From incredible coasts to stunning castles, this 10-day road trip begins and ends in London, England. Drive to Llangollen to see the hills along the River Dee before exploring the best of Conwy, Llandudno, and historic Great Orme. Next, take a guided adventure through Snowdonia and drive the Pembrokeshire Coast. Then, explore a few waterside towns—including Aberystwyth and Tenby—visit the Gower peninsula, and go sightseeing in the capital city of Cardiff.

Highlights

  • Explore stunning castles in Llangollen, Harlech, Caernarfon, Conwy, and Cardiff 
  • Discover the grandeur of Snowdonia National Park on a guided tour 
  • Drive the routes along the Pembrokeshire Coast and the Gower peninsula
  • Visit the longest pier in Llandudno and take a tram to the historic Great Orme

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in London, Drive to Llangollen & Explore Llangollen
Day 2 Drive to Conwy Via Snowdonia & Self-Guided Tour Conwy
Day 3 Explore Conwy Castle, Llandudno & Take the Tram to Great Orme Conwy
Day 4 Summit Mount Snowdon, Drive to Canaerfon & Explore Caernarfon
Day 5 Snowdonia Guided Tour, Drive to Harlech & Castle Tour Harlech
Day 6 Drive South to Aberystwyth & Explore Aberystwyth
Day 7 Drive Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Stop in Fishguard & Tour St Davids St Davids
Day 8 Tour St Davids & Drive to Tenby Tenby
Day 9 Drive Gower Peninsula & Stop in Swansea en Route to Cardiff Cardiff
Day 10 Explore Cardiff, Drive Back to London & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in London, Drive to Llangollen & Explore

The River Dee nestled along Llangollen
The River Dee nestled along Llangollen

Welcome to the United Kingdom! Once your flight lands in London, gather your belongings and pick up your rental car. Make the scenic, four-hour drive through England to Wales. As you enter Wales, the landscape becomes hillier, and the signs start appearing in Welsh as well as English. 

Your first destination is Llangollen. Upon arrival, check into your accommodations, and then enjoy some exploration. Renowned for its surrounding hills and the River Dee, Llangollen has a rich heritage. Take a stroll along the Victoria Promenade, picnic in Riverside Park, or watch the river tumble beneath the bridge. Make the trip to Castell Dinas Brân, a medieval castle located in an earlier Iron Age hillfort and likely built in the 1260s by Gruffudd ap Madog, Lord of Powys Fadog. If you are feeling energetic, there is a path to the top. The reward is a fantastic view over the valley and to the hills beyond.

Since Llangollen is best known for its canal, consider taking a two-hour boat trip around the canal, cruising through the stunning Dee Valley, which has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. End the first day with a visit to the famous and thrilling Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, built by Thomas Telford in 1805 and known for its achievements in engineering. After the long day, take some time to rest and relax in your accommodations.  

Day 2: Drive to Conwy Via Snowdonia & Self-Guided Tour

The Medieval Conwy Castle
The medieval Conwy Castle

From Llangollen, drive into the beautiful Snowdonia National Park en route to Conwy in North Wales. Stop off at the pretty village of Betws-Y-Coed and stroll around the lovely streets. Take a walk, get some fresh air in the surrounding forests, and perhaps take a slight detour to the impressive Swallow Falls.

Then, follow the River Conwy north to reach the town of Conwy. This pretty walled town sits on the banks of the Conwy Estuary and is famed for its impressive medieval Conwy Castle. Check into your accommodations and take a walk around to explore some of the sights on your own. The Plas Mawr Elizabethan townhouse, the Church of St Mary & All Saints, the Town Walls, and the quayside are all worthy stops. 

Day 3: Explore Conwy Castle, Llandudno & Take the Tram to Great Orme

Llandudno, home to the longest pier in Wales
Llandudno, home to the longest pier in Wales
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Continue exploring the pretty town today, beginning with a tour of medieval Conwy Castle. Conwy was constructed by the English monarch Edward I between 1283 and 1289 as one of the key fortresses in his "iron ring" of castles to contain the Welsh. Soaring curtain walls and eight massive, round towers give the castle an intimidating presence undimmed by time. The views from the battlements are breathtaking, looking out across mountains and sea. 

In the afternoon, head to the coastal resort of Llandudno. Enjoy a stroll on the longest pier in Wales before taking a tram on the Great Orme peninsula. Explore the geology, archaeology, wildlife, and history of this spectacular headland thought to be over 350 million years old. If the weather is good, take a short walk up onto the peninsula—rather than taking the tramway—and then walk down. There are three scenic walks of about a mile from the town of Llandudno to the Great Orme summit with wonderful views of the town and beyond. Following the trip, return to Conwy for the night. 

Day 4: Summit Mount Snowdon, Drive to Canaerfon & Explore

View approaching top of Snowdon, highest point in Wales
The view approaching the summit of Mount Snowdon, the highest point in Wales

In the morning, drive to the village of Llanberis. From there, take the train up to the summit of Snowdonia. This narrow-gauge rack-and-pinion mountain railway takes you to the summit of Mount Snowdon itself, the highest mountain in Wales and the highest point in the British Isles outside Scotland. The views from the top of Mount Snowdon are amazing. You can see 18 lakes, 14 peaks over 2,950 feet (900 m), and over the ocean—sometimes even as far as Ireland. However, this is just a taste before you fully explore this natural treasure tomorrow.

Back in Llanberis, enjoy a Welsh tradition: a snack and tea at Pete's Eats, a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts and locals. Then, make the 30-minute drive to visit the most famous of all the medieval Welsh castles: 700-year-old Canaerfon. The castle was born from the bitter war with Welsh princes. Its immense curtain walls and daunting King's Gate were designed to withstand conflict. The polygonal towers, eagle statues, and multi-colored masonry echo imperial Roman architecture, especially the walls of Constantinople

Next, take an excursion onto the island of Anglesey. Visit Llanddwyn Island, one of the most picturesque coastal locations in all of Wales. The church ruins here were once home to Saint Dwynwen—the 5th-century Welsh patron saint of lovers. Legend says she moved there after her true love Maelon was turned to ice. Then, wrap the day with a visit to Beaumaris Castle, the last great castle built—but never completed—under King Edward I in the 13th century. Then, swing by the village with one of the longest names in the world: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, and spend the evening in Canaerfon.

Day 5: Snowdonia Guided Tour, Drive to Harlech & Castle Tour

Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia National Park

After breakfast, check out of your hotel. A local tour guide will pick you up and escort you for the day, which will be spent further exploring Snowdonia National Park. Travel around Mount Snowdon—via the glacial Nant Ffrancon Pass—the magnificent Ogwen Valley, Snowdonia Lakes, Nant Gwynant, the pretty village of Beddgelert, and the Italian-style village of Portmeirion. Experience the highlights of this fascinating area where history has left its mark on every farm, castle, and mountain.

In addition to the stunning countryside, navigate small country roads to hill farms and sleepy villages to discover hidden gems and encounter some traditional Welsh culture and hospitality. Chat with the locals, and you may even learn some Welsh!

Collect your rental car and belongings and then drive to the dramatic village of Harlech, perched high above the coastal dunes with stunning views of the mountains. UNESCO considers the 13th-century Harlech Castle as one of Europe's "finest examples of late-13th century and early-14th century military architecture in Europe," and the striking ruins are worth the visit. The castle was originally built atop cliffs that plunged straight down to the ocean, but water levels have receded so much that the ocean is now a half-mile away. Learn all about the history on your walking tour. 

Following the tour, enjoy the rest of the night in Harlech on your own.

Day 6: Drive South to Aberystwyth & Explore

Aberystwyth Harbor
Aberystwyth Harbor

Today, continue driving south along the coastline to reach the Mawddach Estuary and the seaside resort of Barmouth, located under the impressive mass of the mountain called Cader Idris. If you're feeling energetic, there is an easy walk you can take along the estuary with beautiful landscapes—it's also perfect for spotting native wildlife.

Then, jump back in the car as you journey between the mountains of Snowdonia and the coastline. Your final stop of the day is the seaside resort of Aberystwyth in Cardigan Bay. The town is nestled between three hills and two beaches and hosts castle ruins, a pier, and a harbor. The surrounding hills hold the visible remains of an iron age fort and a monument to Wellington—once climbed, they offer stunning views of Cardigan Bay.

A university town, Aberystwyth has elegant Victorian/Edwardian buildings along its seafront. The wide promenade protects the buildings from the Irish Sea and offers space to sit, soak up the sun, and view the surrounding hills and mountains. In addition to the castle ruins, take a ride on the Aberystwyth Electric Cliff Railway. It climbs Constitution Hill from the northern end of the town's promenade. Reaching the summit reveals an exceptional panorama, which on a clear day, extends as far as the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire to the south, while the whole expanse of Cardigan Bay opens out to the west, and Snowdonia to the north can also be seen.

Following the day's activities, relax and unwind in Aberystwyth this evening. 

Day 7: Drive Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Stop in Fishguard & Tour St Davids

St David's Cathedral in South Wales
St David's Cathedral in South Wales

Drive south along the Cardigan Bay coast with far-reaching panoramic views to reach Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and some of Britain's most attractive coastlines. Pembrokeshire is a wild, rugged coastline with high cliffs providing beautiful viewpoints. The coastline, with its volcanic headlands and glacial valleys, was designated a National Park in 1952, mainly because of its extraordinary variety of rock types and landforms—a unique coastal landscape that makes an ideal habitat for wildlife.

Walk around Dinas Head, a rocky headland overlooking Fishguard to the south. This is a two-hour walk with amazing coastal views. In addition to the sights, there are plenty of archaeological highlights. Continue south to Fishguard. Check out the old port of Lower Fishguard, which was the setting for the 1972 film version of "Under Milk Wood" starring Richard Burton. Next, head to the ferry port town of Goodwick and navigate around the headland to reach the wooded valley of Cwm Felin and Carregwastad Point, where the French landed over 200 years ago.

Strumble Head and its lighthouse are a close drive, and the walk onto Pwll Deri offers a beautiful viewpoint. Next, visit the tiny city of St Davids, the UK's smallest city. St Davids Cathedral is a beautiful building dating from the 12th century and was a popular pilgrimage destination throughout the Middle Ages. Adjacent to the cathedral stands the ruins of the medieval Bishops Palace. After exploring a bit, check into your hotel and enjoy your night.

Day 8: Tour St Davids & Drive to Tenby

Tenby with its colourful houses on the seafront
The colorful houses on the seafront in Tenby

In the morning, take a scenic, 1-2-hour walk around St Davids Head. This area of Pembrokeshire is steeped in history, with legend claiming St. Patrick himself had his vision to convert Ireland to Christianity while standing on the Whitesands beach. St Davids Head is just north of Whitesands and is dominated by the lone hill of Carn Lidl. Take the route around Carn Lidl, which is 594 feet (181 m). For more of a challenge, visit the summit.

Next, head south through Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and visit Carew Castle and a little gem called Tidal Mill. Nestled on a limestone bluff overlooking the Carew River, the site's story begins in the Iron Age, 2,000 years ago. The castle today was built by the Normans and modified to become a Tudor mansion.

End the day in Tenby on the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast. Tenby is a picturesque little town with a selection of sandy beaches and quirky townhouses. Settle into your guest house, take a walk, and have a nice dinner by the water. 

Day 9: Drive the Gower Peninsula & Stop in Swansea en Route to Cardiff

Sunset in the Gower Peninsula
Sunset on the Gower Peninsula

Driver east through South Wales to the Gower Peninsula today. It has pretty hills and an unspoiled coastline that includes Three Cliffs Bay, Oxwich Bay, and Worm's Head. This is a beautiful off-the-beaten-track region of South Wales. Just beyond the Gower, reach Swansea, Wales's second city and the birthplace of the writer Dylan Thomas. Swansea's highlights include a covered market, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, and the National Waterfront Museum, with exhibits that showcase how important the region was to the development of Britain. Additionally, do not miss Clyne Gardens, famed for colorful displays of rhododendrons and azaleas.

Continue through South Wales to Cardiff, the capital of Wales. Check into your accommodations and enjoy a lovely farewell dinner to commemorate your trip. 

Day 10: Explore Cardiff, Drive Back to London & Depart

Cardiff Castle
Cardiff Castle

The final day is spent touring the best of Cardiff. Begin at Cardiff Castle, built atop a nearly-2,000-year-old Roman fortification and one of the best-preserved of the country's many historic castles. Some of the oldest sections date back as far as the 10th century. Next, visit Llandaff Cathedral, built in the 1300s on the ruins of the original structure built some 200 years earlier. It's a delight to tour, with an exquisite and fully-restored 18th-century Italian Temple notable for its rare religious sculptures and artifacts.

Learn more about the history of Wales at the National Museum Cardiff and pay a visit to the Cardiff Bay redevelopment, home to a large number of attractions. Following the exploration of Cardiff, make the three-hour drive back to London. Return your vehicle and board your departure flight home. Safe Travels!

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Map

Map of Self-Drive Wales from London: Llangollen, Conwy, Aberystwyth, Cardiff & More - 10 Days
Map of Self-Drive Wales from London: Llangollen, Conwy, Aberystwyth, Cardiff & More - 10 Days