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The best of Wales! Readers' Choice

February 27, 2014
by Laura Canning | destinations

Battery Square at Portmeirion Happy St David’s Day! We’re celebrating early for Wales’s birthday on Saturday, as the daffs are out, we’ve added several more Welsh sites and well, Thursday is practically the weekend.

‘Go Walesward’ is our cry for the week: we asked our Facebook fans for their recommendations on what to see and do in Wales, and combined these with a few Pitchup.com favourites. Narrowing the list down was a tad traumatic, and we now suspect we must go and live in Wales for at least a few years, but we think we may have covered the basics. Most of them. Let us know your own favourites if we’ve left them out!

Portmeirion

Not the biggest Welsh attraction but one of our all-time faves, the village of Portmeirion is one of those brilliantly bonkers British things. It was built between 1925 and 1975 by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, who claimed he modelled it on the Mediterranean in general and denied it was based on Italian village Portofino in particular. More importantly (to us), the TV series The Prisoner and four episodes of Doctor Who were filmed here, it inspired a song by Iron Maiden and there’s now a Festival Number 6 every year.

Campsites in Gywnedd

I Am Not a Number

Snowdonia National Park

Snowdon Mountain Railway. Pic by Russavia. Climb Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, walk the 37 miles of coastline or the hundreds of miles of trails inland, make a splash at highest Welsh waterfall Swallow Falls or make like The Jam and go underground at the many mines…we’d have to write in a teeny tiny font to fit in everything to possibly do in Snowdonia, Wales’s first national park. Getting to the Snowdon summit is the must-do Snowdonia activity for Pitchup.com peeps, so some of you may be relieved to know that the Snowdon Mountain Railway will puff non-climbers to the top in scenic style.

Campsites in north Wales

Snowdonia National Park Authority and Snowdonia National Park app

Pembrokeshire coast

Marloes Peninsula on the Pembrokeshire coast. Pic by Donar Reiskoffer. Pembrokeshire has more Blue Flag beaches than any other county in the UK and has Britain’s only coastal national park. Quite naturally then, it’s a hit with Pitchup users: Freshwater West , the National Trust managed Barafundle and Tenby Castle Beach are all favourites, as are the waters at St Davids Head , the summer hue of which one reader says would fool you into thinking you’re in the Caribbean.

Sandwise, Wales has over forty Blue Flag beaches and 42 per cent of its south and west coastline is designated Heritage Coast, with stretches of coast and sand known variously for watersports, walking and staring at/photographing the lush landscape. Other watery recommendations in Wales:

Rhossili Bay : top Welsh beach in our best UK beaches blog last year and named best UK beach in 2013

Abersoch Beach : a suntrap beach in Gwynedd, with internationally recognised sailing waters

Barmouth Beach , Gwynedd: Snowdonia’s seaside resort

Campsites in Pembrokeshire

Campsites in south Wales

Campsites near beaches

Sites with watersports nearby

Sites with a surf school nearby

Sites with sailing nearby

Blaenau Ffestiniog

Into the mines! Wales has cavernous amounts of attractions based on its old slate, coal and metal mining industry, and we’d send you first to Blaenau Ffestiniog in the Snowdonia mountains, the former slate capital of Wales and once known as ‘the town that roofed the world’. Delve into the Llechwedd Slate Caverns for the tale, then have a jaunt on the Ffestiniog Railway down to Porthmadog. Bring the camera.

Nora No.5 at the Big Pit Blaenavon. Pic by Agnellous. Also in Snowdonia National Park, gold rushers can pan for gold and see stalactites and stalagmites (which is which?) at the Sygun Copper Mine and find out what it’s all about at the Welsh Slate Museum in Llanberis. And elsewhere in Wales, we recommend:

Caerphilly Castle

The Welsh, they loved their castles. Hundreds were built, over a hundred are still standing and Wales is often called the castle capital of the world: a 2011 study found that visiting Welsh castles was top of many overseas visitors’ to-do list . (As it is ours on a weekly basis.) Pitchup.com readers particularly recommend three of the ten castles on the VisitBritain top 10 Welsh castles list:

Pitchup.com surveys its kingdom at Raglan Castle Chirk Castle , Wrexham : medieval fortress that’s still lived in today. We have envy extreme.

Conwy Castle , Conwy : another castle built by Edward I; now classed as a UNESCO World Heritage site

Caerphilly Castle , Glamorgan : the biggest castle in Wales and the second biggest in Britain

Also recommended by a reader is Rhuddlan Castle , Denbighshire and by us is Raglan Castle , Monmouthshire, from which we pretended to be medieval and surveyed our land last year. Immense historic fun.

VisitWales guide to Welsh castles

Stargazing

A lack of light pollution in many areas and areas awarded Dark Sky Discovery Site status (the latest site was the National Botanic Gardens in Carmarthenshire ) means that Wales is one of the best places to be with a telescope. Readers’ recommended Welsh stargazing sites includes gazing at the Milky Way from star sites the Llŷn Peninsula and Snowdonia – we heartily agree, as did Idris the giant, who used Snowdonia’s mountain Cadair Idris as a large stargazing armchair.

Also take the telescope to the Brecon Beacons National Park, one of only five International Dark Sky Reserves and the only one in Wales: the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority lists its stargazing top ten here .

Campsites in Brecon

Campsites in Powys

Coastal walking

Wales Coast Path marker at Chepstow. Pic by Ghmyrtle. Someday – very soon, we hope – we shall walk every bit of the 870-mile long Wales Coast Path , opened in 2012 and running north to south from Chepstow to Queensferry. Well, most of it. It’s one of many coastal walks to wear one’s boots down in Wales: buy a new pair for the 186-mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path from Amroth to St Dogmaels, which leads northwards along Cardigan Bay to join the 66 miles of the Ceredigion Coast Path . The Menai Strait and Anglesey Coastal Path , part of the Wales Coast Path, are also recommended by readers, particularly South Stack and its RSPB reserve.

Other walks in Wales:

Welsh sites in a walkers’ paradise

Also commended

Like we say, we’ll have to move to Wales for a few years to fit all these in. A few more suggestions for what to see and do in Wales – from readers and from us:

Newborough Forest and hiking up the beach to Llanddwyn Island , Anglesey

Pontcysyllte aqueduct World Heritage Site and the Dee Valley, north Wales

Pontcysyllte aqueduct. Pic by Akke. Great Orme Country Park and Local Nature Reserve

Cable car rides, dry ski slopes and the longest toboggan run in Britain at Llandudno

Mountain biking at Coed y Brenin , Britain’s biggest mountain biking centre

Following the Welsh food trail through Ceredigion , the Clwydian Range and Carmarthenshire – or settling down to a barbecue on the beach

Thanks to everyone who shared their tips! To find your own Welsh holiday for St David’s Day and beyond, have a look at our 100+ Welsh campsites , glamping sites and caravan parks available to book directly on Pitchup.com, all filterable by options including leisure on site or nearby, rules on site, accommodation type and dozens more. Happy St David’s Day!

Adults-only campsites in Wales

Family-friendly campsites in Wales

Lodges, pods, cabins and huts

Caravans for hire

Sites in a wildlife haven

Sites with cycle hire nearby

Sites with mountain biking nearby

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