Start \ Regions and countries \ Europe \ United Kingdom \

Wales

Main attractions

Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd
Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Wales is rich both with cultural and natural heritage. Here are located some of the most beautiful caves and waterfalls in United Kingdom, but here are also some of most impressive castles in the world, amazing medieval towns, diverse palaces (many are haunted), diverse archaeological monuments.

Highlights of Wales are:

  • Castles. Some of the most impressive are Caerphilly Castle, Harlech Castle, Conwy Castle.
  • Bridges. There is huge diversity of bridges in Wales with many outstanding structures.
  • Waterfalls. Some of most impressive British waterfalls are located in Wales - such as Pistyll Rhaeadr.
  • Caves. Welsh caves are both very long (up to 70 km) and ornate.

Natural landmarks

Dan yr Ogof, Powys
Dan yr Ogof, Powys / , / CC BY-SA 2.0

Caves

  • Dan yr Ogof - Powys. 17 km long cave system, one of major tourist attractions in Wales. Found bones of 42 humans and many animals. Renowned due to beautiful cave formations.
  • Ogof Agen Allwedd - Powys. Approximately 32.5 km long cave system, one of the longest cave systems in Wales.
  • Ogof Craig a Ffynnon - Powys. Approximately 7 km long cave which contains numerous beautiful cave formations.
  • Ogof Draenen - Blaenau Gwent. The second longest cave in United Kingdom, 70 km long cave system. Adorned with beautiful cave formations.
  • Ogof Ffynnon Ddu - Powys. 50 km long cave, 308 m deep.
  • Otter Hole - Blaenau Gwent. Beautiful, 3,352 km long cave, adorned with countless speleothems, including straws, helictites and other rare forms.
Pistyll Rhaeadr, Powys
Pistyll Rhaeadr, Powys / , / CC BY 2.0

Waterfalls

  • Melincourt Falls - Neath Port Talbot. Spectacular, 24 m tall, single plunge waterfall.
  • Mynach gorge with Mynach Falls - Ceredigion. Narrow, dramatic gorge. Mynach river falls here 90 m over 5 steps.
  • Pistyll Rhaeadr - Powys. Magnificent waterfall with natural arch in the middle. Total height – 73 m, tallest cascade – 40 m.
  • Pistyll y Llyn - Powys. One of tallest waterfalls in United Kingdom. Water is streaming down a mountainside, forming a fine slide. Height – 93 m.
  • Sgwd Clun-gwyd, Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn and Sgwd y Pannwr - Powys. Beautiful falls of River Mellte. Here the river plunges over several steps.
  • Sgwd Henrhyd - Powys. 27 m tall falls with a single, free falling plunge.
  • Swallow Falls (Rhaeadr Ewynnol) - Conwy. Impressive falls, similar to very steep rapids.

Trees

  • Bardsey Apple tree - Gwynedd. Very old apple tree growing in the ruins of monastery. The only survivor of a unique strain of apple trees, uniquely suited to the conditions in Wales and free of disease.
  • Craig Breidden grove of Stirton’s whitebeam - Powys. The only grove of Stirton’s whitebeam (Sorbus stirtoniana). This tree species was discovered in Febrary 2009. Thus – there are discovered new tree species even in Western Europe.
  • Discoed Yew - Powys. Giant yew tree in churchyard. Girth – 11.28 m.
  • Llangernyw Yew - Conwy. Beautiful, giant yew tree in church garden. Circumference of the hollowed trunk – 10.75 m.
  • Overton yew trees - Wrexham. 21 very old yew trees, the oldest is 1,500 – 2,000 years old.

Archaeological monuments

Paleolithic monuments

  • Goat’s Hole Cave (Red Lady of Paviland) - Swansea. Limestone cave where was found the first human fossil in the world. In 1823 here was discovered a complete skeleton of male dyed in red ochre. He lived some 29,000 years ago. It remains the oldest known ceremonial burial in Europe. Next to it was a skull of mammoth. In the cave were found other artefacts as well.
  • Pontnewydd Cave (Bontnewydd Palaeolithic site) - Denbighshire. Most north-western site in Eurasia, where have been found remnants of early hominids. Found 230 000 years old jawbone of Neanderthal.
Bryn Cader Faner, Gwynedd
Bryn Cader Faner, Gwynedd / , / CC BY 2.0

Megaliths

  • Bryn Cader Faner - Gwynedd. Amazing Bronze Age stone circle. Diameter of the circle - 8.7 m, it has 18 standing, slanted stones.
  • Bryn Celli Ddu - Isle of Anglesey. Site of stone circle and burial mound with passage grave. Stone circle and henge were built in Neolithic period. Stones were removed in Bronze Age, when a passage grave was built. In the burial chamber was located a carved stone with twisting, serpentine design. Now there is replica standing outside. Passage is oriented towards sommer solstice.
  • Castell Bryn Gwyn - Isle of Anglesey. Megalithic structure – possible shrine of late Neolithic period (2500 – 2600 BC). Consists of circular, some 1.5 m high bank, approximately 54 m in diameter. To the north-east stand the highest standing stones in Wales, approximately 4 m high.
  • Parc Cwm long cairn - Swansea. Impressive and unusual, partly restored chambered tomb. This cromlech was built circa 3 850 BC, in early Neolithic. Represents a 22 m long cairn of rubble within stone walls. Here were buried at least 40 people.
  • Pentre Ifan - Pembrokeshire. One of most impressive and best preserved Neolithic dolmens in Wales. Built circa 3500 BC. At least seven enormous stones still are in their original places, including a 16 tonnes heavy capstone.

Roman monuments

  • Caerleon amphitheatre - Newport. Largest Roman amphitheatre in Britain, built in AD 90. Large enough to fit some 6,000 – 10,000 spectators. Most likely it was mainly used for military drills. Rediscovered only in 1929.
  • Venta Silurum - Monmouthshire. One of the best preserved Roman towns in United Kingdom. Built in 75 AD as administrative centre for defeated Silures. In archaeological excavations found numerous art values and buildings. Best visible remnants - stone walls from 4th century, still up to 5 m tall.

Architecture monuments

Urban planning monuments

  • Caernarfon walled town (Carnarvon) - Gwynedd. The historical centre of Wales. The old town is entirely enclosed in historical walls with bastions.
  • Conwy walled town - Conwy. Town developed in late 13th century, built for English settlers. The well preserved walls around the town represent a great achievement of military architecture.
  • Portmeirion - Gwynedd. Unique tourist village, built at the seaside in the style of purported Italian village. Developed between 1925 and 1975. Considered to be one of significant influences on the development of Postmodernism architecture.
  • Tenby walled town - Pembrokeshire. 13th century walled town. Settlement on this promontory existed in 9th century AD or earlier. Town walls were built in the late 13th century. Impressive feature is Tenby Five Arches Gate, historical centre is characterised by colorful houses.

Castles

  • Beaumaris Castle - Gwynedd. Impressive, well preserved castle, built during the English conquest of Wales. Construction started in 1295. A masterpiece of military architecture.
  • Cardiff Castle - Cardiff. Old fortress, used since Roman times. Today here stands impressive, comparatively well preserved Norman keep, built circa 1091. The castle was rebuilt in the second half of 19th century in Gothic Revival style and now resembles a fairy tale castle. The interiors supplement the luxurious exterior – many rooms have rich and even opulent interiors. Reported haunting.
  • Caernarfon Castle - Gwynedd. Southern part of old Caernarfon town contains impressive castle, built in the site of older castle in 1283. Castle bears reminescence to Walls of Constantinopole.
  • Caerphilly Castle - Caerphilly. Largest castle in Wales and second largest in Britain, one of the largest in Europe. Constructed in 1268 – 1271 as a concentric castle with extensive water defences. Well preserved, represents unique monument of castle architecture.
  • Carew Castle - Pembrokeshire. Enormous, impressive castle, built circa 1270, part of the castle converted into Tudor style mansion in 16th century. Ghost story about tormented ape.
  • Carreg Cennen Castle - Carmartenshire. Spectacular ruins of medieval castle towering above a precipice. This naturally secluded place has been used as a fortress since prehistoric times. Stone castle first built in late 12th century, rebuilt into present form in late 13th century. In ruins since the second half of 15th century, renovated in 19th century.
  • Chepstow Castle - Monmouthshire. The oldest surviving Norman stone fortification in Britain, originally built in 1067 and extended several times afterwards. Since 1685 partly abandoned, by late 18th century in ruins. Nevertheless the structure is very impressive.
  • Chirk Castle - Wrexham. Well preserved castle, built in 1295. Magnificent detail: wrought-iron gates of amazing sophistication as well as gardens with clipped yew hedges.
  • Conwy Castle (Conway Castle) - Conwy. Castle built in 1283 – 1289, during the English conquest of Wales. Represents a high achievement of military architecture.
  • Harlech Castle - Gwynedd. Well preserved medieval Welsh castle with impressive gatehouse. Built in 1283 - 1290. Several concentric rings of defences. It withstood 7 years long siege, which ended in 1468 – the longest siege in the history of British Isles. Slighted in 1647, but nevertheless well preserved.
  • Pembroke Castle - Pembrokeshire. Remains of very impressive medieval castle, built in 1189 – 1218 and 1234 – 1241. Abandoned since the middle of 17th century. Extensive restoration in late 19th – 20th century has to large extent returned the medieval state.
  • Powis Castle (Powys Castle) - Powys. Medieval castle and mansion located amidst impressive garden. This Welsh castle was built in 13th century and transformed into country house in 17th century, when also the magnificent terraced gardens were developed. Valuable interior in the State Bedroom. Reportedly haunted.
  • Raglan Castle - Monmouthshire. Large, visually impressive medieval castle ruins. Present structure is built since 1435, although a castle exists here since 12th century. In late 16th century reshaped into luxurious mansion. In decline since 17th century.
Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd
Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Country houses

  • Castell Coch - Cardiff. Amazing replica of medieval castle. This massive Gothic Revival structure was built in 1871 – 1891. The castle resembles a 13th century castle which was located exactly here. Some rooms have retained original Gothic Revival interiors.
  • Erddig - Wrexham. Enormous country house, built in 1684 – 1687, extended in 1720ies. One of the finest country houses in United Kingdom. Historical interiors preserved in excellent state. Exquisite gardens.
  • Hensol Castle - Vale of Glamorgan. Mansion built in Gothic style in late 17th or early 18th century. This structure is a puzzle for architecture historians as it represents either very late Gothic style building or very early Gothic Revival building. Ghost stories.
  • Margam Castle - Vale of Glamorgan. Impressive Victorian country house built in 1830 – 1840 in Gothic Revival style. Considered to be haunted.
  • Plas Mawr - Conwy. Historical house in Conwy, best preserved Elizabethan town house in United Kingdom. Built between 1575 and 1586. Facade is adorned with beautiful plasterwork. Reported paranormal events.
  • Plas Teg - Flintshire. One of the most important remaining examples of Jacobean (late Renaissance) style country houses in Britain. Constructed in 1610 and was one of most prominent houses in Wales then. Declined in 20th century, now renovated. Considered to be one of the most haunted houses in Britain, linked to paganic beliefs.
  • Penrhyn Castle - Gwynedd. Impressive country house, built in a form of Norman castle, built between 1820 and 1840 and contains parts of medieval fortified manor house. Most impressive mock medieval castle in Britain with corresponding interiors – fine plasterwork, wood and stone carving. Includes exquisite art collection, which includes paintings of Rembrandt, Canalletto and other famous painters.

Christian churches and shrines

  • Gresford All Saints’ Church - Wrexham. Gothic church built in late 13th century. Renowned bells with unique purity of the tone. Contains also Roman altar from a shrine to Nemesis, 100 – 350 AD.
  • St Giles’Church in Wrexham - Wrexham. Magnificent Gothic building. The beautiful 41 m tall tower with numerous stone carvings is built in 16th century. Interior is adorned with numerous carvings. Another beautiful detail is ornate wrought-iron gates from 1719.
  • St Winefride’s Well - Flintshire. Oldest continuously visited pilgrimage site in Great Britain. Natural spring to whose water are attributed healing powers. Legend links appearance of this spring to tragic events in 660 AD. Piligrims are visiting the well since then. The well has been enclosed in a chapel in 15th century. Gothic architecture.
Bodnant Garden, Conwy
Bodnant Garden, Conwy / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Parks and gardens

  • Bodnant Garden - Conwy. Some of the most beautiful gardens in Britain, developed around Bodnant House in 1874 – 1914. In garden are grown high quality rhododendrons aand azaleas. Contains 48 m tall Californian Redwood and 48 m tall Oregon Douglas fir.
  • Garden of Powis Castle - Powys. One of the few true baroque gardens in Britain and one of most beautiful country gardens as well. Terraces around the medieval castle of Powis were cut in early 1670ies, when also hydraulics for water gardens were developed. Unusual feature is topiary of yews.

Bridges

  • Britannia Bridge - Isle of Anglesey. One of two historical bridges linking Anglesey Island to mainland. Original bridge was designed by Robert Stephenson and was a tubular bridge of wrought iron. In 1972 it was rebuilt as a beautiful two tier arch bridge. Total length – 461 m, longest span – 140 m, rises 40 m above the water.
  • Devil’s Bridge - Ceredigion. Highly unusual "stack" of bridges across the gorge of Mynach. Here have been built three bridges – each new bridge over the older one. Oldest bridge is from 1075 – 1200, second – 1753 and the newest – 1901.
  • Menai Suspension Bridge - Isle of Anglesey. One of the first modern suspension bridges in the world. Designed by Thomas Telford, built in 1819 – 1826. Length of whole bridge – 417 m, longest span is 176 m. Deck is rised 30 m above the water.
  • Newport Transporter Bridge - Newport. Rare example of industrial architecture, the largest of the eight transporter bridges of the world. Built in 1906 and consists of two 74 m tall support towers and a horizontal beam 54 m above River Usk. From the beam is hanging transporter gondola, travelling 196.6 m over the river.
  • Pontcysyllte Aqueduct - Wrexham. Unique monument – navigable viaduct over the Dee Valley. This aqueduct is built in 1805 and is the longest and highest in Britain. It is 307 m long and rises 38 m above the river.
  • Severn Bridge - Monmouthshire. Enormous suspension bridge, built in 1966. Length of the bridge is 1,600 m, the central span is 988 m long. Support towers are 136 m high.
Blaenavon Ironworks
Blaenavon Ironworks / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Other monuments

  • Blaenavon Ironworks - Blaenau Gwent. Once the largest complex of ironworks in the world, developed since 1787. There was developed full process for production of iron with furnaces, kilns, infrastructure, cottages for workers, company shop. By 1833 ironworks had 430 houses.
  • Cardiff City Hall - Cardiff. Large and very ornate Neo-Baroque building, built in 1906.
  • National Museum Cardiff - Cardiff. Important museum, a home to rich art and scientific collections. Art collections include works of Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Cezanne.
  • Pierhead Building - Cardiff. Unusual, terracotta red building with very ornate facade and clock tower. Constructed in 1897. Now it houses museum.

List of described attractions by council areas

Wales has several systems of administrative division. In this website Wales is divided into 22 council areas.

Blaenau Gwent
Bridgend
Caerphilly
Cardiff
Carmarthenshire
Ceredigion
Conwy
Denbighshire
Flintshire
Gwynedd
Isle of Anglesey
Merthyr Tydfil
Monmouthshire
Neath Port Talbot
Newport
Pembrokeshire
Powys
Rhondda Cynon Taf
Swansea
Torfaen
Vale of Glamorgan
Wrexham

Map of Wales