While bigger cities in Wales usually get more recognition, that doesn’t mean the smaller towns don’t have anything to offer. Wales is known for its rolling hills and valleys, breathtaking mountain landscapes, stunning beaches and rugged coastline. If you’re looking for an adventure or simply a peaceful escape, Wales will be an experience you never forget. Welsh is the oldest living language in Britain and has been spoken for thousands of years, including today! Wales has over 400 castles and a lot of heritage sites to help everyone remember that each town is unique and filled with hidden gems, you just have to dig a little deeper to uncover them!
Each town offers you a little piece of home and a friendly community, and with amazing local produce like Welsh Rarebit, Bara Brith, and Laverbread, you might not want to leave! Wander through splendid ruins, churches that are thousands of years old, and along the gorgeous coastline with your feet sinking into the sand.
Brecon Beacons National Park is an absolute must because it has something for everyone! Take a walk, hike, cycle, or drive and see the stunning scenery.
The National Welsh War Memorial is a place to honour the Welsh soldiers who fought and gave their lives in World Wars I and II. If you’re into architecture and old churches, the Gothic-style Brecon Cathedral which dates back to the 12th-century is the place for you. The Brecon Distillery is a chance to cool off with a large range of Welsh liqueurs and spirits. If you want a daring escapade, try the Brecon Beacons Gorge Walking Adventure Tour.
Drive from Cardiff to Newport to get to Brecon in only an hour. You won’t have to stop along the way unless there’s a photo op that you just can’t miss. Keep in mind that the train is not direct as it will only take you to Merthyr Tydfil, and afterwards you’ll have to find a cab that will take you directly into Brecon. Overall, via a train trip it takes an hour and a half to get there.
Where to Stay:
Each room is en-suite with modern facilities and the restaurant uses mostly fresh, local ingredients. This Hotel will provide you with a friendly Welsh welcome, flavourful food, and a good drink.
This 19th-century house is located in Brecon and just a mile from Brecon Cathedral and other activities like canoeing, cycling, hiking, and fishing. The guest house also provides a shared lounge, non-smoking rooms, free WiFi and water sports facilities.
Located 550 yards away from Brecon Cathedral, Cribyn Lodge supplies guests with a seating area and a flat-screen TV with cable channels in each room and are equipped with bed linen and towels.
You can choose if you want to take a train, bus, or car to Newport, but by taking the train you’ll be there in eleven minutes. The bus is also direct but will take 30 minutes due to the other stops. Driving to Newport will take longer due to the traffic, but only by ten or so minutes. Once you arrive, take a stroll through Bell Vue Park or the Caerleon Roman Fortress and Baths.
Take some time to wander the historical sites of the city like the Newport Museum and Art Gallery, which provides you with the full history of Newport and Wales. The Tredegar House is a 17th-century mansion that used to be the residence of the Morgan family but later the Lords Tredegar. The Newport Cathedral dates back to the 12th century. Something unique that Newport is home to is the Roman Legionary Museum which has exhibits on the history of the Roman army in Wales. Even if history isn’t your thing, this Museum will provide you information on an area of history you’ve probably never thought about before.
Where to Stay:
Kate’s Place has free Wi-fi and a garden, is perfect for one night stays and for solo travellers!
Pets are allowed, there’s free parking, and a buffet breakfast available at Holiday Inn Express. The M4 motorway is easily accessible from this hotel. A restaurant and daily housekeeping are two other services Holiday Inn Express provides.
Including a fitness centre, terrace, and a bar, Mercure Newport is a stylish modern hotel to stay in. Rooms will have a kettle, air conditioning, free toiletries, a TV, and a safety deposit box.
Drive, take the train, or hail a taxi, any of these modes of transportation will get you to your destination in only fifteen minutes! Make the most of your day trip by getting to Caerphilly in the morning and spending the entire day having loads of fun. Spend the morning immersing yourself in history in Caerphilly Castle, a large medieval castle that is a symbol of Welsh heritage. Aber Valley Heritage Museum will provide you with knowledge on the rich heritage of Aber Valley.
Take a break to stop and eat in the Caerphilly Market which has a range of stalls selling all sorts of goodies. You can also take a tour in the Caerphilly Cheese & Heritage Centre, where you’ll not only find out the history of cheese-making in Wales, but you’ll also get to munch on some of the best cheese! If you’re in town during the Big Cheese Festival or the Caerphilly Food Festival, get ready to have some of the best Welsh food you’ve ever tasted. To wash it all down, take a trip to the Caerphilly Brewery which produces a wide range of Welsh beers and ales.
Where to Stay:
This guest house is a fifteen minute walk to Caerphilly Castle and nearby to the train station. Included is private parking and free Wi-Fi.
The Castle Lodge is located near the Aber Valley Heritage Museum and has a fully equipped kitchen with a fridge, and a private bathroom with a shower and free toiletries.
This apartment has 2 bedrooms, a flat-screen TV and a fully equipped kitchen that provides guests with a fridge, an oven, a washing machine, a microwave and a stovetop.
Stretch your legs after arriving by walking along Swansea Bay and taking in the sweet smell of the sea and delight in the beautiful scenery. If you rather, Singleton Park has a boating lake, scenic gardens, and a playground for your kids! Book a private tour for your group or a self-guided audio Dylan Thomas tour.
Swansea is full of historical sites and landmarks waiting for you! The Swansea Museum showcases the history of the city while the National Waterfront Museum the history of industry and innovation in Wales. On the cultural side, explore the Dylan Thomas Centre, a tribute about the life and works of the famous Welsh poet.
Whether you choose to drive or jump on the train, both will get you to Swansea in around 50 minutes. Or you can hop on the bus in Cardiff and ride an hour and ten minutes to your destination. Any way you decide to travel will get you there quickly and efficiently.
Where to Stay:
This apartment is less than a mile from Swansea Beach and only 650 yards from the Grand Theatre. The apartment includes 1 bedroom, a kitchen with a fridge and an oven, as well as a kettle. Towels and bed linen are provided in the apartment.
The Grand Hotel is right next to the train station and a quick walk to many of Swansea’s attractions and landmarks. The Grand Hotel features a comfortable guest lounge, informal dining in the Bistro Bar and there is also a popular Sports Bar, offering international spirits as well as local beers.
In Swansea’s historic Maritime Quarter, Morgans Hotel provides luxurious rooms with free Wi-Fi, 5 minutes’ walk from the city centre. Each air-conditioned room has Egyptian cotton bedding with a private bathroom, and is equipped with a TV.
5. Wye Valley
Once you find yourself in Hay-On-Wye, you have to check out as many bookstores as you can, they have over 20! Every type of bookstore you can think of, Hay-On-Wye has it. If you love books, reading, maps, antique books, and poetry then this is the place for you!
If you get a chance, check out Hay Castle right in the centre of town. It’s a medieval castle that not only gives you history about Hay-On-Wye, but also amazing panoramic views of the town and surrounding countryside. If you fancy taking a thirty minute drive to Black Mountain Vineyard to get a tour, learn about the art of wine-making and the history of wine in Wales, and of course, drink some delicious wine, then do it, you won’t regret it! You can also walk along the River Wye. If you and your partner are feeling adventurous, kayak, canoe, or even paddleboard down the river! Or feel free to book a full day Wye Valley and Brecon Beacons tour.
To get to the town of Hay-On-Wye, you can either drive, which will take you to your destination in an hour and 20 minutes, or take the train to Hereford and get on the bus at Country Bus Station and ride it all the way to Hay-On-Wye, taking a total of three hours.
Where to Stay:
Six minutes away by car is the town of Hay-On-Wye, The Smithy offers accommodation with a balcony or patio. The hotel also provides free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen TV, and a garden.
The Swan at Hay is set between Brecon Beacons and The Black Mountains. It has a bistro and a restaurant that serves modern British cuisine. The Swan also has two bars and a dining area. It’s also only a five minute walk from Offa Dyke’s Path.
Centrally located in Hay-On-Wye, The Swan at Hay is a 16th-century building that has an indoor pool and sauna. Some of the original features include thick stone walls and oak beams.
Carmarthen has a little piece of everything including the famous Carmarthen Castle which was originally built by King Henry I to be a Motte-and-bailey castle with timber defences, remains of a Roman Amphitheatre that would have been used for multiple spectator sports like chariot racing, gladiator battles, and fights between humans and beasts. St Peter’s Church and the National Wool Museum have a less brutal history than the Amphitheatre. The Museum provides information on the history of Welsh wool trade while the Church is where Sir Richard Steele is buried.
Eat your way through the Carmarthen Market where you have to try Caws Pobi and Laverbread in one of the many stalls in this bustling outdoor market that not only has local food, but handmade products as well. Leisurely make your way through Merlin Centre, named after Merlin from King Arthur who was thought to have been born in Carmarthen. The National Botanic Garden of Wales is passionately dedicated to the conservation and research of biodiversity and sustainability.
Take a leisurely one hour drive to Carmarthen in order to get there the fastest. But, you can also take the bus, which will get you there in two hours, or the train which only takes an hour and 45 minutes.
Where to Stay:
The Rose and Crown Hotel has a traditional pub and restaurant and in the mornings offers an extensive breakfast menu full of local Welsh food. The rooms have a TV and tea/coffee making facilities.
This hotel was originally constructed in 1840, and is located in central Carmarthen. It’s a charming family-run hotel and offers traditional, friendly hospitality. You also are provided with secure private parking.
Right in the middle of Carmarthen, Falcon Hotel is just a 10-minute walk from Carmarthen Rail Station, providing easy access to Swansea centre. The bedrooms are traditionally decorated, have a cosy seating area, and a private bathroom.
Driving is definitely the way to go if you want to get to Laugharne from Cardiff as it only takes an hour and a half. Alternatively, you can hop on the bus or train, although the train takes two and a half hours and the bus takes three and a half hours. But hey, I don’t blame you if you want to take time to see the beauty of Wales, but you can also see that same beauty in the car where it takes at least an hour less than the bus or train. Laugharne Castle provides you not only with important historical information but also stunning views over the River Taf. The Estuary Walk takes you along the River Taf estuary with views of the surrounding countryside.
The Old Pill Shipyard is an old shipyard and boat-building site, perfect for those interested in learning about sailing and marine biology. The Dylan Thomas Boathouse was where Dylan Thomas resided for the last four years of his life where many works were written, including ‘Under Milk Wood’. St Martin’s Church, built in the 12th-century and is the final resting place of Dylan Thomas. The Llansteffan Castle has a Tudor architectural style and was constructed in the 12th century.
Where to Stay:
Located close to the Dylan Thomas Writing Shed, Hills Farm B&B provides accommodation with free WiFi and a garden with a terrace and river views. Some units also include a private shower.
Situated in Laugharne and close to the River Taf Estuary, the Brown’s Hotel rooms have elegant décor and some have period features like old wooden beams and exposed brick walls. If you want to wind down, visit the reading room with the inglenook fireplace or enjoy a drink at the bar listening to some chill music.
Also located near the Dylan Thomas Writing Shed, each of the Carpenters Arms rooms comes with a wardrobe, a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, bed linen and towels.
Rhondda is known for its coal-mining past, and the Rhondda Heritage Park showcases the history of coal-mining in the Rhondda Valleys. To dive deeper into the history and culture of the Cynon Valley, pop by the Cynon Valley Museum and Gallery. Revel in the greenery of the town while walking the Rhondda Fach Trail which runs along the former railway line through the valley, or take the Rhondda Cynon Taf Heritage Trail, a self-guided trail that has you stop and take in all the local heritage, like churches, industrial sites, and castles, the town has to offer. Rugby fans will get a kick out of visiting the Parc y Scarlets Rugby Stadium, home to the Scarlets Rugby team.
On a good day, it will only take you 30 minutes to make your merry way to Rhondda. But sadly, there is something called traffic, and it will end up taking you around 45 minutes to drive to your destination. On the other hand, you can easily take a direct train that will get you there in 45 minutes. So it’s up to you whether or not you want to risk facing traffic!
Where to Stay:
The Blueberry Hotel is just a short drive to the Welsh Coal Mining Experience and the Rhondda Heritage Park. The rooms have an antique French style, or a chic white design.
Nearby hiking is available but driving will be required in order to get to the sites and landmarks in Rhondda. The daily breakfast offers à la carte, Full English/Irish or vegetarian options. There is also a restaurant that serves British cuisine.
With a garden, a terrace, and a mountain view, what more do you need? This holiday home comes with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, bed linen, towels, a flat-screen TV, a dining area, a fully equipped kitchen, and a patio.
9. Barry Island
Discover the locations of the Gavin and Stacey TV show through this tour. Barry Island Heritage Centre takes you through the history of the town and includes why it is such a popular tourist destination.
The best ways to enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery of Barry Island are through the Barry Tourist Railway, a train that takes you through the countryside, the Barry Island Beach where you can stick your toes in the sand and swim, sunbathe, or play water sports, and the Barry Island Nature Reserve to see the home of many wildlife. After the beach make sure to travel along the Barry Island Boardwalk that takes you along the coastline to watch the sea and surrounding cliffs.
While it only takes a little over thirty minutes to get to Barry Island by car depending on traffic, the train is the quickest way to get where you need to go. It’s a direct shot from Cardiff to your destination, and the best part is that it takes less than 30 minutes. The bus is also an option and only takes around 40 minutes to get to Barry Island. Any of these modes of transportation will get you to Barry Island in just a short amount of time.
Where to Stay:
This property was built in 1892, offers full cooked breakfasts, and there’s free Wi-Fi. Barry Rail Station is a five minute walk away and Cardiff City Centre is ten miles away.
Gail’s Guest House is only a ten minute walk from the beach and just a ten minute drive to Cardiff Airport. The double rooms have en-suite showers while the others have a shared bathroom.
A full kitchen is provided in your room along with a washing machine and private bathroom with free toiletries. This Suite is located 0.6 miles from the centre of Barry Island.
The Blue Lagoon is a hidden gem in Pembrokeshire and is a man-made lake that has a stunningly unique vibrant blue colour and is surrounded by forests. The series of interconnected freshwater lakes are known as the Bosherston Lily Ponds and are home to a variety of wildlife. You can see the countryside for miles with rolling hills and ancient woods. Feel free to walk around and see how many wildlife you can spot!
Learn about all the events that took place in Pembroke Castle which was in use until the mid 17th-century. Explore the ramparts, battlements, and keep, and feel as if you’re transported back in time. Now, if you’re looking for some fun for the kids or for yourself and the squad because fun doesn’t have an age limit, take a chance on the Oakwood Theme Park, the Heatherton World of Activities, or the Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo. Oakwood features loads of attractions and rides, Heatherton has a variety of outdoor activities like paintballing, go-karting, and archery, and Folly is popular for anyone who loves animals and also provides activities and attractions for kids!
There are three options to get you and your fam from Cardiff to Pembrokeshire: car, bus, or train. The car is once again the fastest way to reach your destination by taking a little less than two hours. If you choose to take the train, you’re only adding 30 minutes to your journey than what it would take by car. There’s also an hourly bus service, but overall it will take you almost four hours to get to Pembrokeshire.
Where to Stay:
The Manian is located right in the heart of Pembrokeshire countryside and is only two miles from the coastline. This hotel is also close to the Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo. Each room comes with bottled water and complimentary Welsh cakes!
Pembroke Castle is less than a mile away from Eaton House, is 10.6 miles from Oakwood Theme Park and 11.2 miles from Folly Farm. This house features accommodation with free WiFi and a garden with a sun terrace and garden views.
With cosy bars and a restaurant, Carew Inn has a wonderful atmosphere and a complete Welsh breakfast waiting for you. There is even one dog-friendly room at the Inn, so bring your furry friend along with you!
My guess is that you’re not going to want to spend five hours on a train full of people because the kids will get bored, you’ll get tired, and there is no way that train is romantic enough for you and your partner. Instead, take a car and drive the three hours it takes to get to Snowdonia. There are plenty of stops along the way for snack breaks, and you’ll get to enjoy the beautiful greenery of Wales. If you love to hike and you love a challenge, climb Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales. Once you’ve reached the summit, be proud of what you accomplished and take a moment to enjoy the gorgeous view. If staying lower to the ground is more your speed, try the Snowdon Mountain Railway, where you can see exquisite views of the scenery from not so high up.
If you enjoy the more historical aspect of things, make sure to pop into the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, National Slate Museum and the Castles of Snowdonia which include Harlech Castle, Conwy Castle, and Caernarfon Castle. These castles were constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries, and are beautiful examples of medieval military architecture.
Where to Stay:
This Country House has a garden, bar, restaurant, and shared lounge. Caernarfon Castle is only a 30 minute drive from this house, and there are loads of opportunities to hike, cycle, or walk around.
In the very heart of Snowdonia’s National Park, Grapes Hotel is traditional, warm, and very cosy. Even though the building is from the 17th-century, the rooms have been refurbished to fit a modern vibe.
Right at the foot of Mount Snowdon, Royal Victoria is the perfect place for those who are up to summiting the large peak. The Snowdon Mountain Railway is within 100 yards of the hotel and the National Slate Museum is close by too!
12. Gower Peninsula
Drive west towards Swansea on the M4 motorway to reach Gower Peninsula the fastest. There’s also a direct train from Cardiff Central to Swansea, then all you have to do is hail a taxi and you’ll be to Gower in no time! On the whole, the trip by train or car takes a little over an hour, and then you’re free to explore all day! Take a look at the National Trust’s Mathern Palace, a medieval castle built in the 14th-century to house the Bishop of Llandaff. It’s surrounded by a moat and a garden, and features a range of architectural styles such as Tudor, Gothic and Perpendicular. This Palace is located right next to other historical and cultural sites like the Gower Heritage Centre and the National Trust’s Pennard Castle.
On the flip side of things, take a leisurely walk around Rhossili Bay via the Wales Coast Path. It’s a popular destination for walking, and hiking. While you’re at it, explore the many caves and cliffs along the coast like the Three Cliffs Bay and the Worm’s Head and take in the scenic views along with the opportunity of wildlife watching! If you want to do everything you can in only a day, take a tour starting in the centre of Cardiff and explore Mumbles and the Gower Peninsula.
Where to Stay:
This Aparthotel is in Swansea as everything near Gower Peninsula is more expensive, so you will need a car to get to town from Swansea. You can also hop on the train that’s five minutes away from this hotel to one in Gower.
Bryngower House offers accommodation with free WiFi and TV, as well as a tennis court and barbecue facilities. A range of watersports are also available in the apartment’s facilities.
This 17th-century building has been completely modernised and now features a restaurant and bar, and free tea and coffee in your room where you can relax and watch TV.
13. Vale of Glamorgan
The best and easiest way to get to the Vale of Glamorgan is to drive, and it only takes half an hour to get to Cowbridge, the centre of the Vale. Alternatively, you can take a bus from Cardiff to Cowbridge, which takes around 35 minutes. Either way, with Glamorgan being so close by to Cardiff you’ll be able to spend the majority of your day there! Explore the past in the Vale’s many historical castles and sites like Ewenny Priory, Ogmore Castle, or Cosmeston Medieval Village. If you’ve got a green thumb then you must visit Dyffryn House and Gardens, an Edwardian estate surrounded by sculptures and rare plants. Castell Coch is one of the most well-known Gothic-revival castles built in the late 19th-century.
Visit one of the nearby nature reserves like Cosmeston Lakes Country Park or Kenfig National Nature Reserve to truly experience nature and let your kids burn off some energy. Or if beaches are more your thing, spend some time at Southerndown or Ogmore-by-Sea. Shop till you drop in Cowbridge or in Llantwit Major and make sure to sample delicious local food like Welsh cakes, Bara Brith, and of course, your day trip will not be complete without trying Glamorgan sausages.
Where to Stay:
Close to the beautiful beaches and with the River Ewenny flowing through its grounds, Ewenny Farm Guest House is great for a cosy house and a warm atmosphere.
A ten minute drive to the coastal town of Llantwit Major or the centre town Cowbridge, Victoria Inn is the perfect destination. It also has free Wi-Fi and amazing home-cooked meals seven days a week.
Located in Cowbridge, the Bear Hotel is right in the heart of the Vale of Glamorgan. This hotel dates back to the 12th century, and each room is individually decorated. Relax after a day of fun in the hotel’s real ale bar or luxurious lounge.