This route takes in the whole span of Welsh landscape, history and culture. Here are 11 highlights along The Cambrian Way - the journey itself is the ever-present 12th highlight, all the way from Llandudno to Cardiff.
Hit the heights in Llandudno
Llandudno is an immaculate Victorian/Edwardian resort, complete with pier-and-prom. The best views are from Great Orme, a mighty limestone crag that you can ascend by the Great Orme Tramway or cable car. On top, there’s a visitor centre, nature reserve and the Great Orme Copper Mine.
Read more: Family days out in Llandudno
Wander the gardens at Bodnant
We once asked Prince Charles (now King Charles III of course) to name his favourite gardens, and he rates Bodnant as ‘one of Wales’ national treasures’. The upper section around Bodnant Hall comes with terraced gardens and informal lawns, while the lower Dell has a fabulous wild garden. The standard of excellence continues throughout the estate and into nearby Garden Centre, Craft Centre, Welsh Food Centre and the Bodnant Estate Holiday Cottages.
Read more: 10 great gardens around Wales
Go downhill fast at Blaenau Ffestiniog
Once the ‘slate capital of the world’, Blaenau Ffestiniog has reinvented itself as an adventure centre. Mountain bikers hurtle down the screes at Antur Stiniog, while zipwires soar overhead at Zip World Titan 2. In the vast slate caverns below ground, there are more zip zones and the surreal, trippy Bounce Below: layers of bouncy cargo nets connected by slides and ladders. To get it all into historical perspective, start with an underground tour of Zip World Llechwedd.
Reserve your seat at Yr Ysgwrn
Discover the tragic story of Hedd Wyn the bardic name of the poet, Ellis Humphrey Evans who lived in Trawsfynydd with a visit to his family farm at Yr Ysgwrn. The history and symbolism that the place represents reflects a period of social, cultural and agricultural history at the turn of the 20th century.
Hedd Wyn submitted a poem under the ironic title of “Yr Arwr” (The Hero) for the prestigious chair competition at the 1917 National Eisteddfod a few weeks before enlisting with Royal Welsh Fusiliers and being sent to the Western Front. The ceremony of the Chairing of the Bard was attended by Welsh speaking Prime Minister, Lloyd George and it was there that the Archdruid announced that the winner of the big literary prize had been killed in action at the Third Battle of Ypres six weeks earlier. The empty chair was then draped in a black sheet and that year's festival is now referred to as 'The Eisteddfod of the Black Chair'.
Discover the delights of Brecon
Brecon is a bright, brilliant market town with interesting galleries, friendly cafés and lots of indie shops. You can take a look inside the 12th century cathedral and visit the excellent Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh too. It’s also the end point of the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal so you could even hop on a canal boat and explore. And if you fancy a bike or a hike, the Taff Trail walking/cycle route runs 55 miles (88km) all the way to Cardiff Bay.
Go underground at National Showcaves Centre for Wales
There’s a stack of attractions on one entry ticket at The National Showcaves Centre for Wales! The highlights are the three remarkable cave adventures. Between them, Dan-yr-Ogof Cave, Cathedral Cave and Bone Cave offer enormous caverns, a waterfall and spectacularly colourful rock formations. Then there’s also the Dinosaur Park, the Shire Horse centre, a museum packed with interactive exhibits and a café and rock shop. It’s the perfect family day out.
Read more: Exploring the underground secrets of Wales
Meet an ex-miner at Welsh Coal Mining Experience
The Rhondda Valleys form the world’s most famous coal-mining area. There used to be 53 pits and this one – the Lewis Merthyr colliery – has been preserved as A Welsh Coal Mining Experience at Rhondda Heritage Park. This living-history museum vividly recreates the hardships and camaraderie of the mining community. The guides are ex-miners and, in the café, the food is proper Welsh-Italian: there’s been a big ex-pat Italian community here for more than a century.
Storm the bastions at Caerphilly Castle
Caerphilly Castle is the biggest in Wales - mighty towers, great hall, drawbridge and siege engines that actually work, all surrounded by a vast moat. It was originally built in the 1200s by Norman lords, and was restored to its present grandeur by various Marquesses of Bute in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Nearby, you can step back in time some more by roaming the stately house and gardens of Colonel Edward Pritchard. Llancaiach Fawr Manor is well worth a stop, but mind where you step – it’s said to be one of the most haunted houses in Britain!
Read more: Is Wales the castle capital of Europe?
Cash in at The Royal Mint Experience
Every single coin in your pocket, purse and piggy bank was made in Llantrisant at the Royal Mint. That’s around 30,000,000,000 coins, with a face value of £4.6bn, give or take. As well as minting British coins here, they make money and medals for dozens of other countries, too. The visitor centre and behind-the-scenes tours give a fascinating insight into the whole process.
Step back in time at St Fagans National Museum of History
One of the world’s best open-air museums, St Fagans National Museum of History is home to more than 40 historic Welsh buildings. Chapels and farms, a pub and miners’ institute and many more have all been moved to the grounds of an Elizabethan manor just outside Cardiff. The buildings are fascinating, but it’s the inspiring explanations from the craftsmen and women who act as your guides that really brings it to life. Like all seven of our National Museums, it’s free.
Hit the town in Cardiff
Cardiff, our capital city, is a perfect city-break destination. Start at Cardiff Castle, whose Roman walls, Norman keep and sumptuous Victorian mansion stand at the edge of Bute Park. Across the road, National Museum Cardiff has natural history and a world-class art collection. Head south and you’re in the shopping district, with the giant St David's centre and Victorian and Edwardian arcades at its centre. Down in Cardiff Bay, the old coal ports have been transformed by a shiny new waterfront, dominated by the copper roof of the Wales Millennium Centre.
Read more: Enjoy a short stay in Cardiff