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Top 10 things to do in Wales

Wales: top 10 things to see and do

Go walking in Snowdonia
Some of the most spectacular scenery in Wales is to be found in the national park surrounding Mount Snowdon. Walking up Wales’ biggest mountain itself is fun, but if you want to get off the beaten track there are some fantastic rambles in the surrounding countryside. The two-hour circular walk from the little village of Capel Garmon, near Betws y Coed, takes you through rolling countryside, past a Neolithic burial chamber and along the bubbling River Conwy with its rocky waterfalls. En route there are amazing views of Snowdonia’s majestic peaks.
More info
www.eryri-npa.co.uk
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Visit Portmeirion
Used as the set for cult Sixties TV serial The Prisoner, Portmeirion is not exactly your average Welsh village. It was conceived by gentlemanly Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the 1920s, and it represents his fantasy of a classical Italianate village in the Mediterranean, transplanted to a private peninsula on the Dwyryd estuary, on Wales’ northwest coast. Once you’ve paid the entry fee, you step into another world: pastel-painted buildings with shuttered windows, a grand piazza, and surrounding woods and gardens filled with exotic plants. Unlike Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner, though, you are allowed to leave at the end of the day.
More info
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www.portmeirion-village.com

Catch a performance at the Wales Millennium Centre
Part of the revitalised Cardiff Bay area, the Wales Millennium Centre opened in 2004 and is a hugely impressive venue. The frontage, with its monumental inscription made of clear glass cut into multi-coloured Welsh slate, is fabulous; Inside you’ll find light, bright public areas and a stunning main auditorium. It’s home to the Welsh National Opera, and throughout this summer, Connie Fisher will be singing her heart out in The Sound of Music. Surrounding the Millennium Centre are lots of waterside bars and restaurants for some top-draw pre-show refreshment.
More info
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www.wmc.org.uk

Go surfing in the Gower
The Gower Peninsula, west of Swansea, is a wild and woolly area of natural beauty, with soaring cliffs and some of the UK’s most beautiful beaches. And the Atlantic breakers that come rolling in make this one of the nation’s best places for surfing. There are excellent surf schools at popular Caswell Bay (www.gowersurfing.com), which can be surfed on all tides, and Llangennith (www.wsfsurfschool.co.uk), which has some of the peninsula’s most consistent surf. More experienced surf dudes can take their pick of the beaches: Oxwich Bay is great at high tide, and Langland is good up to mid-tide.
More info
Find a local hotel
www.gowerlive.co.uk

Feast on good food in St Davids
Out on the western tip of the beautiful Pembrokeshire peninsula in southwest Wales, St Davids is the smallest city in the UK.

And this pretty place, long-famous for the cathedral named after the country’s patron saint, is gaining a big reputation these days for its dining scene. The cathedral fine Refectory (www.refectoryatstdavids.co.uk) serving tasty lunches such as cottage pie with Welsh ale. For dinner, the Michelin-starred Cwtch (www.cwtchrestaurant.co.uk) offers excellent local seafood and world-class bread-and-butter pudding. For fine Pembrokeshire beef, try Morgan’s (www.morgans-restaurant.co.uk). And to pick up produce to take home, check out the twice-monthly farmers’ market in nearby Haverfordwest (http://www.fmiw.co.uk/?function=marketinfo&marketid=1425).
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Trawl the bookshops in Hay-on-Wye
Long before the literary festival made it world-famous, this pretty town on the river Wye was prized for its many charms, including its second-hand bookshops. There’s a market every Thursday in Memorial Square with good food and antiques, but the bookshops are the main draw. There are about 30, some carrying general stock and others specialising in poetry, children’s books and the like. Once you’ve worked up a thirst among all those dusty tomes, water your throat in the Three Tuns pub. Hay lies at the northern tip of the Brecon Beacons national park, where there is fine walking and horse-riding.
More info
Find a local hotel
www.hay-on-wye.co.uk

Walk through history at Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey
As Welsh castles go, Beaumaris is a military masterpiece – albeit an unfinished one. It was built by Edward I, the last of his ‘iron ring’ of castles, erected to discourage Welsh rebellion and taking 35 years to build, using 3,500 men. It never reached its intended height due to funds drying up, but its setting, overlooking the Menai Strait with mountains in the background, is magnificent. To learn how clever it was militarily, pick up a guidebook and look for the 14 obstacles for intruders, including ‘murder holes’ (down which hot oil would be poured), and hundreds of ingeniously sited arrow slits.
More info
Find a local hotel
www.beaumaris.com

Marvel at Aberglasney Gardens
After centuries of neglect, this fine Georgian house and its superb gardens have been slowly restored to their former glory over the last ten years by the Aberglasney Renovation Trust. The house lies in the verdant Tywi Valley in Carmaerthenshire, and has three walled gardens, including the stunning Cloister Garden with its parapet walkway. In the Ninfarium there are orchids, palms, magnolias and more, resplendent beneath a huge glass atrium. Follow the Stream Garden path, admiring all kinds of rare flowers as you go, including wonderful rhododendrons. There’s also a café, complete with sunny terrace, that does rather nice lunches.

More info
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www.aberglasney.org

Go coasteering on the Llyn Peninsula
What the heck is coasteering? Well, it was invented in Wales and it’s one for adrenaline-seekers – although you only need a basic level of fitness. It takes place on rocky shorelines, such as the wild, rugged shore of the Llyn peninsula in northwest Wales, and involves scrambling and clambering over coastal ledges and boulders, and leaping into the sea to swim to the next bit of the route. Everyone wears wetsuits, buoyancy aids and helmets, and there are options to try a bit of climbing (no ropes are used, so it’s only done over deep water, just in case…)
More info
Find a local hotel
www.adventure-northwales.com

Marvel at the Ruthin Craft Centre, Denbighshire
In an area historically famous for its potteries, this much-celebrated new museum is bringing the craft tradition into the 21st century with its cutting-edge design and contemporary exhibitions of local craftspeople, artists and designers. Free to enter, it has three galleries, six artists’ studios, a retail gallery and a rather cool café. The building itself is funkily innovative – its undulating roofs are designed to mirror the surrounding Clwydian Hills. The main exhibition of the summer is a retrospective of the work of the much-respected, 90-year-old ceramic sculptor Ruth Duckworth.
More info
Find a local hotel
www.ruthincraftcentre.org.uk

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