A capital city in constant flux, much like the waters of the rivers that surround it, Cardiff provides a brilliant base for the countless thousands who come to experience the spectacles within the Millennium Stadium. But instead of a fleeting call in Cymru, why not consider Cardiff as an open gateway that leads to the lush kingdom of the Old Land of My Fathers.
A quick hop across Cardiff Bay will land you neatly in this amiable little town in the Vale of Glamorgan, a popular littoral spot once known as ‘The Garden by the Sea’. Though it does not receive as many visitors as it once did during the days of Queen Victoria through to the swinging 1960s, its affluent residents have ensured its charms haven’t waned over the years.
With both classic examples of Edwardian and Victorian architecture to pore over on a nice, long amble along the promenade and a delightfully Art Deco pleasure pier complete with arty cinema, exhibition space and gallery café, plus the pretty parks that gave it its nickname, a sojourn here will satisfy anyone seeking a quick breather from the busy city. The keen eyed may also spot signs for Barry and its eponymous island, setting for the nation’s favourite Welsh sitcom, Gavin & Stacey.
Hang a right on exiting the Severn Bridge and you’ll soon find yourself in the pretty waterside town of Chepstow, situated comfortably within the gentle bends of the River Wye. Once a significant trade town, exporting as much timber from the surrounding valleys as it imported fine European wines, this Monmouthshire marvel is a veritable trove of historical treasures, spanning every period from the Middle Ages right up to modern day.
From the 800 year old clifftop castle (the oldest example of its kind in Britain and frequented on occasion by Doctor Who) to the manicured gardens of Wyndcliffe Court, a remarkable Regency bridge with roots in Roman times and market days in the cobblestoned streets, you certainly won’t be stuck for something to do in this border hugging hamlet. If you fancy a little flutter, the racecourse, which has been home to the Welsh National since 1949, holds regular fixtures for both big and small spenders.
A breath of fresh air awaits you (in more ways than one) in the Forest of Dean’s magnificently titled Puzzlewood – a patch of land said to have inspired the late, great J.R.R. Tolkien and his magical world of Middle Earth. Exploding across 14 enchanting acres, the overwhelmingly green forest trails lead you through mossy gullies, across twisted trunks and down winding pathways that serve to stir the imaginations of both young and old.
Though ancient, the woodland does have a few up-to-date amenities that help provide sustenance for any epic quests you may suddenly find yourself on, but self-packed picnics are also welcomed. Don’t be surprised to find yourself in the company of thespians, film crews or wedding parties, as the location has attracted attention from those seeking a dreamlike setting in more recent times. If you’re in the mood for more woodland walks, the nearby Sculpture Trail is a treat for both ramblers and aspiring art critics alike.
Dan Yr Ogof
Fascinatingly complex in everything from name to formation, this gargantuan 11 mile cave system takes sightseers deep into the innards of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Over a decade ago, it was voted Britain’s greatest natural wonder and, although it no longer holds the official title, there still aren’t many that can hold a candle to it.
As is to be expected, intriguing geological features exist in abundance – from the eerie Frozen Waterfall, to the dramatic Dagger, to the playfully named Rasher of Bacon – with each new turn in the darkness bringing something more interesting than the last. But the real showstoppers come in the form of the Cathedral and Bone caves, two astounding discoveries buried deep beneath the earth that not even the greatest writers could adequately describe…so you’ll just have to see them for yourself.
1 hour 5 minutes
Though at first you may deem Rhossili a little bit too far afield to pay any attention to, perhaps its position as one of the Top 10 beaches in the world will make you reconsider a visit. On the surface, it is a sweeping beach with spectacular views across Worm’s Head and the wild Celtic Sea, but it is also an open (and very persuasive) invitation to all to explore the Gower Peninsula’s far less well known assets.
Across nearly 20 miles of stunning coast you’ll find everything from secret smugglers’ coves to cosy local cafes serving strong tea and scrumptious cakes, as well as ageing shipwrecks, brimming rockpools, Stone Age footprints and even the odd music festival at certain times of the year. Unscathed to the greatest extent thanks to its status as an AONB, the Gower has and will continue to be a popular haunt for campers, surfers and hikers who come to experience the great outdoors as it was intended. Fortunately, the only crowds you’re likely to find are the ones who don’t know where to look for the real treasure.
1 hour 35 minutes