It’s surprising to me how underrated a travel destination Wales is. With its beautiful landscapes, magnificent castles, and colorful coastal towns, Wales is about as dreamy as it gets. Scotland and Ireland always seems to get all of the love while Wales gets overlooked. But truly, my favorite castle is in Wales - Conwy Castle, which is the first on this list. Some of the prettiest coastal towns in the UK are in Wales, like Aberaeron and Llandudno, and they sure give places like Brighton, England a run for their money. There’s so much to explore that makes it worth more than just a day trip from London to Cardiff (though that’s fun to do as well). I had the opportunity with Visit Wales to spend a week driving down the coast of Wales, starting in Manchester, England (where we flew in), and finishing in Cardiff. Our route took us through towns like Conwy, Tenby, Aberystwyth, Caernarfon, and more. It was truly hard to just pick the best of the best beautiful photo spots for this guide, but I feel like I’ve included some of the most Instagrammable spots that Wales has to offer. Do you think I missed a place? Let me know in the comment section! And if you’re looking to plan your own amazing Welsh road trip, check out The Wales Way for itinerary options and routing advice.
Like I said before, Conwy Castle is my favorite castle in the world. There’s just something special about it. It’s a medieval castle (originally built in the late 13th century by Edward I), and it really has it all. I love how some of the castle is in ruins, giving it that proper historical feel, unlike other medieval castles you’ll find around Europe that have been completely redone and rebuilt. You can climb several of its towers, which are perfect for amazing photos ops over the town of Conwy, the harbor, and even Snowdonia in the distance. On a sunny day, it’s especially magical.
For the best Instagram spot, climb one tower and have your friend climb another, allowing you to shoot across for an epic landscape shot that almost looks like it had to be taken by a drone, like the shot directly below. You can do this both ways to either get the rest of the castle and the countryside in the shot or the ocean and harbor. Pro-tip: go right when they open and head straight up the towers if you’re looking to get this shot without other tourists in it. The castle can get quite busy with visitors! If you’re looking to spending the night in Conwy, I recommend the Erskine Arms, where we stayed.
Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia has possibly the most beautiful scenery and landscapes that you’ll find in Wales, so if you’re already visiting the town of Conwy, it’s a no-brainer to make the drive over to Snowdonia. On a clear day, you can find many hiking trails here to wander. One popular (though difficult) one that avid hikers attempt is Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales!
Llandudno is a beautiful coastal town in the very north of Wales, just a bit more north than Conwy. There’s a lot of views to be had here, including the Great Orme Tramway and the Llandudno Cable Cars seen below. If you don’t want to take the tramway or cable cars, you can also walk or drive to the top of the Great Orme (the town’s mini-mountain), and take in the views over the ocean and town from the top. Fun fact: the Great Orme Tramway debuted in 1902 and is the only cable-hauled tramway currently operating in Britain.
Aberaeron was my personal favorite port town we visited on our coastal trek. Aberaeron is a gorgeous Georgian coastal town on Cardigan Bay on the west coast of Wales. It’s located nearby to Aberystwyth, another beautiful oceanside town on this list. Between the colorful town houses that line the port, the boats in the harbor, and the spectacular sunset that greeted us upon arrival to our hotel, I fell in love with Aberaeron. My favorite shots I took here were with my drone, but there are plenty of photos to be had by walking all along the harbor. If it’s a clear day, make sure to watch out for the sunset!
Aberystwyth Cliff Railway
The Aberystwyth Cliff Railway is a funicular that opened in the town of Aberystwyth all the way back in 1896. It’s easy to see why this was one of my favorite viewpoints of the trip. From the top, you can see the town, Cardigan Bay, and the mountain peaks in the distance (if the weather is good enough). An adult ticket will set you back £5.00, but it’s well worth it for these stunning views.
Talyllyn Steam Train
The Talyllyn Steam Train is a fun and unique day out for any visitor to Snowdonia National Park. Opened in 1865, this historical trail is the world’s first preserved railway (starting in 1951), and it is known as ‘The Railway with a Heart of Gold’. The one-way journey will take you 55 minutes from Tywyn on the coast into Snowdonia National Park to Nant Gwernol. You’ll cross seven miles, and the slow pace will give you plenty of time to take in the scenery and capture some photos along the way. You can plan your visit to the steam train here.
Like Conwy Castle, Harlech Castle is another late 13th century medieval castle built by King Edward I during his invasion of Wales. You can find the town of Harlech in the northwest of Wales on Tremadog Bay within Snowdonia National Park. It is one of the many UNESCO World Heritage sites you can find in Wales, and with its rich history, it’s well worth a visit. My favorite view was of the castle from down the road, where we found the spot shown below. I also flew my drone from there for a different perspective of the castle (please note you are not allowed to fly drones over the castle or from the castle - always check local laws!).
Heading back up further north you’ll find the town of Caernarfon with its castle, Caernarfon Castle. Along with Harlech Castle, Conwy Castle and Beaumaris Castle, it is part of the Castles and Town Walls of Edward 1 UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is yet another Edwardian medieval fortress, and like Conwy Castle, you can also climb the towers here for the best view over the castle grounds. The town of Caernarfon is a very cute little Welsh town too, and loved shooting on the streets with the castle as part of the background.
One of my favorite views was also from up on the castle wall, where I was able to shoot down onto the shopping street for a unique perspective. Caernarfon Castle was probably my second favorite castle we visited after Conwy, especially with its interesting polygonal shaped towers.
South Stack Lighthouse
South Stack Lighthouse is the most northwestern point in Wales on my list, located all the way over on the island of Anglesey. Besides South Stack, which was built in 1809, you can find Beaumaris Castle and several other lighthouses on Anglesey, but we only had the time to visit this one on our journey. To get to the lighthouse, you have to descend 400 steps, and yes you can go to the top of it once you’re there. It was incredibly windy though during our visit, so we were pretty content to stay up top to take our photos. During the right times of year, you can also sometimes spot puffins here!
All the way down on the south coast lies Cardiff, the capital of Wales. I decided to included the city as a whole on the list instead of breaking it up into specific spots, but there’s so much to find here that it’d really need its own article. From the architecture of the Millennium Centre (below right), beautiful Victorian and Edwardian arcades (below left), Cardiff Castle, Bute Park, Castell Coch, Cardiff Bay and more, there’s plenty to explore. If you are short on time when visiting the UK, it’s easy to make a day trip to Cardiff from London on the trains just to get a small taste of Wales.
The Green Bridge of Wales & the Elegug Stacks
Located on the coast of Pembrokeshire on the very southwest tip of Wales you’ll find two amazing nature spots - the Green Bridge of Wales and the Elegug Stacks (aka the Stack Rocks). The Green Bridge in a natural stone arch in the ocean made of limestone, making for a beautiful photo op - just don’t get too close to the edge! Slightly farther down the path you’ll find the Stack Rocks, two giant pillars of stone jutting out of the sea. Please note though, the road to get here passes through military grounds and can sometimes be closed to the public. You can call the Pembroke Visitor Centre at 01437776499 to check in advance if its open before you make the drive over that day.
On the eastern side of Pembrokeshire is Tenby, a picturesque harbor town. With its rows of multi-coloured houses, it’s easy to see why Tenby is a popular holiday spot for both the Welsh and the English. Conveniently, that means Tenby has plenty of hotel and restaurant options, making it a great town to stay in during your travels along the coast of Wales.
Also located in Pembrokeshire, the town of St Davids is the most western point of Wales that we visited. Highlights of the town include the beautiful St Davids Cathedral, which is the finally resting of Wales’ patron saint, Saint David, and Whitesands Beach. The sunset we witnessed that night on Whitesands was perhaps the most stunning one of the whole trip, as you can see below. While in St Davids, I highly recommend booking a tour with Thousand Island Expeditions out to the Pembrokeshire Islands nearby. One of the islands you can visit is Skomer Island, which is home to the largest Atlantic puffin colony in southern Britain. If you want to photograph puffins, Skomer Island is the place to go! Also, if you’re looking for a place to stay while in St Davids, Twr y Felin Hotel is a luxury boutique property that had horses that came right up to my patio - a pretty unique feature!
Last but not least is the town of New Quay, Wales, a seaside town on the south side of Cardigan Bay. These were my favorite drone shots of the trip, with the layered colorful houses, the beaches, and blue water. Like Aberaeron, if you’re a fan of photographing brightly painted town houses, then New Quay is the perfect stop for you. If you’re already visiting Aberystwyth, it’s only a 45 minute drive down the road!
Want to read more about the trip I took with Taylor of Travel Colorfully and Aubrie of Globetrotting Ginger Travel? Check out their articles below!
A Coastal Road Trip Around Wales by Travel Colorfully
Top 20 Things to Do in Wales by Globetrotting Ginger Travel
Disclaimer: This post was in collaboration with Visit Wales. All opinions are my own. This post also contains commission links.
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