Welsh Wonders: Epic family adventures in Wales
Land of legends, dragons, Celtic folklore and rolling green hills waiting to be explored, Wales may be a small country but it certainly packs a punch. It’s also a fantastic place for families to reconnect, while disconnecting from the fast-paced screen filled lifestyle most of us find ourselves in day to day.
Having driven the length of Wales from Llandudno to Cardiff, camped at the foot of Snowdonia, spent many a weekend exploring the Brecon Beacons, as well as taking regular family trips to West Wales, I wanted to share why I feel so lucky to be bringing up a family here and why it’s the perfect place for a vacation. Whether you’re looking for breath-taking coastal views, rugged mountain walks, historical castles, adrenaline adventure, museums filled with history all topped with amazing food and friendly locals, then a trip to Wales is something you should definitely consider this summer - and it’s a lot closer to London than you might think!
Cardiff is the buzzing capital everyone will know, with a castle right at its heart. This lively and modern city is popular with families interested in history and is becoming one of the UK’s tourism hot spots, but trust me when I say there is a lot more to explore away from the capital.
So join me for a tour of some of our favourite regions, from north to south, filled with unmissable attractions and little things that are perfect for families.
If there’s one thing that you absolutely must do in Pembrokeshire, it has to be my kids’ all time favourite place - Castle Beach, Tenby. On a sunny day, with its beautiful white sand and colourful houses overlooking the bay, as well as views to St Catherine's Island, there’s nowhere better. This pristine Blue Flag beach is great for swimming plus you can treat the kids to some local ice-cream and explore Tenby Museum – the oldest independent museum in Wales. At certain times of the year, you can also catch boats to Caldey Island.
Medieval Pembroke Castle stands on a site that’s been occupied since Roman times and was the birthplace of King Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty. If your kids love history, or are into knights and dragons like mine, then this is a great place to spend a few hours.
If you’re looking for thrill-fuelled activities, then head over to Oakwood Theme Park which has something for all the family, even the youngest. Or, for those who really feel like hitting the road to Britain’s smallest city of St Davids, then make sure to pick up some handmade chocolate from Chapel Chocolates while taking in the awe of St Davids Cathedral.
2. Cardigan Bay - Ceredigion
If you’re looking for something really special, a breath-taking experience for both you and the kids has to be Cardigan Bay with the stone pier at New Quay offering a fantastic vantage point. This is one of the best places in the UK to see dolphins in their natural habitat, and there are plenty of boat trips that will take you out while still keeping a respectable distance.
The Welsh Wildlife Centre is great for nature loving families with free entry, nature trails, local food and even resident water buffalo. If you’re in the area and it’s raining, but you still want to connect with nature, then the Fantasy Farm Park is a good all weather option with its heated indoor play area and petting farm. If, like me, you are inspired by landscapes then I highly recommend taking the Vale of Rheidol Railway, which makes its way from Devil’s Bridge Falls where it climbs to 700 ft on its way to Aberystwyth taking in some dramatic mountainside views.
3. Brecon Beacons
The Brecon Beacons is a fantastic place for those who love outdoor pursuits, but equally a great place for families who want to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the Welsh countryside. Not to be missed is the National Showcaves Centre in Dan yr Ogof, named one of the greatest natural wonders in Britain by the Radio Times and where you can explore parts of the 11 mile cave system. The Cathedral Cave with its big dome like cavern with stalactites and a waterfall from an underground lake is awe inspiring. If caves are not really your thing there’s plenty of other activities to do at Dan yr Ogof including panning for gold, getting close with some life size dinosaurs, learning about Shire horses and how they farmed in Iron Age times.
If you’re looking for a perfect day out with the family, then scramble up the hill to Carreg Cennen Castle and take in its views and then explore the small cave below the castle. If you’re feeling particularly energetic, then why not take on Pen y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales as it’s a hike that is suitable for families (best take a backpack or sling for carrying toddlers). If you’d rather take it easy, the Brecon Mountain Railway is always a hit with kids, as is hunting for books at the National Book Town of Wales, Hay-on-Wye.
4. Swansea and the Gower Peninsula
Most will have heard about the fabulous surfing beaches on the Gower Peninsula, with its white sands that stretch for miles. My favourite thing to do, depending on weather of course, would be to hire a beach hut at Langland Bay beach, making yourself at home for the day with a big picnic and going for a coastal clifftop walk - just note that it does get very busy in summer!
I also highly recommend visiting the Gower Heritage Centre which offers a great mix of fun, hands-on activities and educational opportunities. You can learn all about the working water wheel that powers the corn and saw mill, and there is also an animal park and play areas for the kids to explore. If you’re looking to get a little bit more physical, then head over to the WWT Llanelli National Wetland Centre during the summer months and hire a family canoe to explore the wetlands, whilst keeping your eyes open for all the different birds and wildlife to spot. Two all-weather options are the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, which has a really interesting transport exhibition including a replica of the world’s first steam locomotive, or the LC leisure centre which has tonnes of slides and even a small wave rider that the kids are sure to love.
Having camped at the foot of Snowdonia a few years back I remember being instantly mesmerised by this mountain and the almost middle earth landscape that surrounds it. It’s somewhere we plan to revisit with the kids and our must-do would be taking the Snowdon Mountain Railway up three quarters of the way and summiting the 1085m peak together while taking in those spectacular Welsh mountain views.
Another fun activity to get your adrenaline pumping in a rather unique way would be to head for the waves and go surfing, except not at the coast but rather inland at Surf Snowdonia. With its artificial wave pool, lots of surfers can learn to ride the waves at the same time, making it a great option for families. For even quirkier inspiration head to Portmeirion, an Italian style inspired village filled with colourful houses, fountains, beautiful gardens and views over the River Dwyryd estuary, this place will really capture your imagination and you can see why it has been used as a backdrop on TV. The eco-friendly Centre of Alternative Technology has an eco-adventure playground, organic gardens in which to enjoy a stroll as well as interactive displays of wind, water and solar power; a real educational and outdoor experience for all.
6. Llandudno & Conwy
Did you know that Llandudno was once a favourite of Queen Victoria? This Victorian-era seaside town still retains much of its charm and is a great starting point for exploring North Wales. My number one attraction would be to ride the Great Orme Tramway which is the only remaining cable-hauled tramway in Britain and offers some spectacular views from the summit of the Great Orme. There is also a cafe, bar and a few shops at the top as well as plenty of picnic tables to enjoy eating alfresco overlooking the bay while the kids play in the small play park.
If you’re looking for a relaxing slice of authentic Welsh life, then do make sure to check out Bodafon Farm Park, a fully working Welsh farm that welcomes visitors of all ages. Children have the opportunity to help feed some of the animals and get up close with owls and birds, while parents can sit and relax and let them run around safely. There is also a fantastic little cafe that serves up freshly made local food which is the perfect stop after a fun tractor or pony ride.
If you want a bit more action then Conwy Castle offers hours of fun and exploration. Set in an inspiring location on a coastal ridge overlooking a crossing point over the River Conwy, this impressive castle is one of the castles of King Edward I in North Wales that form a stunning World Heritage Site. Having withstood many battles this place really evokes an authentic medieval atmosphere and is must visit historical attraction in North Wales. If you’re looking for something on a smaller scale but equally impressive, then why not visit the smallest house in Britain, found in Conwy? Of course you will be in and out far more quickly than a visit to Conwy Castle, but it’s such a wonderful Welsh attraction it’s worth the visit.
These suggestions are just a drop in the ocean of possibilities when it comes to the adventures to be had in Wales. The best way to find out is to discover for yourself. So what are you waiting for? Your very own Welsh adventure awaits…
For more information about epic days out, plan your visit to the land of legends now with help from Visit Wales.
This article has been planned, researched and lovingly written for Day Out With The Kids by Laura at Side Street Style - we hope you enjoyed it. Visit Wales added to our piggy bank in return for being included.