Going for a vacation in Britain? Well, don't forget to stop by Wales.
If you've been following our blog, you'll know I don't really blog about touristy destinations (after all this blog is about exotic travel). But this time, I thought I'd give one touristy destination a mention; Wales.
And yes, Wales is a country. And it's part of Great Britain, together with Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England. And I know, you must be wondering why I'm actually typing something so elementary.
But surprise, surprise; many people don't know that (some people think England, London, and Britain are the same thing)
For a good many people, visiting London, dropping by Stonehenge for an Instagram post, having a mug of "butter beer" on the Harry Potter Studio tour, and flying to Manchester or Liverpool to catch a football match is pretty much the equivalent of "YEAH, I VISITED BRITAIN!" (Scotland seems to be growing in popularity these days though)
While the above is partly true (England being a part of Great Britain), flying more than 12 hours from Singapore, just to do the above, and then move on, is a little bit of a waste. So, when "The Girl" and I visited England on our recent European vacation, we decided to pay Wales a visit too.
In this post, let's take a look at our route and what we got to experience in this often overlooked country of the United Kingdom.
"The Girl" and I made our way from London to Crewe by train. From Crewe, Michael and Alex, a couple of mates I got to know at a backpackers hostel in Latvia back in 2015 picked us up in a Mini Cooper and off we went!
Our first stop, was Betws-y-Coed a pretty little village in the Snowdonia region of Wales. Here's what it looks like. Pretty isn't it?
"The Girl" with Alex & Michael on the streets of Betws-y-Coed
This stone built village is nestled within the Welsh mountains, and also the gateway to Snowdonia
There are activities like zip-lining and sights like waterfalls or mountains you could visit, but what I would recommend, is simply doing nothing. Grab a Welsh ale/beer, chill at one of the many pubs in the village and soak up the whole "Welsh mountainside atmosphere"
While we did get here by car, you can get to Betws-y-coed by train, so it isn't exactly difficult to get to. In fact, whatever few tourists there are in Wales are probably found in this pretty stone village. And I know you're wondering, why would everyone be here? What exactly is there to do in this place called Snowdonia?
Well, Snowdonia National Park is home to Mt Snowdon, the highest mountain in the British Isles (excluding Scotland). Snowdon is an "accessible mountain". It doesn't matter whether you're 5years old or 50. Anyone can reach the submit either by trekking, or by rail; your pick.
Two types of trains will bring you to the summit; the Diesel Train (above) for GBP 29, or for a more authentic experience, GBP 37 for the Steam Train.
In my picture above, you'll see the trekking path beside the railway track. It's not a tough trek up to the summit, but you'll still have to be reasonably fit.
The views on the way up are so amazing, you won't want to rush through this trek. To be comfortable, allow yourself around 3.5 hours up and 2.5 hours down.
We took the easy way up :)
There is also the option of taking the train up and trekking back down so you can enjoy both experiences.
Even though we were up on a foggy day, the views were still magnificent. On a good day, you can apparently see all the way to the coast of Wales.
"The Girl" pestered me for a "back view photo". What is it with girls and this kind of shots? Haha!
Living life on the edge. I had to convince "The Girl" that there were 3 guys to catch her if she fell off before she agreed to take this photo.
Okay, so enough of mountains for now. The day after Snowdonia, Michael and Alex suggested heading to the coast for "Ice Creams by the beach" so we could experience a different side of Wales. Say hello to Colwyn Bay & Anglesey, an Island off the northwest coast of Wales.
I could really see myself living in Wales. Everything is pretty. Coming from stressful Singapore, Wales is the definition of the term,"quality of life". Pity I can't afford the cost of a European Golden Visa though.
Anglesey is an "island" but yes, it is connected to the mainland of Wales by bridges such as the Menai Suspension Bridge (above).
While trains can get you around Wales, we suggest renting a car for convenience. Many beautiful spots in Wales are best visited by car instead of spending time changing from buses to train to buses again.
The rocky coast of Wales at low tide. Not the best photo, but then again, I was too busy enjoying myself on the beach to bother with photos.
3+GBP for a double scope ice cream. They don't come cheap. But for the ambience, it's worth it!
Ice cream somehow tastes better on a sunny day by the beach.
By this point, it was time for my friends Michael and Alex to head home (for work). As for us, we would catch the train back to England to visit Manchester (because I wanted to visit Old Trafford). At Michael's recommendation we headed for the Welsh seaside town of Llandudno, were we could get a direct train to Manchester.
Viewing the seaside down of Llandudno from a hill. Most of the huge buildings you see facing the coast are hotels, ranging from 2 star to 4 star standards. All of them share the same view, so you might as well go for the 2 star ones. They're cheap, clean, had also have a view of the coast.
You can see the Welsh mountains we left behind in the background.
Here's what the town itself looks like. Llandudno has the vibe of a family/retiree kind of place though. It's a nice place to spend a day and a half, but 2 nights would be pushing it.
That huge castle like building you see is the "Grand Hotel Llandudno. It looks expensive, but it really isn't (3 star standard). I would recommend staying there. It's along the Llandudno pier, where there are carnivals, shops, and offer some of the best views in the town.
Hard as I tried, I still wasn't able to get a picture of the whole town. Trouble with using an iPhone, you'll need a DSLR with wide lenses to capture how "postcard perfect" this sleepy seaside town actually is.
The pier is littered with carnival stuff and amusement park rides that I used to ride on in Singapore during the 90s. It's amazing how "old school" things are here (in a nice sort of way); like the world forgot about Llandudno. Now you know why I say it's best suited for retirees and families.
Look at the view!
The picture is a little slanted. Straighter, and it'd be "post card perfect".
So there you go, this is Wales for you, and just the northern part of it mind you. And in this post, we didn't showcase one of the most iconic attractions this country has to offer; Castles.
Wales is the castle capital of the world (yeah, it ain't Scotland) with more castles per square mile than any other country. We'd already seen many castles in Europe so we didn't really explore those here.
All in, Wales is simply remarkable. While I know I could never convince a Singaporean to fly all the way from Singapore just to visit Wales, I certainly will strongly recommend anyone visiting England to stop by this absolutely charming little country en-route to their Liverpool or Manchester United visit.
Remember folks, Britain isn't only about London, or even England.
Don't forget about Wales too!