot (see below).
Tonight I checked in to the lavish St Brides Spa Hotel in Saundersfoot. This hotel is of course renowned for its thermal spa and sweeping views over the town. This would be a great night to dine out, as there are some fantastic little restaurants in the town which is just a 5 minute walk from the hotel. For something casual, grab a takeaway fish + chips and head for the ocean.
Day Three: Beaches, Coasteering, St David’s Cathedral
Now that you’re on the coast of Wales, you might as well make the most of it. On day three there is much to see and do – particularly by way of small coastal towns and seaside villages to explore. If you stayed overnight in Saundersfoot, you’ll find the much larger town of Tenby just a 5-10 minute drive down the road, heading in the same direction you came. The colourful houses and gorgeous promenade makes this a town worth stopping in. From there, head toward Broadhaven South Beach if you’d like to get outdoors and head for a walk out to a lovely lookout over the coast – just be sure to bring parking money with you! Also worth visiting is Freshwater West Beach (pictured above), particularly if you are a Harry Potter fun like myself! This is the beach where Dobby was buried in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. From there, you have a substantial drive ahead through Pembroke to St. Davids. If you’re game enough to try coasteering, there are a few companies offering tours departing daily around lunch time from here. For something more reserved, visit St. David’s Cathedral – it is a must see!
Overnight: Roch Castle
Tonight I stayed overnight in a castle — fancy! While the exterior is reminiscent of a time passed, the interior is completely renovated and quite modern. There isn’t a restaurant on site so be sure to venture out for some local fish and chips in one of the nearby villages.
Day Four: Small Towns: Newport, Cardigan, New Quay, Aberaeron
At this point in the journey and with so much driving under belt, the last day or two on your Wales itinerary should be spent relaxing, taking it in by the seaside, and with much less on your itinerary. Instead of planning to see anything major on this day, I chose to stop at small towns and try a little something at each town. Newport is a pretty seaside village, whilst Cardigan was more of a town size and had a little sweets shop I could have spent days in! New Quay was absolutely gorgeous and if you’re visiting in the summer time, be sure to try the frozen yoghurt! Over in Aberaeron there’s another great ice cream shop that specialises in honey ice cream and also has frozen yoghurt – so be sure to save some space!
Tonight I stayed in Aberaeron at the HarbourMaster Aberaeron, which is located right by the seaside. Be sure to request a room with a view to best enjoy the sunset!
Day Five: Elan Valley & Birmingham (Fly out)
Today I had a late afternoon flight out of Birmingham, so what better way to spend my last day than to adventure along the way! Stops today included Devil’s Bridge, driving through the Elan Valley, and finishing the day at Powis Castle and Garden, before driving through to Birmingham airport for my departure to Scotland!
A gracious thank you to Visit Wales and Welsh Rarebits (accommodation) for organising my stay in Wales. I can’t wait to return to explore more of Wales!