David and I recently had the opportunity to visit the amazing country of Wales. Along with our niece—who was here on a visit—and, of course, Spark, we rented a car and drove the five-ish hours to Pembrokeshire—a seaside county in southwest Wales.
After spending a long weekend there (Saturday-Monday), here are a few of the reasons we loved Wales and want to go back ASAP!
1. Castles Galore
When thinking of Europe, it’s barely an exaggeration to say that castles are a dime a dozen. They’re scattered throughout the UK, France, Ireland, Scotland, and so on. What makes Wales’ castles so visit-worthy, however—besides the fact that they are castles—is that most of them are super old and many of them are also free.
People have been living in the country that is now Wales for thousands of years and, by visiting Welsh castles, you get a unique and divine look into the way of life of these ancient people. We highly recommend visiting Cilgerran Castle, Cardiff Castle (see main photo), Carew Castle, and Narberth Castle. Check out some stunning aerial footage of all of these castles here.
Again, these are just some of the castles in southwest Wales alone—there are many, many more to see! Make sure to leave any castle suggestions you have in our comments below.
2. Idyllic Towns and Villages
In addition to its historic castles, Wales is also home to a never-ending supply of adorable country villages and small seaside towns. Reminiscent of the colorful backdrops of popular tourist destinations such as Santorini and San Francisco, Welsh villages are beautiful in their own right.
Each equipped with a scattering of rainbow-hued houses, stone churches, and at least one quintessentially British local pub—we highly recommend finding a village or two and just wandering through it for a couple of hours. Make sure to stop for a pint or Sunday roast at the local pub too, you won’t be disappointed!
Again, see David’s video here for breathtaking shots of some of the gems southwest Wales has to offer—including Aberystwyth, Solva, and Aberaeron.
3. Picturesque Landscape
Wales has a wealth of natural beauty. The country may not be huge, but it has a little bit of everything when it comes to terrain. The first thing I noticed (and loved) about Wales was the rolling green hills dotted with sheep. Lots of sheep. And chickens, horses (replete with adorable winter blankets), and ponies.
This may sound silly but these grassy hills are breathtakingly green—even in early February—and they evoke a sense of country life and simpler times. A welcome and peaceful repose from the hustle and bustle of city life. I love living in London but Wales provides the breath of fresh air any Londoner needs every once in a while.
Even though we visited in the beginning of February, we still found plenty of places to hike and explore by foot without getting too cold. Pembrokeshire’s location next to the sea seems to block it from the majority of snow so even in the middle of winter, all the fields in Wales were a vibrant green. While we definitely hope to return to Wales in the summer, I’d recommend visiting in February to enjoy the peace and tranquility Wales has to offer when it’s not cram-packed with “holidaymakers.”
Wales is a great place to spend the weekend without spending all your money. As part of the UK, Wales still uses the pound as its currency, however, prices—especially outside of Cardiff—are significantly lower than prices in London.
In general, Welsh towns are heavy on mom-n’-pop businesses and this includes lodging. While you can find chain hotels in larger towns, bed and breakfasts are the norm in southwest Wales and we’d highly recommend you check them out. We found an adorable converted-barn cottage in Rhydlewis using Airbnb. Haven’t tried Airbnb yet? Try it out using our code.
Food and beverages are also less expensive than what we are accustomed to paying in London.
5. Dog-friendly and Allergy-friendly
Another reason Wales was the perfect weekend road-trip option for us is that it is a very dog-friendly place to visit. Our dog Spark adored romping in the grassy meadows at our Airbnb and we enjoyed being able to take her with us as we explored all the castles and towns listed above.
Pubs and restaurants in Wales are also very dog-friendly. While we’d always recommend asking (or Googling) whether a business is dog-friendly, we had no problem finding ones that were—even in the middle of nowhere.
We stopped for a Sunday roast at The Black Lion (between Aberystywth and Aberaeron), which was lovely and very dog- and family-friendly. They even accommodated food allergies by providing a gluten-free gravy so I didn’t miss out on any aspect of the delicious roast!
Another great dog-friendly pub we visited was the Harbour Inn in the adorable town of Solva (again, see David’s video). The Harbour Inn has a lot of character and more delectable options on the menu (gluten-free too!). Our niece, Anna, especially enjoyed their ribs and Spark had a great time socializing with several other canine customers.
In short, Wales provided everything we needed (and then some) to enjoy a lovely long weekend in February. We can only imagine what it is like during its peak season and look forward to visiting again—hopefully very soon!
Have you been to Wales? Leave your favorite Welsh destinations and activities in the comments below!