Brecon Beacons National Park
This popular park measures only 15 miles (24km) from north to south and 45 miles (72km) west to east, yet it comprises four mountain ranges and a variety of terrain: privately owned slopes grazed by sheep and yet more sheep, mining valleys and bare escarpments. Most visitors are walkers heading for Offa's Dyke Path, which passes along the eastern border, or the Taff Trail, heading south from Brecon. Principal centres include the historic market town of Brecon, the self-styled 'Gateway to Wales' town of Abergavenny and eccentric Hay-on-Wye. Offa's Path runs through the Black Mountains, which boast the best views, with sights such as the ruins of Llanthony Priory, the River Honddu, the pretty church at Patrishow and the highest peak at Waun Fach. The highest point in the bare-crested hills of the Brecon Beacons is Pen-y-Fan.
A busy commercial and university city, the Welsh capital doesn't usually appear near the top of visitors' must-see lists. However, those who linger will discover its striking city-centre castle, important national museum and art gallery, redeveloped docks area and pockets of beautiful architecture. Don't miss also the Millennium Stadium, opened in 1999 and home to Weslh Rugby. It's also the temporary venue for major English football matches. Cardiff is a good place to base yourself because it's surrounded by interesting sites and transport links are good.Cardiff has a good selection of B&B accommodations, sprinkled along Cathedral Rd, to the west of the city centre, and on Newport Rd to the east. Purveyors of Welsh specialties such as rarebit (the Welsh version of cheese on toast) and laverbread (a nicer-than-you'd-think seaweed concoction) can be found in the city centre, along with coffee shops and bistros serving more usual fare. Rugby is Cardiff's most popular form of entertainment, but there's also theatre, an arts centre and a pop arena for those who want to avoid the scrum.
Picturesquely dominated by its classic castle, Conwy is one of the best European examples of a medieval walled town. Conwy Castle has eight massive crenellated towers, its shape largely dictated by its rock-bound foundations. The best view is from across the River Conwy, with the Snowdonia Mountains providing a dramatic backdrop. Three-quarters of a mile of the town's walls remain intact, topped off with 22 towers and three original gateways. The Smallest House in Britain, the 14th-century, timber-and-plaster Aberconwy House and Bodnant Garden, 13km (8mi) to the south and one of the finest gardens in Britain, round off Conwy's collection of sights.
For a taste of that faded grandeur which wintry seaside resorts do so well (all you need is 'Every Day is Like Sunday' by Morrissey playing in the background), head for Llandudno. A traditional and immensely popular seaside resort in northwestern Wales, the town owes its unique Victorian air to its architecture, lengthy pier and imposing promenade. The donkeys plodding up and down the sands also belong to a previous era. Llandudno is beautifully situated between two sweeping beaches, dominated seaward by the Great Orme (a spectacular limestone headland) and landward by the mountains of Snowdonia. Llandudno has an Alice in Wonderland connection: the Liddell family, whose daughter Alice was the source of Carroll's inspiration, spent many summers in the town.
Snowdonia National Park
Britain's second-largest national park, after the Lake District, Snowdonia covers 840 sq miles (1352 sq km) of North Wales, including Snowdon - at 3560ft (1068m), the highest peak in Britain south of the Scottish Highlands. About 500,000 people touch the rugged summit every year, whether by climbing, walking or taking the Snowdon Mountain Railway. Long the testing ground of more ambitious mountaineers (Edmund Hillary, for example), Snowdon's many trails make the summit accessible to hikers of varying abilities. The park also contains rivers, lakes, waterfalls, forests, moorlands, glacial valleys and a lovely coastline, as well as Stone and Bronze Age burial chambers, Roman forts, Norman castles, steam railways and relics of the country's mining heritage. Centres include the climbers' haven of lakeside Llanberis, postcard-pretty Betws-y-Coed, the former slate-mining village of Blaenau Ffestiniog and the castle town of Harlech.
This special place would be a village if it were not for its cathedral and important links with the fondly remembered St David, whose remains are buried here. The late 12th-century cathedral can hardly be considered a landmark since one of the major preoccupations of its builders was to hide the structure from passing Norse raiders. The building has an atmosphere of great antiquity, with its drunken floor (the result of an earthquake in 1248), Norman nave, shrine and permanently reserved monarch's stall. In the Middle Ages, two pilgrimages to the shrine were said to equal one to Rome. Apart from drinking in the antique ambience, there are several tours of St Non's Bay which visit nearby islands.
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