(This is the third post in our Beyond London Series, a collection of destination guides that encourage backpackers to get out of the capital and explore the rest of the UK.)
When you mention the UK to most travellers, they will immediately think of the capital and largest city, London. In fact, it almost seems that people around the world think that London is all there is to the United Kingdom. Although London is an amazing world class city with lots of fascinating history and things to do, if it is the only stop on your trip to the UK you are missing out on a lot.
Take a few trips beyond London to explore a different part of the country! It’s very easy to do, since the UK is a relatively small island and has a simple to use and convenient train system which can take you anywhere you need to go within a few hours.
The Fairy Tale Wonderland of Wales
Tiny villages with tongue-twister names, rugged mountains dusted with snow, limestone cliffs that meet the sea, rolling green hills dotted with sheep and a culture unique to anywhere else in the world; you will be swept away when you visit Wales.
Wales is located on the western peninsula of Great Britain, to the west of England and across the Irish Sea from the Republic of Ireland. It can be reached from London in only two hours by train, making it ideal to visit Wales for a weekend getaway if you are based the capital.
Take the population of the city of London and cut it down to a third and that is how many people live in the entire country of Wales. What this means is that when you visit Wales you will be treated to endless vistas of unspoiled forests and woodlands, rolling countryside and plenty of fresh air and room to explore.
Here are a few ideas of what to do during your visit to Wales:
Walking in Snowdonia National Park
This stunning national park is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the country as well as Snowdon, the biggest mountain in Wales. This area is rich with history, as it was once the natural fortress of the Princes of Gwynedd and Llewellyn the last true Prince of Wales. Hiking through these misty mountains and ancient forests will make you feel like you have stepped into a magical fairy tale!
Start your walk in the picturesque village of Capel Garmon and stroll through well marked paths that weave through the rolling countryside. On your way you will see a Neolithic burial chamber and the rocky waterfalls along the River Conwy. Don’t forget to bring your camera when you visit Wales because you will be awe-struck by the majestic views of Snowdonia’s mountain peaks.
If you want to feel even more like you have stepped into a fairy tale, visit one of the many castles from the 12th and 13th centuries which are spread across the landscape of North Wales. There is the Castell y Bere which was the last strong hold of the Welsh Princes, as well as Dolwyddelan which was the reputed birthplace of Prince Llywelyn the Great and the filming location for the Disney film Dragonslayer. For a full list of all of the castles in Wales, click here.
Culture in Cardiff
Cardiff, the lively and modern capital city of Wales, has evolved a lot since its days as a gritty industrial city and it is quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations in the UK. If you visit Wales during the summer you will be treated to a cornucopia of festivals, live music, dancing and other events. The Millennium Stadium also plays host to many important sporting events. When you get hungry, head to Cardiff Bay for a trendy and cosmopolitan selection of cafes, bars and restaurants.
The Land of Song
Wales has been known throughout history as the “Land of Song” and it is famed for producing many talented harpists, solo artists and male voice choirs. The city of Cardiff also has a thriving modern rock scene and is a great place to see a live band in a stadium or a pub. During your visit to Wales, make sure you enjoy some live music!
Check Out Wales!
I have barely begun to describe all of the great experiences that are waiting for you when you visit Wales. If you are planning a trip to the UK, be sure to go beyond London and enjoy exploring this beautiful and historical part of the world.