Wales, or locally known as Cymru (pronounced as kumm-ri), is one of the countries that form the United Kingdom that has so much to offer but many a time overlooked by travellers. Based on my experience, I find Wales remarkably significant not only for its role in British history, but also poised to become the adventure capital of Europe due to its rugged coast, stunning mountains, dramatic national parks and nature hiking trails. Read on to see some of the activities travellers may do when being in Wales…
Note: Some of the destinations stated below are associated with legends of the well-known King Arthur, a British mythological figure. Besides, Welsh language is a little bit tricky, hence, I have written the correct pronunciation of the listed places for your reference, just in case you need to properly pronounce it one day, literally.
1. Dive at Vivian Quarry
Located in Llanberis (pronounced as thlan-ber-ris), which is a village in Gwynedd (pronounced as gwin-eth), Vivian Quarry is one of Wales’ top diving centres that attracts avid divers to its compelling opportunity to discover the remnants of underwater treasures and old artefacts. Even though you are not a fan of water activity, you could still visit this quarry and enjoy the stunning rock formations and surrounding landscapes.
Good to know: Vivian Quarry become more famous after becoming one of the filming locations for the King Arthur: Legend of The Sword movie, which was released in May 2017.
2. Admire The Stunning Landscape Views from Mount Snowdon
Mt. Snowdon stands at 1,085 metres above sea level and dubbed as the highest mountain in Wales and England. Situated in Snowdonia National Park (or Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri in Welsh), the word Snowdon derived from the Old English for “snow hill”. Here, expect to do trekking adventure, witnessing beautiful landscapes and discovering unique flora and fauna around the mountain. It is also intrinsically associated with Arthurian legends where it is believed King Arthur reputedly vanquished the murderous giant named Rhitta.
There are two alternatives to reach to the mountain summit: go for trekking experience if you are up for the physical challenge; or simply let yourself be taken to the unsheltered Clogwyn station via Snowdon Mountain Railway to enjoy spectacular mountain vistas.
3. Learn Wales History at Caernafon Castle
Constructed in 1283, the majestic Caernarfon (pronounced as kyre-nar-von) Castle was built in a polygonal shape on a former Roman fort by King Edward I, during his invasion of Wales, as a fortress to tighten his grip on the region. Now, it currently sits as one of Wales’ most-prized architectural treasures. Visitors may roam inside the castle to glimpse at some of the historic medieval collections and understand its histories. On top of that, get a taste of what it was like to live inside the castle as it still retains much of its historical features and charms. Be sure to take the steep stairs up to the Eagle Tower to view the impressive building, marina and Caernarfon town in entirety.
4. Be Fearless at Zip World Velocity
If you have vertigo but still want to challenge yourself to see how adventurous you can be, then Zip World is definitely the place for you. Located in Gwynedd, which is a county in northwestern Wales, Zip World provides travellers a wide variety of adventure activities including Fforest Coaster (fun speed through the trees), Caverns (underground adventure), Bounce Below (also suitable for children but must be accompanied by a participating adult) and the much-anticipated Velocity, which is the longest zip line in Europe and fastest in the world).
This activity grants travellers the experience of trying two types of zip lines: Little Zipper (less adventurous) and Big Zipper (higher, faster and exciting). The interesting part of this zip line is that instead of dangling from the wire, one needs to lie flat and literally fly through the air. Travellers will get the chance to admire the blue-coloured quarry lake from above and a glimpse of Penrhyn Castle, including the breathtaking view of Bethesda Town.
5. Check out Llanfairpwllgwyngyll Town
If adventurous activity is not your cup of tea, then head to Llanfairpwllgwyngyll or popularly known as Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (pronounced as thlann vyre pooth gwinn gith gogg-erra kweern drobbooth lann tuss-ill-yo goggo gawk). No, the name is not wrongly spelled. In fact, it is the actual name of a Welsh town located in North Wales. Comprising 57 letters (all but 13 consonants), this town name has its meaning in English, which is “St. Mary’s Church in the hallow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave”. Travellers might want to have a quick tour around the quaint town and be sure to get a memorable photo in front of the railway station. Again, try your hand at pronouncing the name and prepare to get your tongue twisted.
Tip: Visit one of the gift shops nearby the station to get your passport stamped.
GPS: 53.225529, -4.197968
6. Admire The Scenic View of Llyn Gwynant from Nant Gwynant Pass
Overlooking Llyn Gwynant (pronounced as thlin-win-nan) 600 feet above, this panoramic point off the A498 road that cut deep into the mountains of Snowdonia was used to film a pivotal scene in the King Arthur: Legend of the Sword movie. It is truly a spectacular and special place, offering unparalleled views of remarkable Snowdonia landscapes shaped by glaciations thousands of years ago. The is the best spot to stop, have a sip of hot beverage while enjoying the majestic mountainous view from above.
GPS: 53.050561, -4.020596
7. Sleep like royal at Ruthin Castle Hotel and Spa
I always wonder how does it feel sleeping in a real castle. Well, Ruthin Castle is one of the fortresses that offer accommodation for guests to experience to slumber like royalty. First constructed in the late 12th century, this castle was originally known as The Red Castle due its red sandstone walls, and once served as a defence fort, residence of some nobles such as King Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, including as an international private hospital for a few years before it was purchased and converted into a hotel.
This hotel receives the Visit Wales Gold Award for its impeccable quality, exceptional comfort and hospitality. Travellers who opted to stay here are able to experience the castle’s authenticity in modern comfort. I suggest that guests should get more of eye-opening stories about the castle from locals living in the town.
8. Wander and Shop at Llangollen Town
Discovered and established in the 7th century by a monk named St. Collen, Llangollen (pronounced as thlan-go-then) is a Welsh town renowned for its quaint atmosphere, natural wonders and wide range of indoor and outdoor activities, making it an ideal pit stop for those doing their road trip in Wales. On top of that, it is also listed as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Llangollen town is known as a haven for passionate shoppers looking for unique and moderately priced gifts. Feel free to stroll around and check out the shops along the street that sell used books, vintage clothing and various Welsh souvenirs to bring back home. Best time to visit is in July, when the town hosts the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod and turning it vibrant.