With travel still being quite restricted around the world, we decided to start our 2021 summer with an epic road trip through central and northern Wales.
Made our way from the west London area and started our drive over to Wales. A MUST STOP on your way is the quaint little village of Hay-on-Wye. This village is made up of several book stores; each one unique in its own way. We loved perusing each store and finding hidden treasures in the used book shops.
Our first accommodation was right in the middle of Wales and was definitely a post-lockdown splurge. This place was INCREDIBLE! Perfectly decorated, perfectly supplied, sweet treats in the fridge... and THIS VIEW.
It also had so many great amenities... including a fire pit, a hot tub, and a hammock. Such a kid-friendly spot. Do yourself a favor and check this place out. You won't regret it. Penlan Lodge
This day ended up being a little further south then we realized and you could definitely swap this out for something else and do this on a Southern Wales road trip. We decided to just go with it and make it work.
First up- the National Show Caves Centre for Wales. This place was listed on a lot of recommendations for kid-friendly things to do. It was definitely kid-friendly and our kid had a good time... but it was a little kitschy and touristy. They combined a fake dinosaur park with the caves and it felt a bit eclectic and strange. The caves were admittedly impressive, BUT we could have skipped this one.
Since we were down in the South, we decided to make a stop in the Brecon Beacons and take a hike up to Pen Y Fan because our British Bucket List book from the National Trust said we should... and I always do what that book says! Check out this book- it's the best.
And it turned out to be a wonderful hike, as always. It was a great hike for kids as it was a very gradual incline and not much in the way of steep scrambling.
Wales is so beautiful.
Now on to some castles! Wales is full of castles and we love them all. We've heard people say "once you've seen a castle, you've seen them all" and we couldn't disagree more. We find each castle to be so unique... and we love pulling out the drone around them.
Montgomery Castle was a ruined castle from the 1200's up on a hill on our way to a bigger National Trust site. We loved this ruin because we had the whole place to ourselves as we explored, climbed on walls, and droned.
And now onto a GEM of central Wales. Powis Castle. It is on the list of most beautiful gardens in the United Kingdom... and I would have to agree. It was completely and utterly beautiful. You MUST put this on your list of things to do in Wales. You can't miss this one. Bonus points for the peacock that terrified our kiddo! Hahaha
NOTE- We weren't able to go into any of these sites
because most things were still closed indoors due to Covid restrictions.
This is a very outdoor focused itinerary!
We left our beautiful accommodations overlooking the valley and headed up to Northern Wales. We were really wanting to hike Mount Snowdon and had given ourselves a few days to determine which day would have the best weather. We decided not to do it this day so we made a few stops on our drive up at... you guessed it... MORE CASTLES!
Caernarfon Castle was pretty epic. It stands on the edge of the coast and dominates over the town. Caernarfon Castle is recognized around the world as one of the greatest buildings of the Middle Ages. This castle has historical significance as this is where the Prince of Wales investiture has taken place.
And now time to head into Snowdonia National Park to get some rest... we have big plans to hike Mount Snowdon with our kiddo and we aren't taking the easy way up with the train. We found a great campsite with huts really close to one of the paths up. There were a few spiders in the hut- but the location can't be beat! Linked here.
We may be smart or crazy... not sure which one... but we marched our little six year old up the hardest path up to Mount Snowdon. Did we realize it was the hardest path when we started? No.
The Watkin Path is the path we took and is dubbed the hardest because of its very steep ascent at the end. Otherwise, it was a fairly moderate path with some climbs and some easy inclines AND great scenery along the way. It actually wasn't too bad until the very end... and then it is STRAIGHT up.
But we did it. We conquered the highest peak in Wales. Ballers. Our kid was definitely the youngest one on top of that peak. What a great feeling!
As a bribe to our kid (because that's the way we roll) for hiking that grueling mountain, we stopped off a high adventure place to do some fun kid-friendly activities just for her. I would highly recommend this place! There are so many fun things to do. We opted for the forest coaster and it kept running- even in the rain!
We really needed to get our legs moving after that Snowdon hike so after our Zip World experience we stopped for a little walk around Bodnant Gardens. We came for their Laburnum Arch which is famous around the UK...
...but we had no idea that their rose garden would be in FULL BLOOM and that it would be so incredible. Literally exploding with roses. My mind was blown. It was a fantastic find and should be on your list if you enjoy beautiful gardens.
The grounds are actually quite expansive and we found ourselves in the back amidst this green, lush forest and were also taken aback by the beauty. It truly is an amazing National Trust site.
HOT TIP- If you hang around by the National Trust
cafes close to closing time, they are usually trying to
get rid of their leftover food and will give away food for free!
While we were here we got several pasties for free.
We moved accommodations again and forgot to mention it! We stayed at this great Airbnb in Llandudno and it was a perfect size and location for our little family. And can we talk about Llandudno? It's a Victorian seaside town on the North Welsh coast and it is darling.
Llandudno was a great location for small day trips around the northern coast. We headed over to Anglesey Island to go find the longest named town in the world! Check out this train station sign... How many letters long is that?!
On Anglesey Island there is A LOT to see and do so we had to pick and choose what was most important to us... so we opted for (you guessed it) ANOTHER CASTLE! Beaumaris Castle on the island of Anglesey is famous as the greatest castle never built. It was the last of the royal strongholds created by Edward I in Wales – and perhaps his masterpiece.
After the castle the sun came out... and there are some great beaches on Anglesey Island. If you find some sun while visiting here- make sure to stop at a beach and bask!
Wow is this trip over yet? I know, I know... pretty long road trip right? We don't go half way at the Brame household. We go and do and do and do. Again, it was a LOT of outdoors stuff because indoors was still closed due to Covid. I wonder how this trip would have changed had we been able to go inside museums?
We are winding down our trip and had to make a stop at a few more places... Gwyrch Castle and Gardens was so unique. It is currently a ruin... but also has some parts that are still in tact? It was very magical and sad. They are trying to restore the castle to its former glory but it is taking a long time. It was purchased a while back and they tried to make it into a fancy hotel... but when they ran out of money, they just let it fall apart.
And last but not least of our Welsh castles... Conwy Castle! One of the most popular one in Wales. Walking on top of the castle walls was a little bit frightening because there's not much there to keep you from toppling over. Hold on to those little kid hands! It’s enough to take the breath away. Especially when you consider that King Edward I and his architect Master James of St George built both castle and walls in a barely believable four years between 1283 and 1287.
And that's it for our time in Wales! It was an outdoor whirlwind and we loved it so much. Hope you get to see some of these amazing scenes or some of this incredible castles.