Wales. Great Britain’s Fiercely Proud Celtic Nation.
Not many countries choose a dragon as their nation animal. Wales does. The Welsh are in a class by themselves. For generations, they have been staunch supporters of their ancient native language, protectors of their distinct culture and traditions, and proclaimers of their identity as a nation separate from England. It’s time you get to know the Welsh and their delightful country.
United Kingdom, Wales
This is an eight-day sample itinerary. Remember that R. Crusoe can create a Wales journey of any length to meet your exact specifications.
Day 1: United States
• Overnight flight to England.
Day 2: Manchester, England; Llandudno, Wales
• Arrive in Manchester.
• Drive to Llandudno, hotel check-in.
Overnight in Llandudno
Day 3: Tal-y-Cafn, Caernarfon, Porthmadog, Llandudno
• Bodnant Gardens, National Slate Museum or Caernarfon Castle.
• Embark Pullman Observation train in Caernarfon, Welsh Highland Railway to Caernarfon, disembark.
Overnight in Llandudno
Day 4: Llantysilio, Chirk, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Llandderfel
• Valle Crucis Abbey.
• Chirk Castle.
• Pontcysyllte Aqueduct boat tour.
Overnight in Llandderfel
Day 5: Berwyn Range, Welshpool, Montgomery
• Drive through Berwyn Range.
• Powis Castle and Gardens.
• Drive to Montgomery, leisure time.
• Option for choir performance.
Overnight in Llandderfel
Day 6: Machynlleth, Aberystwyth, Tregaron, Llyswen
• Drive to Machynlleth, option to MoMA Wales.
• Aberystwyth National Library insider’s tour.
• Option to Tregaron and Rhiannon Jewelry.
Overnight in Llyswen
Day 7: Brecon Beacons National Park, Cardiff, Llyswen
• Drive through Brecon Beacons.
• Cardiff Castle behind-the-scenes tour, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff Bay.
Overnight in Llyswen
Day 8: Llyswen; Manchester or London; United States
• Fly home, or continue on with R. Crusoe & Son.
Per person sharing room from $6,890 for this eight-day sample itinerary
For more information, to book, or to speak to an R. Crusoe & Son tour specialist, please call us at 800-585-8555.
Wales has beautiful scenery througout year, but the soggy Welsh weather means that summer (June to August) is indisputably the best time for visitors. Most of the rain is concentrated in autumn and early winter, with the worst of the downpours generally between October and January.
Wales: The Iron Ring of Castles.
The English King Edward I followed his father, Henry III, in his strategy to hold Wales as part of his extensive kingdom. North Wales presented the most resistance, and it was here that he concentrated his greatest efforts. Edward’s plan was to repair or rebuild, when possible, those already built by England and to build new, more scientifically designed and more strategically located fortifications to defend against campaigns by his local adversaries—first and foremost Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the Prince of Wales from 1258 to 1282.
After Llywelyn’s second campaign against the English crown in 1282 (the first, in 1277, was unsuccessful), King Edward was determined not to have to fight a third battle in Wales. To that end, he set about extending his ring of eight fortifications with the building of four new, state-of-the-art castles: Harlech, Caernarfon, Conwy, and Beaumaris.
All four were the work of master military architect James of St. George d’Esperanche, whose genius is recognized today by UNESCO, which lists his castles collectively as a World Heritage site. And each was a bastide, the medieval word for a new town planted in open country. The bastide arrangement was comparatively simple, a system designed for the mutual benefit of the king, the landowner, and the new townsfolk. It provided an efficient way of marketing surplus food and other goods. Castles were often the starting point—literally the foundation stones—of new towns that sprang up in their shadows. In medieval times, the concepts of townships and town life were still alien to the Welsh. Then came castles, bringing with them new commercial and trading opportunities and early urban life, as new communities grew up around their walls.
When in Wales, be sure not to miss Edward’s four Iron Ring castles.
Harlech Castle commands a cliff-top position looking out across the Irish Sea. It was built with incredible speed between 1283 and 1295. The concentric walls-within-walls design meant that Harlech was virtually impregnable from any angle. Though it has since retreated, the sea once lapped at the base of the cliff, offering a route for vital supplies when the castle was under siege.
Caernarfon Castle’s impenetrable position overlooks the River Seiont. Patterned stones and polygonal towers makes it one of the finest castles on Earth. Here, the first English Prince of Wales was born in 1284. No wonder Charles, the current Prince of Wales, held his investiture at Caernarfon almost 700 years later. This is the most famous of the Iron Ring castles. Its sheer scale and commanding presence set it apart from the rest, and, to this day still trumpet in no uncertain terms the intentions of King Edward. In fact, Caernarfon was constructed not only as a military stronghold but also as a government seat and a royal palace.
Conwy Castle boasts two fortified gateways, eight enormous towers, a great hall, private chambers, and a stupendous kitchen—all protected by mighty rock fortifications. This gritty, dark-stoned fortress evokes an authentic medieval atmosphere. The first time you catch sight of it, you know you’re in the presence of an historic site that casts a powerful spell. Constructed between 1283 and 1287, this was one of Edward’s key fortresses, designed, it is said, to elicit just such a humbling reaction.
Beaumaris Castle was never finished by King Edward. It was built on a marsh, and that is where it found its name; the French builders called it beaux marais, meaning beautiful marshes. Plans were first drawn up for the castle in 1284, but construction was delayed due to lack of funds, and work only began in 1295. Edward’s invasion of Scotland soon diverted funding, and work stopped until an invasion scare in 1306. When work finally ceased around 1330, the castle remained incomplete. Historian Arnold Taylor described Beaumaris as Britain’s “most perfect example of symmetrical concentric planning.” The moated fortification is guarded by 12 towers and two gatehouses and has an inner ward with two large gatehouses and six massive towers. The south gate could be reached by ship, allowing the castle to be supplied by sea. UNESCO calls Beaumaris one of “the finest examples of late 13th-century and early 14th-century military architecture in Europe.”
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