Tag Archives: Wales

Top 10 Moments of 2019

A year ago today we were sat at home in the West Midlands, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and the camper-van/motorhome pages. Writing a “2019 top 10 moments” post was a dream not a reality. We had been thinking about the van life dream for some time and although we had a short wheel base VW, it wasn’t really big enough for what we wanted to do.

We were scrolling through one page where a lady was celebrating. She had been to see a van yesterday and brought it home today. It was an Iveco Daily. As happy as we were for this stranger, we were also sad that we had not yet found the van for us, despite looking at several. One of the top runners was an old minibus we had prematurely nicknamed Sweet Pea, however when we took her for a test drive (past our mechanic) he strongly advised we disregard her.

We read the comments and saw others also saying they were looking for a van too and then this guy pops up with “I am selling one of those…”. We arranged to drive to Hull and back to see her and collected her on the 5th January. The rest, as they say, is history.

A new beginning!

Chewy (short for Patchouli when she is being good and Chewbacca when she is grumpy) has changed every aspect of our lives in the last year. Through her we have been able to travel most of England and Wales over the last 9 months and we have seen some amazing places. Many of these have not made it on to the blog as there was just so much that we were involved in and not enough time to document it.

Over the last few months we have been working really hard to remodel the van ready for next year’s adventures and although it has taken longer that we had initially anticipated, I am happy to say that we are coming along well now with the kitchen being installed as we post this. Neither of us have converted a van before and if we had a penny for every time we wondered “what are we thinking trying to convert a van!” we would be able to afford fuel for next year’s adventures! However, we have been very lucky with family and friends lending their help and experience to get our vision to work.

This post we wanted to treat you to some of our favourite moments of the last year. It has been jam packed with our calendar now full of memories to treasure for the rest of our lives. It has been so hard to narrow them down to just a few. However here we go with our favourite top 10 moments of 2019!

#1 Collecting Chewy!

Chewy van
Chewy – before we got her dirty!

January 5th has to be a new National Holiday if we ever become Prime Minister! We were so excited to be driving to collect her – it was a 175 miles each way from our house. We left early, full of excitement and loaded with snacks. Arriving a little later than scheduled due to traffic, we checked the van over once more, happy to do the deal and sign paperwork / transferred funds before returning home.

The driver’s seat is one of those truck driver ones with the suspension. You have to adjust the dial on the side to your weight in kg and it automatically calibrates for the correct amount of spring! I am old school and still do stones (the numbers are lower) and just guessed. I got into the driver’s seat with Louise driving the VW behind me and started to make our way West. After successfully navigating a narrow road and a double decker bus with a van much larger than I was used to, I felt a little bit smug. That was until I found a speed bump that sent me shooting up to the roof and my feet completely left the pedals! Needless to say we had to stop and readjust the seat to ensure that didn’t happen again!

All doors have locks on right?

It was only when we got home that night, that I realised I couldn’t find reverse. I spent ages edging further down the road than needed before we could back onto the driveway. Once we parked, the 2nd realisation happened when we went to lock the driver’s side door to find that where there should be a lock, there was just a black seal. The previous owner had wanted to slow down any possible theft and taken the door lock out from the outside (could still be opened from the inside) and the rear door was held shut with a ratchet strap! We had to lock the door from inside and climb across the van to exit from the passenger side!

Next time we go looking for new vehicle, we will be looking for all the locks on the doors and not just assuming they will be there!!! Without this event, the other top 10 moments of 2019 wouldn’t have happened.

#2 of our top 10 moments of 2019 – Foraging course!

foraging with Kerry
Foraging course

Being on the road and on a budget, we wanted to ensure that we had some skills to help us along the way. I looked into survival skills courses but I felt that these were a little overkill for surviving in the UK as we were unlikely to be far from civilisation at any point. It was our first great adventure and we were going to ease ourselves into it. I booked Louise and myself on a foraging course to teach us about the wild edible plants – and also the ones to be aware of.

This was a great day out for us as we got to try some samples of things you can make out of the wild edible plants that we would be seeing and help us to identify which ones were safe to eat or deadly! Unless you are beyond certain – never eat something if you can’t 100% identify it.  We are now able to spot plants on our travels that we couldn’t have done before and now understand the benefits of finding free food when on a budget. If you haven’t been and are looking for something interesting to do, we would totally recommend going on a foraging course!

#3 The cheap pub stopover that cost more than a campsite!

We are often mindful about money and having no income (living off of savings) we were well aware of trying to keep costs down. Campsites are lovely but if we could find a free spot tucked out of the way or a little pub stop over, we would go there and then have more pennies to spend in local independent shops.

On our way between foraging and a visit to Ross-on-Wye, we found a cute little pub stop over that looked promising. It was getting dark when we arrived one April evening and after checking with the owners that they were happy for us to stay, we moved the van to a quiet spot out of the way. We went in to have ourselves a drink and some food (all they asked for in return) to then find they were having live music on that night. A Welsh man turned up with his guitar and was really good, playing a mix of his own music and songs we all know and love from all decades. He even took requests!

Although there wasn’t many people in the pub that night, the atmosphere was great and the drinks were flowing well. It ended up costing us more for a pub stop over than it would have done if we had booked a campsite with electric hook up and showers! Did we mind? Not really!

#4 Tuckers Grave Meet Up!

Tuckers Grave
Tuckers Grave meet up.

One of the things that Louise and I were worried about was becoming so disconnected with society that we wouldn’t want to be around people anymore. However, our online van-life friends turned into reality when we went to a meet up at Tuckers Grave inn and campsite. I was really nervous about going and we had some van trouble the weeks leading up to the event. It wasn’t until the day that we knew 100% if we were able to make it, but it beat sleeping outside Iveco’s dealership in Avonmouth near Bristol for another night! 

Lots of vans were parked on the field close together, all with their doors open so people could come and look at the self-build designs. Way too much cider was drunk. One lady had brought a bottle of Bakewell Vodka and was sharing it with people that were drinking it out of normal sized glasses! Well, a night of live entertainment, fire pits, BBQs and great friends ended up being a whole weekend as we all nursed hang overs and had to spend another night there until we were all safe to drive!

That night we went into the pub and took over a side room with a log fire and shove ha’penny board. We played Bingo, with a new friend supplying the prizes she could rustle up in her van – a banana, a hard boiled egg and a bulb of garlic! Sometimes, the adventures that are unplanned turn out to be the best nights and the most amazing memories can be made. As far as top 10 moments of 2019 go, this one couldn’t be left out.

#5 Making do with what you got!

boxer bunting
How to dry your pants, vanlife style! #BoxerBunting

On occasions we have had to overcome challenges that we were unprepared for. From little things like creating the Boxer Bunting (Seen by over 1,659 people on Facebook) when they hadn’t dried overnight (so I hung my pants over the stove when cooking breakfast), to having to climb over the seats to get in and out when the side door got jammed shut in Ross-on-Wye.

We have also had to get ourselves out of some tricky situations when driving Chewy too. Recently, we were in Wales and trusted our satnav to take us to a monkey sanctuary. We ended up having to go up a steep hill on a single track road, that was windy and narrow. On our way up we came face to face with a delivery driver in his van, looking as traumatised as we did. He had to reverse up the hill a short distance to let us pass as he was closer to a gap. Once we had passed him, we then had to drop back down the hill again a little bit before Louise took a good run, beeping the horn to warn oncoming traffic and just flooring it up the hill. I had my eyes shut the whole way up!

Making up our own recipes has also been a great adventure. We have invented many a dish that we would struggle to recreate. We managed to make bread in the van using the summer heat in the cab to make the dough rise, flatbread and pittas. “Whatever we have left” soup, if we have an odd potato, carrot or other veg, it all gets made into a soup to save it going in the bin and these have cured ills and hangovers on many occasions. Thank you Louise for always making me feel better when I can’t hold my drink!

#6 Many firsts

Being on the road has provided us with some great opportunities. Things that we had not been able to do before, whether through fear or lack of funds etc. We made a promise to ourselves to take advantage of those moments and grab them with both hands. In the last 9 months, we have learned how to drive a New Holland tractor (Thanks William!), been on a speedboat, climbed a mountain, swam in a waterfall and so much more! Swimming in a waterfall is not just on my top 10 moments of 2019 list, but of my all time top 10 bucket list items that we have managed to achieve!

It was the first time we had been able to have an adventure on this scale before and although we only left the UK once, we are planning many more trips abroad now that we have dipped our feet in the water. We have some amazing plans in the pipe line for 2020 and can’t wait to share them with you! If we were writing a top 100 moments of 2019 instead of top 10, we would be able to list every single first, including my first bonfire on a beach and first time we slept next to a nuclear reactor (we didn’t realise why it was so quiet until we googled where we were!).

#7 Visiting Spain

Heading off to Spain!

We took a couple of weeks out from our busy schedule of exploring the UK to travel to Spain. We did cheat a little and left Chewy at home, opting to fly instead. The weather here had been awful we were keen to get some sun! My aunt has a villa near Torrevieja so we flew into Alicante and we were met there by one of her friends. We spent the time we had there going on some coach trips to see cave houses, towns on top of massive cliffs, swam in a waterfall and visited Benidorm… We still laugh about the mobility scooters for 2 that we saw there!

It was the first time I left the country without my parents and it did feel strange. We absolutely loved this experience and have written a few blog posts on our adventures there. One of the best evenings we had there was our last night at the Olive tree restaurant and then we took a slow walk home before laying on the sun loungers on the roof terrace watching the stars and satellites. It was so romantic and one of the most beautiful nights of my life.

#8 Ponies on the Gower

Gower foal
Foals on the Gower

I was born in London and lived there until I was 18/19, my heart always craved the countryside. My grandparents on mum’s side had a caravan in Bognor Regis and my grandma (dads mum) lived on the edge of the New Forest so we had plenty of opportunity to get out of the city.

For number 8 of our top ten moments of 2019 we had to include the ponies! We found a lovely free camping spot on the Gower Peninsular that we have stopped in a few times. Cows and Horses roam free on top of the hill there. When we were up there, there were some young ponies in the group, enjoying the warmth of the sun.

This blue one caught my attention and allowed me to get quite close as I slowly edged towards it – keeping an eye on mum’s whereabouts of course! I have a decent zoom on the camera and managed to get some lovely pictures. Once they got used to me sitting there, they would come closer on their own and choose to be near us.

One morning we woke up to the van shaking. Unsure if we were being broken into or if it was an earth quake we looked out of the window to find a cow having a good scratch on the rear ladder!

#9 Polar Express

Christmas is all about the kids but when you are still a kid trapped in the body of an adult, Christmas is all about the Polar Express! Louise and I are both massive festive fun-bags and love the season of goodwill and cinnamon. Everything gets covered in decorations and we love to visit Christmas Fayres and all the aromas of the bratwursts and mulled wine, new pyjamas and cosy nights in with a blanket watching the telly-box.

This year I treated Louise to a trip on the Wensleydale all singing, all dancing, fully immersive trip on the Polar Express steam train to the ‘North Pole’ to meet Santa. All the characters were there from the movie, the singing chefs, the conductor, the homeless man/ghost and of course the real Santa with real beard. As part of the trip we also got hot chocolates and cookies as well as our first gift of Christmas, a silver bell!

It was a really fun event and one that we would love to go on again. There were whole families including grandparents dressed up in their pyjamas and dressing gowns on board the train. The children’s faces were incredible when Santa came to see them and the atmosphere created by the staff was worth a million pounds!

#10 My favourite top 10 moment of 2019 – when I proposed to Louise.

engagement rings
SHE SAID YES!!!!!

It was a hot summers day and we were in Whitemill, Wales. We had found a stunning campsite called Quarry Lodge with beautiful pitches, great facilities and friendly hosts. The site was in an old Quarry – I know! It’s like they knew there was going to be a campsite called Quarry Lodge built there in the future!!! Anyway, the site was on a few levels with little openings and groves poked here and there. We had walked around the site earlier in the day and I knew it was the place that I wanted to propose.

I had been carrying the ring around since Cambridge and had asked the permission of her closest family – all had given me their blessing. The sun was starting to set and it looked to be a beautiful evening. We had gone for another walk outside the campsite but I had not seen anywhere as special as this spot. I encouraged Louise back to the site so that I could put my plan into action.

Perfect plan!

On the way through the site, we found some long grass. Lou asked if I had ever done the trick where you put the grass between your thumbs and blow to make a squeal/whistle/random noise. I had not, so Louise proceeded to give me a tutorial without blowing it herself. She helped me place the grass between my thumbs and told me to blow. Well, the noise was so loud I scared myself, tried to run away and stumbled about flailing. Louise was killing herself laughing the rest of the day and wished she had videoed it. I didn’t realise the noise would be that loud and I wasn’t prepared.

A few minutes later I had reached the perfect spot with Louise, the sun was glowing orange as she was sinking and lighting up the sky as if it was on fire. Louise was still laughing about me scaring myself and had turned away from me to compose herself. When she turned around it took her a moment to realise that I wasn’t where she left me, I was on the floor on one knee, with a ring in my hand. Luckily she said Yes!!!

So as for a rundown of our top 10 moments of 2019 go, these just touch the tip of the iceberg. We have so much more to share with you next year and we would love it if you could leave us a message of your top moments of 2019. Tell is what you got up to and what you have planned for next year! We cant wait to #goexplore again next year.

Amazing Coastal Locations in Ceredigion, West Wales

As far as holidays go, you are spoilt for choice. From sweeping golden beaches to a sunken city myth to rival Atlantis. From dolphin watching to steam trains through a mountain and a Land Rover discovery safari. Amazingly – you can do ALL of these things in West Wales – Ceredigion to be precise! Ceredigion covers the bulk of the west coast of Wales as you look at the map. The area is from Aberdyfi to Cardigan and boasts 50 miles of the most spectacular coast line in the UK. Considered to be the centre of Welsh Culture and still mainly rural, a coastal path runs from top to bottom allowing back packers or day trippers to safely navigate the sometimes rugged coastline.

Lets just get straight in and tell you about this amazing county!

Aberdyfi

Aberdyfi, also known as Aberdovey, is one of the most northern locations on the West Wales coast of Ceredigion. Now a beautiful and charming village on the north side of the estuary on the River Dovey it was once sparse. With early mentions of boats docking here with nothing but 3 houses, it has now expanded a lot to include bars, restaurants and miles of beaches in its own micro-climate.

Offering free water refills from participating stations it is trying to do its bit to cut plastic pollution. Activities include The Dovey Yacht club, Bowling Club and is an organiser of Welsh Cycling events, you will fall in love with this charming village.

Borth

Picture By Matt Wilby – Check out his Insta! He is a Graphic & Web designer, Duck film poster maker, Social media marketer, Tent Inventor, wanna be Photographer & actual Technician.

7 miles north of Aberystwyth is a village and seaside resort called Borth. A seaside resort with a magical difference. At low tide, a submerged forest becomes visible. Preserved by the acid in the peat, stumps of oak, pine, birch, willow and hazel can be seen. These have been carbon dated back to 1500 BC and may be connected with the myth of Cantre’r Gwaelod!

Borth is an old fishing village and along with Ynyslas, claim to have the longest and most golden beach stretching to meet the Dyfi National Nature Reserve.

Cantre’r Gwaelod

Wrapped in myth and legend, this is Wales’s version of the lost city of Atlantis! It is possibly one of the best known of the Welsh Legends. Legend tells of a rich and fertile lowland. 16 cities governed by Gwyddno Garanhir and a palace, Caer Wyddno, close to Aberystwyth. The land stretched across the expanse of the Cardigan bay sea.

The cities lay lower than sea level but were protected by mighty sea walls. A guardian was responsible for ensuring the sea gates were shut every night. One night, the guardian had a little too much to drink and when, at a feast with the king, he forgot to return and close the gates. That night there was a storm and the high spring tides broke through and flooded the area.

Locally to the Ceredigion region in West Wales you will find links to these lost cities all over, from a petrified forest in Ynyslas where strong tides wash away the sand and mysterious bells from under the waves. At Borth, a sculpture has carved tales of the scene on a giant slab of slate!

Aberystwyth

View of Aberystwyth from Constitution Hill

From the amazing views and beacon on top of Constitution hill, which you can access by taking the Electric Cliff Railway, to the 13th century castle ruins. This university town has a whole hosts of independent shops showcasing local artists and enterprises to the high street named brands we all recognise.

The promenade is 2000 meters long and is full of joggers, walkers and people wanting to relax. Some food and drink stalls line the way where you can pick up a snack. We had a fish and chip lunch with a seagull when we visited! We recommend you check out Constitution Hill at the northern end of the Prom. It has a lovely cliff railway (opened in 1896) to save the legs from climbing up – always a bonus! And at the top you will find a camera obscurer and views covering 1000 square miles. Attractions such as a kids play area, gift shop and café are available at the top.

Aberystwyth Castle

The castle ruins now house a park and play area. Construction began in 1277. In 1404 the castle fell to Owain Glyndwr and was occupied until it was recaptured by cannon in 1408. In 1649, it was at the wrong end of an order to have it blown up. Today the remains are the inner and middle walls which would have had an outer wall.

Rheidol Valley Steam Train

A narrow gauge railway from Aberystwyth to Devils Bridge. 11 ¾ miles of the stunning Welsh valleys rising around sharp corners and steep gradients. From here you can access the Devil’s Bridge falls. It was built in 1902 to provide a link between lead mines and the Aberystwyth harbour. From the train you can visit the Devils Bridge Falls.

Devils Bridge Falls

The Devils Bridge falls are a world famous attraction at the heart of the Cambrian mountains. Even William Wordsworth visited here and wrote about “The torrent at Devil’s Bridge”. There are two different walks available as well as a tea room and gift shop.

Visit devilsbridgefalls.co.uk to print off a 20% discount voucher. (If you liked this tip check out our post on cheap attraction tickets).

Silver Mountain.

Typical Traffic jam in Wales!

If you and your family like caves and mystery then you could also visit the Silver Mountain experience! Located in the western Cambrian mountains of Mid Wales approximately 11 miles from Aberystwyth on the A44, the Silver Mountain Experience was originally a silver-rich lead ore mine. By 1973 the Mine was derelict.

Now the attraction has been opened following careful restoration work. There is the original old mine “count house”, other buildings connected with the ore dressing process, plus many ancient photographs, tools, equipment and mining documents from the industry displayed in the museum.

Above ground are collections of mining machinery and working water wheels which were actually made in local foundries which closed long ago. (10% off if you book tickets on line!)

Land Rover Safari

Not enough adventure yet? How about a Land Rover Safari? With several tours and prices varying from £20pp for a 2 hour adventure to £150+ for 1-3 people on a half day tour, you can discover Devils Bridge, Hinterland, The Elan Valley and the silver lead mines in a Land Rover enabling you to get to places other tours cant reach!

Aberaeron

A Georgian fishing port town turned picturesque focal point for the rural community. Aberaeron is a great location to use as a base in order to reach a multitude of locations. Whether you are staying in a hotel, guest house or self catering cottage or campsite, you will be met in a friendly town with a variety of excellent restaurants.

Full of elegantly painted town houses, you can stroll along Quay Parade where the harbour is or take a boat out to explore Cardigan bay and the coast.

Llanerchaeron Estate

A national trust property, is home to an elegant Georgian Villa in the Aeron Valley. Self sufficient with a farm, walled garden and lake, the property has lots to offer. From Butter making sessions to Nordic walking and wild bat walks, there is something here for everyone to enjoy!

New Quay

Louise, Dolphin watching!

Oh New Quay! This place will blow your mind. We stayed on a caravan site here for a week and used it as a base to travel from one end of Cardigan bay to the other. Home to the UK’s largest pod of Dolphins, they can be easily seen here with the naked eye just by sitting on the harbour wall. You don’t need binoculars but they will get you a closer look! A few cafes and restaurants line the tiny harbour wall. It isn’t a big town but it is very pretty.

The beach is a must to walk on. When we visited, we had access direct from the caravan site to the beach and even though for a day or two the weather was awful, we still went to the beach in wellies and waterproofs! The best thing was that we had the beach all to ourselves!

If you want to try and get a closer look at the dolphins and seals that live in the area, you can take a boat trip from several of the cardigan bay harbours. Do be warned though – these dolphins are wild and have their own agenda on if they will show up on time! Sightings cannot be guaranteed even though the captains will do their best and point out all other animals they see on the way.

New Quay – Cardigan Bay Watersports

wellies and Waterproofs! hard core beach addicts!

If you fancy something with a little more adrenaline, perhaps Cardigan Bay Watersports are more up your street? From sailing and sea kayaking , paddle boards, water skiing and wake-boarding sessions you will really get your blood pumping! With courses starting from £55 and rentals from £18 +4 if you require a wet suit. They also offer a ladies only sailing lesson, lead by a female instructor.

Llangrannog

An excellent beach for families all year round, this is also a good spot for a bit of surfing in the right conditions. It is a really relaxing location with a traditional pub that overlooks the sea and a beach café selling home made ice cream.

When the tide is out, you can walk around to the next beach which is also accessible from the cliff top steps. Take a walk around the headland or join up with the Ceredigion, West Wales coastal path. The views here are among the best you will ever get. Being west facing, Ceredigion is one of only a few counties that can boast sun sets over the sea!

Another great place to see the marine wildlife of seals, and sometimes their pups, the bays provide safety and a rich spot in which to find yourself. It has a blue flag beach award and is a sandy beach perfect for picnics and castle building!

According to legend, a Ceredigion giant called Bica was suffering from toothache and spat out the offending tooth in anger. Imagine the size of Bica when you see the weathered rock known as Carreg Bica at Llangrannog, which was allegedly the giant’s tooth.

Cardigan

Guildhall Market

The beautiful market town of Cardigan is the gateway to the Teifi Valley (pronounced Tie-Vee) as well as the coastal paths for Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. To the untrained eye, nothing much has changed here in decades. It has narrow streets and untouched buildings dating back to Georgian and Victorian times. These are now inhabited with quirky gift shops, traditional butchers, grocers and independent stores.

Cardigan Castle

Not your typical castle experience for sure! From a Georgian mansion to the medieval castle ruins and grade 2 listed gardens full of rare plant species. The castle houses temporary and permanent exhibitions. It even has a live bat-cam! There are lots of activities on their calendar throughout the year so do check what is on when planning your trip!

Cardigan town

There is also a good variety of refreshments on sale in cafes and pubs featuring a range of locally sourced food. This even includes Sewin, a sea trout that is a speciality of the river Teifi.

The Guildhall market.

A Georgian building built around 1860. It has high arches decorating the walls outside and these are also reflected within the building. A crypt like arched basement houses the lower tier of stalls. These range from a friendly café serving artisan pasta, quiches and pastries, to dress making, clothing, home appliance and pre loved furniture stalls.

A new addition is a gallery that opens onto the street, full of beautiful carved wooden items and paintings of the local area. It is certainly worth exploring some of the side roads too as we found a few interesting shops selling unusual gifts. we find it helpful when we travel to check out these types of shops for unique gifts and keep them for Christmas or birthday presents for people.

Poppit Sands.

A short drive away from Cardigan is Poppit Sands. This is a wide beach with parking and a café on the roadside. Sand dunes and a lifeboat station block your view of the beach from the car park but a very short walk later and you are rewarded with a magnificent beach.

There are rocky areas on the left with plenty of rock pools to investigate and a lovely sandy beach where we watched the horses being ridden along the shallow water. Driftwood was in plentiful supply if you are looking for a project so bring a ‘bag-for-life’!

Coasteering

If you fancy a close up look at the rocky cliffs, why not book onto a coasteering taster session for you or your family. Everything your mother told you not to do at the beach can be achieved under the watchful eye of Adventure Beyond staff. They offer a wide range of activities including white water tubing, gorge walking and climbing.

Ceredigion, West Wales, simply put has it all. From relaxing beaches to full on exhilaration. Myth, Legend and modern museums. For more information on the West Wales Coast including Ceredigion, check out the Visit Wales website.

For other locations we have visited, for example 12 amazing experiences in North Wales or where to find cheap attraction tickets, check out our menu above!

Visit Pembrey Country Park

In our last post we left you at Kidwelly Castle, South Wales and had been travelling down from Whitemill. We were aiming to work our way along the Welsh coast to be in Somerset in 10 days time. Looking on the map, we found a large green area with what looked like a country park. We decided to visit Pembrey Country Park to see what it had to offer. As you can see on the map, it’s not far from Kidwelly, just 5 miles!

Map of South Wales visit pembrey country park


We secured our stuff and took a slow drive. When you turn off of the A484 you go over a railway bridge which is a single track and governed by traffic lights. You will then see a small car park on the left called Penybeed car park. There are some lovely walks from here. If you follow the road down a bit further you will then arrive at the entrance to visit Pembrey Country Park and a beach site. It is one of Wales’ top visitor attractions.

A park warden greeted us in the toll booth at the entrance to the park. It is £5 entrance/parking all day and they are open until 10pm. We didn’t realise there was an entrance fee and didn’t have cash on us at the time. Luckily they allowed us to drive on through and pay at the visitor centre with a card.  

With over 500 acres of land and beaches, we had lots to discover! Find out more below!

Visit Pembrey Country Park Munitions ruins

Pembrey country park Bunkers

WW1

Although the park, is today a stunning, green and lush parkland, it wasn’t always this way. The park has had many uses over the years and there’s still evidence for you to explore today!

The sand dunes provided an excellent location for the manufacturing of explosives during both World Wars. It was the site of Pembrey’s Royal Ordnance Factory. The earliest munitions were produced here as early as 1882. Using it’s remote location, the dunes would greatly reduce the impact of any accidental explosions. The factory, employed mainly by women as the men were at war fighting, has as many as 6000 employees producing Dynamite and TNT.

USE AFTER WW1

After the First World War the factory closed in the 1920’s, the administration building was then used to house the children of unemployed miners. They were put to work in the factories to produce a component of printing ink, Carbon black.

WW2

At the start of the Second World War the factory re-opened and covered over 200 hectares of land. This mainly covered the sand dunes. The nitration and other dangerous buildings were located here a safe distance away from the admin buildings such as surgery, canteen, police barracks, central office and library.

Railway tracks used in the movement of the explosives can still be seen today. They are especially prevalent around the children’s play area.

Production continued at a low level after the war. It was again was relied upon to produce more around the time of the Korean war in the 1950’s. After the war, the factory was mainly involved in the decommissioning of bombs by breaking them down. The factory closed its doors in March 1965.

SHIPWRECKS

Pembrey country park Shipwreck

Pembrey’s beach, Cefn Sidan, is the resting place of a large number of shipwrecks – many can be seen on google maps! Some of these wrecks have been dated back as far as 1668 and show how important the shipping route was with the movement of timber and coal along the Welsh coast. There are over 300 shipwrecks on this coast line that they know of. Many more are still waiting to be discovered. It’s not just the boats that have been discovered here! Anchors, now placed by the beach car park were discovered within 200 meters of each other. Found near the low water mark with a chain between them. These are the heavyweight anchors from a vessel of at least 1000 tonnes!

BEACH AND SAND DUNES

Visit Pembrey country park Sand Dunes

The sand here is a very fine sand and the dunes are constantly changing and shifting. Reports indicate that the beach can raise or fall by over 6 ft depending on the storms and the tides either burying the beach, or exposing the wrecks underneath and is proof of just how difficult this stretch of coast line was for the boats to navigate the ever changing sand banks.

The sand dunes can be very dangerous due to the type of sand and constant shifts. There are signs up warning not to dig in the sand dunes as they easily collapse.

The beach is an excellent spot for treasure hunting. Aside from the occasional new discovery from the shipwrecks you can find a lot of shells here for your DIY projects. It is great to visit after the high tide and sift through all the debris washed up. Do be cautious though – the beach also has some dead jellyfish wash up and some are huge! For reference, I am a size 8!

The beach is 8 miles long and full of golden sand. It is one of the few places where you can watch the sunset over the sea and the red sky shining on the exposed rib cages of the ship wrecks are a sight you won’t forget!

ACTIVITIES

Pembrey has lots of activities on offer. You can treat the family to an adventure filled week away there and do something different every single day! Why not have a go at the following activities;

Dry ski slope

Tobogganing

Cycle Hire

Archery

Laser tag

Orienteering

Pitch and Putt

Miniture railway

Adventure play area

Equestrian centre

Nature trails (coastal path and woodland options)

Cafe

Award winning beaches

Whether you want to have an adventure or just relax on the grass or the stunning golden award winning beaches that have been compared to the carribean minus the palm trees, there is something you will fall in love with!

CAMPING

visit Pembrey country park and  Campsite
We had most of the non electric field to ourselves!

There are 2 campsites at Pembrey. A camping and caravan club site just on the edge of the park or Pembrey campsite within the park featuring 320 pitches. They cater for all with non electric, electric and fully serviced pitches.

They have 2 toilet and shower blocks with a family shower room as well as washing up rooms for your dirty cups and plates. The wardens are very helpful and are only too happy to tell you about the area and where to visit as well as its history!

If you are looking for a season pitch for your motorhome you will be glad to know that Pembrey do offer either a season pitch or just a summer pitch where you can hook up all of your gear and visit as often as you like through the season. Everything you need will be here when you visit Pembrey Country Park.

WALKING

Pembrey forest and Pill Box
Pill box used to fire machine guns at aircraft attacking the munition factory.

Pembrey Country Park has beautiful walks, nature trails and coastline views. A mapped walk took us on a 4 mile hike through woodland and via the historical relics of the munition factory.

If you are brave you can try and make your own path but do be aware, these woods are large and you can easily get lost!

CYCLING

We hired two bicycles for an afternoon. You are not limited to staying on the site. There is a coastal path that runs from Chepstow to Queenferry. We decided to cycle to Burry Port and have a well deserved bag of chips and back. Sadly for us the weather turned rather wet and windy so we had to cut short our adventure and good job too as we had rather tender bits for a few days afterwards!

GHOSTS

As with many places, there is nothing quite like a good ghost story. Pembrey has its own collection. It is reported that everything from ghost ships and sailors walking along the beach to bears in the woods have been reported. The ships would sometimes be carrying exotic animals, such as dancing bears, for entertainment. When they were ship wrecked it is believed that some of these animals found their way to shore and lived in the woods. It had so many reported sightings around the site that the UK television show Most Haunted spent a night here to investigate!

Believe what you may but there is no denying that the beach and woods in the dark do take on an eerie feel when the mist starts to roll in! If you go down to the woods today, you are sure of a big surprise!!!

Visit Pembrey Country Park Woods
Haunted Woodland

VISIT PEMBREY COUNTRY PARK

There is so much here that we didn’t have time to explore and we are looking to visit again with a group of friends. It was a wonderful place to visit and off peak for a non electric pitch cost us £17 a night. That meant that we didn’t have to pay for parking in the park as we were already there as paying campers.

We saw many a family there with the children playing and having fun outdoors. Whether for a day, a week or for a season pass we recommend you visit Pembrey Country Park.

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Rib Ride Boat Trip- Anglesey

Anglesey is well known for its stunning beaches. After a day on the sand, why not go to the other extreme. Try a high speed boat trip down the Menai Strait! Rib Ride offer several different types of boat trip depending on your thrill seeking level. Their newest boats are capable of doing 73 miles an hour on the water!

When we booked the ticket they did say that parking could be problematic. They recommended getting there about 30 mins before your trip. Having seen the parking situation I would recommend getting there much earlier – especially if you are in a larger vehicle. We had the VW at the time so not too bad however the Iveco would be much harder to park.

Rib Ride Boat

We met up with Matt, our captain for the Velocity boat trip. He took us through a very extensive health and safety briefing and ensured that we were all harnessed up correctly. There was plenty of room on the jetty for all of us to get into our harnesses. The captain ensured that the boat was balanced as we made our way onto the seating area.

The boats are incredible and resemble a roller-coaster and that’s exactly what the ride is, without the rails. You must hold on to the handles at all times through this ride as sudden turns or waves could hit you hard. It does require a certain level of physical fitness.

White Knuckle Rollercoaster

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. Try and remember to breathe! This ride gives you a thrill for sure but also give you a great view. Not only of the wild life but the tiny beach houses situated at the waters edge. You can’t see these from the road, they are well sheltered. A little bit of envy perhaps at these gorgeous properties and their views!

Our captain was lucky that there were not many boats on the strait that day so he could show us how the boat handled. With loops and quick turns he put her through her paces! It was a real treat to feel the wind on our faces and pass the small boats as if they were motionless.

Our Rib Ride captain 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. The team were great fun and tried to take footage of us on the trip. This is because you do need to have both hands on the handle bars and it would have been far too dangerous to use a camera. There would be a good chance that you would knock your captain out as the device would fly straight at his head. Unfortunately, on our trip the camera failed so we don’t have any pictures to share with you. I guess we will have to go and do it again…

Rib Ride Anglesey

Great value for money and other trips available

This boat trip is not very expensive for what it is, £35 each when we experienced it and a really fun mini adventure. Only negative comment is that it doesn’t last long enough! 30 minutes sail time is all you get on the Velocity ride but there are other boat trips available at a slower speed.

Rib Ride also offer rides out to see the seals and puffins, as well as castles and islands. A 2nd office in Hollyhead also offers trips out to South Stack, Gogarth and the Skerries.

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12 Amazing experiences in North Wales

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!

1) Kayak on Lake Bala

Bala Kayak North Wales
Kayak on Bala Lake

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!

2) Corris craft centre and King Arthur’s Labyrinth.

Corris Mine Caves North Wales
Caving in Corris Mines

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.

Corris Rarebit North Wales
Corris Rarebit

There are caving adventures here too, depending on your thrill seeking limitiations!

King Arthur’s Labyrinth

King Arthurs Labyrinth

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!)

Corris Mine Explorers

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!

3) Portmeirion

portmeirion
Portmeirion

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!

4) Welsh Mountain Zoo

Welsh Mountain Zoo North Wales
Welsh Mountain Zoo

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.

5) Llandudno

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.

Great Orme North Wales
View from the Great Orme

The Orme’s,

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

Llyn Trawsfyndd North Wales lake
Llyn Trawsfynydd

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.

lake Vrynwy North Wales
Castle Lake Vrynwy

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.

Harlech Castle

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.

Caernarfon Castle

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.

CADW

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.

9) Rib Ride UK

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!

10) Betws-y-Coed

Betws-Y-Coed

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

Zena and Tabitha at the top of 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.

12) Rhug Estate (Bison farm)

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.