If I was to say ‘road trip!’ (In a drawn out American accent), what would you think? Long stretches of smooth open road, roof top off, enjoying the warm breeze in your hair… Endless miles of white sand beaches, magical surf and Jack Johnson softly playing in the background… Route 66, partying until the sun comes up and greasy diner breakfasts…
Well what if I said that a Transit Van and one little country full of wondrous secrets can offer just as much a-ma-zingness, if not, more?! Well sit tight because it’s about time you took a blissful leap of freedom and headed directly for the road and Dan and I may have just found the perfect destination for you.
Destination Wales. Not the cold, bleak extension of England kind of Wales you’re probably imagining but the enchanting, naturally stunning Wales you never knew existed. And there is no better way to see it than by taking to the road.
So to inspire and help you to start organising the ultimate road trip and figure out which places to visit in Wales, I’m going to take you on a treasure filled journey through some of our most favourite moments throughout the month. I’ll let you in on where we ventured to, the places we parked (and secretly slept, shh), what we got up to and and where we seriously recommend seeing for oh-my-god experiences.
So, originally the trip was meant to go a little something like this (excuse my lack of fine art skills):
But by time we were done with Wales, this is what the route had mangled itself into. Well, actually looking at this properly, the route barely changed but there were definitely a few more stops along the way (again, excuse the even worse drawing techniques used here):
And as you can see, we are naturally attracted to the ocean… (perhaps not the best route to take if you’re not!)
So from bottom to top and East to West, let’s begin!
11 Places to Visit in Wales During Your Next Road Trip
Stop 1. Usk – Southeast
What: Usk is a quaint countryside village, delicate, quiet and pretty and home to the amazing Usk Castle Ruins.
Where: As you enter Wales through Gloucester, England, Usk is situated about an hour Southwest, just outside the Brecon Beacons National Park. You’ll need to take the A40 from Gloucester, then the A449 and finish on the A472. Roads include motorway and country lanes. Easy going drive!
Tip: you can also opt to visit the Wye Valley as an alternative scenic route along the way.
What we did: We didn’t spend too long in Usk as it was more of a village than a town and we couldn’t find internet anywhere. Nevertheless – beautiful place. We took our bicycles for a spin around the town and wandered the ancient ruins of Usk Castle. This is one of the more popular places to visit in Wales.
Where we parked: On a back street opposite the castle, however, there is parking available there. We didn’t spend the night in Usk as our big white van stuck out like a sore thumb in what was a very small village with a tight knit community.
Read the full post here.
Stop 2. Abergavenny – Southeast
What: A town of contrasts! Great shopping and entertainment (for a country village) yet it’s heritage strongly remains. Home to the ancient ruins of the Abergavenny Castle and museum.
Where: From Usk, you will need to head 20 minutes Northwest, along the A472, A449 and A40. While these sound like major motorways, they’re not – you’ve pretty much got country roads most of the way. Abergavenny is situated just on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Where we parked: We found ourselves a lovely spacious car park at the top of the town off Castle Street, where we had stunning views out over the rolling green hills. This is where we cooked our stir-fry and sipped on a Carling whilst a number of para-gliders floated their way down behind the hill in the distance.
Read the full post here.
Stop 3. Hillend at Llangennith – South Coast
What: The ultimate road trip stop and one of the most beautiful places to visit in Wales! This place just brings it all together. The amazing stretch of soft sand and pebbles warming in the summer sun as the perfectly flat ocean lapps it’s way in; the awesome camp site that spreads from one end of the beach to the other with VW’s of all shapes and colours dominating the space; PEOPLE everywhere enjoying themselves, bbqs, floaties, swimsuit attire, a massive beach club style cafe, awesome atmosphere and sand dunes, big ones!
Where: If you decide to stop by the capital, Cardiff, you’ll need to head West towards Swansea and then keep going along the coast (approx. 90 mins). When you reach Llangennith, all you have to do is make your way to the water to find Hillend (very easy, small town and one road). The route consists of some main roads and country lanes.
What we did: We spent the whole day hanging around at the beach/beach club cafe and it was bloody lovely. Read a book, had a nap, ate some ice cream, had a shandy and relaxed. It was Sunday done right!
Where we parked: Just keep driving until you reach the entrance of the camp site. There you’ll need to pay £3 for all day parking which ain’t bad! If you’re thinking about staying the night though, pop over to the campsite because they do clamp vehicles for being cheeky! A site will cost you around £20.
Stop 4. Laugharne – South Coast
What: A typically tiny Welsh village with a massive castle sitting on the waters edge.
Where: About 70 minutes West of Llangennith, on the coast. Take the M4, A48, A40 and A4066 from Llangennith to get there. As you drive into town the castle and car park will be on the right. A smooth countryside drive!
What we did: This was pretty much just our eat, sleep and go spot. But that’s not to say it’s not worth visiting! We enjoyed dinner with a view (the castle and river mouth), had a peaceful sleep and then opted for a cream tea and a light read in a nearby cafe the next morning before getting back on the road.
Where we parked: The car park was the absolute highlight of this town for us. We relaxed in peace and quiet with a million dollar view for free! You won’t miss the car park on your right as you drive through the village.
Stop 5. Tenby – South Coast
What: A full of life coastal town, recommended to us by my nan! The old town (where you’ll find the quaint, pebble-stone streets and centuries old stone pubs) is full of historic atmosphere. In fact, it’s actually surrounded by a massive wall, built by the Normans in the medieval times. Finally, a chance to whip out your knight in shining armour outfit!
Where: Keeping it coastal… Just continue West for approximately another 35 minutes. You’ll need to take roads B4314, A477 and A478. Tenby is situated far West of the South coast.
What we did: Went for an evening spin along the coast and around town on our bicycles, captured some amazing sunrise snaps (ok, Dan did while I carried on sleeping), enjoyed balcony views out to the ocean from the café we spent the afternoon in and explored the medieval streets.
Where we parked: In an average sized street 1 block away from town. And that was where we stayed for 2 nights. Car parks in Tenby were either too expensive for our length of stay or there were hight restrictions on vehicles entering – basically to ban motorhomes or high top vans (discrimination!). But the street served us fine!
Stop 6. St Davids – Far Southwest
What: An immensely warm and welcoming little village surrounded by spectacular coastline (some of the best in Europe!). With its vibrant community, friendly atmosphere and immaculately kept features, St Davids attracts the likes of artists, travellers, pilgrims and surfers. Oh, and road trippers!
While I am calling it a small village, it was actually granted ‘city’ status by Queen Elizabeth II because of the presence of the marvelous St Davids Cathedral. Hidden behind a small bend in the road, the St Davids Cathedral stands tall, literally glistening in its entirety when it finally comes into view.
Where: Located on the far Southwest peninsula, again, you’ll need to carry on driving West for approximately 1 hour. Roads include the A478, A4115, A4075, A40 and A487. St Davids sits high, overlooking the stunning coast below.
What we did: First we went for an afternoon spin through town on Peggy and Rover (what, don’t you name your bicycles?) and then we got a little more rugged and ventured off down some country lanes, where we unexpectedly stumbled across the most far-out views ever. Caerfai, the place was called, and it was perfectly perfect for our carefree mood at that point in time. Gazing out over the incredible expansive coastline below, we took the time to soak in just how beautiful Wales is.
Where we parked: Well, at first we parked over at the tourist information centre but after our secret discovery, of course we had to make the move! From the tourist information centre, continue towards town and then hang a left onto Ffordd Caerfai. Carry on down the narrow country lane, all the way to the end and voilà, you will arrive at heaven on earth!
More about that here.
Stop 7. Machynlleth – Midwest
What: While the locals call it a village, I’d call it more of a town – and Dan would call it a city because even a country lane with a couple of houses and a post office scattered along the way is a city to him.
Machynlleth is somewhat hard to explain. And don’t even ask me how to say it. It borders on Snowdonia National Park, so it’s got that ‘town in the mountains’ feel to it – log houses, a small tight knit community, brimming local markets, mountain bike tracks and snow in the winter. But at the same time, it’s really not that far from the sun and surf on the West coast.
It’s home to a plethora of mountain biking enthusiasts, some quirky independent cafés and Welsh speaking villagers. Yes, Welsh is a langauge and it’s something we’d never heard before until we arrived further North. See the things travelling can teach you?
Where: While we did stop and wander a few more coastal towns and villages on our whopping drive from St Davids to Machynlleth, I don’t want to bore you with every little detail. Machynlleth was my next big memory after St Davids (I’ll tell you why in a sec) so I’ll explain how to get there taking the coastal route.
Situated on the Southern border of Snowdonia National Park (home to the famous Mt Snowdon), you’ll need to take roads A487, B4582 and A487 again for the scenic route.
What we did: Well, we broke down just outside of Machynlleth, on our way to Mt Snowdon. So consequently, we were left to explore the town for the next 4 days while the van was being fixed. More about that here.
Nonetheless, we really enjoyed the atmosphere of Machynlleth. We spent our days in the local vegan café, riding our bicycles around town (mainly to the mechanic to see how our home was going), tasting different local ales and cosying up on the couch in our new accommodation – Machynlleth Independent Hostel. This is the perfect base to explore Snowdonia National Park.
Where we parked: When we finally managed to get the van started and rolling back into town to see if someone could fix it, it was gone midnight. So we thoughtfully chose to park in what was one of the noisiest streets in town (we learn from our mistakes), until it could be bump started and taken to the mechanic.
Wales Road Trip Stop 8. Porthmadog – Northwest
What: A small town in the mountains of Snowdonia, with amazing scenic views and a cute little railway track that runs through the middle. Great for afternoon bicycle rides, coffee and cake and picnics!
Where: Situated within the Snowdonia National Park, Porthmadog is another brilliant base for exploring the surrounding areas. From Machynlleth, you’ll need to hop on the the A487, A470 and then the A487 again to head Northwest. A fascinating 60 minute drive, you’ll be staring out the window in captivation the whole way.
What we did: While we spent the majority of our days working online in the local cafés, our afternoons and evenings were essentially spent staring at mountains. They’re hypnotising! There is a Costa Coffee in town as well as a few more independent cafés with WiFi so that was handy. Then, we would typically take our bicycles for a spin along the harbour and finally wind down with a picnic or some tantalisingly tasty Indian food while overlooking the river and mountains. Perfecto!
Where to park: There’s a great spot at the back of town named Llyn Bach and it’s free at night. Right next door, there’s a wooden gate that takes you across the small railway track and through to a wide open grass picnic area. This is where you’ll enjoy picturesque views out to the river and mountains. Enjoy!
Stop 9. Caernarfon – Northwest
What: A coastal town, a cruisy 20 minutes drive from Mt Snowdon, just outside Snowdonia National Park. Royal Caernarfon is home to many contemporary shops and cafés, cosy pubs, the glistening Caernarfon Harbour and the ginormous Caernarfon Castle (one of the most famous castles in Wales).
Where: Situated in the Northwest, along the coast, Caernarfon is very central. While the waters edge laps against the town, the snowy mountains of Snowdonia National Park are only a 15 minute drive away. While we took a rather funny route and ventured from Porthmadog – Bangor and then back down to Caernarfon on our way to Mt Snowdon, I’m going to take you on a more sensible route (diesel ain’t cheap!).
From Porthmadog to Caernarfon you’ll rather enjoy a short 30 minute scenic drive through the hills and out towards the other side of the coast. Just continue North on the A487 and follow signs to the town centre, where you’ll find plenty of parking. From there, you can’t miss the castle and the harbour behind.
What we did: Well, first and most importantly, we showered in the public leisure centre, which also offered free WiFi in the café area. Bingo! But instead of spending all day there (easily done – guilty on numerous occasions), we desperately needed some summer sun and fresh air. Heading into town, we explored the surroundings of the extravagantly large castle, strolled along the peaceful glistening harbour and winded up having a cheeky drink in a nearby pub (is this becoming a regular occurrence?)
Where we parked: Right in the centre of town there’s this strange square, just up the road from the castle. It really doesn’t look like a car park, considering the main road runs right through it but other cars were parked there, so we just took their word for it. After parking, please make sure you don’t get hit by a car… They seem to come from all angles! Perhaps not the best spot to sleep but there are plenty of sneaky little places close by.
Stop 10. Llanberis (Mt Snowdon) – Northwest
What: A beautiful and peaceful village located at the base of Mount Snowdon. Home to Electric Mountain, the famous Snowdon Mountain Railway to the summit, the Llanberis Lake Railway, the historical hidden Dolbadarn Castle, the stunning twin lakes – Llyn Padarn and Llyn Peris and some amazing picnic spots (hooray for picnics)! Mount Snowdon is one of the most popular places to visit in Wales.
Where: Llanberis is located on the Western edge of Snowdonia National Park – at the base of the largest mountain in England and Wales, Mount Snowdon. From Caernarfon, head East for about 15 minutes on the A4086. Another spectacular drive as you edge closer to Mount Snowdon towering into the clouds!
What we did: Well, apart from more picnic-ing at Lake Llyn Peris with breathtaking views out to the fog coated mountains in the near distance, we also explored the staggering 1000 year old Dolbadarn Castle and followed the Llanberis Lake Railway track by sunset. A refreshing new twist on our road trip!
Where we parked: At first we pulled up in the car park at Lake Llyn Peris but because there was a strict no overnight parking policy, we later moved to the central car park adjacent to Lake Llyn Padarn – close to local cafés and shops.
And last but NOT least is…
Stop 11. Blaenau Ffestiniog – Central Snowdonia
What: A very unique slate mining town, bang smack in the middle of Snowdonia National Park. Surrounded by mountains and quarries, Blaenau Ffestiniog is an experience in itself. Being home to the Llechwedd Slate Caverns means that there’s adventure in every corner. From the biggest zip-lining adventure park in the world, Zip-World Titan, where you can find yourself flying above moor, mountain and mine at 60 miles per hour, to the largest underground trampoline in the world, Bounce Below, to the daring mountain winding bike tracks, it’s a pretty freaking awesome town.
Where: Head directly for the middle of Snowdonia National Park. If you look on the map, it’s located right in the centre of what looks like a hole. Although it seems like it would be a simple drive, you’ll find yourself down some country lanes that don’t quite seem right along the way. But carry on because you’ll eventually get there. Promise! Follow roads A470, A5 and A4086 and then keep your eyes peeled for signs (very small signs for that matter). Again, another beautiful drive.
What we did: Well, our main purpose for going to Blaenau Ffestiniog was to jump on the world’s largest underground trampoline. Yep, that happened. And yep, that was a pretty cool experience. 3 ginormous trampolines were stretched across the jaggered stone walls of the underground slate mine, chutes and ladders were used to climb and slide from one trampoline to the other and it was a 100ft drop to the cold hard ground from the top level. 1 hour of that and we were spent.
Where we parked: After an hour of bouncing underground we were in need of a wind-down, so we took to the local hotel/pub. And that was where Van-go stayed that night!
The next night was somewhat more peaceful when we parked up near the lake and enjoyed yet another picnic with a view and cleaned out the dust we’d collected in the van along the way.
More Images of Places To See In Wales
One month of pure road trip awesomeness didn’t end there though! Check out some more snaps captured at pit-stops along the journey…
So, if the universe has been screaming take a holiday already and a common luxury getaway is shaping up to be on the costly side, embrace your inner wild-child, let down that hair and call for a ‘road trip!’ (In a drawn out American accent). Honestly, you’ll be surprised what concealed corners of the earth you’ll find yourself in, uncovering breath-taking treasures and authentically experiencing what it really means to travel.
And if Wales doesn’t tickle your fancy for a road trip of adventure, beauty, contrast, suspense, surprise and excitement by now, please read this post again.
Do you recommend any other places to visit in Wales on a road trip? Comment below!