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Europe by Campervan - WALES

A romantic fairytale to be experienced.

From Cardiff to Snowdonia National Park (via Carmarthen, Tenby, St Davis, Newport, Nevern, Aberystwyth).

The green fields on the cliffs, the fairytale charm of the medieval castles, the vivid colours of the houses, the ceaseless movement of the clouds in the sky of Wales. Here we are in discovery of a country with a strong and reserved character, able to offer discerning travellers a holiday full of emotions and beautiful scenery.
Despite the multiform charm of its landscapes, for a long time Wales remained undeservedly on the fringes of British and European tourism. A hidden and romantic beauty, like an enchanting Cinderella, it has finally been rediscovered.


The youngest European capital

The rediscovery of the vast territory of Wales is recent and starts precisely from Cardiff, the youngest European capital (Queen Elizabeth gave it the title in 1955).
An interesting city from many points of view and with something different: if, anywhere in the world, the centre of a town is marked by a church, a palace or a fortress, here the centre is the Millennium Stadium. Here, rugby is more than a religion and this great sports field can be visited: in the distinguished visitors' gallery there is a copy of the Rugby World Cup, available to anyone wanting to be photographed holding up this special cult object.
Not far away is the oldest Castle, whose square shape reveals its Roman origins. Reshaped in the following centuries, the neo-Gothic building was finished in 1867 thanks to the project of William Burges. The place is very suggestive and well worth a visit.
Inside the park stands the 12th century Norman fortress. A steep staircase leads to the top of the tower where you can admire a wide view of the city and especially Bute Park created in the second half of the 19th century by the Marquis John Bute, a member of Cardiff's most prominent family: the architect William Burges designed this fabulous residence where every room, furnished with no expense spared, has a specific theme, ranging from Antiquity to the Middle East and local history.
Leaving the castle and following the walls, we arrive at the early 20th century neo-Renaissance-style City Hall; opposite it is the interesting National Museum that illustrates the events of Wales and has a splendid collection of 20th century French paintings: from Monet, Renoir and C├ęzanne to Van Gogh. Other rooms are devoted to archaeology, botany and zoology.
But the beating heart of the city is the Cardiff Bay district, home to the Welsh Parliament, the best hotels in the area, a waterfront with restaurants and trendy clubs, the Techniquest interactive museum, the planetarium and the Visitors' Centre, a singular elliptical building where all the projects that led to the rebirth of the district are on display, including a bold system of weirs that keep the bay always full of water despite the action of the very high tides.


At Cardiff is the Cardiff Caravan Park (Pontcanna Fields, accessed from Cathedral Road, a stone's throw from the castle), set in a wonderful public park. The facility offers flat green spaces, all provided with water taps and electricity column.

Towards the north-west

After leaving Cardiff, we continue north-west. We touch on the port city of Swansea (a destination for rugby fans as well as poetry lovers: Dylan Thomas was born and lived here) and continue on towards Carmarthen and the road-fork for Nantgaredig and Gard Fotaneg Genedlaethol Cymru, a huge botanical garden with the largest greenhouse in Europe, designed by Norman Foster.
From the town of Carmarthen we reach charming Tenby, the place "preferred by the people" as the inhabitants say, a resort famous for its wide beach enclosed in a spectacular way by the cliff. Along the coast you can admire ancient Manorbier Castle or, heading north, you can visit Carew Castle, intact today as in 1270, when it was completed. Another stop with its castle is Pembroke, before continuing on to Stackpole where a walk is a must to in order admire the splendid cliffs up to the exciting Green Bridge of Wales.
Proceeding north we reach St Davis, the westernmost village of Wales, where guests can visit the Bishop's Palace and the Cathedral built in a dell to keep out of sight of pirates.
St Davis is a unique and picturesque town surrounded by one of the most beautiful coastlines in Europe. Located within the National Park of Wales, every year it is a favourite destination of artists, travellers and pilgrims from all over the world.
The Cathedral of Saint David has existed since the 6th century: a true record. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have set foot in this beautiful place, especially since Pope Callixtus II said that two visits to the cathedral equal a visit to Rome. The founder of this cathedral was Saint David, and the oldest part of the Cathedral, dating back to the 12th century, is clearly of Norman origin. Inside is the casket of Saint David and an old library full of fine books.
The ruins of the Bishop's Palace date back to a time between 1280 and 1350. The most important find is a stone block which has an inlay of delicate details. Even if, over the centuries, the building has lost some basic elements, it is still a splendid example of medieval architecture and art.
Naturally, also the beautiful beach is an important attraction: called Whitesands Bay for its fine white sand, it is rich in a special type of wild fauna and numerous dolphins and whales that can be seen off-shore, and offers countless opportunities for fun.


Remember that the minor roads of Wales often put a strain on drivers of campervans. In many cases the roads are narrow and crossing vehicles going in the opposite direction is often, but not always, facilitated by "passing places" obtained at the side of the road.


The next stop is Newport where we discover a special place: Preseli Hills. These hills are partly formed of sandstone rock, from where the megaliths of Stonehenge were obtained five thousand years ago.
Here a large dolmen stands alone.
Proceeding to Nevern we find another mystical place: in the village cemetery there is a finely worked 10th-century Celtic cross and 2 miles from the centre of Nevern is Pentre Ifan, probably the most famous megalithic site in Wales. It has a perfectly intact dolmen weighing 16 tons and dating back to ca. 3500 BC.
The trip continues along the coastal road towards Aberystwyth.
Aberystwyth is a small university town revealing traces of Victorian times. There is a beautiful academic building together with the old church and colourful houses on the waterfront. Not to be missed is the tourist railway, the Vale of Rheidol Steam Railway, an old woodcutters train leading up to Devil's Bridge and Rheidol Falls.
From here we continue still further north, towards our final destination: Snowdonia National Park, the largest protected area in Wales, whose summit (the second highest in the UK) can be reached with the cogwheel train or a good hike. Here, amidst breathtaking views and stunning scenery offered by an unspoilt nature, you can enjoy walks, lakeside picnics, hiking and climbing. Every year the park attracts millions of visitors, thus making the area one of the most visited in England and Wales. And it was precisely here that the mountaineers who, in 1953, completed the first ascent of Everest, trained.