Thrills, spills and spectacular scenery on a wonderful Welsh road trip
Despite its relatively tiny size, Wales makes for an epic road trip. Using buzzing capital city Cardiff as a springboard, you can do a Welsh circuit - roughly 500 miles - in about five days. Enjoy endlessly stunning window views of coast, countryside and castles (there are more fortresses here, per capita, than anywhere else on earth), then pull over to enjoy a raft of quirky activities designed to raise pulses and smiles.
Once synonymous with its mining and farming industries, Wales has become one of Europe's adventure hubs, and in Pembrokeshire, a ruggedly pretty county 150km west of Cardiff, you should try the eclectic past-time of coasteering. As the locals will tell you, it's basically an excuse to do everything your parents told you not to do when you were growing up (think: rock climbing, cliff jumping, swimming into sea caves and being flushed around in turbulent natural wave pools nicknamed 'The Toilet' and 'The Washing Machine').
Another region guaranteed to get the adrenaline flowing is Snowdonia National Park. Sprawling across north Wales, it's a dramatic expanse of verdant valleys, lakes and mountains, including Snowdon, at 1085m, Wales' loftiest peak. You can scale the summit in about four hours on foot, though a quicker, and easier way up, is on a narrow-gauge railway that's been running since 1896.
For something truly surreal, check out Surf Snowdonia. Both novice and expert surfers catch waves generated by a machine in this artificial lagoon, built over a former aluminium factory site. Ziplining is another big Snowdonia draw, with a cluster of venues letting you whoosh through disused slate caverns and over abandoned quarries. One of the most popular sites, Zip World Velocity, situated 20km from mighty Caernarfon Castle, boasts the world's fastest zip line (you can reach speeds of up to 150km/h here).
Driving leisurely back towards Cardiff, past rolling green landscapes, you might fancy a pit stop in the village of Llanwrtyd Wells – especially if you're here in August, when the World Bogsnorkelling Championships are held in a peat bog. A bit further south, the Brecon Beacons await. Mountain biking, horse riding and whitewater rafting are among the outdoorsy fun and games in this unspoilt national park near the Wales-England border.
Another fantastic aspect to road-tripping in Wales is the memorable accommodation en route. You can sleep in everything from stately mansions - don't miss Nanteos, a Grade I listed country house hotel near the seaside university town of Aberystwyth - to glamping-style pop-ups infused with Welsh myths and legends. This northern summer (June-September), you can stay in, for example, a Dragon's Eye pod in Snowdonia or a funky slate cabin in west Wales.
Dragon's Eye Pod Photo © Epic Retreats
Did you know?
Welsh chefs are big on fresh, regionally-sourced produce from land and sea, and in the country's cafes, gourmet restaurants and gastropubs, you can expect to feast on the likes of tender Welsh mountain lamb and dry-aged black beef and hand-dived scallops, hake and oysters.