Weekends away with friends are typically some of the most enjoyable holiday experiences, offering a chance to unwind with your nearest and dearest far from the distractions of everyday life. The role of organising such an event, however, tends to be a little less fun.
Fortunately Wales takes the pain out of the oft-tricky group trip planning process, offering tons of activities tailor-made for clusters of comrades and a suite of accommodation choices for larger parties – with options that’ll satisfy even that notoriously fussy friend (there’s always one!).
What to do with your friends on a weekend away
Whether you’re looking to recharge in beautiful bucolic surroundings, test your limits with an adventure activity or hit up the galleries and bars in an urban setting, Wales serves up an à la carte menu of delectable weekend group activities. All you have to do is cherry pick the most appealing options to whip up a weekend itinerary that pairs perfectly with your group’s personal tastes.
A weekend city break
For groups seeking cosmopolitan kicks, Wales’ cities serve as the ideal setting for a weekend getaway in the UK. Many visitors are naturally drawn to our capital Cardiff, with its National Museum (holding everything from moon rocks to masterpieces by Monet), beautiful boutique-lined Victorian-era arcades and the grand, medieval Cardiff castle, that hosts outdoor events in the summer.
But city-slickers who like to break the mould will find plenty to love in our other major cities, like Newport, with its recently-renovated indoor market (a hub for cool independent businesses) and Bangor, home to Pontio, a six-storey arts centre hosting plays, gigs, films and cabaret shows. On the southeast coast, Swansea is beloved for its bicycle-friendly beachfront promenade, while Wrexham has shot to global fame in recent years following the success of its Hollywood-backed football team (the story of which can be explored at the Wrexham County Borough Museum).
For visitors who want a city break without the urban bustle, tranquil St Davids and St Asaph are ideal options. The two smallest cities in the UK by population are famed for their storied cathedrals (St Davids Cathedral and St Asaph Cathedral), and make great bases for walks or bike rides into some beautiful swathes of Welsh countryside.
Each of our cities is also blessed with an ample selection of cosy cafes, top-quality restaurants and all-too-tempting pubs, where old stories can be shared and new memories forged.
Fun activities with friends
The guestlist has been finalised. The destination has been chosen. Now, the big question, what activities are you going to do on your Welsh weekend away? For a relatively small country, Wales packs in an impressive array of activity providers, with the added bonus that the nation’s compact size minimises transport time to and from organised outings.
For sporty groups, there’s no greater challenge than a day of coasteering, a hybrid activity – part rock climbing part swimming – that was dreamt up on the craggy coastline of Pembrokeshire. Outdoorsy-oriented visitors could also try a windsurfing lesson in New Quay, battle the rapids aboard a dinghy at Cardiff International White Water centre, soar through the skies on zip lines or rumble around the Welsh countryside on quad bikes – all of which are ideally suited to groups of friends.
If your clan is partial to a bit of pedal-pushing then the Welsh landscapes will appear as a wonderland, with beautiful long-distance cycle routes to undertake and challenging off-road trails to slalom down. A number of operators organise dedicated cycling holidays, offering everything from taster sessions to saddle-shaking, cross-country voyages.
For something a little more sedate, how about flexing your creativity with a pottery class, drifting along the River Wye atop a paddleboard, chilling out with a yoga session or seeing which of your mates has the deadliest aim during a half-day archery lesson.
To make life even easier, you could let someone else do all the organising on your behalf. Specialist companies including Adventure Tours UK, Inspire2Adventure, Quest Adventure Activities and Bearded Men Adventures can formulate an itinerary of multiple activities based on the wants and whims of your group, typically including transport to and from each one.
Relax (for a change)
Of course, part of the joy of a weekend away with friends is having the chance to simply chill out and properly catch up. And what could be more conducive to such an activity than a few nights spent cocooned in the tranquil Welsh countryside?
Here, lazy days can be spent chattering while rambling to scenic peaks, like those dotting the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) or Eryri (Snowdonia) national parks, with evenings reserved for mugs of tea around the fireplace, or perhaps a glass of something stronger in the on-site hot tub.
For a real dose of group R&R, consider a weekend break at one of Wales’ sanative spas. For an overall sense of serenity, it’s hard to top the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel and Spa in the Berwyn Mountain range, offering treatments that'll lighten any stresses and lake views that'll light up any social media timeline. Arguably our best known spa facility, however, is the five-star Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, housing everything from nail salons to a selection of scented saunas. The resort is also famed for its three 18-hole golf courses, including the The Twenty Ten Course, created to stage the 2010 Ryder Cup competition.
Visiting groups who like to unwind out on the fairway could also check out other top quality Welsh golf courses, such as those at Royal St David's Golf Club, Aberdovey Golf Club and Abersoch Golf Club, to name just a few.
A food-focused foray
There’s no better time to tighten old ties than over a great meal, and Wales dishes up a real treat to groups who enjoy their food.
A good first port of call for any gastronomic-themed Welsh odyssey is a visit to one of our traditional food markets – Swansea, Carmarthen and Cardiff all have excellent ones – where you’ll find all manner of Welsh delicacies. Start with the well-known, a handful of Welsh cakes and a wad of proper Caerphilly cheese, and move on to the more adventurous, fresh cockles with a dash of vinegar or laverbread (seaweed) paired with fried bacon – you won’t find that in your local restaurant back home!
For a more formal, sit-down affair, Wales has seven Michelin star restaurants within its borders that’ll prove a highlight of any holiday, from the 30-course(!) banquet bestowed upon diners at legendary Ynyshir, to the secretive set menu served up behind the big curtain (concealing the restaurant's interior to passers-by) at Home, near Cardiff. For a dollop of revelry while you chow down on traditional dishes, time your weekend visit with one of our fun-filled food festivals.
If you're in need of a little gastronomic guidance, consider undertaking a specialised food tour, such as those offered by Loving Welsh Food in Cardiff or the much-lauded guided-outings run by Amanda in Conwy. Alternatively, Celtic Tours Wales can organise food-themed excursions across North Wales, taking in stops to sample everything from Bara brith (Welsh fruit bread) to craft beers.
If your group is more accustomed to lunches of the liquid variety, Wales has a number of vineyards that offer tours and wine tasting, including the award-winning Llanerch near Cardiff. If you prefer a barrel-aged tipple, tours and tastings are also on the menu at the Penderyn Distillery in the foothills of the Bannau (Brecon Beacons), which is renowned for its Welsh whisky that’s sold across the globe. Alternatively, join the Welsh gin revolution on a gin distillery tour and tasting.
Think outside the box
Any weekend spent in good company is likely to be memorable, but throw a giant underground trampoline into the mix and your trip is going to be tough to forget! For friendship groups prone to the occasional quirk, Wales is a great place to get a little weird, with one-of-a-kind experiences that will ensure your trip is extra special.
You could try horseback riding in the Black Mountains, have a go at the traditional discipline of haymaking (scythe provided) at The Forge near Corwen, skate on an Olympic-sized ice rink in Flintshire, stay up all night on a stargazing tour at one of our Dark Sky Reserves, or settle in to see a classic flick at one of our independent cinemas (though the teeny-tiny Sol Cinema may be a tight squeeze depending on your group size).
Additionally, if the thought of a subterranean trampoline doesn’t jump out at you, you could always go head-to-head with your friends at the world’s first underground adventure golf course, located at the same site.
Wales has heaps of accommodation options where large groups of friends can all sleep together under one roof.
For those working to strict budgets, a stay at a bunkhouse could be just the ticket. Dingey dormitories, however, these are not, instead appearing as modern homely havens, equipped with everything from beachside views to dedicated beer fridges.
Lodging on the cheaper end of the scale is also available at Wales’ scattering of YHA hostels and camp sites. Or, for something with a few more home comforts, try a glampsite, such as those at Nyth Robin close to Aberdyfi or Sloeberry Farm near Cardigan – the latter comes with outdoor wood-fired hot tubs.
Those seeking a more conventional apartment or cottage stay are truly spoiled for choice, with everything from city centre town houses to converted farmyard barns to pick from. Below is just a sample of some of the options on offer, all of which sleep at least six people.
Accommodation options for groups in North Wales include:
- Bodnant Estate Holiday Cottages – a scattering of 10 lodges set in the lower reaches of the Conwy Valley
- Nature's Point – a selection of self-catering cottages situated on the edge of Nefyn Bay on the Llŷn Peninsula
- The Exchange – a four-storey town house in the town of Aberdovey, overlooking the Dyfi estuary
Accommodation options for groups in West Wales include: