Wales is a small European country that is all too often disregarded on trips to Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) and the United Kingdom (which is the three countries in Great Britain and Northern Ireland). If Wales is included on a trip itinerary or plan, usually only the capital, Cardiff, is mentioned as worthy of a visit. I’ve been to Wales on two quick trips—once to the south, and once to the north. So, is it worth including Wales in a British trip? Should you bother going to Wales?
The answer from me is a resounding HELL YES. Wales is awesome. It’s a beautiful little country, with spectacular scenery, amazing castles, and lovely people. The language is weird, there are loads of sheep everywhere, it does rain a lot, it’s not quite as fast paced as England, but YES, you SHOULD go to Wales. Here are 10 reasons why you should visit Wales:
1. The castle game in Wales is strong
Wales has an unreal amount of castles. I’ve been to lots, but I’d have to say the best were Pembroke Castle in the south, and Conwy and Caernarfon in the north. Cardiff Castle was also a great showcase of many different uses of the castle through the centuries—and of course there are literally hundreds more castles spread across the country!
Conwy, Beaumaris, Caernarfon, and Harlech Castles (and the town walls of Conwy and Caernarfon) are actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as some of the best late 13th-century and early 14th-century military architecture in Europe! All of them are magnificent: huge, imposing castles, narrow stone spiral staircases, so many different towers of varying heights. I ran around all these castles like a kid in a candy store, eager to get to the next room, the next view, the next wall. The quality of the castles that remain in Wales is reason enough for a trip alone!
2. It is less touristy than the rest of England during the off-season
I can’t speak to the peak summer season, as my trips to Wales were both in winter. But I can tell you one thing: there are a whole lot less tourists in Wales than you’ll see at any of the main sites around England. When I visited Pembroke Castle on a rainy day, I was, quite literally, the ONLY person there. There were two women working in the small café, but besides that I had the ENTIRE CASTLE to myself. I could run around and climb towers and check out caves and jump down stairs and do whatever I wanted since there was not another single person there!
3. The scenery is incredible
While yes, it will probably rain during your trip to Wales, the scenery really is spectacular. Beautiful, green valleys (usually dotted with sheep), hills and mountains, almost everywhere you look you’re impressed.
The scenery in Snowdonia was some of the most fantastic I’ve seen anywhere in the UK, and so it merits its own shout-out for that. You can climb Mount Snowden (the highest peak in Wales), walk and hike between villages, or just drive through the winding mountain roads. Don’t miss this national park and the surrounding areas!
5. Welsh is a funny language and the towns have weird names
How could you pass up a chance to visit Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch?! The Welsh language is really something else—lots of consonants, very few vowels, and sounds absolutely strange when you hear it spoken. But, that means a lot of fun! Archfarchnad is the word for supermarket. Popty ping is the word for microwave. Prifysgol is the word for university. Trust me, you’ll have no problem keeping yourself entertained.
6. Welsh whiskey is very tasty
One of my favorite things that I did in Wales was visit the Penderyn Distillery. It may have taken two trains and a bus to the middle of nowhere Brecon Beacons, but it was definitely worth it! The whiskey was very nice, and the tour (for students) at that point was only £4!!! Make sure you book in advance if you plan to go. I took bus 7 from the village of Aberdare (which has a train station) to Penderyn. The distillery has a bus stop right outside.
7. You can pretend to be a Brit and head to the beach
Wales is a very popular summer holiday destination for a lot of English people—mainly for the beaches. While yes, there will be more crowds, you’ll be able to get a snapshot of what real life is like for many people and families living in England. It might not be the French Riviera, but some of the beach towns look lovely! (This really is only applicable in summer. The weather will be rainy and miserable the rest of the year.)
8. Welsh people are very friendly
Don’t be too surprised if an old man walking his dog starts up a conversation with you in the middle of some tiny village for no reason. The people in Wales are friendly (especially after a few pints) and very welcoming—even if you can’t totally understand them!
9. There’s a whole town dedicated to second-hand books
Have you heard of a town called Hay-on-Wye? Well, if you’re a used book fan, it’s about time you start planning your trip! It is the world’s second-hand book capital, with an annual festival at the end of May. It’s high up there on my bucket list, and it’s meant to be a charming town as well.
10. You can visit the Smallest House in Great Britain
If you pass through Conwy, you can’t miss the opportunity to see the Smallest House in Great Britain, located right along the waterfront. The house is only six feet wide and ten feet tall—and its last owner was a 6 foot 3 inch fisherman!
Wales is a wonderful country that all too often gets overlooked on visits to Britain. While lots of people visit England (London is one of the world’s most visited cities!) and Scotland, Wales isn’t as much of an obvious choice. But there’s lots to do and see, all surrounded by some truly spectacular scenery. These are only 10 reasons to make a trip to Wales—there are so many more! Wales is quirky, unique, and wonderfully weird. If you’re headed to the UK, save a couple days and make sure to explore Wales!
What do you think? Is Wales worth a trip? Share your thoughts in the comments below!