More than a little off the beaten track, Llanthony Priory is one of the most picturesque and secluded of ecclesiastical ruins. A wonderful place to take a picnic, enjoy a pint of local ale in ‘The Llanthony Priory Hotel’ built within the ruins, or to pass a night under canvas in the small but basic campsite. Pony trekking is a popular pastime in these parts and hiring a pony for a couple of hours of hacking across the moorland is a truly memorable experience.
Llanthony Priory Hotel, Llantony, Monmouthshire, UK + 44 (0)1873 890487
With such breathtaking scenery you hardly notice the miles walked as you travel along The Welsh Coast Path. Deserted beaches, hidden coves and startling cliffs all have a real ‘wow’ factor for visitors. Whether watching the sun set over the water in the summer, or wrapping up warm for a winter ramble, the Welsh Coast Path is well worth a visit. Great for wildlife enthusiasts, it’s possible to glimpse a grey seal, a pod of dolphins or even the odd whale from the winding paths high above the sea. Birdlife is in abundance, so be sure to take those binoculars.
There are many stunning lakes in North Wales, some easier to find than others. Llyn Cwm Idwal is far enough from civilization for visitors to spend a few hours in relative seclusion, being at one with nature. A popular wild swimming location, it does get very chilly out of season! It is named after the medieval Welsh Prince Idwal Foel who, legend has it, met his maker in the water’s icy depths. Mount Snowden (Eyri in Welsh), Wales’ highest mountain is little under an hour’s drive away, through the wild, untamed landscape of Snowdonia.
Forming a natural border between England and Wales, the river Wye and the Wye Valley has been tempting tourists since the 18th century. Today, hiring a canoe and making your way through this ice-age legacy makes for a wonderfully relaxing experience. The Lower Wye Valley which runs from Monmouth to Chepstow has always been a popular tourist destination, but by taking to the river you can avoid the crowds while floating gently down the valley. There is so much more to see from the river itself; small rapids, cave systems and even a Viking battlefield. Kingfishers and otters will no doubt attract your attention while high above Peregrine Falcons glide on the thermals. The River Wye has plenty of riverside moorings with pubs and restaurants to fortify hungry canoeists – so need to pack a picnic.
Monmouth Canoe Hire, Monmouth, Monmouthshire, UK + 44 (1) 600 716083
Camping under the stars, in the shadow of the Preseli Hills in West Wales is a real off-grid experience – with no mobile signal for miles around. These majestic mountains were the source of the famous Blue Stones, which were transported to England to build the legendary Stonehenge. Once settled in, wait for dark and be enthralled by the stars – as there is no light pollution and the sky provides all the entertainment needed. The idyllic ‘Top of the Woods’ campsite offers wood-fired cooking in season and a small farm shop with a few essentials. A few miles from the West Wales coast, the pretty town of Cardigan is only a 12 minute drive away.
Top of the Woods Campsite, Boncath, Pembrokeshire, UK + 44 (0) 1239 842 208