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You’ve probably seen photos of Wales showing lush green fields, the view from Snowdon- Wales’ highest mountain, secluded and pristine beaches, walking trails and waterfalls. Or you’ve heard stories of how friendly the Welsh people are, how tiny some of the Country roads are, and how you must visit Wales whether you’re on a trip to the UK or you live elsewhere in the UK. But how do you find these hidden gems of Wales? What if you want to see Wales but you don’t have a car, or you don’t want to hire a car?
You visit them with Real Wales Tours – A company who offer day trips from Cardiff, and multiple day trips from Cardiff, all around Wales.
I have been following Real Wales Tours on Instagram for about 1.5 years, they post photos of the beautiful Welsh coastline, huge castles, rivers with mountain backdrops, waterfalls and all around incredible views, basically what I described at the start of this post. However despite visiting South Wales a few times a year since 1999 to see family, I had never visited these places! I knew they existed in Wales, the photos were proof, but where these places in Wales were, I wasn’t quite sure.
Due to my busy schedule I’d been speaking to Nia, the Owner and Chief Guide (a title she gave herself but is well deserved) of Real Wales Tours for about a year before I finally got to go on a tour of Wales with Real Wales Tours.
For a year I had been desperate to fit in a tour because I wanted to see Wales from her point a view, the point of view of a travel addict like myself who grew up in Wales, has travelled around the world, returned to Wales and then decided she wanted to show travellers to Wales and the UK her home Country on one of her well designed tours of Wales.
The Stars aligned and I booked onto The Highlights Tour of Wales departing from Cardiff. With so many things to do in Wales I can imagine it was hard for Nia to pick just a few highlights and make them fit into one day but she’s done it! The Highlights Tour really does give guests a taste of ‘the best of Wales’ in one day – a Castle, a National Park, a Waterfall, a Beach and a stunning Coastline.
This is how my Visit to Cardiff and my Day Trip with Real Wales Tours Went:
To SEE my Day Trip with Real Wales Tours, check out my YouTube video:
I drove from England to Cardiff on a Saturday in August ready to start my week road trip around Wales. I stayed at the YHA Cardiff Central Hostel for 2 nights. It was a great place to stay as it was easy to find with plenty of parking, yet just a 10 minute walk from the City Centre and Cardiff Central Train Station which is where my Real Wales Tour would be starting the following day.
I checked into my Private Double Room and nothing about it screamed hostel at all, because the room had all the features of a hotel room – plenty of space, a comfy double bed, a clean and fancy bathroom and a desk workspace. Back downstairs however in the reception and restaurant area, the hostel feel I love and the reason why I love staying in hostels was present. There were lots of people socialising, the staff were really friendly, the decor was quirky and inviting, and there was a self catering kitchen perfect for the breakfast bits I had purchased earlier that day. Overall the YHA Cardiff Central was a great place to stay in Cardiff and I’d really recommend it.
On Sunday morning I was up bright and early and heading to Cardiff Central Train Station for 9:00am. The meeting point is around the back of the car park so I snuck between the barriers of a very sleepy train station and found the comfy 9 seater van that I’d be spending the rest of the day in on my Wales Tour.
Now, if there’s one thing that’s true about Wales it’s that it does rain quite a bit, and today, we were experiencing the real Wales because it had been raining since I woke up and didn’t stop until well into the afternoon!
I won’t lie, my spirits were a little bit low, especially considering we’d had such good weather a few weeks ago. But Nia welcomed myself and the 7 other guests onto the trip with such enthusiasm and positivity about the day ahead that although it didn’t brighten up the clouds (just yet!), it did brighten my spirits.
Our first stop of the day was Caerphilly Castle just a 20 minute drive away from Cardiff. Later on I learned from Nia that Caerphilly Castle is the biggest Castle in Wales and the second biggest in the UK, the first being Windsor, which is pretty impressive.
Nia purchased our tickets because the entry fee is included in the tour fee (very handy!), and we started our guided walk around the Castle carried out by Nia (now I see why she calls herself the Chief Guide!). Luckily, thanks to her knowledge and enthusiasm she knew exactly where to stand in the Castle to keep us dry, as it was raining a lot now! And her talk was in-depth with lots of history and facts, but still engaging.
Afterwards we were given an hour to explore the Castle and luckily a lot of the Castle is inside. In fact I really loved Caerphilly Castle because although it has deteriorated a lot since it was a Palatial and important Castle, it does have many of its original features and is not completely in ruins which makes it easier to imagine what it was once like.
We jumped back into the van, which despite the steam coming from all of our wet bodies was very comfy throughout the day with plenty of leg space, room for bags, coats and umbrella’s, and started our hour drive to the Brecon Beacons.
This Day Tour from Cardiff does involve a lot of driving, Nia clearly states this in the itinerary but the Welsh Countryside is beautiful and I enjoyed being a passenger driving around Wales to take in the views rather than being the driver which is usually the case for me when I visit Wales.
On this note and what is also clear on the website is that Nia also changes the itinerary for the trip regularly, this helps keep it fresh, for us and for her, and means that even if you’ve been on this tour before, you could go again! There are so many highlights of Wales and this flexibility is what I love about Real Wales Tours and why I’d suggest going with them over another coach trip from Cardiff.
The Brecon Beacons is a huge National Park in the South of Wales with the second highest peak in Wales, the first being Snowdon. I went to the Brecon Beacons on my road trip to Wales last year and climbed Pen Y Fan, one of the highest peaks, but this time I saw a totally different side and area to the National Park, because we saw it from a locals perspective. We veered off the main roads onto Country roads that seemed to get narrower and narrower, I drive well on Country lanes thanks to many years driving to Wales, but these lanes would have scared me if I was driving, and they definitely made the American passengers on our tour a bit wary too. These are not the roads a lot of people from other countries are used to driving on!
We passed lots of sheep, we drove in and out of the valleys- including a glacial valley, and we pulled over so cars could precariously pass us on the one lane roads.
Our first stop was one of the mysterious Standing Stone’s that are located in the National Park. This stone, like many others in the area and in the UK, gives no clear indication of why it was put there and how. The stone we saw is estimated to have been there for 4000-5000 years and despite me visiting Stonehenge and Castlerigg Stone Circle in the Lake District, I am still amazed by these rocks and the assumptions of what they were used for. Nia gave us her opinion and some history, she did this from inside the van as the rain was pouring down, I believe on a nice day she gives this talk outside in the fresh, Welsh Countryside air.
Despite the rain we all got out of the van, jumped over the fence stile and went to see the rock. The rain and wind wasn’t too pleasant though so we pretty much circled the rock and headed back to the van. 2 minutes down the road we stopped again to see the remains of a Roman Road. There is a section that is still intact which isn’t that common in Wales anymore. Nia explained that the Roman’s had a military camp near by and again, had I been on my own I probably would have missed this altogether or at least wouldn’t have been that interested but she explained it in an interesting and engaging way.
We stopped again just down the road, it was 12:30 and time for a hot drink and snack before the next leg of the journey. Nia opened up the back of the van which for 10 minutes transformed itself into a little cafe where she poured us tea and coffee and gave out Welsh Cakes, because no trip to Wales is complete without a Welsh Cake! (Unless you’re Vegan like me and Nia instead gave me a sweet Vegan snack which was unexpected but very appreciated!)
We drove for a bit longer, had a toilet stop, and then drove a bit more through Waterfall Country which is still part of the Brecon Beacons. We also drove through the outskirts of a very Welsh town and the road we took gave a great insight into the terrace lined houses and streets that form many Welsh Towns. To me this sight was quite normal but had I been visiting Wales for the first time, I would have found this really good to see. There’s no way you would see this side of Wales if you were staying in Cities like Cardiff or Swansea.
Nia informed us that in the future she is planning on starting day trip hikes around Waterfall Country visiting a few of the many waterfalls which sounds really exciting!
Our next stop was indeed a Waterfall however it was out of ‘Waterfall Country’, the Waterfall we were visiting was Melincourt Falls. It was now 13:30 and we decided to eat our lunch before the walk. The tour can come with lunch included or you can bring your own lunch. My tour included lunch which Nia had purchased whilst we were exploring the Castle on our own. In my paper lunch bag I had a Salad, Crisps, an Apple, a Sweet Treat and a Drink, perfect! Had it been nice weather we could have sat out on the picnic tables in the small car park that we were in but the rain had not subsided at all so we all ate in the van.
Afterwards we tentatively jumped out the van, we were in for a treat though and a big highlight of The Highlights Tour so I’m glad we all braved the rain to see the Waterfall. We walked 10 minutes up a woodland track, a track that was pretty muddy but nicely shaded from the downpour of rain thanks to the canopy above us. The sound of Melincourt Falls was getting louder and louder, all of a sudden it came into view, and wow! What a waterfall.
At this point we were all pleased it had been raining so much in the last week and today, because the 80 foot high waterfall was in full power gushing into the pool below and down the river. Like I said, it was a definite highlight.
After the 30 minute stop we jumped back into the van ready for the hour stretch of journey from the Brecon Beacons down to the South Coast of the Swansea Gower Peninsular. I always find on tours that everyone is a bit quiet to start with, especially if there are smaller groups on the tour but mid-way through the day when everyone is feeling more comfortable there’s more chatter, and thanks to Nia asking lots of questions and showing genuine interest in our past and future travel plans that’s what happened, and the atmosphere between us all was good. A long with this, the rain was slowly stopping as we headed down South and the sky was getting brighter and brighter!
We drove entered the Gower Peninsula, which despite being attached to the mainland of Wales is kind of an Island surrounded by the Ocean on 3 sides. Nia explained that thanks to this, it does have its own microclimate, something we were very grateful to see in action.
As we navigated more small Country lanes the scenery of the Gower got better and better, we were surrounded by Countryside, fields full of Sheep, and this time we also passed Wild Ponies!
We drove right to the tip of the Gower as our last stop of the trip was Rhossili Bay and thankfully there was now not even a drop of rain and the sun was trying to shine through the cloud! Hallelujah!
Rhossili Beach has been voted one of the best beaches in Wales and even in the world. It’s definitely one of the best places to visit in Wales!
Rhossili Bay doesn’t need much explaining so we were given 1 hour to explore the Bay. The impressive view of Rhossili Beach is instant. The huge beach stretches out in front, the crashing waves are spectacular and plentiful, and the people down on the beach and in the water look like tiny ants.
Within the hour that we had we could walk down a track along the coastline to Worm’s Head, an island at the end of the cliff that is said to look like a dragon, I chose this option as the walk provides a view of the beach and the ocean the whole way. There’s also the option to go down onto the beach but Nia cleverly gave us the warning that if we walk down the steep track to the beach, we need to walk back up to it. If we didn’t want to walk there’s also a cafe or two overlooking the beach.
This was another total highlight of the Highlights Tour from Cardiff and really topped off the day well.
Following this we jumped back in the van for the 1.5 journey back to Cardiff where we arrived back at a good time of 18:15. It really was a full day of fun, just like Nia had promised that morning when we met in the same car park.
I hope that the above has convinced you that you should book a tour with Real Wales Tours. They are great for everyone but especially if you do not have a car and want to explore some of the best places in Wales!
Cardiff is very easy to get to from London by train and by bus and after this all you need to worry about is getting accommodation and arriving at the train station ready to start your day tour of Wales.
If you want to see even more of Wales, Real Wales Tours offer Multiple Day Tours which can take you all the way to North Wales and Snowdon (I went to Snowdon a few days after this trip and loved it so I’d really recommend going up there!).
They also offer Slower Tours such as Photography Tours, Wellness Tours and soon-to-be Hiking Tours, because they realise we all need to slow down now and again and Wales is a great place to slow down in.
Visit their website here to see all of their tours and book yourself a spot!
Once you’ve booked a tour, be sure to wear the right clothing to make your day as enjoyable as possible because as you can see from my experience, the Welsh Weather is very unpredictable.
I would recommend wearing some trousers that dry easily, I wore some 3/4 gym pants.
A t-shirt and jumper so you can layer up and de-layer.
Foldable Rain Jacket – Perfect for the Summer months when it doesn’t get as cold (although take layers just incase).
Thick Rain Jacket – Needed in the Winter Months.
Travel Sized Umbrella – Because you’ll probably need this at some point in Wales and the rest of the UK!
Check Rates and Availability at the YHA Cardiff Central here as it’s a great hostel to stay in in Cardiff thanks to its comfort and pricing.
Check Train Prices to Cardiff on The Train Line here. I always use The Train Line as it’s easy to compare times and prices to get the best deal.
Make sure you have travel insurance for your trip to Wales. World Nomads are a great provider of Travel Insurance.
For more of my Wales Posts see:
Real Wales Tours invited me to experience one of their tours but all opinions, thoughts and talk of rain are my own. I was a guest at YHA Cardiff but all opinions and thoughts are my own. This post contains affiliate links but at no extra cost to you.
I’m Ellie Quinn!
I’m a travel addict who has been travelling on and off since 2010. In the Summer of 2018 I quit my office job in London, left my flat and I now travel and blog full time! Yes, I’m living that dream!
NOV-DEC: PROBABLY INDONESIA
If you want to join or read more about the details of the group tour.