Last updated on November 14th, 2019
Hi guys, we just returned from our Wales road trip, where we spent three days visiting Cardiff and South Wales and I would love to share with you our itinerary for our South Wales road trip. Prepare to find a lot of amazing restaurants, beautiful towns, stunning castles and wonderful nature in this post and hopefully, my post will inspire you to visit Wales and enjoy your time there. As you can probably see from the date, we visited Wales in autumn (October) and it was great. It was very warm and perfect for exploring.
This post was written thanks to Visit Wales, who kindly brought us to Wales on a sponsored trip. You can reach out to Visit Wales if you need any tourist information or if you need help with planning your trip to Wales, however, you can also ask me if you want and I will try to answer in the comments below.
Without further ado, let’s get started with our 3-day road trip around Wales!
Cardiff and South Wales in 3 days: everything you need to know before going to Wales
So let’s get started with some essentials – here are some things that are useful to know before going to Wales!
How to get to Wales?
Depending on where are you based (or alternatively, where are you travelling from), you can either take a flight to Cardiff, take a train, bus or simply drive to Wales.
As we’re based in London and we were departing London on Friday afternoon, we decided to take a train to Cardiff, as that would be faster than driving. You can check prices for the trains on Trainline or Loko 2, but remember the rule – the earlier you buy, the cheaper the train ticket will be.
Also, Loko 2 offers split fares. I don’t know how it works, but tickets there are usually a bit cheaper, so it might be worth trying out.
If you fancy a bus ride to Wales, you can use National Express, Megabus or any other provider of the route (I would recommend Snap, as I travelled with them to Bristol and Nottingham, but they recently discontinued the route. They might resume the buses to Cardiff in the future) in case you’re departing from London.
For flights, check the prices on Skyscanner.
Where to rent a car in Wales?
If you arrive in Cardiff by train or bus, it would be easiest to rent a car in the city centre. We always rent cars from Avis and luckily, Avis had a rental location just 6 minutes walking from the Cardiff Central station.
If you arrive in Cardiff by plane, then the easiest way is to rent a car from the airport. In this case, I would recommend using rentalcars.com.
What to pack for Wales? Wales in Autumn
Wales is beautiful at any time of the year. However, as pretty much any place in Europe, it is colder in winter and warmer in summer. Regardless of the time of the year, pack a lot of layers and bring some comfortable shoes like these. If you still have space left in your bag, bring a waterproof and windproof parka – it can be quite windy in Wales! As I already mentioned, we visited Wales in autumn and it was still very warm. I only brought a light jacket. However, we visited Wales at the beginning of October. It is colder in November, so make sure to bring many layers.
Don’t forget to pack your camera, as you will be able to take some breathtaking shots in Wales. In case you’re curious, which equipment do we use, you can find it below.
Finally, which language is spoken in Wales?
If you’re wondering, which language is spoken in Wales and whether you’ll be able to explore Wales just using English, don’t worry, you will be fine. Welsh (Cymraeg) is spoken by about 19% of the population of Wales and everything is written in two languages. However, it would be nice to learn how to say “Hi”(Bore da – aka Good day) or “Thanks” (Diolch) in Welsh!
Now, it’s time for the Wales road trip itinerary!
3 days in Wales: Cardiff and South Wales road trip
Day 1: Explore Cardiff, the Capital of Wales
Looking back at our itinerary now, after visiting Wales, I can say that I’m very happy how our trip turned out and what we managed to visit and see.
Best things to see in Cardiff in a day:
If you are only visiting Wales for 3 days, I recommend spending 1 day in Cardiff. Here are some of the best things to see in Cardiff in a day.
I would recommend spending your first day in Wales exploring the capital, Cardiff. Cardiff has a lot of things to see and do and it’s a great city to visit. Depending on your time of arrival, you can decide, which attractions and landmarks do you want to see.
Cardiff Castle is a must. It’s huge and it has a lot of rooms to discover. You can even take a guided tour around the castle to get access to the hidden gems of the castle. The interior of some rooms inside the castle are stunning and very picturesque! If you want to explore the castle to the fullest, you will probably need 3-4 hours to see it all.
Next to the Cardiff castle, you can find the gorgeous Bute Park. It was especially beautiful in autumn, as there were many stunning yellow trees there. Many people go to Bute Park for a run. In case you’re into running, you can do that too!
Another great location for a run or even cycle is the promenade that connects Penarth and the Cardiff Bay area. This promenade goes through the port and lays in the middle of the bay. I have never seen anything quite like that in my life and I happily walked the entire promenade right until our hotel, voco St. David – it took us about 45 minutes.
Even if you don’t want to run or cycle, head to the Cardiff Bay area and stay there for a cup of coffee at Coffi.co – a very nice coffee place that prepares over 60 different drinks. This area is very pretty and there is a lot to see and a lot of space to walk around. There is a Norwegian church that definitely stands out and moreover, the signature building of Cardiff that you see on most of the postcards is also located there – it’s called the Pierhead Building and I’m sure you’ve seen it online at some point!
If you still have some time left in Cardiff, walk around the city centre or head to Penarth – a very nice neighbourhood, where you can have dinner.
Where to eat in Cardiff? Best restaurants in Cardiff
If you like fine dining, I would recommend Restaurant James Sommerin in Penarth. It’s about 12 minutes away by car and it’s has a Michelin star. A meal there was unique and consisted of 6 courses (there was also an option with 9 courses, however, we were very full even with 6 courses). A 6-course meal costs £75, while a 9-course meal is slightly more expensive at £95 per person. You also don’t see, what is going to be included in the menu, so the menu is somewhat “secret”. All that you know is that they source local seasonal ingredients and everything is sustainable. I loved the concept, the idea and the food. All the dishes were unique and unforgettable and I would be happy to return there one day.
Another option, a slightly more affordable one, is the restaurant in the city centre, just steps away from Cardiff Castle that is called The Potted Pig. A reservation is essential, as it’s a very popular and busy place. I couldn’t pick only one dish, so I picked 4 starters instead of 1 main (it was certainly too much food), however, Pepe ordered a main – the pork belly. That was their signature dish, so it was delicious. We liked all the dishes and gin tonics were also great at The Potted Pig. It might sound like a pub, but it’s a nice restaurant, perfect for a night out.
There are, of course, more places to explore in Cardiff but those two were recommended to me as the best restaurants in Cardiff and the ones you should definitely try to visit on your South Wales road trip.
Where to stay in Cardiff?
As I mentioned before, we stayed in a great hotel voco St. David (huge thanks to Visit Wales). Voco St. David is located in the Cardiff Bay area, very close to bars, restaurants and some of the landmarks. Our room had a breathtaking view!
You can even walk to the city centre in less than 30 minutes from the hotel. Moreover, voco St. David also has a huge spa and it was a pleasure using it after a long day of work. You can check the prices and availability here.
Day 2 of the South Wales road trip: the Brecon Beacons and Hay-on-Wye
On the second day of your South Wales road trip, I would recommend you to explore the Brecon Beacons National Park, where you can either go on a hike to 4 waterfalls or climb to the Pen y Fan mountain peak. If you wake up really early, perhaps you could do both!
Driving through the Brecon Beacons is a real pleasure and the landscapes are stunning! You will see a lot of sheep chilling on the roadside (we even stopped and got out of the car to take a picture of one, but the sheep didn’t like it and decided to escape, of course). Overall, the landscapes in the Brecon Beacons reminded me of my beloved Highlands in Scotland (we used to live in Scotland) and I was really happy to see the hills again.
The Waterfall Country in the Brecon Beacons
The 4 waterfalls walk (or Four Falls Trail how it is officially called) is famous in the Brecon Beacons and it’s totally worth including it in your Wales road trip itinerary. There is a place in the Brecon Beacons that is called Waterfall Country and as you can guess, it’s famous for its dramatic waterfalls and oh my, there are many of them. The most popular trail, the Four Falls trail visits 4 stunning waterfalls. Its distance is around 5 miles (bring comfortable shoes) and the starting point is Cwm Porth car park
There are, however, other trails such as the Elidir trail (it’s way shorter), the Gunpowder Trail (even a shorter one) and Sychryd trail (only 0.5 miles from Dinas Rock car park).
One of the most stunning waterfalls, Sgwd-yr-Eira is 2 miles away from the Dinas Rock car park, so if you don’t feel like taking the Four waterfalls walk, just head to the Sgwd-yr-Eira waterfall whilst during your road trip in South Wales.
You can read more about the trails, see the maps and routes on the official website of Brecon Beacons.
Pen y Fan walk
If you’re fit and you consider your physical condition good, you can climb Pen y Fan. We didn’t do it, as we were running out of time and my shoes were not great for climbing, so we decided to skip it, however, we drove a bit more through the Brecon Beacons and visited a beautiful lake called Llangorse.
If you, however, decide to walk to the top of Pen y Fan, you can leave your car at the Pont Ar Daf car park and start your hike. It takes about 2 hours to get there (one way) and you can access the route and the map here.
Bookworms paradise: the beautiful town Hay-on-Wye
After driving through the Brecon Beacons for a while and visiting Llangorse Lake, we were on a lookout for beautiful villages in Wales. I did a lot of research and reading before heading to South Wales and I found some spots and hidden gems that I mostly left for the last trip of our long weekend in Wales, however, there was one that we could visit on the second day in Wales. That was the bookworm’s paradise – a small market town that has more bookshops that residents (just joking). Well, anyway, there were many bookshops – over 20! Considering the population of about 1.5K people, it’s a lot of bookshops.
Even if you’re not the greatest lover of reading, Hay-on-Wye is a charming town. It’s very photogenic with its narrow streets and beautiful storefronts. It also has amazing options for food for any budget, so it is worth staying there for lunch or dinner if you wish.
However, if you like books and reading, this place will be your paradise! Especially if you come in June during the Hay-on-Wye book festival – Hay Festival.
You can also visit the ruins of the Hay Castle if you still have some time left in the town.
Where to stay in South Wales?
At the end of your second day in Wales, you can either head back to Cardiff and stay there or you can drive from Hay-on-Wye for about 1 or 1.5 hours and stay somewhere near Swansea.
Last day in South Wales: Pembrokeshire Coast: Solva, Pembroke and Tenby
Finally, on the last day of your long weekend in Wales, you can visit the Pembrokeshire coast, Solva and the beautiful town called Tenby that deserves a separate post.
We started our day in Solva – I found this town on the list of the most beautiful towns in Wales and I fell in love with its colourful houses and a small bay full of boats and yachts.
We loved the coast near Solva, around 4 minutes away from the town, there is a long surfing beach with a huge parking lot, where you can park your car and go for a walk. The coastal walk can take up to 1 hour, depending on how far you decide to walk. Just about 30 seconds away from the beach, there is a parking spot on Wood Hill, from where you can take a stunning shot of the coast.
Pembrokeshire Coastal Walks
If you want to spend the day walking along the Pembrokeshire coast, you can do it! You can find the best routes and all the information about the trails here.
Pembroke Castle and town
Just after visiting Solva and the beautiful beach next to it, we decided to go to Pembroke to visit the famous Pembroke castle. Pembroke Castle was built at the end of the 11th century (it will be turning 1,000 years old in several decades) and it’s the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It currently belongs to the Philipps family, however, the castle is open to the public and you can visit it during the official working hours.
What I loved about this magnificent castle is that you can get around it via a small circular walk and take a lot of photos from different angles and with a different light. If you’re into photography, I’m sure you will like it as well!
Tenby – a hidden gem of Wales
The last stop of this epic road trip in Wales for a weekend is Tenby – a hidden gem of Wales. Tenby isn’t a very small and charming town. Having travelled a lot around the UK, I haven’t seen much about Tenby. However, I will definitely write a separate post about Tenby. In my opinion, it’s probably one of the most beautiful towns in the entire UK!
Tenby has a beautiful coast, a great sandy beach, a row of charming pastel-coloured houses (just like in Notting Hill in London), a small island with a fort, a hill with glorious views of the town and beautiful turquoise water! Tenby has it all. Tenby has a population of about 5,000 people, but it has a lot of tourists and visitors in summer.
We only came to Tenby for one hour, but we spent almost 3 hours in the town, as we never expected anything so beautiful. I’m sure you will enjoy Tenby too. Even in October, Tenby was amazing and looked very warm and even a bit tropical.
Getting back to Cardiff
After visiting Tenby, it was time to get back to Cardiff. We got to Cardiff in about 2 hours and left our rental car at the Avis office near the city centre. We were just in time for the last train to London that departs at 8:52 pm, so make sure to arrive before that time if you’re planning to return to London (in case you’re going to London, of course) by train.
Summary of 3 days in Wales: our road trip to South Wales in October.
Overall, we really enjoyed our 3-day road trip to South Wales. I was surprised by Cardiff and I never expected to see so many stunning castles in just 3 days in Wales. Wales in October (and generally in autumn) is very beautiful. Many trees turn yellow in the parks and National Parks like the Brecon Beacons also look amazing. We enjoyed the Pembrokeshire coast and fell in love with Tenby. There is so much to do and see in Wales, that 3 days in Wales isn’t enough. However, we still managed to see some of the highlights of the South and West Wales during this long weekend. I’m sure, however, that we will be back very soon!
WIN A STAY IN CARDIFF
I teamed up with Visit Wales to give 1 lucky winner a 1-night stay in gorgeous voco St. David for two people and a dinner in The Potted Pig (one of my favourite restaurants in Wales worth £100). The deadline is the 8th of December, so hurry up!
Here’s a link to the prize draw: Enter to win a city break in Cardiff!
And here are the T&Cs in case you’re interested.
Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!