11 Reasons Wales Is an Underrated Travel Destination

Scotland and Ireland may get the lion’s share of love, but from roadside castles to coastal sunsets, a visit to Wales can put a new spin on your trip to the United Kingdom.

By: Joe Sills

Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: lloyd-horgan/iStockphoto

Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: rickbowden/iStockphoto

Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: GAPS/iStockphoto

Photo By: CreativeMoments/iStockphoto

Photo By: Billy Stock/Shutterstock

Land of 100 Castles

At one time, Wales was home to more than 600 medieval castles. Though time and war have taken their tolls through the centuries, more than 100 of those impressive fortifications are still standing today. Wales has one of the highest concentration of castles in Europe. Many of them—like Raglan Castle, pictured here—are easily accessible from the beautiful, rolling highways that crisscross the Land of the Red Dragon. Most allow you to explore ramparts, courtyards and towers at your own leisure, for a small fee.

National Parks

With three major national parks, Wales is stocked with adventure travel destinations ripe for a day trip from town. The gates of Brecon Beacons National Park lie less than an hour from Cardiff, while Pembrokeshire Coast National Park sits about an hour from Swansea. Further afield, the mountains of Snowdonia National Park, pictured here, present a hiker’s paradise less than 70 miles from Liverpool, England.

Amazing Airbnbs

Wales is flush with dramatic Airbnb options from countryside estates to castles and quaint coastal apartments. The Welsh are famous for hospitality, and most room and board options are well kept and affordable. Run of the house in a 19th-century estate like the recently opened Llantysilio Hall could run you less than $150. As a bonus, overnighting in a secluded mansion could come complete with moving bookshelves, secret passageways and a plush, Victorian sitting room.

Stunning Sunrises and Sunsets

Travelers who overnight on the country’s southern coast will treat themselves to spectacular sunrises like those at the Green Bridge pictured here. Not an early riser? Head for the western coast where a pier-side perch in Aberystwyth will put you front-and-center with the sinking sun and the sea.

Endless Countryside

There’s a reason so many classic and exotic cars dot the highways of the Welsh countryside. Roads like the A470 are famous hosts for motor rallies and filmmaking. Americans traveling to the U.K. can rent a car with their U.S. driver’s license, making these jaw-dropping roads accessible to travelers daring enough to brave driving on the 'wrong side' of the road. Fortunately, traffic in the Welsh countryside tends to be light.

Coastal Roads

Inland highways aren’t the only jaw-droppers in Wales. The A487 between Fishguard and Aberdyfi offers spectacular, unhindered views of the Irish Sea. Travelers looking for a scenic route from south Wales to Liverpool or Dublin (by ferry) need look no further than this coastal highway, which splits off from spartan coastal towns like Aberystwyth and Aberporth to even more secluded hideaways like Holyhead and Porthor as it wanders north. This path wanders in-and-out of the Wales Coastal Way, a 180-mile route that hugs beaches, cliffs and mountains from Aberdaron to St. David's.

Dragon Lore

The country’s green and white flag is emblazoned with a glowing icon of Y Ddraig Goch, "the red dragon." The Welsh are particularly proud of their flag and fly it freely almost anywhere a flagpole can be mounted. Rightly so, as the banner is considered to be one of the oldest flags in the world, dating back to at least 829 A.D. Some consider Y Ddraig Goch to be even more ancient, as a legend persists that it was once the banner of King Arthur.

Roadside Eats

Whether you’re up early or arriving late, the lonely roads of Wales pair well with one of the country’s roadside cafes and taverns. Mixed with the occasional food truck, these pitstops typically serve up sausages, cakes and—of course—fish and chips. Be sure to give Welsh rarebit a try, and it goes without saying that in a land that filled with sheep, roast lamb is a specialty. Pro tip: Give the local cheese a try, y fenni and Tintern are both cheddar blends mixed with local flavors like chives, shallots and mustard seed.

An Unexpected Language Barrier

An immersion in Welsh culture doesn’t begin and end with museums and castles. In fact, modern Welsh culture is still defiantly different from the predominate English culture just over the fenceless border. Though nearly all Welsh people speak English, travelers will still find almost all official signage posted in both languages. Thankfully, most locals are happy to help you learn a bit of the local tongue.

Lovely Lighthouses

Castles aren’t the only monolithic structures marking the Welsh countryside. Throughout the coastal country, towers of another sort reach into the sky. Wales is home to more than 40 lighthouses. Many of which, like Tŵr Mawr pictured here, are easily accessible via short hiking routes beside the sea.

Cardiff

The largest city in Wales, Cardiff boasts a population of just over 340,000. The old port city is a less crowded alternative to major European cities, but serves up copious culture and architecture like St. Fagans National Museum of History, the National Museum Cardiff, Cardiff Castle and the iconic Pierhead building.

Shop Related Products