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Archive for wales

The Supermodel of British Beaches

By Linda Tancs

The first place in Britain to be named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Gower is a small peninsula in South Wales. It lives up to the adage that good things come in small packages, considering that one of its assets, Rhossili Bay Beach, has been anointed the “Supermodel of British Beaches.” Moreover, it ranks in the top 10 of the world’s best beaches. Not bad for a 3-mile expanse of shoreline, a good deal of which is exposed at low tide. That’s when it’s possible to walk across the bay to Llangennith or even cross onto Worm’s Head, a sea-serpent-shaped island lurking at the end of the bay. The sole holiday cottage on the bay is the Old Rectory, boasting a prime location facing the beach. The nearest town is Swansea, which is served by London Paddington and connected to Rhossili by bus.

Wildlife of Skomer

By Linda Tancs

Designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the Welsh island of Skomer is a haven for wildlife. Over 22,000 puffins reside there alone. Also, together with its sister island Skokholm, Skomer has the largest known concentration of Manx shearwaters in the world. In addition to its wildlife wonders, the island sports a standing stone of unknown origin known as the Harold Stone as well as two large 19th-century lime kilns that were used to heat lime for mortar and fertilizer. This season is a great time to visit. During spring the island is covered in a display of bluebells so vast that the whole island appears blue. Just off the coast of Pembrokeshire, the island (open from April to September) is accessible by boat from the village of Marloes.

Going to Fawr

By Linda Tancs

Pont Fawr (Big Bridge) is a steeply ramped, stone road bridge of three segmental arches that crosses the River Conwy in Llanrwst, North Wales. Picturesque as it is, its reputation may be enhanced by the legend that it was designed by one of England’s most famous architects, Inigo Jones. On the west bank of the river is another feast for the eyes, Tu Hwnt i’r Bont (Beyond the Bridge), a popular tearoom that began as a farmhouse in the 1400s and later served as a courthouse. It’s much older than the bridge and even more of a visual curiosity, being so laden with Virginia creeper that it looks like it sprouted from the ground. Do drop in for one of their scrumptious scones.


To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

In Knots in Wales

By Linda Tancs

Wool is historically one of the most important industries in Wales. So of course you’d expect to find a museum or two dedicated to the Welsh manufacturing process. But nowhere is the dedication to woolen arts more ardent than in the “knitted village” of Llwyngwril. Located in South Snowdonia, the tranquil village is awash in life-size knitted folks, animals and fairy tale characters and other creatures. You can thank the yarn bombers for keeping the community knit together.

Sleep for Bibliophiles

By Linda Tancs

A haven for bibliophiles lies just miles from the English/Welsh border in Hawarden, Wales. In that small, ancient village you’ll find a “residential” library fit for a king. That’s right, a place where you can sleep, eat and drink—and read, of course. Founded by Victorian Prime Minister William Gladstone, Gladstone’s Library is a Grade-I listed building with 26 rooms surrounded by a print collection of 250,000 items accessible well after the general public has left the building. The U.K.’s only residential library, it gives new meaning to the term “bedtime stories.”

Wonderful Wetlands in Wales

By Linda Tancs

Wetlands are the primary source of drinking water for people and wildlife. Boasting amazing biodiversity, more than 100,000 species of animal rely on freshwater ecosystems alone. Although the world has lost more than half its wetlands in the last 100 years, conservation groups like The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) in England protect, repair and actually create exciting new wetlands for people and wildlife. The Llanelli Wetland Centre near Swansea, Wales, is one of many wetland centres offering unforgettable opportunities to connect with nature. Boasting 450 acres of wildlife, a visit there features a flock of Caribbean flamingos and a chance to hand feed the rarest goose in the world, the Hawaiian nene. This time of year the first of the new season’s ducklings are hatching, and wild orchids are among the many wildflowers blooming.

Glimpsing Pembrokeshire’s Past

By Linda Tancs

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in Wales is Britain’s only coastal national park, a place full of archaeological icons. One of its most famous attractions is Pentre Ifan, a stone structure marking the entrance into the heart of a burial chamber dating back to the Neolithic Period. Other stone ramparts dating from the Bronze Age encircle the hilltop of Foel Drygarne, dominated by three massive and well-preserved cairns. Excavation at the heart of the park has also revealed Iron Age settlements, like those found at Carew Castle. Covering 240 square miles of spectacular landscape around Wales’ southwestern shore, you’ll find visitor centers in Tenby, Newport and Oriel y Parc Gallery and Visitor Centre in St. Davids.

The Year of the Sea in Wales

By Linda Tancs

Wales is promoting its vast coastline this year, designating 2018 the Year of the Sea. Indeed, you’re never more than an hour or so from the sea wherever you may be. Why not explore the Wales Coast Path, the world’s first footpath dedicated to a country’s entire coastline—in this case, 870 miles. Along the way you’ll pass fens, cliffs, harbors, coves, inlets, islands and beaches. The beaches are great for surfing, a popular sport in the country, which established a Welsh Surfing Federation. Other coastal activities include rafting, kite surfing, surf kayaking, coasteering (that’s jumping off cliffs), paddleboarding, scuba diving and cliff camping.

The Heart of Wales

By Linda Tancs

A rural lifeline, the Heart of Wales is one of the UK’s most beautiful train journeys. As the name implies, it runs through the heartland of Wales and celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. The railway was built to transport coal and other freight from the Welsh valleys up north to the burgeoning factories of the industrial revolution. Running between Shrewsbury and Swansea, the meandering route passes through the Shropshire Hills (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and quaint spa towns, offering views of castles, meadows, forests and viaducts, to name a few. Many of the line’s 34 stations are within one mile of major A roads and are accessible via connecting rail services from stations such as London (Euston or Paddington), Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff, Fishguard, Aberystwyth, Pwllheli, Holyhead and Hereford.

Britain’s Longest Ancient Monument

By Linda Tancs

Offa of Mercia was one of the most remarkable kings to have ruled much of Anglo-Saxon England. At his command, an earthwork covering a distance of more than 80 miles was built along the border between England and Wales in the eighth century to separate his kingdom from rivals in present-day Wales. This earth ditch-and-bank is reportedly the longest ancient monument in Britain. A long distance trail covering 177 miles, Offa’s Dyke Path, follows much of the ancient course. The trail links Sedbury Cliffs near Chepstow on the banks of the Severn estuary with the coastal town of Prestatyn on the shores of the Irish sea and crosses the border between England and Wales over 20 times. You’ll encounter stunning landscapes boasting castles, country churches, hillforts, riverside meadows and rolling hills. Similar to Camino de Santiago, you can purchase a trail passport (or download it from the site) and get it stamped along your journey to enter the path’s Hall of Fame. Expect it to take up to two weeks to complete the whole trail.

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