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To Wales or not? Crowded in August?

Hello all!

SO, after thinking we were going to Iceland this August for two weeks and driving the Ring Road and seeing how so many hotels are already booked and how CRAZY EXPENSIVE that country is, we are now, sadly, re-thinking where to go.

I've been all over Europe but never to Wales. We want a cooler, less crowded country (for ex, NOT Italy) since we have to go in August, unfortunately. We absolutely LOVE Ireland and have already been 3 times (just last August) and thought maybe Wales would be something similar? True? We love beautiful landscapes, friendly people, good food and drink, and a relaxing time. We are both in our late 40ties and I thought Wales would be a nice compromise and something still new. (I've been to England, Scotland, Sweden and Denmark already and don't think Norway, Estonia and Finland are worth 10-14 days so I can't think of many other cooler temperature places to visit for us Los Angelenos. ; )

Am I mistaken in thinking that Wales has less tourists than many other European countries in Europe? I’m thinking/hoping it will be more like Ireland but, perhaps, being so close to England, it will be more crowded? Especially in August?

Thanks so much my RS family! You are always so helpful!

Posted by
1834 posts

Wales certainly has fewer posts on this forum as it seems to be completely off the radar of north Americans. Wales does have many areas that can be fairly quiet in August but nevertheless, this is probably the most popular month for vacations. Pembrokeshire - the county in the far SW is a bit like Cornwall but less crowded - though Tenby can be crowded but I would certainly not miss it as it is so beautiful. I would consider staying in 3 locations - one in the SE to cover Cardiff and the lower Wye Valley and maybe the Brecon Beacons; another in the SW (Pembrokeshire) and another in the NW to cover the Snowdonia National Park.
http://www.visitwales.com

Posted by
367 posts

Yes yes yes! Come to Wales. If possible Avoid the last week in August as the Monday is a bank holiday. Good suggestion from James as to how to split your time. Sounds like you're not travelling with kids here are some suggestions for the South which I know best.:
Tintern Abbey
Canoe along the Wye of just drive it and enjoy the scenery and quaint towns
St Fagans folk museum, Cardiff
Castell Coch, Cardiff outskirts
Cardiff Castle
Cardiff museum and gallery
Drive through villages in the Vale of Glamorgan and a stroll around Cowbridge
Walk the sand dunes at Merthyr Mawr
The waterfalls at Pontneddfechen
Aberglasni gardens
The Botanical Garden of Wales in Llanarthne, including a trip to Paxtons Tower for the view, stop for food at Wrights Emporium
Drwslwn castle
Dinefor Castle
Castle cara cenin
Tenby
Caldey island
St Davids
Lots of lovely little villages and coves around Pembrokeshire. If you're happy walking 15 minutes to get to one it will still not be crowded even in August.

Having written all that down I think you could actually easily just spend two weeks in the South of Wales. You could add some walks at the Brecon Beacons if you like as well.

Posted by
5817 posts

I'm going to bang the drum for North Wales!

Some really impressive castles at Conwy, Caernarvon, Beaumaris.
Stunning mountain scenary in Snowdonia and pretty countryside in Clwyd and Denbigh.
Mountain railways and historic slate mines to explore.
Traditional seaside resorts all along the coast. (Avoid the resorts right at the north, eg Rhyl and Prestatyn unless you are an admirer of a caravan park! That said it's where I spent weekends as a kid so I have a soft spot for them!)
The pretty, and slightly mad, Portmerion Village. Beautiful and interesting Plas Newydd house.
Canals and the astounding Pontcysyllte Aquaduct.
For the more active minded mega long and fast zip wire rides through the mountains, the world's first (?) Inland surf lake and trampoline parks inside a mountain.

Enough to keep you going for days!

Wales might not be well known in the USA but it is popular with local tourists so it isn't going to be quiet in peak season. Avoid the coast and castles during sunny weekends but it isn't hard to get a bit off the beaten track in the mountains to get away from the bigger crowds. Anglesey also tends to be a bit qureter than the main land.

Wales has its own language and culture which is interesting and worth enjoying. Welsh is commonly spoken as a first language in the north but everyone does speak English. All signage, including road signs, are in both languages.
Pronunciation in Welsh is very different to that in English but the locals are use to visitors massacring their language.:-)

The Welsh love their music and poetry and competitions or Eisteddfod are regularly held in the summer. Also look out for sheep dog trials.

One thing I will say is that whilst people are friendly they are perhaps less outgoing than you might have experienced in Ireland.
Generalising, it is quieter, less in your face, than in other Celtic countries. The fact that people actually speak welsh is off putting to some (slightly ignorant) visitors who seem to find it rude. This is not the case, it's just what people actually speak, it's not done to alienate visitors.
People, especially in the north, can seem quite reserved, but you won't find a friendlier people when you get past initial reserve.

You could combine a trip to Wales with a sometime in the border counties between England and Wales. Some of this is a little known area even for UK locals.
Chester for roman and medieval architecture, Hay on Wye - the book town, Ludlow for amazing food. The area around the "pottery towns" has some of the best ceramics museums in the world. Ironbridge for historic industrial architecture.

There is loads to see and do, please come!

Posted by
367 posts

Well after those three endorsements how could you resist!
Going back to your original post, a couple of extra points.
There are definitely less foreign tourists but it is popular with brits, this unfortunately means that accommodation prices will be inflated for August. What sort of budget do you want to spend? Lots of people like camping and caravanning in Wales which can lead to slow car journeys if you get stuck behind a caravan especially as motorways are limited. With some forward research you can find some great places to eat, but don't just expect to turn up in a local pub for a good feed as it really is down to place by place. I can give some good re ommendations for South Wales, maybe Emma has some for north!

Posted by
2070 posts

I adore Wales! I suspect you will too. It has stunning mountain and coastal scenery, wonderful pubs, and friendly people. A few years back I wrote a trip report called “Why Isn’t Everyone Raving About Wales?” If you click on my name and then my posts, you shoulf be able to find it. It might give you some ideas. We went in September, so I can’t speak to the crowds and weather in August, but I doubt it would be too bad on either score.

Posted by
1352 posts

I did the RS Best of England tour by myself back in 2010 and N. Wales was my favorite stop of the tour. Taking my husband this time and we are spending 4 nights in N. Wales next month. Emma's post is getting me very excited for the trip!

Posted by
86 posts

Ah thanks everybody! Sounds wonderful! Re: budget: we figured Iceland would be $5000 per person and that just seems insane so Wales has to be much more reasonable, any place is.

And I guess a car is truly necessary? Easier to drive than Ireland? Last summer we trained it from dublin to Belfast and the Antrim coast and then picked up a car for donegal county. Previous trip had a car for all of dingle, south and cork. Always never as relaxing as public transport but I know one has more freedom.

Is parking difficult in many towns of Wales, such as Cardiff?

Thanks again!!!

Posted by
367 posts

I would definitely recommend a hire car. Parking is pretty good in Cardiff especially if you don't go on a weekend. There are real time parking signs on the approaches to the city which tell you which car parks are full and which have spaces. Whether you need to park and drive into the city though depends on where you want to stay. The city centre hotels have limited parking which you will have to pay for, but you could quite easily stay outside of the city centre (Feel free to message me for recommendations) and just take public transport into the city centre.

Posted by
4108 posts

Wales is a wonderful place to visit. South and North Wales are both filled with adventure.

We did a 4 week drive tour of England and Wales that included five nights in South Wales. We spent two nights in Cardiff and two in the great little seaside city of Tenby (highly recommend staying here). Also, we visited the village in SW Wales where my paternal ancestors lived up until 1716 (they left for America). There are many wonderful castles all over Wales as well as scenic places. Don't miss St. David's Cathedral on the SW tip of Wales. Conway is a great city to visit in North Wales.

Hotel and restaurant prices are cheaper than in England and the people are very friendly.

We visited in October and it was not crowded.

Posted by
907 posts

Go to Wales! We took a day trip about 10 years ago to Cardiff to see the Doctor Who sites. Highly recommend the Parliament building, area around the bay and the Cardiff Castle tour. We had the set lunch at a fabulous small Italian restaurant called Casanova. Casanova

Posted by
2070 posts

We rented a car, and I would say the driving is very similar to Ireland. If we ever go back - and we certainly hope to - I would go with public transportation. It may limit where we can go, but so be it. My husband enjoys vacations so much more if he doesn’t have to drive. Or drive with me. : )

Posted by
1069 posts

If you drive in LA you can drive anywhere...I wouldn't give up the freedom of a rental car.

Posted by
2 posts

I spent all of September in Wales a few years ago and it was very beautiful and there were not many tourists at all. I recommend seeing as many castles as you can fit in. Also a drive through Snowdonia and Blaenau Ffestiniog is wonderful. I was only in North Wales so I'm not sure how the South is. I found that most of the tourists there were from elsewhere in Britain, but there were not many tourists.

Posted by
1215 posts

Rental car is definitely the way to see Wales beyond Cardiff and Swansea. Just have a pocket of small denomination pound coins for the usual pay and display kiosks and be aware that your sat nav/GPS gives travel times based on speed limits rather than what might be a slower reasonable and prudent speed on a stretch of road.

If you like speculative and sometimes a bit weird television, watch The Prisoner before going to Portmerion. I’m enough of a geek that I got really excited to visit The Village from that show.

Posted by
98 posts

I was just in Wales, and I can't even describe how beautiful it is. We drove through Snowdonia National Park and it is sooo lovely. I highly recommend it.

Posted by
56 posts

Definitely visit Wales! We loved it. Personally I would not rent a car, but that's just me. Don't forget that there are many beautiful places near Wales on the England side of the border as well. If you like northern Wales, you might want to consider the trip up to Keswick, England. Or if you are down south, its not a terrible trip over to Stratford-upon-Avon which is great.

Whatever you decide, I believe you will not be disappointed in Wales. I certainly was not.

Posted by
27 posts

I love Wales. The last time I was there I stayed in Aberystwyth for a few nights. It was lovely. There was a special scenic train journey I took and it was amazing.

Posted by
8559 posts

I'm in Wales right now.

I spent some time in Cardiff, then Caernarfon and now Conwy. Cardiff is an interesting city.. Caernarfon was wonderful. Conwy is good for a day trip. I'm spending three nights in Conwy which is three nights too many. (I hate my hotel.)

The Welsh are wonderful, friendly, polite people who are very welcoming. The scenery and history, especially in the North, is amazing.

I haven't seen any crowds. In fact, at night, Conwy almost feels deserted.Caernarfon didn't seem that crowded at any time.

Posted by
5817 posts

I've you're struggling for things to do in Conwy in the evening take the short hop to Llanduddno for a bit more action! From memory I think the marina area over the river in Deganwy is quite nice? I remember I had some excellent caramel waffles overlooking the sea.

Small tourist towns can't seem to win. They're either "too crowded, why are there so many tourists?!" Or "where has everybody gone, it dead!" :-)

Posted by
485 posts

We returned from Wales two weeks ago, very neat and scenic. Make sure and visit Llandudno, Llangollen and the Snowdonia National Park. We did two different hikes in the park. For $5,000 you could spend months there.

Posted by
16724 posts

My reaction to Conwy was similar to Frank's. Luckily for me, I was on a day-trlp and had planned other stops that day. It's a cute little place with the accent on "little". There's a castle, I think. What can I say? Castles do nothing for me except as picturesque backdrops.

Posted by
86 posts

Just a follow up (now that I finally have a free moment to plan trip again!). THANK YOU to all of you that contributed to this great discussion. I SO appreciate it. Also, just to be clear, I was never planning on spending $5000/p for this trip or any trip to Europe! (I'm a RS reader, after all!) ; ))) This figure came from after I was researching us going to Iceland and that's how crazy expensive it was going to cost because everything is so crazy pricey on that island. Happily, all of our hotels in the UK and Wales are so economical! Yay! We also decided against a car. Too stressful, even if I'm from LA. ; )

Please see my other Wales post about our plan, if interested. Again, thanks to all of you who private messaged w/ me and posted here. I don't know where I'd be without my RS family!

We're excited to go somewhere new and to return to London as well! I'll be sure to come back and post after our trip!
THANKS a ton and happy travels!!!