Brecon to Barry: Our favourite places to visit in Wales
Wales is the land of dragons, dark mines and… cheesy chips with curry sauce! Sound good? We think so and that’s why we’re on a mission to build the ultimate list of places to go in Wales. Gadewch i ni ddechrau arni (let's get started). To find the very best, we thought we’d look for our favourite attractions in the country. They’re spread all over the place and, in our humble opinion, really show off the best that Wales has to offer; from subterranean caves full of fables to the ‘Italian’ coast of Portmeirion.
Join us on a Welsh wander as we explore our favourite places to visit in Wales.
King Arthur's Labyrinth, MachynllethWales is full of mines and deep caves but only some have mythical creatures hidden within… Welcome to King Arthur's Labyrinth! On arrival you’ll be met by a mysterious boatman who’ll get you started on your daring adventure through the Dark Ages; this includes costumed characters, installations and an actual waterfall, as well as dramatic light and sound effects that fill the cathedral-like caverns.
Perhaps the most impressive part, alongside the resident dragon (!), is the way the team recreate the world of mythical Wales through storytelling. Tales of yore come to life before your very eyes. Also not only does the labyrinth take you back in time but on a tour of subterranean Monmouthshire. It’s one of the 13 ancient counties in Wales and its Welsh title means ‘the Shire of Baldwin's town’ - almost like something out of Lord of the Rings.
Brecon Mountain Railway, Merthyr TydfilTowns in the Brecon Beacons are some of the most famous places to visit in Wales and for good reason. Rolling hills, lush greenery and loads of local wildlife make it heaven on earth for outdoorsy families and there are so many different ways to see the sights, from cycling to on foot. But why walk when you could hitch a train ride?
The Brecon Mountain Railway is perhaps the best way to see the national park as you can climb to the very tops of the mountains without having to lose a single ounce of your own puff! The trains are the proper old-fashioned kind and run on steam, something your tykes will love - especially if they’re Thomas the Tank Engine fans. Also once at the top, you’re invited to hop out and take some snaps of the surrounding views.
Barry IslandAre there any Gavin and Stacey fans here? We hope so as Barry Island was made famous by the TV programme and now stands as one of the must-see places in Wales. There are obviously more than a few nods to the show around the local area but Barry also has loads of traditional seaside fare that anyone can enjoy, even if they’ve never seen a TV before in their life.
So what’s occurring? First up, Barry Island Pleasure Park has seven thrill rides, from dodgems to waltzers, as well as all the classic stuff like teacup rides, swinging chairs and pony rides. A lot of it is vintage in style too so it feels a bit like stepping back to a time before the days of Instagram and iPads. Then there's Whitmore Bay which is a white, sandy gem in the summer and perfect for tucking into fish and chips while watching dog walkers in the winter. There are so many fantastic seaside spots in Wales but none have quite the same chintzy appeal, or indeed ‘Nessa’s Slots’ arcade games!
Cardiff Castle, CardiffNo guide to Wales would be complete without paying a visit to the nation’s capital, and Cardiff is truly one of our top cities in the UK, as well as one of our favourites places in Wales. There’s loads to see and do, like the Millenium Stadium which welcomes thousands of sports fans every year. The recently rejuvenated Bay area also keeps families coming back with tours and dedicated Doctor Who experiences - a winner with kids and grown-ups alike. The classic Cardiff day out though has got to be Cardiff Castle.
What makes this such a winner? Well firstly, as you approach the gates you can’t help but notice the many stone animals that adorn the walls - how many can you count? The castle itself is over 2,000 years old (eek!) and has hosted pretty much everyone over the years, from the Romans right up to the Victorians. As such, relics from every era are scattered throughout the grounds and costumed characters, audio tours and Banquo the earless dog are happy to fill you in on all the facts.
Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo, KilgettyWelsh wonders come in many shapes and sizes, including four legs and long, fluffy ears! We’re of course talking about the locals at Folly Farm and Zoo where there are over 100 species of wildlife like lions and endangered rhinos, or miniature ponies and bouncing bunnies. Say hello to each and every one before climbing aboard a life-sized pirate ship or running wild in an enormous sandpit.
Once you’ve had your fill of animal antics (if that’s possible), you’ll be glad to hear that Kilgetty is just minutes away from the sea and some of the glorious beaches that line the Pembrokeshire Coast. Pembrokeshire is actually a classic escape for families across the UK and has got to be one of the most beautiful places in Wales. See for yourself!
PortmeirionOf all the places in Wales, where else can you find an Italianate village? Portmeirion is a strange beast created by architect and eccentric, Clough Williams-Ellis. In 1925 he decided he wanted to develop a totally new community that didn’t spoil the natural landscape, and so Portmeirion was born. The houses are inspired by the Riviera with ornamental gardens filled with magnolia trees and the town is surrounded by woodlands and sandy beaches - you can even spy dolphins just across the bay in Cardigan.
This lovely oddity welcomes around 225,000 visitors every year and apparently acts as ‘propaganda for good manners’, something you can test out on your brood as they stomp around the woods or demand ice creams… Just don’t miss one of the free guided tours. It’s a great way to explore this European treat.
LlanfairpwllgwyngyllQuestion: how on earth do you pronounce, Llanfairpwllgwyngyll?! You might have to ask around for us as, after a few attempts, we must admit we’re no closer to the truth. Before you go fact-finding, however, why not take in a few of the sights? While on the Isle of Anglesey you simply must pay a visit to Anglesey Sea Zoo. It drags up delights from the bottom of the Irish Sea like conger eels, catsharks and loads more, as well as hosting interactive sessions and an actual lobster hatchery.
Next on the agenda, check out LlanfairPG Station which is also known as… ahem: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. And we thought Llanfairpwllgwyngyll was hard to pronounce! This mouthful translates as ‘St. Mary's Church in the hollow of the White Hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the church of St. Tysilio near the Red Cave’, which won’t mean much to kids but the whole family will get a kick out of posing for a selfie with the sign.
Big Pit National Coal Museum, BlaenavonWe told you Wales was full of mines and that’s because historically, the country’s industry has run on coal. You can learn all there is to know about that oh so precious substance - black gold - at the Big Pit National Coal Museum. You might not initially think that coal makes for an entertaining day out but how wrong you’d be: families can slap on a hard hat and discover a world-famous underground tour, 90 metres beneath the ground.
Kids will love teaming up on the activity trail or staring at enormous devices used to scoop up great clumps of earth; what makes this a fantastic day out though, and one of our favourite places to visit in Wales, is the fact that it’s a way to explore the world most tourists don’t get to see - the industrial history of the country, as well as the underground reality which would have been a second home to so many Welsh workers. This too can all be found in the historic county of Monmouthshire.
Zip World Blaenau, Blaenau FfestiniogThis is another big hitter on our list of places in Wales and sits right at the centre of Snowdonia national park. Zip World Blaenau is a super speedy and seriously exciting day out for adrenaline junkies in training. It’s home to Europe's first four-person zip line and Zip World Titan: the largest Zip Zone in Europe. All that and the whole family (from nine years and up) can fly together at speeds of up to 70 mph on zip wires called things like Anarchy or Chaos. We’ve got one word for this... Crikey!
Not only will you have the thrill of a lifetime but you can take in views of Mount Snowdon. At 1,085 metres tall, it’s a classic Welsh landmark and is surrounded by lots of lovely countryside. However, if all that sounds a little bit too bananas, you can explore the area on foot rather than whizzing through the air with the greatest of ease. We suggest throwing in a picnic too to make a day of it.
HarlechThis is one of the wildest locations on our list, not for all-out thrill-factor (we think number nine has that covered!) but rather rugged, natural beauty. Harlech has it in spades, quite literally if you take a trip down to Harlech Beach which is four miles of unspoilt, golden sands. It’s a great place for walking and you can sometimes even spot leatherback turtles. On the northern half, a nature reserve is known for harbouring rare plants and birdlife; on the southern end, you can wade across to Shell Island where there are more than 200 different types of shell, so don’t forget your buckets!
Harlech is also a historic site and home to the second castle on our list: Harlech Castle. It was one of Edward I’s ‘Iron Ring’ and is quite a formidable sight. Rather than cowering before it though, families might enjoy drawing ‘swords’ and defending the keep from monsters lurking in the woods.
We hope we’ve covered all of your favourite places to visit in Wales - if not, we’re always happy to hear your ideas so please do comment below. With that, why not have a peek at one of our blogs which celebrate everything that’s wonderful about Wales? Here’s our blog about epic family adventures that covers the entire country; you can then hone in on North Wales with our guides to family walks or enjoying the best views, plus the best days out. Then last but not least, jump down to South Wales or check out the links below. That’s all from us - cael hwyl!
What to do in Cardiff | What to do in North Wales | What to do in South Wales | What to do in Swansea | What to do in Tenby | What to do in Pembrokeshire | What to do in Llandudno | What to do in Snowdonia | What to do in Anglesey