FOR tourists, Wales offers a breathtaking array of historical monuments, castles, scenery and unspoiled countryside and coastal regions.
In his tourism guide to Wales, James Werning, of USA Today, suggested: “The famous landmarks of Wales lie on craggy peaks, in bustling cities, along winding, hedge-rowed lanes and on pristine beaches. Today’s explorers can relive history by creeping through ancient Roman mines. They can climb snow-capped mountains or set out in search of the Holy Grail. They can join the roar of 74,000 fans celebrating a triumphant rugby goal. Welsh landmarks are so abundant, the main challenge is finding time to visit the most popular of them all.”
So here is an American’s take on what Wales has to offer:
Bodelwyddan Castle reportedly has ghosts, while legends say the Holy Grail is hidden under the 2,600-year-old ruins of Castell Dinas Bran. For sheer grandeur, visit Cardiff Castle in the heart of the capital city. Its opulent interiors, lavish murals, stained glass and ornate gilding are stunning. Caerphilly Castle covers 30 acres, and is considered to be one of the greatest castles in the Western world. Castell Coch is a lavish estate in a magnificent natural setting, built by the richest man in his day and considered one of Wales’ most romantic castles. For impressive gardens, visit Powis Castle with its Italianate terraces, lead statues, fountains, exotic plants and natural woodland.
Other Historic Landmarks
St. Fagans National History Museum is an important cultural landmark for those who want to experience the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of life in medieval Wales. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal is a masterpiece of civil engineering. Visitors can ride a canal boat over this extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bronze age miners scraped copper from the Great Orme Mine using stone and bone fragments, and the Romans worked the Dolaucothi Gold Mines. Wales has at least 14 landmarks on wheels; historic scenic railways that now haul tourists instead of sheep and ore. Gors Fawr is a prehistoric stone circle in northern Pembrokeshire, harkening back to a people who built landmarks that saw the rise and fall of countless civilizations.
Not all the famous landmarks of Wales are ancient. Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium is history in the making, an icon to the 21st Century and home to some of today’s greatest sporting and entertainment events. The clock tower of Aberystwyth is a famous landmark erected by modern Welsh to commemorate the arrival of the new millennium. Beaumaris Seafront makes for a charming harbor visit, showing how today’s seafaring people can abide in a quaint Victorian setting. While at the shore, consider taking a boat trip to the Caldey Island Abbey, built by 20th Century monks. It’s a terrific place to take relaxing walks on sandy beaches, climb the lighthouse or share in the religious experiences of monastic life.
The most imposing natural landmark of Wales is unquestionably Snowdon Peak in the heart of Snowdonia National Park. At 3,560 feet, it is the highest peak in all of Wales and England. The national park also contains many picturesque Welsh villages. Visitors to the harbor town of Aberystwyth can take a shorter climb 430 feet up to the top of Constitution Hill, or they can entrust their lives to a steep railway that has carried tourists for over 100 years. For a natural landmark in a more urban setting, visit Cathays Park in Cardiff with its striking public gardens. Don’t overlook Welsh beaches; the gently curving Oxwich Bay Beach with its gorgeous white sand was voted Britain’s best beach (au.totaltravel.yahoo.com). Wales also has some very popular waterfalls, such as Swallow Falls and Dyserth Waterfall.