Travel Diaries: South Wales 2017

Wales is the kind of place best visited when it’s raining and dreary. Now, that is, I know, 100% a subjective opinion. I mean, if it were up to me? Any place would be best visited when it’s raining and dreary. However – I spent my first ever holiday in South Wales last summer, and it was raining and dreary a majority of the time. Honestly? I fell in love with Wales. So here’s the travel diary!

We spent a total of 8 days in the UK, including two “traveling days”, where we made our way from Calais to Dover to Wales itself. Although we did do a couple of visits on our way to Wales, for the sake of this post, I’m going to focus on what we did in Wales itself only, which comes down to 6 days’ traveling and visits! – so let’s get to that!

Historical sites

(c) x

Chepstow Castle

This castle is the first we came across as we entered Wales. As a matter of fact, we stayed at a really lovely little hotel right at the foot of this castle!

Not only does it offer a great view of the river Wye, you can still see the three parts in which it was build, and the respective styles. If you need a strong start for your visit to South Wales, this is definitely the place to be!

 

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Tredegar House

This is the kind of house that you could imagine being a boarding school at one point, or a large mansion, or just some kind of location of power. As it’s been there for over 500 years, if you stand on the roof (which we actually got to do – just imagine!) as far as you can see used to be the lord of the manor’s land. It was even said, apparently, that he could go all the way to the sea, and never have to step beyond his “own” roads! (Talk

(c) National Trust

Margam Church & Castle

If you’re in need of that perfect combo of exquisite castle and ruins from an old abbey? This is the place to be. The orangery and gardens offer the perfect setting for a relaxing afternoon, while the sight of the castle from down the hill, near the church and abbey, makes you think you’ve traveled back in time. The castle was actually designed in the19th century to look like a “Tudor Gothic Mansion” and the ruins of the abbey certainly offer the perfect setting for that concept!

(c) Margam Country Park

Dinefwr Castle & Newton House

If you prefer the kind of castle that is surrounded by nothing but semi-wild nature, that has had deer grazing around in since the middle ages? Then Dinefwr Castle and Newton House are the place to be. While the castle is in ruins now, its history is more alive than ever: it was once (in the 12th century!) the capital of the Welsh kingdom of Deheubarth.

The Newton House was built only in 1660, but does not feel any less imposing for that difference. It was given a Gothic refurbishing in the 1850s that made the heritage of the descendants of the Princes of Deheaubarth, the Rhys-family who lived in the house, shine through. The landscape around the manor has remained as it would have been when the Rhys-family lived there. The house and its surrounding lands are at their best just as the evening is falling.

(c) National Trust

St Davids Cathedral

Fun fact: there’s been a church here since the 6th century. That is a lot of history for one place, but somehow the Cathedral, situated a bit lower than the surrounding houses, can handle that. From the graveyard that, on that sunny day, seemed to function as a leisure park, to the lay out of the cathedral and the treasury… This is basically the kind of spot where you can just walk around and never feel as if you’ve truly taken everything in.

Other

Marloes Hike

Wales offers a plethora of gorgeous hikes, but as we were doing so many mansions and the likes, we only really got the chance to get one dedicated walking moment in. I would say, though, that if you were only going to do one hike in South Wales? The Marloes Peninsula is probably the place to be. Not only can you choose what difficulty level you want your walk to be at, you are basically guaranteed a stunning view over the sea and the cliffs. I will tell you to bring along a hat or some ear warmers because the wind up there? It’s no joke.

Hay-on-Wye

This was basically the reason I wanted to go to Wales. Well, I’m lying. This was the reason I wanted to go to Wales. And boy did it live up to any (high!) expectations I had! There’s basically more book shops than inhabitants here, so we went home with, amongst all of us, about 70 books. I mean, we were 4 – that’s a lot of books!

Doctor Who Experience

This has been broken up already but, just so you know – if the Doctor Who Experience ever comes near you? Go. It’s so worth the money!

Devil’s Bridge and Vale of Rheidol Steam Train

As was probably clear from the first part of this post, we have a bit of a thing for historical things. That’s also true for older technology. If you’re in the general neighbourhood of Aberystwyth, this is basically the best thing I can recommend you to do. You start out at the edge of the city, and the city tream takes you through the mountains to the Devil’s bridge, where you can look down on the water falls and enjoy a hike, nature, or just the fact that you just rode an actual steam train!

 

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Dolaucothi Gold Mines

About an hours’ drive from the Devils Bridge, you will find another favorite, as far as nature mixed with history goes: the Dolaucothi Gold Mines. You can sive for gold yourself (I actually still have my baggy with some tiny pieces!), work the communication lines, or – and this is the big one – visit the mines. The mines have actually been worked since the Roman times, so walking around and seeing not only where, but also how this mining was done? It’s a very impressive thing to behold. And a perfect combination with the steam train and the Devils Bridge, which is what we did!

Honestly, I could probably keep naming things to do in South Wales, but these were my absolute favourites. I’m fully aware, by the way, that there is still so much of Wales for me to discover, so I’m really looking forward to getting back at one point or another. For when that time comes – do you have any recommendations? Any things you have visited, or would like to visit, that might interest a history/culture/nature/book lover like me and my traveling gang? Be sure to let me know below!

-Saar