From stunning scenery to beautiful churches in Wales, this guide is guaranteed to inspire you to plan an amazing Welsh adventure.
Well, look at that, we’re getting closer to being able to travel again! I am eager to get moving after almost a year of being cooped up.
One of the positives to come out of the pandemic has been a greater appreciation of places closer to home. Personally, I’m really excited to get out and see more of the UK later this year. While armchair travel might be one of the only ways to experience holiday destinations at the moment, it shouldn’t stop you from planning your next getaway as soon as restrictions ease.
I’m really happy to be able to inspire you with alternative ideas for trips too. You really don’t need to visit the obvious spots! There are plenty of incredible destinations dotted around the UK, and many offer unique experiences.
So, if you’ve visited the tourist spots and want to try something new, how about a trip centred around some of Wales’ ancient and sacred church buildings? You really don’t need to be religious to appreciate the historic architecture of these buildings. Many of the structures are located in areas of natural beauty too, meaning you’ll always want to have your camera handy!
I’ve always been charmed by Wales. With its majestic mountains, breath-taking coastline, glorious castles and Celtic folklore, the country is rightfully growing in popularity as a tourist destination. Over the last 12 months, overseas travel has been tricky, which meant lots of Brits opted to head west and fall in love with Wales for the very first time. I spent a long weekend enjoying the natural beauty of north Wales last summer, and it definitely exceeded expectations.
What about you? Maybe you’ve taken a trip to the Pembrokeshire Coast or up to Snowdonia National Park, but did you see any pretty churches dotted around the landscapes? I can pretty much guarantee you did as they are located all over Wales.
Coming up I’ve got some seriously cool ideas for staycations that combine history, adventure, local charm and culture.
These experiences will transport you to diminutive chapels carved from cliff faces, sheltered spots hidden deep within woodland and tiny island churches surrounded by water. A trip to explore Wales’ churches and chapels will give you the chance to witness living history and legend come together in ancient places.
To showcase Wales’ fascinating history, a new set of experiences has been launched by the National Churches Trust, the charity dedicated to supporting and maintaining the UK’s church buildings. The experiences are hosted on the Explore Churches website. Definitely take a look – the site is easy to navigate and you can plan your dream trip by using keywords or picking a location.
From kayaking along the Pembrokeshire coast and getting off the beaten track as you cycle through country lanes, to stargazing and hiking, these varied experiences are designed to reveal the very best of Wales’ rich culture, history, heritage and environment.
So, whether you’re looking to get active, enjoy the great outdoors or focus on wellbeing, there’s an experience for you.
Another bonus to taking one of these trips is that your money will help the communities in the region too. Money from tours and donations not only helps maintain the historic buildings, it also contributes to the community services they offer like food banks and support groups. It’s pretty much the epitome of a sustainable and ethical travel choice!
So, time to find out more about the kind of magical experiences that await you in Wales.
12 Incredible Experiences That Will Make You Want To Visit Wales
Pilgrims from the Sea: Coasteer, Kayak & Surf, Pembrokeshire
If you’re an outdoor lover, this one’s for you. You’ll kick off your day coasteering, kayaking and surfing around the Pembrokeshire coast followed by lunch in an ecolodge.
In the afternoon you’ll visit some quaint churches on the ‘Saints and Stones’ trail – a route which takes visitors on a journey through the scenic beauty of Pembrokeshire’s beaches and mountains, culminating at the iconic cathedral in St Davids – the smallest city in the UK.
Ready for an amazing view? It’s time to climb the 135ft medieval tower of St Giles church in Wrexham (one of the Seven Wonders of Wales). You’ll see the 300-year-old church bells up close and learn the art of bellringing, all while enjoying stunning panoramic views of the surrounding region.
For cycling fans, there are several cycling experiences in this area, including a leisurely guided bike tour of the isle of Anglesey, delivered in partnership with Green Lane Bike Tours. A friend of mine did this recently and absolutely loved it!
Here, you’ll get the chance to enjoy spectacular views, stop off at some of the island’s smallest country churches and learn about their history and the region’s fascinating geology and archaeology.
I’m a big fan of stargazing and have been on a few trips themed around looking up at the incredible night sky. With so little light pollution to worry about, some regions of mid-Wales are known for their spectacular dark skies.
This tour takes place at Capel y Ffin churchyard, where you’ll learn some basic stargazing skills (including using binoculars and telescopes, as well as navigating using star maps) before spotting the constellations of the northern hemisphere and identifying various deep sky objects such as the Orion Nebula. This is one of the most magical experiences in Wales – you could see views as spectacular as this!
Another great options for those happiest on two wheels is this spectacular cycling tour in Anglesey. You’ll get to visit churches surrounded by sea that were once on the mainland!
Trip highlights include a ride out to visit the iconic St Cwyfan’s – a tiny island church also known as the ‘Church in the Sea’, which is only accessible at low-tide. This part of North Wales is seriously stunning so don’t forget your camera! You’ll finish off your journey via a picturesque rural inland route, complete with a Welsh tea at a popular cyclist’s café.
If the stresses of the last year have got to you, this is a great experience to book onto. Spend an afternoon attending a poetry reflection and meditation by candlelight inside St Hywyn’s church in Aberdaron.
Moving around the building, you’ll read through famous Welsh poet, RS Thomas’ spiritual poetry, which connects with features within the church. This is a very spiritual experience and perfect for anyone craving some relaxation.
Another great option for de-stressing… how does a relaxing willow weaving workshop in the atmospheric setting of an ancient church sound?
At Llanrhian church in Pembrokeshire, you’ll have the opportunity to learn a new skill, creating your very own willow basket from scratch using willow grown organically on a local farm. Oh, and you’ll leave with a lovely souvenir of your trip too!
Art lovers and history buffs will love learning about the history of 17th century Plough Chapel – a Grade II* historic building located in the Brecon Beacons National Park, known for being one of the earliest independent chapel congregations in Wales.
This experience will give you the chance to explore the chapel’s striking interior and marvel at the extraordinary craftsmanship on display. From its rich carved woodwork and water powered organ to the ornate panelled ceiling, which even conceals a Victorian ventilation system, there’s so much to see! You could even round off the day with tea and Welsh cakes with some of the members of the chapel.
If you’re into literature and languages, this one is for you! This experience dives into the origins of the Welsh language, and how it was introduced to the Welsh with the help of Dr John Davies, a prolific Welsh scholar who is believed to have been responsible for first translating the bible into Welsh in the 17th century.
Spend an afternoon learning all about his life and how he kept faith with his work at a time when religious tensions were high.
Have you heard of St Asaph Cathedral? It’s officially the smallest cathedral in Britain.
On this tour you’ll tour the cathedral (which, let’s face it, won’t take long!) and learn about its history, all while admiring its magnificent architecture and stained glass widows. Then it’s time to enjoy a selection of homemade cakes and fresh locally roasted coffee from the church’s on-site tearoom. Welsh hospitality is always pretty special!
What a stunning area this is! On this tour you’ll explore the tranquil countryside setting of the Usk Valley, and squeeze in visits to four historic Welsh churches along the way.
The churches selected cover a wide range of styles and periods, giving you the chance to see the craftsmanship of different centuries. There’s something about seeing the beautiful buildings with the bacdkrop of the countryside that make this experience extra special.
If you love the sound of exploring the Welsh countryside, seeing some clifftop views, and exploring beautiful coves and smugglers caves, then this is the experience for you.
Guided Pilgrimage, a not for profit travel company, offer trips to show you the ancient Celtic pilgrimage routes across west Wales. Enjoy six miles of stunning views, all while taking in the history of the ancient paths.
I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about these amazing experiences in Wales. To start planning your trip, visit the Explore Churches website, where you can view all the available experiences and search for the perfect option by keyword or location.
The website showcases the fascinating history and stunning art and architecture of over 500 churches across the country with suggested itineraries linking them together.
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