The first thing you notice when you cross the bridge and the invisible, but nevertheless omnipresent divide from Britain into Wales, is the abundance of lush green, rolling hills and valleys, and the sheep.
There’s very little overt physical differentiation between Wales and the UK, but history, people, language and culture would argue otherwise. And they’re right: there’s a pervasive contrast between the two cousins, their history is forcibly intertwined but there’s a restrained indifference.
British holidaymakers and urbanites hungry for a nature-packed weekend away swarm to Wales, permeating and ingratiating themselves into every facet, corner and nook of the 8,005.8-mile territory. Little Haven, an idyllic fishing village in Pembrokeshire boasts a population of 1,328 proudly Welsh citizens. In summer, it trebles.
I’ve had an intrinsic and emotive relationship with Wales for many years, and not simply the brief veneer holidaymakers enjoy. Rather, I have been visiting Wales for 20 years. My grandfather owned a farm in Pembrokeshire and ever since I was six, my mum, brother and I would make the vast journey from Australia to Wales for our canonical visits.
I learnt to shoot, drive, fish, surf and sail in Wales, such were its natural and primal offerings. Wales and my grandfather (he was an archaeologist) fostered and nurtured my love of history, castles and Medieval tales. It really is a country permeating with bygone chronicles and stories.
I’ve traversed all over the Welsh countryside, from Snowdonia to Swansea, the deeply eerie, bleak coal and slate mines to the serene and wild coastal regions. Wales truly is a country pared back from modernisms, unnecessary comforts and even luxury. Instead, it’s a raw iteration of an older existence and of a country not plagued by high rises and 70s skyscrapers.
Here’s a few of my favourite places:
Nestled in the south east corner of St Bride’s Bay, Pembrokeshire, this whimsical fishing village excels expectation and lives up to its namesake. Seeping in charm and character, it is no wonder it’s a popular summer destination.
My tip? Try vacationing in winter. On a sunny winter’s day and the tide out, Little Haven is unchallenged in its uncultivated and agrarian beauty.
Stay: Driftwood Cottage: Every time I have visited Pembrokeshire I have stayed in this cottage. Situated a mere stone’s throw from the beach, it’s place to enjoy this idyllic Welsh coastal town.
Snowdonia National Park
This epic and unapologetically wild national park is an adventurer’s paradise. Take advantage of the escapist offerings, from coastal paths, Zip World, mountainous peaks and mountain bike trails.
Hiking fans should tackle Wales and England’s highest mountain, Snowden. At 3,560 feet it’s a lengthy and arduous climb, but well worth it (my brother, mum and I did it via the Pyg Track ten years ago!). Alternatively, for those who are slightly more languorous, take the aptly named Sherpa Bus.
Stay: Coed y Bleiddiau: Set in the heart of breath-taking scenery in Snowdonia, Coed y Bleiddiau is a small railway cottage. Situated in a remote part of the national park, it’s reminiscent of a bygone era.
There’s plenty to explore in this gem of a national park, from limestone caves to panoramic vistas afforded by Pen y Fan and Cribyn.
This countryside with rolling green landscapes, waterfalls, mountainous peaks and charming Welsh villages. On a recent sojourn we climbed Pen y Fan and Llyn y fan fach, two incredible ancient stalwarts of the Brecon Beacons, and landscape that wouldn’t be amiss in Greenland or Iceland.
Stay: Abercrave Inn: This lively pub lies on the southern edge of the Brecon Beacons. Set in the charming village of Abercraf, it’s the perfect place to stay for those hungry to soak up the active atmosphere of the Brecon Beacons.
Also, the full Welsh breakfast is delicious!