Three Cliffs Bay on Gower

    Wales is open! Where to visit in good old Cymru

    21 July 2020

    Brits have been given the greenlight to go on holiday, with both domestic and overseas travel set to resume in July.

    Yet the list of international destinations that we can escape to without having to endure a two week quarantine afterwards is subject to change at a moment’s notice. For those preferring to play it safe with a staycation, where could be better than good old Cymru?

    Known as the land of song, Wales is also the land of jagged Jurassic coastlines, rolling national parks and pints that cost less than the typical London Tube fare.

    Here are the five best places to visit in the country now that it has reopened to tourists.

    The Vale of Glamorgan

    Llanerch Vineyard, Vale of Glamorgan

    Wales’ most southerly tip feels a world away from busy Cardiff, despite sitting just half an hour’s drive away. It has castles shrouded in myth, fossil-strewn coasts and even two award-winning vineyards, Llanerch and Glyndwr, both reopening for tours and tastings in July.

    It also benefits from sitting in a prime position on the Wales Coast Path. This well-marked trail runs 870 miles along the Welsh seafront. Along this particular stretch, you amble alongside Triassic cliffs and faded lighthouses.

    Download the Vale Tales app to hear the local myths and legends that run alongside the path.

    Antique lovers should head to the quaint market town of Cowbridge with its cobbled lanes and rows of curiosity shops.

    One of the most picturesque spots to spend the night in the vale is Hide, a secluded site with three snug cabins, a shepherd’s hut and lodge. All come with their own wood burner and views over the wild seas below. The wooden buildings are handcrafted by the site’s owner, Tom.

    The Gower

    Three Cliffs Bay on Gower

    The Gower Peninsula became Britain’s first official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956 and remains deliciously unspoilt today.

    The jutting headline is known for its pristine beaches and is popular with birdwatchers, hikers and surfers. One of its best walks is the intrepid trek along the causeway to Worm’s Head, an island that is only accessible by foot during the two-and-a-half hours either side of low tide.

    The distance is around three miles and takes you past 19th-century shipwrecks and medieval churches. If you’re lucky you might even spot a seal or two.

    Kids will love the white sands of Rhossili Beach while pebbled Pwlldu Bay is a safer bet for escaping any crowds.

    Set within a 175-acre farm and sitting just five minutes away from some of the peninsula’s best beaches, Hillside glamping site is well placed for exploring the area. Guests stay in canvas-and-wood safari tents, which sleep up to six people and come with a fully equipped kitchen and dining room. On the verandas are firepits and wooden hot tubs.

    Cardigan Bay

    New Quay, Wales

    In the seas off Cardigan Bay you regularly find bottlenose dolphins, porpoise and grey seals. Pick your season right and you might even spot a basking shark or leatherback turtle too.

    A boat trip is one of the best ways to experience the local wildlife, although for those that prefer dry land there’s more than enough to be seen in the rockpools and caves along the shore.

    One of the area’s most intriguing attractions is the sunken forest of Cantre’r Gwaelod.

    Known as the Welsh Atlantis, petrified tree stumps, which legend says are the remains of a submerged kingdom, emerge from the sand at low tide. Further inland there are lakes and waterfalls.

    Cardigan itself has classic seaside charm, with fish and chip shops and rainbow houses. The Guildhall Market is a good place to browse the wares of local artisans. The Norman walls and rare plants of Cardigan’s castle and gardens are also well worth a visit.

    The four-star Hammet hotel at Castell Malgwyn, housed inside a listed Georgian mansion, is just six miles from Cardigan. It has a modern restaurant filled with art and a library bar with views over the croquet lawn.


    Hay on Wye on the Welsh border

    The streets of this quirky market town are lined with shelves that spill over with books. It’s a haven for bibliophiles, with around 20 bookshops: one per every 75 inhabitants.

    From antique maps to out-of-print children’s stories, there’s plenty of treasures to discover in these packed Aladdin’s caves. Sadly its world famous 10 day literary festival had to be cancelled this May, although some of the talks are now online.

    For the outdoorsy types there’s also lots to do. Hay-on-Wye sits at the foot of the Brecon Beacons national park, just north of the Black Mountains, and there are many great routes for canoers, walkers and cyclists. Enjoy panoramas over the surrounding valleys from Gospel Pass, Wales’s highest road.

    For a spot of paddling, or even some wild swimming, head to Hay’s river beach, known as The Warren among locals.

    The eco-pods at Cynefin Retreats are far enough from the town to feel as though you’re in the middle of nowhere, but close enough that you could cycle there in 20 minutes.

    The uber-luxurious pods have floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors which look out over pine trees and a wild flower meadow. They come with hot tubs and log burners.


    Italianate architecture in Portmeirion

    With its Italianate-style buildings and terraced gardens tumbling down to the beach, this village looks like it would be more at home on the Cinque Terre or Amalfi Coast than in north Wales. It even has its own gelateria. But in Wales it is, just a few miles from Snowdonia national park.

    Pastel-coloured buildings with terracotta roofs surround a central piazza and fountain. The village was built in the 20th century – its design dreamed up by local architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis.

    Aside from walks along the beach, there’s also the Gwyllt, a subtropical garden overflowing with rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolia.

    Don’t miss the chance to explore Wales’ largest national park. Not only does Snowdonia have the highest mountain in England and Wales and the largest natural lake in Wales, there’s a heap of pretty little villages to discover too, such as Betws-y-Coed and Beddgelert.

    There are a number of self-catering cottages and hotels in the centre of Portmeirion including the Hotel Portmeirion with its eclectic mix of art deco and Victorian styles. If you’re feeling more adventurous, set up a tent at one of the local campsites. Thanks to Snowdonia’s Dark Sky reserve status, views of the stars and planets are untainted by artificial lights.