Our week started out with us needing to find a campsite to empty the toilet cassette and have a shower. It had been a busy few days with us doing some volunteering work clearing some land. After the manual work we were pretty stinky plus the smell of bonfire filled our van and wardrobe! We decided to explore South Wales in more depth as we still had some time to kill before needing to be in Devon for a family holiday at the end of the month.
Previously we have explored West Wales from Cardigan to Aberystwyth and North Wales but haven’t had time to explore South Wales coast.
Explore South Wales – Let the journey begin!
On Sunday morning we left our volunteering site and ventured in to Swansea to have a well earned carvery and a pint of cider with a friend. We met on one of the many Facebook groups we belong to. It was so lovely to see her again and have a proper nose about in her camper. She’s got round windows in her van. They look really good but she said they were very authentic of a submarine and leak from time to time! When it comes to Camper windows, whose don’t?
Quarry Lodge Campsite
After our massive roast dinner we made our way to a campsite we had seen on pitchup.com. Beautiful location to explore South Wales from. Just off of the A40 at Felinwen (Carmarthen) and up a narrow road with plenty of passing places. You will find Quarry Lodge campsite on your right. As you pull in the electric pitches are on the right hand field. The non electric and tent pitches are to the left and beyond.
As it’s name suggests the campsite is situated on an old Quarry so it is on a few different levels – the pitches however have been nicely levelled so don’t worry about sleeping on a tilt! They have landscaped the site fantastically to allow for a natural toilet soak-away. This has provided a wild life area rich in plants and animals. From here paths take you down to multi levelled clearings in the woodland. One of these has almost a balcony feel with a hedgerow surrounding the edge. It was here, that I proposed to Louise.
Luckily, she said yes! There will be more info on the proposal in the future.
The facilities were very clean and well maintained. Several toilet blocks situated on the site make life easy in peak season. A washing up area with information board was a real help. There were fresh chicken and duck eggs for sale with an honesty box as well as a herb box where you could snip your own and herbs for sale courtesy of the owners daughter – 50p for a planted pot of herbs! I also got a push on the tire swing by Rob, one of the owners!
Quarry Lodge is part of the camping and caravan club, and had we known this before booking it likely would have put us off altogether. (Don’t hate us but we have found they can be a little selective and our self build sticks out like a sore thumb!). However we are both very glad that we stayed here. It is a small but welcoming site with very calm energy and amazing views. You cant ask for more from your hosts. Honestly cant wait to visit there again and see Rob and Linda. They were the most amazing hosts and are so lucky to have such an amazing small but cosy site. If you only go to one campsite in Wales, make it this one!
Once we left Quarry Lodge with tears in our eyes, we continued to explore South Wales by heading south to a place just shy of 15 miles away. Ferryside is a village on the opposite side of the estuary to Llansteffan. Strangely enough there used to be a ferry from one side to the other. Although the original Ferry stopped running in the 1950’s a new service run by an amphibious boat has operated since 2018. Trivia fact – Ferryside was the first village in the UK to switch from analogue to digital TV!
As you drive along the road, you can’t imagen the little gem that awaits you! The houses are on one side of the road and their garages are on the other. When you see the railway station crossing you will also see a small turning. It is there you will find the car park for the lifeboat station and the sailing club.
A lovely little beach, mostly sand at low tide but some stones higher up the beach. The life boat station on the right hand side of the car park but plenty of spaces with a low walled sea defence. As you look over the estuary you can see LLansteffan. Whilst walking we met a lovely gentleman who said “lovely isn’t it…. The other side looks like the finest place on earth until you get there, then you look back and this side looks like the finest place on earth too”. Was this a ‘grass is always greener’ comment or the truth that these two locations are among the best of South Wales hidden gems?
We reversed the van up to the wall and opened the back doors to overlook the estuary. It is the closest we will get to those Instagram photos – you know the ones I mean.
We had hoped to sleep near here for the night. We were approached by a gentleman from the sailing club who made it quite clear that campers were not welcome to overnight (but they had to tolerate us during the day).
Not wanting to outstay our welcome we decided to then head along a narrow mostly single track coastal road in the the hope we may spot somewhere to sleep en route to Kidwelly. Sadly we didn’t find anywhere and that was including a wrong turn that took us in a massive circle around a farm. There is another road to Kidwelly that may be more suitable for you if you are feint of heart!
Kidwelly is situated in Carmarthenshire, South Wales. It is 7 miles north west of Llanelli. Perhaps its most attractive tourism pull is the Castle. Kidwelly Castle is a site to behold. We arrived in the evening and pulled into the car park to look at her. She was glowing in the low evening sun all golden and majestic. We knew we had to come back to see her properly in the morning so we found a place on search for sites near the canal. A large car park with stunning walks popular with local dog walkers. Just a warning – you are next to a small sewage works although the wind was in our favour and we didn’t have any nasty smells. We didn’t have any trouble here and cooked our dinner before snuggling up in bed.
Next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we headed back to the castle. Its part of CADW so we used our passes to get in for free. If you are not a member, it is worth thinking about. You get free entrance to all the Welsh sites and half price off of English and Scottish heritage sites. On renewal I believe it’s then free access to all 3.
The castle is a motte and bailey Castle and there current works date from around 1114. It is a double walled fortress. This means that they have an outer wall and an inner wall to protect the castles occupants. An army would have to breech both walls to get inside. The Castle has several towers on the perimeter as well as the remains of chapels, kitchens and a tale of a very lucky magical cat.
Mythical black cat
The information boards around the site tell you of the legend of the magical black cat. legend claims that the cat was the first thing to appear from the castle after the great plague, and there are also myths about her surviving a huge fire. The cat is on the official coat of arms for the town so do keep your eyes open. Legend has it that she still has 6 lives left, and is a magical cat that is still sometimes seen!
The castle is very maternal in its history and the woman that lived here, fought here and died here. The wildlife was in abundance with swallows and crows nesting in the towers and the wagtails patrolling the picnic benches for scraps.
We have added lots of photos for you but we really think this is a castle you need to visit for yourself without too may spoilers! Oh just one spoiler, the one way system that takes you to the castle and out through the remains of the walled town, has an 11ft 3 height restriction that they don’t tell you about at the start of the one way system. We changed our pants after. Close call for our van!
Where did we go next? From Kidwelly we travelled to Pembrey Country Park and Beach. It’s not far from Kidwelly and was so amazing.
We are going to write our next post about this location. We love to explore South Wales and it is getting better every day.
Don’t forget to comment below with any other recommendations for that areas we travel to. We want to know where you have visited too!
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North Wales is a hotbed of activities. From Castles and Caves to Mountains and Lakes. There is no end to the adventure here. North Wales has something to suit every taste and fitness level. Check individual websites for access information if you have particular needs or requirements. Here are our list of places to check out when you visit North Wales but there are so many more! Pop yours in the comments if you have experienced North Wales.
I have compiled a list of things to do and experience. I have done 10 of them myself, 2 are on my bucket list so feel free to ask me any questions!
Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala) is a 6km long lake on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. It is paradise. Surrounded by hills and mountains the lake provides a sanctuary to its visitors. There is a watersports hire shop where you can rent various vessels for an hour or two or up to half and full day rentals. A cash deposit is required to hire the equipment.
With such a large body of water you never feel enclosed. It is a much better way to see the wildlife than by car! You can even pull your kayak up onto the shore, and investigate places you can’t get to by foot! If you are looking for more of a thrill seeking adventure, the white water rafting centre is a short drive away! (Or just grab an ice cream, relax on the shore and maybe dip a toe in every now and then!)
Bala town houses a few pubs, takeaways and gift shops. Lovely for a stroll around!
RAF aircraft can often be seen doing their exercises here. They call it the MACH loop. CLICK HERE for flight information!
If you are looking for a nice gentle walk and a bit of shopping, head to Corris Craft Centre. On the A487 between Dogellau and Machynlleth, you will find a series of honeycombed buildings housing all sorts of crafted items. Candles, soaps, chocolates, pottery, glassware, forest furniture and wooden toys to name a few! Many of the craft studios also encourage you to have a go. Why not indulge your creative side and design your own pottery, dip your own candles or make your own chocolate.
Set in beautiful surroundings with a café that serves spectacular food (their Welsh Rarebit still hasn’t been beaten!) you will be able to watch the world go by in luxury! Dogs are welcome in most of the craft shops and surrounding areas.
There are caving adventures here too, depending on your thrill seeking limitiations!
A cave tour where you will find out about the local legends of King Arthur! Crowned Best Visitor Attraction in Mid Wales 2018 in the National Tourism Awards for Wales. Equipped with a hard hat you’re greeted by a mysterious hooded boatman. He takes you by underground boat and through a magical waterfall; your gateway to the Dark Ages and to the life and times of King Arthur. Continue on foot for a guided tour around the caverns and learn about Dragons and Giants that lived here a very long time ago! Perfect for hot days as the caves stay a cool 8 degrees so take suitable clothing and footwear. The cave system is full of passage ways and large chambers. Not one to be missed! The kids will love this one! (Dogs not allowed in the caves, sorry!)
Offers a unique opportunity to explore the virtually untouched, abandoned workings of an old Welsh Slate Mine with one of Wales’ top Mine Explorers. The mine closed back in the 1970’s but was hand dug in the Victorian era. As you travel, with your hard hats and dim lights, you are taken back in time through stories of the people who lived and worked here. This one is a little more physical but worth the trip to explore the old mines! There are three trips you can take here, a taster session of just an hour, a 2 hour trip or a half day excursion. See the tools and machinery left behind as well as personal items and discover what it felt like to be a miner!
There are other mines and caves in North Wales including one where you can zipline and trampoline – however I have not tried this one out yet! do let me know if you have been and what it was like!
Situated on the Dwyryd Estuary, this village had been constructed in the theme of a Mediterranean Piazza. A punchbowl landscape filled with pastel coloured buildings, water features and architecture like no other. You will easily forget that you are in North Wales!
Recieving over 200,000 visitors per year, this tourist attraction has something to suit all family members. Marvel at the exotic plants that grow in the areas micro-climate, investigate the 70 acres of woodland, play in the water fountain or upgrade your kitchenware in the Portmeirion Pottery shop.
Guided tours are available at selected times during the season and these point out all the features you may otherwise miss. Perhaps best known for being the backdrop to The Prisoner TV show, starring Patrick McGoohan, this village has also had a multitude of media filmed here, including a 4 part Dr Who series in 1976, some shots for the 2002 final episode of Cold Feet and Siouxie and the Banshees ‘The Passenger’.
All the family will fall in love with Portmeirion and its beauty!
The zoo is a fantastic way to enjoy a day out with the family. The location is a little hilly so please bear this in mind, but nice paths and well signposted to different areas. The zoo houses animals from snow leopards, tigers and bears, to owls, meerkats and snakes. Although the zoo itself looks a little run down in places I found that the keepers had put a lot of effort into ensuring the areas were enriched for its inhabitants. The bear enclosure for me showed the most amount of effort on my visit with so much for them to investigate.
It is only through us visiting such zoos that they will have the funds to keep improving the facilities and participate in zoological programmes to keep these animals alive and breeding. Your entrance fee will help towards this but you can also get involved in other fundraising programmes or become a keeper for a day and have an amazing experience that you will not forget.
The Zoo also has interactive shows where you can watch flying displays from their birds, Chimp encounters, Sealion playtime and Penguin playtime, do try and catch some of these if you can!
The Safari restaurant overlooks the Tiger enclosure and serves hot and cold food and the Penguin Café overlooks the Penguin enclosure, so you have a couple of choices for food (although you can take a packed lunch). There is also a gift shop and an adventure land for the children to burn off some energy.
Featuring Alice in Wonderland, The Great Orme, A Tram and a Long Pier!
Llandudno is a beautiful seaside town. Georgian houses line the front, many now hotels and b+b’s offering spectacular views of the curved bay. This really is what every seaside town should be striving for. There is a large promenade, suitable for heavy volumes of foot traffic and push chairs, and a shingle beach leading out into the Irish Sea. Llandudno is home to the longest pier in Wales, which houses amusement arcades including one with a ZOLTAR machine. (If you have ever watched the film “BIG” you will either be enthralled or scared of it). You will also find a variety of shops, food stalls (including seafood and cheese as well as donuts and burgers) and kids games to keep all the family happy. The pier is also dog friendly.
Punch and Judy have some fame here as the longest running show. 150 years ago the Codman family started the show here and it is still going today! This is located on the seafront just before the pier. Regular shows in peak season will have the kids yelling “that’s the way to do it” for days to come!
Alice In Wonderland
As you travel through Llandudno you may notice some carved statues that look like the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and a Cheshire cat to name a few! It turns out that the real Alice, inspiration for the Alice in Wonderland books by Lewis Carol, had a holiday home here in Llandudno. In homage to her the town has created a guided walk, great to do with a dog, with wonderland themed statues in locations around town! You can buy the maps from the tourist information centre.
A massive limestone headland on the coast, is well worth the effort of reaching the top. Fear not – you don’t have to walk! You can either take a cable pulled tram or a cable car up to the summit. There is a nature reserve up here where you can walk around the Orme in peace. Dogs are welcome here and there are lots of sniffs to wear them out. The Captains Table café/restaurant serves food and drinks for when you want to rest or take it easy. For the kids there is a playground and there is also a gift shop by the tram station.
Llandudno is a great base to visit North Wales from and is a super seaside location! You can read a more in depth review of Llandudno here!
6) Visit the Lakes
With so many Lakes to see when you visit North Wales, I would be here all day just naming them. From Bala you can take the road to Portmeirion and explore two other stunning lakes en route. The one displayed above does have a car park across the road where you could park up for the night. Whether you are looking for active water sports, bird watching or a place of quiet meditation, you will find a lake close by to achieve that.
We have seen amazing sunrises and sunsets by Welsh Lakes. The colours all reflect in the still, clean waters. The great thing about sunbathing by a lake rather than a beach is that you do not have to move every half hour because of the tide! Pop your picnic hamper down and know that you can sit here and watch the sun move slowly across the sky! Maybe even wait for the starts to come out.
7) Castles! Conwy, Harlech and Caernarfon…
Visit North Wales and its castles. Wales has such a rich history and its castles are a great reflection of both its Wealth and military strategy as well as being used as Places for royalty. Each castle is stunning in its own right and taking some time to learn about its specific qualities and place in history will open up a world of wonder. With so many castles and heritage sites to visit you will be in awe.
Conwy Castle is a spectacular site to visit. We had driven through the area on a previous North Wales adventure but been unable to find parking later in the day. Driving in to the walled town you are instantly blown away by the sheer magnitude of the Castle. She is amongst the finest surviving medieval fortifications in Britain and was a heavily fortified castle. The curtain walls surround the town and protect her inhabitants.
Most of these walls are still walkable today and you can find yourself climbing the old stairs to walk along the top of them like the soldiers did, and protect the castle from any incoming threats! With its 8 massive towers and inner chambers, this site was of great importance in Welsh history. The castle also had control of the port just below the Kings chambers and was a perfect location to defend itself from land and sea.
Another stunning castle built by the same master builder (James of St George) who built Conwy. Harlech has seen its fair share of battles and sieges. The song ‘Men of Harlech’ is said to describe a battle that took place here. A handful of men held out from a besieging army of thousands. They clearly did not think about visitor parking when designing the castle all those hundreds of years ago! However there are a few parking spots by the castle and a larger car park just around the corner in the village.
The new floating bridge, seen in the picture, gives you a real sense of what it would have been like to walk on a drawbridge. You are free to explore the grounds and climb the towers. The views from the top on a good day extend to Mount Snowdon and beyond! Great to get yours and the kids imaginations flowing as you learn about the castles history and imagine what it would have looked like when it was in its prime.
You cant really see her from your approach but when you do, she appears like a queen stood on the estuary, prideful and majestic. Caernarfon is a fortified town with magnificant walls around the perimeter. Cobbled streets and wonky buildings galore! We ‘wild camped’ the other side of the estuary and the castle was stunning from our back doors!
There is currently an extensive exhibition about the Welsh Fusiliers, including their part in the first and second world wars. You can see uniforms, medals, weapons and other artefacts used by the soldiers. For the children, they can fly their own dragon on a holographic screen! This castle has very high walls that overlook the town and again you are able to walk around up here. The railings are very so be cautious if you are unsteady on your feet.
Local to the castle there are great spots on the estuary to go crab fishing! You could take a boat ride along the Menai Strait, sit in the Anglesea pub listening to live music, or walk to the harbour and see the yachts. You can see Anglesey from here and explore the walled town including automated water jet fountains in the main square.
All of these Castles, as well as many others all across Wales, are part of Cadw – Welsh Government’s historic environment service. We purchased the CADW passes. This gives us free entry into Welsh CADW sites and half price entry to English and Scottish this year. On renewal we should then get free access into all 3!
With so many castles in North Wales to visit, you will have plenty of exploring to do. There are also plenty of castles in mid and south Wales to visit too!
8) Anglesey Beaches
Lligwy Beach, near Molefire, is a sandy beach backed by dunes. Anglesey is knows for having super beaches full with wildlife. The sand dunes are fun for the little ones to play in and there was a café when we went. I found it a but tricky getting to in the camper as the roads were narrow.
There were lots of children here playing in the water and it seemed quite safe but they do not have a lifeguard station here. Always be sensible near water and look out for anyone in trouble. The car park we found said there were parking charges and to pay in the café. If you are looking for a day to be lazy and relax on the beach then I would suggest Anglesey.
After a day on the beach, why not go to the other extreme and try a high speed boat ride down the Menai Strait! Rib ride offer several different speed boats and trip but their newest boats are capable of doing 73 miles an hour on the water! The adrenaline is flowing as you power through the water past all the little sail boats! Zoom under the two bridges from the mainland and back again and feeling the G force on your face as you try and remember to breathe!
This trip is not very expensive for what it is, and a really fun mini adventure. Only negative comment is that it doesn’t last long enough! Matt was our captain and was very knowledgeable about the boat and the water he was taking us on. He stopped when he needed to around other boats and ensuring our safety at all times. I guess we will have to go and do it again… sucks!
This is where the River Conwy meets its three tributaries flowing from the West, the Llugwy, the Lledr and the Machno. In the centre of the town you are treated to a mini rapid where you can sit and hear the water roaring past you with force. Not far away the tourist attraction of Swallow Falls will give you a camera worth snap of waterfalls.
Much of Betws-y-Coed was built in Victorian times and a popular attraction in North Wales in the Victorian era. It is the principal village of the Snowdonia National Park. Betws-y-Coed is a walkers paradise with several walks suitable for a variety of fitness levels throughout the mountain range. Just over the bridge a notice board with the walks and paths highlighted on it. Do check these before you set off so that you know what colour to follow. A few of them are very steep to start with! There are also a lot of outdoor shops catering to the adventurer. You can pick up a bargain on a backpack and save a few quid on walking boots.
We loved our breakfast!
If you prefer to stay at a reasonable altitude there are plenty of craft shops and cafes to eat in. The Alpine café served us breakfast (below). We found them to be such a good café that we went back later in the day. They have a wide range of veggie and vegan items, as well as extensive cake menus, home made fruit smoothies and to top it off – all palm oil free!
There is a motorhome parking area at the back of the car park at the end of the train station. We parked up here and only had to pay £2.50 up to midnight and then we were free until the morning. The train station also houses a mini steam train for the kids (although my dad would have loved it… if you have time, why not jump on a train to the beautiful countryside around the area from another perspective!
11) Climb Snowdon
This is one of the few that I still haven’t done. My friends have walked it (Thanks Zena and Tabs for the picture) and I am planning to do this next time I visit. Zena loves to travel – here is her insta) I aim to get fit so that I can really enjoy it. Mount Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and England. It’s one of our most famous and recognizable landmarks. With 6 different walking paths and a train service, the summit seems within reach for everyone. The train from Llanberis to the summit of Mount Snowdon, in a Victorian style carriage, is a major tourist attraction. We advise you to book your tickets in advance. Since 1896 people have begun their exploration here and climbed the 1086 ft journey in the comfort of the train rather than walk up!
If you are walking, please make sure you read up about the mountain and the routes you can take. There is a visitor centre at the summit and their website states that you can see as far as Ireland on a really clear day! Visit the “the highest re-fuelling station in England and Wales” and have a drink in the summit Café.
On the A5 between Betws-y-Coed and Llangollen, a 6,700 acre in hand organic farm is the geographical core of the Rhug estate. The estate houses many animals including cows, sheep, pigs, turkeys, chickens and geese. It is the Bison, however, that give this location its unique selling point. A large restaurant serves novelties such as Bison Burgers, cream teas and full main meals to impress anyone! (check out this menu!!!) and their café serves more bbq orientated meals for a quick bite.
The shop houses almost 3000 products from its own range and those of other local suppliers and small businesses. These items include meat, deli, beverages and gifts.
Rhug is committed to an organic approach to farming. This means that the farm benefits from organic pastures that the animals are free to graze on, and they live their life free from unnecessary drugs. They are reared with minimal stress and a high quality of life. This is overseen by the estates governing body.
I hope that you have found something to cater to your tastes in this list. I could probably write one of these every week and still not get to the end of all the things North Wales has to offer. It really does have something for everyone!! Please do comment below and share other places you have been to or if you visit one of these places after reading my post, do come back and let me know if you enjoyed it.
Full time #VanLife travellers sharing tips and adventures