How To Plan a Travel Route in Wales
Wales Route Map Printable
Driving Through Snowdonia
Wales Travel Routes can Confuse Your Sat Nav
When the language of Wales, welsh, was designed, satellite navigation was not the main consideration. If you are sitting in your brand new rent-a car, contemplating driving around Wales and planning a route, you will experience something similar to writer's block. Welsh block.
Cities and town names like Aberystwyth, Caernarfon, Ystrad Mynach, Pontypool and Caerphillys challenge the most literate of us as they don't just roll off the tongue. You will find if you stop and ask someone for directions, the welsh accent can be so strange, with many consonants sounding like other consonants ('y' for 'd' etc) that you will not understand the satellite navigation of a human being either!
How To Design a Welsh Travel Route
North to South Wales
Call me unconventional, but I prefer to travel Wales starting at the North end and finishing in the South. This is because the most amazing natural beauty sites are North to South, and I prefer to do my city after countryside when on a holiday.
Start at Liverpool United Kingdom or from Dublin Ireland.
- First Stop Conwy
Conwy has a World Heritage Castle worth seeing, and is a picturesque town with great atmosphere and pretty inns. Lots of craft shops and oldy worldy village centers make this a great place to start your Wales tour. You can get to Conwy via Bus from Liverpool via Arriva Cymru. You can also come to Wales after visiting Dublin and get a ferry to Hollyhead and a bus to Conwy after that. Both routes are also driveable. A third option for drivers is to go from Liverpool to Chester; both Chester and Conwy are good passing points for the second stop.
- Second Stop Snowdonia Mountains - Llanrwst or Betws-y-Cod
Directly south of Conwy is the top two places to get all your tourist-type information to explore the Snowdonia Mountains. Astonishing natural beauty and mountain top trekking awaits. You can travel Snowdonia itself by car, mountain bike or horse as well as walking. Lanrwst or Betws-y-cod are packed to the rafters with caravan parks and tent sites alongside B&Bs so accomodation is plentiful. It is a really sociable and fun activity in the summer, so I recommend you try discovering Snowdonia.
- Third Stop Blaenau-Ffestiniog - National Park Information Centre
Continuing south stop at Bleanau-Ffestiniog and collect walking maps and current trail map information. This is where to leave the car or get off the bus or train from Conwy. The trail into north Snowdonia is eastwards and you can begin your journey by taking a leisurely walk, horseride or vigorous mountain biking day trip through scenic routes. The Mynydd Nodol mountain is approximately 7km NE from Blaenau-Ffestiniog, south of the great North Lake which makes a good round trip for one day's walking. Take a picnic! The lake is spectacular.
- Fourth Stop Blaenau-Ffestiniog - Llandberris - Mt Snowdon
If you returned to Blaenau-Ffestiniog you may have discovered coach transport to Llandberris or travelled there by car. This is the main embarkation point for those who wish to climb or part-climb Mt Snowdon (1085m) which is the highest peak in Britain south of the Scottish Highlands. You must be prepared for all weather if you want to scale the mountain, as it can deliver snow at the top, hence the name "Snowdonia" or in welsh "Betws Garmon". Harlech Castle is also reachable from Llandberris so you might want to stay an extra day and check it out.
- Fifth Stop Brecon for the Brecon Beacons National Park
You can only drive from Llandberris to Brecon, which will take you 2hrs or so. The public transport system takes you back via Manchester, so you end up doing a clockwise loop around the country, back south to Cardiff and then up to the Brecon Beacons (8hrs plus). So, if you want to do both Snowdonia and Brecon Beacons, you need to hire a car at this point if you have not done so already. The car hire agreements are reasonable, with many agreeing to drop off in Cardiff eventually, if you hire at Blaenau-Ffestiniog for example. Spend time exploring and walking the Brecon Beacons National Park area, taking the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal hike from Brecon. There's a 53km course taking in Pontypool, which is very popular so you won't get lost. Canal boat rides are plentiful and the gorgeous Black Mountains loom in the background of pretty 11th and 13th century towns and villages.
- Sixth Stop Cardiff Wales
Drive south from Brecon to Cardiff (Caerdydd). Cardiff Castle is worth seeing for its outrageous interior refurbishment. The Victorians made it look more Hollywood than Medieval. You could also see the National Museum of Wales, near the infamous Torchwood city location set where John Lewis and the National Library look eerily familiar if you are a fan of the show. That's the actual location!
Scenic Snowdonia and Mt Snowdon
Travel Routes In Wales
As you can appreciate, knowing how to find your way around in Wales can be a bit tricky. Streetsigns are in Welsh and English, and some of them are in Welsh only so it pays to have a map like the one I've made so you have a rough idea of where the stops are.
Enjoy your trip to Wales, whatever route you decide on, remember I recommend doing the North to South trip in this hub!