If you had to pick one country in the world out as being too underrated, then Wales would surely be a good candidate?
This is simply one of the most diverse countries – which is also very compact. There’s more beautiful countryside than you can shake a stick at and mile after mile of some of the planet’s most picturesque and beautiful beaches.
Yet even within the British Isles, Wales gets underrated. Millions of UK tourists make their way to England’s South West peninsular each summer on their way to the beaches and countryside of Devon and Cornwall. This is understandable as it’s another stunning area with great beaches. But if you want to find beauty of equal measure, along with beaches of equal quality, without fighting all the other tourists to the car park – then head for Wales.
In the north of the country, there’s the isle of Anglesey with mile after mile of golden sands and empty beaches. Anglesey is, technically-speaking, an island. It’s actually separated from mainland Wales by a rift valley. But the Menai Bridges mean it’s easy enough to access by car or by train. And if the weather is good – there’s surely no better place on the planet. If it’s cold and raining, then there are still lots of wonderful walks to do – and this is something of a birdwatcher’s paradise too.
Further inland, there is, of course, Snowdonia – with all it has to offer. When you’re in the Snowdonia National Park, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported to Switzerland. There are nine mountain ranges in the national park itself, including several peaks of over 3,000 feet. But it isn’t all about the mountains; this is a diverse and varied landscape with deep river gorges, wonderful waterfalls and lush valleys. There’s even 23 miles of beautiful coastline here via the picturesque Dwyryd, Dyfi and Mawddach estuaries and numerous sandy beaches.
If you come here during the warmest weather, you really will be able to experience a little bit of everything. What’s more, you’ll still find most areas quiet and peaceful – unlike the Lake District National Park which, rather like the South West peninsula, is also very beautiful – but tremendously popular with visitors which means it’s also extremely busy, particularly during the summer months.
If you move south to mid-Wales, then there are lots of different things to see and do from the famous Brecon Beacons to the ancient town of Talgarth adjacent to the Black Mountains; a range of largely uninhabited hills which mark the border between England and Wales – and yet more beaches.
As for South Wales, well where do you start? Cardiff is a surprise to most visitors for its sheer splendour and wide boulevards. The coastline, meanwhile, is a beach paradise with endless things to see and do. Pembrokeshire has some of the world’s best beaches, with a few popular holiday resorts. But here again, it’s easy enough to avoid the crowds by going off the beaten track a little – whilst the Pembrokeshire coastal path is simply magnificent along its entire length.
For sports fans, Wales also has a lot to offer. There are endless opportunities for thrill seekers to surf, mountain climb, go pot-holding, coasteering and many other action-orientated pursuits. And if you fancy watching sport instead of participating in it, then this is a country largely dominated by Rugby Union. And if you take a trip to Cardiff, why not visit the Millennium Stadium? A stadium tour here is a must for Rugby Union fans.
But other sports are burgeoning. Recent news that the Welsh Snooker Open Championship is to move from Newport to the country’s capital Cardiff is an indication of snooker’s growing importance in Wales.
Welshman Matthew Stevens is one of the world’s top players at 150-1 with Betfair to win the UK Championship if you fancy a longshot. With Betfair, snooker betting is good fun as you can lay back the bet if your selection does well – making a profit before a ball has even been cued if you get lucky. And as Betfair is the largest exchange, there’s always a fair-sized market for major events. But no Welshman has taken snooker’s ultimate prize since Mark Williams back in 2003.
But we digress. If you love golf then you’ll also love Wales. There are almost countless beautiful courses to choose from. Ever since Wales staged the Ryder Cup back in 2010, the country has become something of a Mecca for golf aficionados the world over. The Ryder Cup was played at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, but you’ll never be too far from a great golf course wherever you choose to stay in this most underrated travel destination.
So welcome to Wales – or “Croeso y Cymru” as the signs will tell you. You surely won’t regret a visit to this “principality” – particularly if you plan your trip well in advance.