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There are few places in the UK more beautiful than scenic, rugged Wales. I’ll be sharing three Wales road trip itineraries, as well as handy tips to make the most of your trip.
I’ve broken this post into three categories:
- Pembrokeshire found towards the west of Wales (get ready for lots of gorgeous coastal scenery)
- South Wales including Cardiff and the Gower Peninsular
- North Wales which many locals claim is the most striking and impressive part of Wales overall. For the ultimate Wales road trip for 7 days, I have an itinerary for all three.
Why take a Wales road trip?
Well, Wales isn’t exactly the best place for public transport. Sure, you’ll be fine around Cardiff and other larger cities, as well as some parts of Pembrokeshire. But to save time, tick spectacular destinations off your UK bucket list, and also get off-the-beaten-track and find some solitude, it’s best to have your own set of wheels.
In my opinion, Wales isn’t the most expensive part of the UK. But the more expensive accommodation will be found in tourist-friendly cities. So if you have a car, you’ll be able to stay in cheaper places and drive to popular spots during the days.
If you’re interested in saving money and travelling cheaply, be sure to check out my guide to UK budget travel.
Make sure to check out my Wales fun facts before your visit!
Copy of Lonely Planet Wales
Public transport: Trainine
Car hire: Rentalcars.com
How to plan a Wales road trip
Road tripping a whole country can be tiring, plus it’s hard to decide on a Wales road trip itinerary with so many destinations on offer. My best tip would be to pin the places below on Google Maps to get a lay of the land and work out the areas you’re most interested in visiting.
If you end up with a cluster of pins in one part of Wales, I would suggest staying there. Plan to include 2-3 main attractions per day so you don’t get burnt out or run the risk of packing in too much.
Don’t try to cram in everything during a 7 day Wales road trip! You’ll burn out and feel rushed.
How long does it take to explore Wales?
If you’re wondering how long it takes to drive around Wales, it depends how thoroughly you want to see the country. I’d set aside 3 weeks (or longer) for all the places below. If you have one week in Wales, pick one of the 3 itineraries below.
Where to stay during a Wales road trip
There are so many places to stay from popular Pembrokeshire to rural North Wales and the gorgeous Gower Peninsula in South Wales. Wales has abundant accommodation options including Airbnbs, hostels, glamping huts, cottages and more.
If you choose to stay in Pembrokeshire, I can recommend Fishguard which is a pretty town near to many popular Wales locations. We stayed in Main Town and during downtime, trekked down the hill to Fishguard Harbour.
Use Booking.com to browse guesthouses, B&Bs and self-catering private apartments in Fishguard.
Top picks: Private apartment (sleeps 2) for £75pn // Ivy Bridge Guesthouse (sleeps 2) for £75pn.
Best season for a Wales road trip
The best season for good weather is the summer months from June to September. However, British weather is unpredictable at best so you may be subject to rain and grey skies – pack your rain mac!
Summer is the busiest tourist season in Wales so you’ll want to book your accommodation in advance and arrive places early to beat the crowds.
Personally, I would choose March-May or September for decent weather and fewer crowds.
Winters in Wales can be cold especially in Northern Wales when it can easily drop below 0°C.
7 day Wales road trip itinerary – Pembrokeshire
A week is the perfect amount of time to spend exploring Pembrokeshire. This is the ultimate 1 week in Wales road trip…
Day 1 – explore St David’s in the morning. Head over to the Blue Lagoon in the afternoon.
Day 2 – take the boat to Skomer Island. Afterwards, relax on Marloes Sands.
Day 3 – visit Freshwater West beach. Take a trip to Bosherston Lily Ponds in the afternoon.
Day 4 – take a road trip along the west coast. Stop at Strumble Head Lighthouse, Fishguard and take a hike at Dinas Head.
Day 5 – take an early morning dolphin boat trip at Cardigan Bay and relax on Poppit Sands afterwards.
Day 6 – Visit Tenby and take a boat trip to Caldey Island.
Day 7 – explore a few Welsh Castles. Pembrokeshire Castle and Manorbier Castle are both beautiful.
Pembrokeshire road trip destinations
There’s more to Wales than just Pembrokeshire but it’s undeniably a beautiful part of the country on the southwest coast of Wales heading inland.
Pembrokeshire is one of the most popular areas of Wales for tourism because there are beautiful beaches and towns without overly long drives connecting them.
More details for your Pembrokeshire itinerary…
Blue Lagoon, Abereiddy
This 25m-deep water hole in Pembrokeshire is an old flooded slate quarry. The brilliant blue water is prime for diving in – if you can handle the icy temperatures! The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series has been held three times here.
If you’re feeling energetic, you can try coasteering and kayaking at the Blue Lagoon. For a more leisurely visit, simply admire the striking lagoon from above and take a walk around the headlands.
Park at the car park, stroll past beautiful Abereiddy Beach and climb up to higher ground for a windy yet refreshing walk with unrivalled coastal views.
This large sweeping bay sits with Pembrokeshire at its south end. While there are some beautiful beaches, the intrique is out at sea. The area is known for having the largest population of bottlenose dolphins in Europe, as well as a colony of porpoise, seals and plenty of birdlife.
During your Wales road trip, I’d highly recommend parking up at Patch Beach and taking a boat tour with A Bay To Remember. Remember to book your tickets in advance for £26pp.
With 7 days road tripping Wales, you won’t have time for all the beaches. But don’t miss Poppit Sands on the West Wales coast near Cardigan. It’s an expansive, unspoilt beach backed by low dunes, perfect for beachcombing.
The gorgeous beach lies between two headlands on the edge of the Teifi Estuary and has a gentle incline into the sea making it ideal for swimmers and surfers.
This scenic area is also popular with hikers. Inland walks from Poppit wind through dense forest, pretty river valleys and fields of sheep. Poppit also lies at the start (or end!) of the 300-kilometre-long Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.
Cliff paths (accessible on foot from Poppit) provide sweeping views of the dramatic West Wales coastline and the chance to see dolphins and seals in the clear water below. The coastal paths are well maintained with good signposting, and hikers can take advantage of the Poppit Rocket bus service that will bring you back to your starting point in Poppit.
Due to its remote location, Poppit is best visited by car. Access to Poppit Sands and the coastal path is free but there’s a charge for parking in Poppit village car park.
Poppit entry submitted by Sinead from Map Made Memories.
An hour’s drive from Aberystwyth and just 20 mins drive from Aberporth lies Cenarth Falls. It’s located in the quaint village of Cenarth with just two pubs, a restaurant and a church. Teifi River runs through the village, cascading down some rocks and resulting in Cenarth Falls.
No difficult hiking or climbing is required, just a pleasant walk along the riverside to an old bridge leading to scenic views in peaceful surrounds. A circular trail passing along a small gorge with trees and birds will bring you back to the village.
Cenarth is also known for its abundant seasonal salmon which leap over the falls. Cenarth Coracle Museum in the village is a unique place to learn about coracles, small circular wooden boats used by fishermen until the 1940s. Before you leave Cenarth, stop at Ty-Te Tearoom or the White Hart Inn for Welsh scones and pub grub.
Cenarth Falls entry submitted by Jan from Leisurely Drives.
The beautiful coastal town of Fishguard isn’t the best-known place in Wales but it’s surely one of the best UK hidden gems. The Main Town has basic amenities while Lower Fishguard has a peaceful harbour with colourful houses and gently-lapping waves.
Sitting here with a coffee overlooking the ocean was the perfect respite from a busy Wales road trip and I’d recommend squeezing in Fishguard if you have the time. A scenic hike nearby that I’d recommend is…
This peninsula jutting off the mainland of Pembrokeshire (en route between Fishguard and Cardigan) is Dinas Head. A few hours hiking the peninsular to the headland is time well spent.
Park at Pwllgwaelod Beach and take the Dinas Island circular walk which starts with a 40 step incline but is mostly downhill later on. Stop at Needle Rock to watch local birds and paddle at Cwm-yr-Eglwys Bay before returning to the car park.
Strumble Head Lighthouse
Another worthwhile stop on the Pembroke coast is Strumble Head Lighthouse. Although the weather was bad when we visited, it was still striking in a gothic way especially with the persisting flashes from the lighthouse. It made me think of boats 100 years ago crossing the rocky stretch from Wales to Ireland.
The Lighthouse is perched precariously on a small island connected to the mainland by a suspension bridge. Just a few minutes’ drive away is Carregwastad Point where French soldiers landed in 1797 during the last invasion of Britain.
Dedicate a long afternoon to exploring the smallest city in the UK found on the St. David’s Peninsula. visit St. Davids Cathedral and stop for a pint at one of the many local pubs.
As well as plenty of things to do in St. David’s, it’s also a perfect base to explore this area of Wales with boat tours and sweeping scenery. Why not spend a weekend in the region and go hiking and explore more of the peninsula?
There’s parking at Oriel y Parc Gallery & Visitor Centre if you’re stopping as part of a Wales road trip. Since St. Davids is a transport hub for this area of Pembrokeshire, you can also catch local buses from St. Davids. It’s also a popular stop on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
St David’s entry submitted by Naomi from Probe Around The Globe.
This pretty Welsh town is worth a quick stop during a Wales road trip. As well as quaint, colourful shops and a pretty walk around the headlands by the beach, the highlight is Mamgu Welshcakes.
For those that don’t yet know Welshcakes, they’re tasty delicacies made with flour, butter and currants, dusted with sugar. Swing by Mamgus and try them for yourself. The Welsh rarebit on the menu was also delicious!
If you want to work it off, you can take a 7km coastal walk from Solva to St David’s.
Barafundle Bay, reminiscent of a Welsh Greek Island, is one of Wales’ best-kept secrets and has recently been voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Backed by dunes and woods, its golden sands lapped by crystal clear emerald waters are the perfect place to relax. The crescent bay is unspoilt, bounded by limestone cliffs at each end.
Accessed by way of a 20-minute clifftop walk, you’ll be blown away by the coastal views. Ducking through a crumbling stone archway, follow the steep stone steps down to the pristine sand. Alternatively, arrive in style by canoe from the launch point at Stackpole Quay car park. There are numerous walking trails and the coastal path continues to another stunning beach, Broadhaven South.
Visitors info: Barafundle Bay is a 30-minute drive from Tenby. There’s only one car park, halfway around a mile-long circular loop, so it’s best to arrive early on a summer’s day. There are facilities, a cafe and abundant space to make sandcastles making it a perfect location for those travelling in Pembrokeshire with kids.
Barafundle entry submitted by Helen from Holiday With Hels.
Tenby is a well-preserved town found on the South Wales coast with its 13th-century city walls still intact. There are plenty of things to do in Tenby from relaxing on Castle Beach, North Beach or South Beach, to strolling around the harbour clutching an ice cream.
Visit Castle Hill for Tenby Castle and Tenby Museum & Art Gallery or take an eerie ghost tour of Tenby; any city this old surely has a few creepy tales to tell!
From Tenby, you can take a 4.5-mile walk to Saundersfoot, drinking in views of Saundersfoot Bay from Monkstone Point.
There are plenty of places to park in Tenby and you can easily see the main sights during a day trip, although Tenby would also be a lovely place to base for a few days with lots of quality restaurants and abundant ice cream!
Where to stay in Tenby: Budget – The Belgrave Hotel (£96pn) // Treat – The Park Hotel (£145pn). Browse all Tenby accommodation on Booking.com.
Another fantastic excursion from Tenby is…
Caldey Island can be seen from the golden beaches of Tenby and, during the summer months, small boats will take you to the island.
The island has a long history and today is a Cistercian monastery with the monks maintaining the island. When you leave the boat and pretty beach adjacent to the jetty, a path will take you to the main green with the monastery on the hill then onwards to the Old Priory.
On the very edge of the island, perched on the clifftop, is Caldey Island Lighthouse which is still in operation. From here, you can see Lundy Island in the distance as well as the Pembrokeshire coast. There are no vehicles on the island so you’re in for a day of walking but the distances aren’t huge, and the meadows and clifftops are beautiful to explore.
Visitor info: The boat runs Monday-Saturday from May to September. Tickets can be bought from the kiosk at the top of Tenby Harbour or the beach where the boats depart. Prices are as follows:
|Children (14 and under)||£7|
|Family ticket (2 adults, 2 children)||£35|
Caldey Island submitted by Suzanne from Meandering Wild.
My favourite beach during my 7 day Wales road trip was Freshwater West near Castlemartin. I was excited for two reasons: seeing Dobby’s Grave from the Harry Potter movie, and trying a lobster roll at Cafe Mor.
In addition to these activities, Freshwater West is worth a visit with its striking cliffs, sand dunes and distinctive blackened rocks. It’s a popular spot for surfers although not a beginners destination due to the strong currents.
To visit Freshwater West during a road trip in Wales, park beside Cafe Mor and grab a coffee and seafood roll before heading down to the beach.
Bosherston Lily Ponds
Another spot for your Pembrokeshire itinerary is Bosherton Lily Ponds close to Broad Haven South and Barfundle Bay. Walking around these gorgeous ponds is an easy activity suitable for all fitness levels.
There’s plenty of parking at Bosherston as well as public toilets. Park up and cross Bosherston Causeway (the bridge pictured above) then make your way around the track looking out over glorious scenery.
For the full experience, cross over Grassy Bridge and continue to Mere Pool Valley. Return along the other side of the Fish Pond to make it a circular walk.
The birthplace of Henry VII is a beautiful, serene location beside a peaceful pond (connected to Pembroke River) where you can hire small boats and row around the fortress. It was built in 1093, restored in Victorian times, and remains an iconic fairytale castle for your Wales road trip.
Entry to Pembroke Castle is £7 for adults; £6 for seniors and children; and free for under 3s. Set your sat nav to SA71 4LA and find public parking a short walk from the castle.
This 11th-century Norman castle is another must for a road trip in Pembrokeshire. Spend an afternoon admiring the architecture, wandering the landscaped gardens and imagining how the residents would have lived 900 years ago…
Manorbier is just a 15-minute drive from Tenby. Entrance is £5.50 for adults and £15 for families. Afterwards, wander quaint Manorbier village and Manorbier Beach.
Photography and birdwatching fans won’t want to miss Skomer. It’s a small island of just 3km located off the coast of South Wales. While it’s not possible to visit with your own car, it’s still a must for your Wales road trip – you can leave your vehicle on the mainland and catch a boat over to Skomer.
Skomer is one of the most important places in Europe for nesting birds, particularly puffins. From late May to late July, they come to lay their eggs. When a chick hatches, its parents alternate feeding, carrying small fish to the nest until it becomes independent. You can also spy other birdlife and seals.
Skomer is open from April to October and access is only granted to 250 people per day; limitations are to preserve the wildlife heritage. The cost for access is £11 arranged at Lockley Lodge, plus £11 for a boat that reaches the island in 15 minutes. It’s not possible to book in advance so arrive early.
Skomer entry submitted by Miry from Miry Giramondo.
7 day South Wales itinerary
There are plenty of attractions in South Wales famous for the Gower Peninsular, Brecon Beacons and Cardiff, the capital of Wales. Here are a few of the best destinations for a South Wales road trip in 7 days…
To experience the Gower Peninsula and the Brecon Beacons, follow this itinerary.
Day 1 – visit The Mumbles and Oystermouth Castle.
Day 2 – visit Rhossili Bay Beach and take a walk along part of the Gower Coast Path. The stretch from Langland to Caswell Bay is lovely. Three Cliffs Bay is a beautiful beach.
Day 3 – visit Kidwelly Castle.
Day 3 – drive to the Brecon Beacons and check out Brecon town.
Day 4 – spend a day hiking for example on the Waterfall Valley Hike or the Peaks Hike.
Day 5 – visit Hay-on-Wye then take a trip to Llanthony Priory and the Black Mountains.
Day 6-7 – spent a day in Cardiff to explore the capital’s highlights.
Looking for accommodation? Browse guesthouses, B&Bs and self-catering properties in South Wales on Booking.com.
South Wales road trip destinations
More details on these South Wales destinations…
The Gower Peninsula
South Wales is known for its rugged natural beauty but visitors and locals will agree the highlights can be found on the glorious Gower Peninsula. For a South Wales road trip lasting 7 days, spend a couple of nights in the region.
With sprawling beaches and rolling farmland that never seems to end, it’s no surprise this sandy strip of the world was designated the UK’s first AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) – and boy is it outstanding!
Hike with wild horses along the craggy clifftops of Rhossili Bay, or traverse your way to the beach below for some of the best surfing in the UK. Cycle the country lanes from pub to pub, or cruise the promenade to the seaside village of Mumbles for ice cream, fish and chips and BBQs in secluded beach coves.
For budget accommodation, Swansea is a convenient base for your Wales road trip itinerary. You can nibble your way around the market and visit the house of legendary Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. Croeso i Gymru!
Other Swansea foodie gems are Square Peg Coffee (order the Mexican brunch) and Takumi Sushi & Noodle Bar.
Gower entry submitted by Ben from Driftwood Journals.
If you want to base in the Gower during your South Wales road trip, browse guesthouses, B&Bs and self-catering properties in The Gower on Booking.com.
While exploring the Gower Peninsula, you won’t want to miss the Mumbles from your Wales road trip. The Mumbles has been a popular tourist destination since the Victorian era and has even been listed as the best place to live in Wales.
Things to do in the Mumbles including visiting 12th-century Oystermouth Castle and the iconic Lighthouse where you can relax on a sunny day at the small sandy beach beside it.
Walk along the 255m Mumbles Pier and grab some fish and chips from one of the chippies. For the perfect dessert, head over to Joe’s Ice Cream Parlour for its world-famous vanilla ice cream!
You can easily spend a day exploring the gems of the Mumbles. There are plenty of pay and display car parks in the fishing village. It’s also easily accessible by multiple modes of transportation for example bus, bike or even by foot from Swansea along Swansea Bay.
Mumbles entry submitted by Kitti from Kitti Around the World.
Where to stay in The Mumbles: Patrick With Rooms (£130pn).
While in the Gower, don’t miss Rhossili which is a region at its southwestern tip. Rhossili Bay Beach, voted the 10th most beautiful beach in the world, is ideal for surfing and other watersports, as well as long, leisurely walks along the seemingly-endless coastline.
Make sure to eat fish and chips at the King’s Head in nearby Llangennith! To work up an appetite…
Hike Worm’s Head
If you have good weather, take the Worm’s Head hike beside Rhossili Beach. I mention the weather because I visited on a September day that could have been December – it tipped it down with rain and I only made it halfway because the rocks were hazardously slippy.
This small island/peninsular was named by the Vikings after the Norse word ‘wurm’ meaning dragon. From the right angle, it does indeed look like one.
It can be only be hiked 2.5 hours either side of low tide. For that reason, it’s important to check the tidal boards (don’t worry, you can’t miss them) to see how long you’ve got. People do occasionally need to be rescued for ignoring the times which must be very frustrating for the services.
To visit Rhossili Bay Beach and Worm’s Head during the same day, park at the National Trust car park at Rhossili (SA3 1PP / £3.00 for 3 hours / £6 for the day)
Three Cliffs Bay
After Rhossili Bay Beach, one of the most beautiful sandy stretches of the Gower is Three Cliffs Bay. With white sand dunes, scenic coastal hikes and Penard Castle overlooking it, you could easily spend a day here.
Park in small town, Southgate, and walk down to the beach from the coastal path near the National Trust car park. After the beach, hike up to Penard Castle and follow the path back to Southgate.
The Muddy Mail Room is an atmospheric place to eat lunch after a morning spent exploring.
Leaving the Gower, here are some more South Wales stops…
Kidwelly Castle is a large well-preserved Norman castle overlooking the River Gwendraeth and the small town of Kidwelly in Carmarthenshire. Although the castle changed hands several times in the 12th and 13th centuries within the hierarchy of Welsh royalty, it remains a symbol of power and conquest.
Walk around the battlements and dungeons whilst learning about the local ghost, Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd, who was the unhappy wife of a former resident.
As a further claim to fame, the castle was used as a location for the 1975 film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But it’s best remembered for its remarkable history and the fact that it was once besieged by Owain Glyn Dŵr, the last native Welshman to hold the title Prince of Wales.
The castle is perfect for a summer picnic, great for kids and also dog-friendly. To add it to your South Wales road trip itinerary, arrive via the A484 to Kidwelly (near Carmarthen). A family entry ticket costs £12.00.
Kidwelly Castle entry submitted by Tracy from PackThePJs.
If you’re heading to Wales, you need to visit the National Showcase Centre For Wales at Dan yr Ogof. This incredible location allows you to enter some of the largest caves not just in Wales but the whole of Europe. In the largest is a spectacular waterfall. You can get married inside the cave if you wish – it’s that big!
The noise and power of the falls are breathtaking. There are several other caves on the complex including a huge labyrinth you can walk around. You can also pay to go further inside during a guided caving tour.
For kids, there’s a dinosaur park (with life-size dinosaurs!), a petting zoo and a playground. There’s also a restaurant and cafe on site. If you’re camping or motorhoming in Wales, there’s a brilliant campsite right next door. The showcaves are on the edge of the Brecon Beacons and cost £15.50 for adults and £12.50 for children aged 3-16 (under 2s are free).
Showcaves entry submitted by Kat from Wandering Bird.
An hour’s drive from Cardiff is Brecon Beacons National Park. Depending how much time your South Wales road trip itinerary allows for, it might be worth spending a couple of nights here.
You can spy striking mountain ranges, hike epic trails and stop by the Libanus Visitor Centre for souvenir shopping. From the terrace, there are spectacular views of the two highest peaks in the Brecon Beacons, Pen y Fan and Corn Du.
In the Brecon Beacons, you’ll spot wildlife including wild horses. They’re so used to human interaction that they’ll come close enough to steal your lunch!
After soaking in the beauty of the Brecon Beacons, journey towards Brecon Town for a bite to eat. There are several options to choose from including Brecon Tap for great pies, Chang Thai Cuisine (Thai is very popular in Wales) or Easts of Brecon for homemade goodies. If you have free time, stop by Brecon Cathedral.
Brecon entry submitted by Emily from Dalton’s Destinations.
Looking for accommodation? Browse guesthouses, B&Bs and self-catering properties in The Brecon Beacons on Booking.com.
Driving the Top Gear Road
Fans of Top Gear may be interesting in driving the Brecon Beacon’s Black Mountain Road (A4069) made famous by Jeremy Clarkson. The twists and curves will impress thrill-seekers!
Gorge walking in the Brecons
Gorge walking in Wales is an unforgettable experience. The best place to do it is Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales, also known as waterfall country. In a nutshell, gorge walking involves a journey through the paths of a gorge to ascend or descend through a valley. It can be challenging but the guides are experts and adapt the route based on the ability of their group.
Since you’re with a guide, gorge walking is stress-free: they provide all equipment (including a wetsuit and helmet) and know the gorges inside out. It usually lasts 3-4 hours and costs around £40pp depending on the size of your group. A tour guide will usually pick you up from your accommodation to reach the gorge.
If you’re not already in the area, book a day tour from Cardiff.
Entry submitted by Rachel from Average Lives.
While visiting the Brecon Beacons don’t miss Llangorse Lake, the largest natural lake in South Wales. There are lots of things to do from watersports including kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding to rowing and sailing courses.
Llangorse has the only surviving Welsh crannog: an ancient lake dwelling (looking very much like Hagrid’s hut) on an island on the lake. The visitor centre tells you more about the local legend that Llangorse Lake was the body of water where King Arthur threw the famous sword back to the ‘Lady of the Lake’.
Llangorse Lake also has a lovely walk through lush green fields to a bird hide and a Victorian gothic church. The return walk takes around 90 minutes.
To reach Llangorse Lake, take a 15-minute drive from the town of Brecon. There’s plenty of parking, open space for outdoor games, and a cafe with public facilities.
Entry submitted by Angie from Where Angie Wanders.
Straddling the English-Welsh border is the Wye Valley, an AONB known for its mountains, countryside and the River Wye which winds for 58 miles through the Valley. Here you can row, paddleboard, hike, walk, visit ancient abbeys, eat locally-sourced food and spot wildlife. A few highlights fo the Wye Walley include…
One of the best places to visit in the Wye Valley is Hay-on-Wye. Known as the ‘Town of Books’, Hay-on-Wye draws visitors every year to browse its many second-hand bookshops. There are over 20 bookshops around the town. If you’re short on time, don’t miss Richard Booths, Addyman Books and the honesty bookshop at Hay Castle.
Other things to do in Hay-on-Wye include visiting the Globe at Hay: Institute of Art and Ideas for fun events and performances, browsing the town’s antique shops and walking along the River Wye to the Warren for a taste of the Welsh countryside.
Time your visit right and catch the annual Hay Festival of Literature and Arts which takes place at the end of May.
Hay-on-Wye entry submitted by Maja from Come Away With Maja.
The Black Mountains
Bordering the beautiful Wye Valley, the Black Mountains are a group of hills with several stunning ridge trails. The best way to visit is by driving the Gospel Pass, one of the best places in Wales for a road trip. It skirts the top of a long, steep-sided valley with views over the rolling countryside on one side and the Black Mountains on the other.
The single-track road is the highest in Wales and reaches its zenith at the Hay Pass car park. From here you can walk up to Hay Bluff: a tough slog up to one of the highest points in the Black Mountains. With stunning views of the rocky landscape surrounding the area, it’s well worth the effort.
Further along, the thoroughly atmospheric ruins of Llanthony Priory are set crumbling against the backdrop of the mountains. A pint here in the late afternoon is a great way to end a Wales road trip.
The Black Mountains are located in southeast Wales about 1 hour’s drive from Hay on Wye.
Black Mountains entry submitted from Anywhere We Roam.
Monmouth is the county town of the county of Monmouthshire close to the England-Wales border. This pretty town on the River Wye is worth a visit for its rich heritage and surrounding countryside. Because of this, Monmouth is popular with outdoor enthusiasts including hikers and kayakers. One of the most popular routes is from Symonds Yat Rock down the river through the valley to the town.
Monmouth has a fascinating history that dates back to Roman times, however other eras have also shaped the town’s heritage. One of the best places to learn about this is Monmouth Castle also home to the Monmouthshire Regiment Museum.
Another unique feature of the town is Monnow Bridge, the last remaining fortified bridge in Great Britain. The town has a dedicated heritage trail to ensure visitors can see the history of the town and its buildings of many eras.
Monmouth entry submitted by RJ from RJ On Tour.
Abergavenny is known as the Gateway to Wales but before you begin exploring, stop to enjoy the town. Set in stunning countryside and surrounded by three mountains, the Skirrid, the Blorenge and the Sugar Loaf, Abergavenny is perfect for walkers and hikers.
Visit the museum in the grounds of the Abergavenny Castle ruins which takes you through the history from prehistoric, Roman and Victorian life in Abergavenny. Wander into town, visit the markets which take place most days, and explore the art on the walls of the buildings. Try Bean and Bread or the Oak Rooms for excellent local food.
Finally, head out of town to White Castle, an 11th-century castle not far from Abergavenny, or Goytre Wharf to take a walk by the canal or maybe paddle a kayak.
If you’re in Abergavenny during September, don’t miss the Food Festival to sample food and drink from the area.
Abergavenny entry submitted by Larch from The Silver Nomad.
Don’t miss the vibrant capital of Wales. If you have 7 days for your Wales road trip, take a break and rest here. Whether you’re into shopping, fine dining, nightlife or history, there’s loads to do in Cardiff.
Visit Cardiff Castle for almost 2,000 years of history and Cardiff National Museum for your culture dose. St Fagan’s Castle and Castell Coch are also worth a visit.
On a sunny day, wander around Cardiff Bay and walk to Penarth, a cute town with vintage stores, bookshops (don’t miss Griffin Books) and cafes (Waterloo Tea is a lovely spot for brunch). Walk through Alexandra Park to Penarth Pier Pavilion to spot quirky, Wes Anderson-style architecture.
Read next: the ultimate Cardiff itinerary for 1 day
For an evening in Cardiff, head to the impressive Wales Millennium Centre for opera, dance and musical concerts. To try the local cuisine, book a food walking tour with GetYourGuide or simply pay a visit to Cardiff Central Market, especially Thai & Asian Delish cafe and Ffwrnes Pizza.
To get out of the city, take a hike along Taff Trail. The full trail runs 50+miles to the Brecon Beacons and takes several days to hike, however you can take a shorter hike from the city and turn back.
Browse accommodation in Cardiff on Booking.com.
One of the best places to visit during a South Wales road trip is Barry Island. Located in South Wales just 20 minutes from Cardiff, Barry Island has everything you want in a Welsh seaside town. To fully immerse yourself in the South Welsh culture and enjoy all the sights, spend two days.
On your visit to Barry Island, walk the perimeter of the peninsula along the Wales Coast Path and dip your toes in the ocean. Allow a few hours for your inner child at the fairground, indulging in the many arcades and traditional games like hook-a-duck and the chance to win a big teddy. For lunch, eat fish and chips and, for a sweet treat, grab a huge bag of candy floss.
Of course, you cannot visit Barry Island without ticking off the Gavin and Stacey filming locations. Make sure to take a photo with the billboard outside Marco’s cafe. The best souvenirs to buy are Barry Island stick-a-rocks, a ‘Barrybados’ towel and an ‘Oh, what’s occurring?’ mug.
To reach Barry Island, use the postcode CF62 5TH which will take you to the train station. Here there are limited free car park spaces and you can stay for 2 hours; the better options are the dedicated car park at the start of Barry Island near the ‘Old Harbour’ and the car park behind the fairground. They both cost around £6 a day.
Barry Island entry submitted by Shireen from Happy Days Travel.
Another Wales road trip essential is located just 30 minutes north of Cardiff. This small Welsh village has one of the best castles in Wales, dating from the 13th century and surrounded by lakes and moats.
Caerphilly was a medieval fortification and is the second largest castle in Britain after Windsor Castle. As well as the usual castle features such as the Great Hall, battlements and various nooks and crannies, Caerphilly has a secret in store for visitors. Dragons! Yes, you read that right. Two adult dragons and their babies have a lair at the castle. There’s also a fun maze at the rear of the castle.
Caerphilly is also home to a leaning tower, ‘held up’ by a knight. This leans to a greater degree than the Leaning Tower of Pisa! Keep an eye on the Cadw website for special events where the trebuchets are fired.
Caerphilly Castle entry submitted by Cath from Passports and Adventures.
7 day North Wales road trip itinerary
With its waterfalls, hikes and many castles, North Wales is a captivating part of the country that’s well worth visiting. For a 1 week Wales itinerary, check out…
Day 1 – have a day in Llandudno. Walk the pier and check out the beach.
Day 2 – visit Conwy, a charming walled town with medieval history
Day 3 – explore the best things to do in Snowdonia including nature and hiking. Take the Pyg Track up Mount Snowdon if you’re feeling energetic.
Day 4 – journey to the Isle of Anglesey. Consider staying overnight on Anglesey.
Day 5 – spend a day exploring Anglesey and driving over to Holy Island.
Day 6 – explore postcard-perfect Portmeirion.
North Wales road trip destinations
More details on these North Wales destinations…
Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia National Park encompasses a mighty 823 sq. miles in northern Wales. It’s home to the tallest mountain in Wales, Mt Snowdon at 1085m and it’s also this mountain that gives the park its name.
While there are many things to do in Snowdonia, reaching the summit of Mt Snowdon is by far the most challenging. There are several different trails to hike to the summit with varying levels of difficulty. One of the most popular is the Pyg Track, which is the shortest hike and offers the most diverse views along the way.
If you’re visiting Snowdonia National Park from April to October, you’ll also have the option to rest your legs and reach the peak via the Snowdon Mountain Railway. Tickets start from £22 for a single trip or £36 for a return.
Although reaching the summit of Snowdon is certainly the crown jewel of Snowdonia, there are many other beautiful places within Snowdonia including waterfalls, lakes, picturesque villages, castles and more.
Snowdon entry submitted by Sophie and Adam of We Dream of Travel.
Browse accommodation in Snowdonia on Booking.com.
The picturesque walled market town of Conwy is 30 minutes from Snowdonia National Park, just 3 miles from Llandudno and provides easy access to the Isle of Anglesey.
It’s also a worthwhile stop in its own right. One of the best Conwy is visit the majestic Conwy Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a fine example of 13th century fortified architecture.
You can also walk the 1.3km long medieval town walls and enjoy the views of Conwy and its surrounds, as well as check out the smallest house in Britain. Built in the 16th century, this tiny house was in use until 1900 and can fit just four people at a time!
Conwy entry submitted by Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple.
Read next: 15 things to do in Conwy, North Wales
Glamping Llechwedd Mountain Slate Mines
Glamping is quickly becoming one of the most popular types of travel accommodation. For a unique experience during a 7 day Wales road trip, check out Llechwedd Mountain Slate Mines just out of Blaenau Ffestiniog Wales.
Located on the side of an old slate mine, you can soak up incredible views at any time of day. It’s the perfect place to sit on the deck and watch the time slip away.
The glamping tents are spacious with their own bathrooms and small kitchens where you can cook a meal made from local produce. The beds are comfortable and can accommodate couples on a weekend, as well as family getaways. In the winter, there’s also a wood fire to light.
Llechwedd Slate Mine now offers tours of the old mine both underground and up into the mountains. You can zipline above the old mine, mountain bike, hike or spend your time on the deck with a good book.
Recommended by Bec from Wyld Family Travel.
For a holiday hotspot reminiscent of the Victorian era, you can’t beat Llandudno, the most prominent beach town on the North Wales coastline. Come the summer, the Grade II* listed pier is just as busy and popular as when it first opened in 1877.
As well as all your usual holiday pastimes like building sandcastles on North Shore beach and guzzling quickly-melting ice creams while promenading along the pier, you can follow the Alice in Wonderland trail, treat your sweet tooth at the Chocolate Experience and soak up the scenery on the Great Orme Tramway.
Read next: 13 fun things to do in Llandudno, Wales
Isle of Anglesey
The Isle of Anglesey may be disconnected from the Welsh mainland but it’s easy to cross via Menai Suspension Bridge (by car or bus), and the Wales Coastal Path continues around the outside meaning that hikers taking on the challenge of completing it can soak up the beauty of the island.
There are plenty of attractions in Anglesey such as The Copper Kingdom (once the largest copper mine in the world and now a tourist site due to its unique scenery), Beaumaris Castle, Plas Newydd House & Gardens and Dingle Nature Reserve. Pick up local delicacies like Welsh crab at Anglesey Farmers’ Market held on the third Saturday of every month.
Visit as day trip from the mainland or stay overnight on the island.
Browse accommodation on Anglesey here.
It’s only possible to visit this island (measuring just 15 square miles) via the larger island of Anglesey. To add it to your Welsh road trip itinerary, follow the North Wales Expressway or the B4545 and spend a day finding prehistoric sites and sleepy beaches like Trearddur Bay.
A more energetic option is climbing 220m Holyhead Mountain. Don’t miss South Stack Lighthouse located on its own tiny island found at Holy Island‘s most westerly point.
Read next: Things to do on Holy Island, Anglesey
For a taste of the Mediterranean during your North Wales road trip, don’t miss the village of Portmeirion.
Portmeirion was created by eccentric architect, Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis, who took an abandoned village in the 1920s and filled it with historic buildings from around the UK which were due to be demolished. He combined them with his own designs to create something unique.
You’ll find Greek, Art Deco, Italian and Far Eastern-inspired buildings painted in pastel shades of pink, lemon, blue and green. Portmeirion looks like a film set, so it’s no surprise it’s been used as one. Most notably it featured in cult 1960s show, The Prisoner, and an annual convention dedicated to the series is still held there each year.
Portmeirion is a great place to spend a day. Take a walk through the gardens and along the wide sandy beach, have an ice cream from Caffi’r Angel Ices or lunch in Castell Deudraeth. You can also stay overnight in the village – as well as a hotel on the waterfront, several of Portmeirion’s quirky buildings have been converted into self-catering cottages.
Portmeirion is located a few miles from Porthmadog in North Wales. A day ticket to enter the town costs £8 for adults and £7 for students/over 60s or it’s free if you’re staying overnight.
Portmeirion entry submitted by Lucy from On The Luce.
Read next: things to see and do in Portmeirion
Bucket list experiences in Wales
Now we’ve been through the best destinations, let’s focus on a few must-have experiences to tick off whilst visiting Wales. These include…
- Seal and dolphin watching in Cardigan Bay
- Visit Dobby’s Grave on Freshwater West Beach
- Reach the top of Mount Snowdon
- Walk the Wales coastal path
- Tick off as many Welsh castles as possible
- Eat Welsh cakes at least once
- Try glamping in a cool location
- Take an 870 mile hike along the Wales Coastal Path
- Or try the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path at 186 miles
- Spot puffins on Skomer Island.
- How many can you tick off?
Driving in Wales FAQs
Do you drive on the left or right?
In Wales they drive on the left (like the rest of the UK).
Are signs in Welsh?
Road signs in Wales are in both Welsh and English. As you’ll notice when you travel in rural parts of Wales (and especially the north), many people speak Welsh but can generally speak English, too.
Are the roads good in Wales? For the most part, yes. But expect small lanes in rural places – sometimes you’ll end up driving down tight, winding lanes. Keep your speed low and your patience high!
Driving tips for a Wales road trip
These are my tips for driving in Wales:
Signs are in Welsh first – you probably already know this if you’re from the UK!
Sometimes there’s no mobile signal – regardless of what network you’re with, sometimes there’s just no signal in Wales. Pre-load journeys in advance or risk getting lost!
Bring cash for parking – most places in Wales don’t accept card when it comes to parking. You’ll want to have plenty of £1 coins to hand. A day’s parking will often cost around £5.
Eat these foods during your Wales road trip
If you’ve ever read my food blogs before, you’ll know how much food makes my world go round! I didn’t get time to try all the Welsh dishes I wanted but no doubt I will be back before too long.
These are the best things I tried…
Lobster roll at Cafe Mor
Despite there being loads of sophisticated restaurants in Wales, I was most excited about eating lobster rolls at Cafe Mor, a food truck in a repurposed fishing boat beside Freshwater West Beach.
I thought I’d read the lobster roll was £8 and gasped when I was charged £18… I guess I’ve spent too long in Asia as that’s a perfectly reasonable price for fresh lobster in the UK! It was worth it.
Make sure to order the brownie flavoured with laverbread. This delicacy made with edible seaweed sounds weird but tasted delicious.
I mentioned Welsh cakes already in this blog but they can have a second slot as they’re so very tasty. There are plenty of places to try Welsh cakes in Wales but some top spots include Little Valley Bakery in Swansea and Fabulous Welsh Cakes in Cardiff.
One maybe to miss – savoury Welsh cakes!
Before understanding Welsh cake etiquette, I offended my Welsh followers by sharing this serving of Welsh cakes topped with beans and cheese. Despite the fact I was served this by Welsh locals, I would agree with my aggrieved followers that Welsh cakes taste way better with currants and sugar!
H.E.A.V.E.N! Not to be confused with bog-standard cheese on toast, a Welsh rarebit is a blend of cheese, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, paprika and even beer, generously layered over toast. Paired with tangy chutney, it was bliss.
WALES QUICK LINKS
Guidebooks – LP always get my seal of approval. Use the latest copy of Lonely Planet Wales / Lonely Planet Great Britain.
Flights (international and domestic): I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.
Car hire – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals and campers in the UK (and all around the world).
For trains, use Trainine. The search feature allows you to compare prices and see live departures.
For buses, I use Busbud. It’s the only site that compares UK coaches and buses. Find London to Manchester journeys for £1!
For hotels and self-catering apartments, I use Booking.com. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
Browse UK tours and activities on GetYourGuide.
For food tours pairing travellers with passionate local chefs and foodies, check out EatWith.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and budget tips from my 10+ years on the road!
Thanks for following my Wales road trip itinerary!
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2 thoughts on “3 x Wales Road Trip Itineraries + Best Places To Visit in 2023”
Thanks – Doing a self drive self guided tour of Wales and Scotland The info you provided was invaluable.
Glad to hear it!! Enjoy your trip 🙂