Many people visit the UK but very few ever venture into Wales. It is a pity as Wales offers some of the most spectacular scenery, and some of the most unique and romantic stately homes, castles, and gardens in the UK. North Wales includes the beautiful island of Anglesey with views across the Menai Straits to majestic mountains covered in brilliant shades of green tumbling down to crystal blue water. And trekking around and up these mountains are quaint little steam trains with vistas at every turn. The landscape changes from green to slate gray in sections as slate quarries were a major industry here. Streams and waterfalls flow over the rocks providing the tranquil settings so much a part of the essence of Wales.
A good base for exploring this area is around Caernarfon. A number of quality B & B’s and Hotels in Wales can be found on Booking.com. The town of Caernarfon is situated on the water with the castle forming the focal point. There are shops, restaurants and pedestrian walkways making it a tourist friendly place. The Welsh Railway has one of their 3 routes situated near the castle. This tour takes 4 hours round trip and has been voted the best vistas in the UK. In the fall of 2009 the route will extend to Porthmadog so the trip will be longer. It is truly one of the most spectacular train rides you will ever take. And back in Caernarfon, the castle is open for viewing, with a military museum housed there.
A short drive from Caernarfon is the “country home” of the Pennant Family called Penrhyn Castle. It is truly a fantasy castle complete with colorful gardens, fabulous views and a treasure trove within. The castle was built on wealth obtained from the 3 s’s, slaves, sugar and slate. The stable block houses a doll museum, a railway museum and a new ‘Castle and Quarry’ exhibition. This place is a marvel as it was built in the early half of the 19th century. Looking across the Menai Straits is another wonderful treasure of the National Trust, Plas Newydd Country House and Gardens. Situated on Anglesey island, the house boosts incredible views of the Snowdonia mountains. It is the home of the Marquess of Anglesey, also built in the 19th century. The Marquess commanded the cavalry at the Battle of Waterloo and there is a military museum housed there as well. The house has an association with the artist Rex Whistler whose largest painting is a wall mural and the true gem of the house. What a sight to behold! Art enthusiasts should not miss this.
As you drive away from the coast an ideal landing spot is the little town of Betws-y-coed. Here you will find quaint little B & B’s, artisan shops, and restaurants in a picturesque valley with scenic walks abounding. The drive along the A5 is memorable even if it rains. To the north you will find the well preserved walled city of Conwy with a most interesting castle ruin and the Victorian beach town of LLanduno famous for it’s association with Lewis Carroll. And should you venture south, do not miss the fanciful Italianate village of Portmeirion perched on a private penninsula at the top of Cardigan Bay.
If you venture west of Cardiff, Tenby and Pembroke are two more areas worth a visit. Tenby is a well preserved cliff side town and Pembroke is dominated by an interesting castle with exhibitions inside. Both towns are seaside and exude a more laid back atmosphere.
So if you have seen England and Scotland and you think you have see the best of the UK, think again – Wales beckons with a unique personality of it’s own.