From Cardiff’s Castles and Tenby’s Treats to Paddling in Pembrokeshire and Climbing the Cambrian Mountains,
Wales has it all
When crisp autumn days and long cool nights replace the summer heat, Wales becomes even more inviting for a holiday, short break or long weekend. You’ll find fewer crowds, better value for money, and a variety of natural and man-made, rural and urban attractions that come into their own in the season of mists and soft fertility.
It has wild, windswept beaches, fine dining using the freshest local produce, and groundbreaking underground adventures. And that’s just for starters. Wales also has some of the darkest skies in Europe, the tastiest seafood and the largest population of dolphins.
Its mighty medieval castles are lined with fabulously cozy hotels and vibrant cities with cutting-edge art and culture. Of course, autumn and winter are also prime times for soul-enhancing walks, with mountain views on a grand scale, fascinating history and welcoming pubs to toast your endeavours.
We’ve handpicked 18 of the best attractions and adventures for any type of holiday, but honestly, that hardly scratches the surface of what Wales has in store for visitors this time of year. What are you waiting for?
For more information, see visitwales.com
1. City lover
Vibrant, cosmopolitan Cardiff offers a city break to remember, from its central castle with 2,000 years of history to the Principality Stadium, home of Welsh rugby, and the vast restored bay. Enjoy the bustling Victorian shopping arcades and excellent restaurants such as the Michelin-starred Home restaurant.
Cardiff’s rich cultural vein includes opera, classical music and ballet at the spectacular Millennium Center and 500 years of creativity at the National Museum’s Rules of Art exhibition, including paintings by Rembrandt and Picasso, until next June. See more contemporary works at Chapter Arts Center and Oriel Canfas Gallery.
Cardiff is a perfect base for exploring the beautiful surrounding area. Hike themachen Forge Trail for its viaduct, views and industrial heritage, or Pen-Pych Mountain for its waterfalls, Iron Age sites and sweeping vistas of the Rhondda Valley. Alternatively, cycle the Taff Trail to Pontypridd, past Llandaff Cathedral, or enjoy a short ride from Bute Park to Castell Coch.
Tenby in Pembrokeshire, famed for its golden sands, now sports a foodie feather in its cap. Several excellent restaurants use the best local ingredients. Try Qube and the Baytree with its seasonal dishes, Florentino’s with authentic Italian cuisine and harbor views, and Plantagenet House with its Spanish chef and fine Welsh ingredients.
Award-winning artisanal Caws Teifi cheese can be found at Glynhynod organic farm in Ceredigion. Organic raw milk (healthier, greener, and tastier than pasteurized milk) fuels the store’s goodies, including Heritage Teifi (an extra-ripened Gouda-style cheese), Seaweed Teifi, Nettle Teifi, and Chili Teifi. The farm is also home to the Dà Mhìle distillery, which produces organic whiskey and other organic spirits.
Conwy Mussels uses long pine rakes to collect mussels from the natural beds of the estuary – a technique unchanged for 200 years – and claims its products are plumper and tastier than its rope-grown competitors. Try them at Deganwy’s Paysanne restaurant and the Quay Hotel from September to April.
3. Walks with great pubs
History and truly great nature blend together on a loop trail on the Llŷn Peninsula. From Edern village, follow the Afon Geirch River onto the coastal path and look out for seals and dolphins. The Tŷ Coch in Porthdinllaen, a former fishing village overlooking the Eifl, offers a quaint petrol station before the return trip.
A six-mile Black Mountains loop combines pastoral bliss and great food, beginning and ending at The Crown in Pantygelli. Rising through open moorland and oak woodland, it scales the distinctively sculpted slopes of 596m Sugar Loaf Mountain with epic views of South Wales and Skirrid Peak.
Puffing steam trains begin a spectacular tour of central Wales. From Welshpool Train Station, walk past Dingle Garden, ablaze with autumn colors and bisecting the bracken-covered landscape towards Y Golfa overlooking the Breidden Hills, before coming full circle behind Llanerchydol Manor House to stay at the celebrated Raven Inn in to eat Welshpool.
4. Thrill seekers
Trampolining reaches new heights, or rather new depths, at Bounce Below at Snowdonia’s Blaenau Ffestiniog adventure centre. Six springy webs, bathed in colorful spotlights, occupy an abandoned underground slate mine twice the size of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Bouncing is rarely so much fun!
Brechfa Mountain Bike Center in Carmarthenshire is perfect for pootlers or pros and has three exciting trails running through the woods: exciting black Raven; Gorlech with three challenging climbs and descents; and Derwen, a gentle introduction for families and beginners. Happy shredding!
Paddle a canoe along the headwaters of the Daugleddau Estuary and Cleddau River and discover a tranquil but photogenic slice of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Expect waders, seals and castles like Carew and Benton – and of course some fresh Pembrokeshire air.
5. Nature lover
Over 250 resident bottlenose dolphins, along with porpoises, seals and the occasional whale, make Cardigan Bay a prime spot for dolphin watching. Summer is the peak viewing time, but dolphins can be spotted year-round. Contact SeaMor, the operator of New Quay, to see if they offer an off-season cruise.
Things are looking up in the wild Cambrian Mountains of central Wales. See how the Milky Way dazzles the sky throughout fall and winter with an Astro Trail connecting nine easily accessible Dark Sky Discovery Sites free from light pollution. Dark Sky Wales regularly hosts stargazing weekends with lectures, observing and astrophotography classes and overnight stays in the luxury cabins at Hafren Forest Hideaway.
With five miles of purpose-built bridleways offering magnificent views across the Menai Strait to Caernarfon Castle and Snowdonia, Anglesey is a beautiful place for a trot through nature. Anglesey Riding Center caters to all levels of riding, from young beginners led by guide reins, to beach canters for the experienced, able rider.
6. Cozy hideouts in cold weather
Dylan Thomas’ old pub in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, Browns is a great hideaway any time of the year. The writer famously left the bar’s phone number as his own. Built in 1752, it is a hotel with character woven into its structure. Luminaries such as President Carter, Burton & Taylor, Mick Jagger, Pierce Brosnan and Cerys Matthews have all climbed the three stone steps to the bar. The now renovated hotel features 14 individually designed bathrooms and the acclaimed Dexters Steak House and Grill. If you can tear yourself away, the village is easily explored on foot and you can see Thomas’ boathouse and writing shed, Laugharne Castle and the stunning Teifi Estuary.
Harbourmaster, Aberaeron is a welcoming blend of hotel, popular pub and restaurant in Ceredigion. This cobalt blue quayside property was once the Regency House of the Aberaeron Harbor Master. Rooms blend granite walls and warm colors with sea views, while the acclaimed restaurant showcases Cardigan Bay seafood and fine Welsh produce.
Set between Snowdonia and the Irish Sea, the 17th-century Plas Dinas in Bontnewydd, Gwynedd is the former home of the Armstrong-Jones family (later Princess Margaret’s in-laws). The elegant rooms have antiques, portraits and lovely views – there’s a fire in the drawing room and seasonal Welsh dishes in the Gunroom Restaurant, which is listed in the Michelin Guide.
For more information, see visitwales.com