Wales has always had an appeal to me even though I didn’t know much about it. Of course there is the link to New Zealand with the Rugby, with Wales being one of the countries that has featured over the years playing against New Zealand, both on our home soil and abroad.
Even though I must admit that I am not a rugby fan or even have much of an interest in Rugby, I have felt an affinity with Wales as a comparably small country with an interesting heritage. To me I think that Wales is a great Solo Vacation idea for women, as, it is a safe interesting place with plenty of variation from walks to villages with history to enthrall you, right through to the coastal attractions.
I have found that the Welsh people, that I have met in my travels have been interesting and I love to listen to the accent and language. I have had friends who have been to Wales and after hearing them speak about it and of the beautiful countryside and in particular the motorcycle friendly roads, I quietly put the destination on my bucket list.
I was fortunate enough to recently have the opportunity to go to Wales for a couple of days, and found myself wanting more. I am definitely planning to return to see what I missed the first time around, but, I will share with you, the amazing places that I managed to visit. .
Devils Bridge Hafod Hotel
Although I was driving a rental car, I am always aware of motorcycles that I see on my travels, and as a good keen
motorcyclist I always try to take the opportunity to talk with fellow motorcyclists. I met a couple of guys out on their Moto Guzzi’s parked up near the Hafod Hotel near Devils Bridge.
The roads to get there are a fun ride, with sweeping bends and tight turns to test your skills and give you a completely joyful ride. I was longing to be on a bike and get out of the rental car and found myself leaning in the car as I went around the bends.
Devils Bridge in the Pontarfynach Village is an interesting area with a triple level bridge that has been added onto resulting in a three layered construction as each bridge was left in place and not demolished as the additions were built on top of the older structures. The view from the bridge is very cool and looks down into a ravine and then also out across to the countryside.
The Hafod Hotel has recently become quite well-known as the base for the BBC series Hinterland. As I don’t really make time to watch TV I have yet to see the series, but according to the locals it has changed the unique character of the Hotel in that there are now heaps of visitors coming to see the Hotel.
The first thing that I noticed as I entered Wales from England was the beautiful stone houses and the use of Welsh Slate for the roofs. As I traveled further into the country the houses became more unique and delightful.
Even the small coal mining cottages were really lovely and gave the feeling that I could live here. Each village was highlighted with some feature buildings, usually a church and then the houses were a mixture of huge estate houses right down to the tiny cottages that were, and had been inhabited by the workers, who were the lifeblood of the mining industry.
Between the villages and towns there are homely looking estates and country houses that hinted of a story that you could imagine as you traveled through the countryside.
A visit to Portmeirion is something that you should try to fit into your agenda when you visit Wales. Even though it is a tourist attraction, I didn’t find it too touristy, and it is quite a surreal place to wander around.
It is owned by a Charitible Trust now, but was built by Sir Clough Williams Ellis between 1925 to 1975. As you would expect by his name and is confirmed by the audio of him telling the story, Williams Ellis certainly did have a plum in his mouth, if not the whole orchard.
That is not to take away anything from the amazing creation that he has achieved and in fact it would be a boring world without the quirky people that we have creating interesting things and places. His aim was to show how a beautiful site can be developed without damaging or spoiling the surroundings. This is a lesson that we can all take heed of today.
The surrounding 70 acres called Y Gwyllt (No pronounciation provided) support the Grade I and Grade II historic builidngs that are tastefully placed over the hillsides connected by beautifully landscaped grounds and forests. The grounds flow down to the
waterfront to showcase the beautiful estuary that borders the front of the complex.
The site may be familiar if you are mature enough to have watched, The Prisoner with Patrick McGoohan. Here is a Youtube link if you want to reminisce: It shows the whole village beautifully and gives you the feel of what you can see when you visit.
The Portmeirion Village boast several Hotels and self-catering units, with a town hall, shops cafes and a woodland walk, a woodland train and a coastal walk. Beautiful landscaped grounds connect the buildings and the paths allowing you to wander through the village and explore the whole area.
You can find Aberystwyth on the West Coast of Wales. It is known as a university and tourist town. It is a nice sized town with a castle and historical Gothic and Victorian buildings. Surrounded by hills there are several walks to high points where you can get some amazing views over the town and out to sea.
This was another place that I would have liked to stay longer and have a real look around. The museum would have, unearthed some great history and given an overview of the town.
The waterfront is bordered by a long row of Victorian holiday homes showing off,an era when Aberyswyth was a popular place for the wealty Victorian gentry to make the town their holiday place of choice, especially after the railway connected the slightly remote town to the rest of the UK, making it easier to access.
On the headlands at the top end of the harbor sits the remains of a castle and some very poignant war memorials. They were silhouetted nicely against the sunset which enhanced the feel of the area, while I was there.
One thing that I really appreciated whilst I was traveling through Wales was the use of the Welsh language in various places. I was told by the locals that the language had started dying out a few decades ago, but had been reintroduced into the schools.
Evidently during the reign of Henry VIII and the English sovereignty in about 1536 the language was banned and then during the 19th century, industrialization, the language was not encouraged and was considered a peasants’ language. That has now been turned around with quite a good percentage of Welsh schools teaching Welsh as a first language.
North Wales – Snowdonia
A conversation about Wales is not complete without a mention of the Snowdonia National Park. I managed to get to the bottom edge of the park and the scenery certainly gave a small taste of what you could expect if you ventured furthur into the National Park.
It is the home of some pretty extreme sports and serous outdoor activities, including, hiking, cycling and yacht racing, even though the area is known for rain, snow and sleet in the mountains.
The area that I saw was not unlike some parts of New Zealand and I suppose that because New Zealand is quite diverse in the landscapes that you encounter, that is a common occurrence that I have noticed when I am traveling.
I did visit the Snowdon Railway but due to a lack of time and the cost of the fare I decided that I would not ruin the enjoyment of the ride by rushing it. I did however experience spending time in the rail station and have some traditional scones and cream. It was also a good chance to sit and people watch and listen to a bit more of the Welsh language being spoken.
The rail stations are also a good place to learn a little local history as there is some interesting photos and stories around the walls, and also usualy some of the enthusiastic locals are willing to talk and tell you about the area and the history.
Is It Worth The Visit?
My conclusion of my short trip to Wales is that it was by no means long enough. I did plan to return from my base in the UK for a longer trip but that did not eventuate this time. It is definitely on my bucket list to return for a longer trip and most probably on a motorbike to take advantage of the great roads, and scenery.
I would like to spend more time along the coast and explore the villages and towns that you come across. Each one is unique and it would be great to have more time to wander around the villages and get the feel of the architecture and culture that each village presents to you.
The Castles of Wales are also something I want to check out on my next visit, the famous Cardiff Castle would be on the list as would, Carnarfon Castle and Caerphilly Castle. I would also love to visit the Cardiff Museum which has free entry, and of course would be an excellent way to learn about the interesting and sometimes sad history of the country.
As a solo woman traveler, this would be one of the safer places that you could visit if you are worried about personal safety when traveling solo. Wales is an English speaking country but has the added charm of the Welsh language and the Celtic history which makes it a destination with history and a unique feel about it. Put Wales on your must do list and you won’t regret it.