Road Trip through the raw beauty of Wales

Harry Potter, lily ponds, castles, beaches, mountains –
Preseli, Berwyn, Black, Cambrian and Snowdonia, lakes and reservoirs, and waterfalls…
Our holiday road trip was packed full with literature, raw beauty, water and history…

Road trip through the raw beauty of WalesSo join me on a photographic journey across England and Wales…

We watched all the Harry Potter movies, pretty much back-to-back (because rereading the books would have taken a teeny bit longer!) before we arrived at Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour. I’ll do a separate post on this tour at some point, because it deserves it, but suffice to say it was awesome – and left us with a desire to rewatch all the movies back-to-back again! All days out (theme oriented) are expensive these days, but for the price and feel-good factor, this was worth it.

Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London © Lisa Shambrook

We spent two thirds of the HP entry price the next day at Howletts zoo, but in the heat it appeared that most of their animals were asleep. We only saw a handful: a lioness, lots of elephants, hogs, several monkeys, two gorillas and…um, nope, that’s it. The keeper at the Lemur walk-through was actually showing people photos of the lemurs on his iPhone to prove they were actually there! We saw a bunny rabbit… It must have been a bad day. We went when the children were small eight years ago and it was great, not so much this time…

Howletts Zoo and Margate seafront © Lisa Shambrook

Howletts Zoo and Margate seafront © Lisa Shambrook

Margate has a lovely beach and we enjoyed an evening there, on the eastern side of England.

Raglan Castle and the drive to Wales © Lisa Shambrook

Raglan Castle and the drive to Wales © Lisa Shambrook

On our return to Wales we stopped at Raglan Castle – beautiful. We had gorgeous weather and cute moorhen ducklings in the moat. In case you wondered some of the BBC’s Merlin was also filmed there.

Bosherston lily ponds were enchanting, a twenty minute walk along the ponds took us to the beach, and despite a sudden rainfall we loved paddling in the sea! I’m always happy with my feet in the ocean…

Bosherston lily ponds, beach and Tenby seagulls © Lisa Shambrook

Bosherston lily ponds, beach and Tenby seagulls © Lisa Shambrook

We ate chips on Tenby beach accosted by gangs of seagulls…

LLansteffan Castle © Lisa Shambrook

LLansteffan Castle © Lisa Shambrook

Our next castle was Llansteffan, on our doorstep, and a regular walk with Roxy our German Shepherd.

Manorbier Castle and Pembrokeshire Falconry © Lisa Shambrook

Manorbier Castle and Pembrokeshire Falconry © Lisa Shambrook

The following day our road trip resumed with a falconry display at Manorbier Castle by Pembrokeshire Falconry. The birds were stunning and made the day. I’d expected the castle to be larger, but it was pretty. It was a quick walk to the beach for a picnic.

Aberieddy Blue Lagoon, Trefin and Aberywstyth © Lisa Shambrook

Aberieddy Blue Lagoon, Trefin and Aberywstyth © Lisa Shambrook

Lisa seaweed hair - © Bekah Shambrook

© Bekah Shambrook

We then travelled across Pembrokeshire to the famous Blue Lagoon to watch intrepid adventurers jump off the old slate quarry into the almost 100 foot deep lagoon. I was mistaken when I told someone it was 300 foot…oops. We drove through the Preseli Mountains up to Aberystwyth stopping off at hidden beaches – Trefin and Abercastle – on the way, where I tried on a wig of seaweed, very fetching!

Elan Valley Reservoirs, Penbont Bridge, Pen-y-Garreg Reservoir, Snowdonia, Pistyll Rhaeadr Waterfall © Lisa Shambrook

Elan Valley Reservoirs, Penbont Bridge, Pen-y-Garreg Reservoir, Snowdonia, Pistyll Rhaeadr © Lisa Shambrook

The next day saw us at the Elan Valley Reservoirs. I’m researching Wales for my next books and found some fantastic locations which are now stored in my head as my books await a rewrite! The brainstorming in the car was fabulous and inspiring…and there will be dragons! Then up to Lake Vyrnwy, which was disappointingly grey in the rain and obscured for the most part by trees. I’d seen a Pinterest pic of the lake’s straining tower, but no chance of recreating that pic without a telephoto lens! Up to Pistyll Rhaeadr, Wales’s tallest waterfall at 240 foot, and it is stunning! Though, don’t park for £3 at the farmhouse, park on the road further down for free and take a five minute walk to it.

Sgwd-y-Eira, The Black Mountain and ponies © Lisa Shambrook

Sgwd-y-Eira, The Black Mountain and ponies © Lisa Shambrook

We discovered Sgwd yr Eira and three other waterfalls in Merthyr on the Brecon Beacons. A two hour fast-pace walk, and lots of steps, but a curtain of rushing water and you could stand behind it (like neighbouring Henryd Falls) which is wonderful on a hot day as the water shimmers across you!

We enjoyed the ponies up on The Black Mountain, and marvelled at the sheer raw beauty of the limestone mountain.

Beth Gelert W R Spencer - Beddgelert © Lisa Shambrook

Beth Gelert W R Spencer – Beddgelert © Lisa Shambrook

Then on our last day, straight up the west coast to Cader Idris, a mystical sight veiled in low cloud and mist, and to the decommissioned Trawsfynydd nuclear power station. We stopped at Beddgelert, the scene of ‘Beth Gelert’ my favourite tear-jerker poem by William Robert Spencer, then a quick look at hiker-smothered Mount Snowdon and down through the gorgeous gorge of Llanberis Pass.

Cader Idris, Snowdonia, Conwy Castle, Swallow Falls, Blaenau Ffestiniog © Lisa Shambrook

Cader Idris, Snowdonia, Conwy Castle, Swallow Falls, Blaenau Ffestiniog © Lisa Shambrook

We followed to Caernarfon and a drive-by of the castle where Prince Charles’s investiture took place, then we drove up the coast and took a wrong turn and literally stumbled upon Conwy Castle. We stopped and explored. It’s stunning. The town is surrounded by the castle walls and was built eight hundred years ago at the cost of £15,000 which would £45 million today. It was our favourite castle of the four we visited, and highly recommended as you can walk the castle walls, climb up the towers and explore for a good couple of hours, the rain didn’t hamper our visit.

We came back via Swallow Falls at Betws-y-Coed, entry through a turnstile at £1.50 (see how many you can fit in a turnstile – Shhh, I didn’t say that…) Very pretty. Whilst in North Wales I was also searching for a hairpin road up a mountain that I’d seen as a kid, but only when we turned off at Blaenau Ffestiniog’s Hydro Electric Power Station did I find it. Sadly, the road up the mountain is now closed off, but we had a lovely walk up through the clouds on a path of slate and waterfalls.

Blaenau Ffestiniog Hydro Electric Power Station Waterfalls and Slate © Lisa Shambrook

Blaenau Ffestiniog Hydro Electric Power Station Waterfalls and Slate © Lisa Shambrook

From there it was the long drive home, back through the stunning countryside of Wales. We’d covered 1,300 miles, across England from Margate in Eastern Kent to Pembrokeshire, West Wales, and up through Mid and North Wales and back. We had huge fun, and the car exhaust was fine until seven miles from home, when it fell off…but we were rescued and got home safe and sound!

Llanberis Pass, Snowdonia © Lisa Shambrook

Llanberis Pass, Snowdonia © Lisa Shambrook

We are incredibly blessed to live in such a glorious, beautiful country and our road trip made us appreciate our surroundings all the more!

Shambrook Family Selfie (sans Dan who's in Canada!) © Bekah Shambrook

Aberystwyth – Shambrook Family Selfie (sans Dan who’s in Canada!) © Bekah Shambrook

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9 thoughts on “Road Trip through the raw beauty of Wales

  1. Diana J Febry (@mariamallon1)

    Looks like you had an amazing time. We do take the British countryside for granted. We have The Frome Valley Walkway on our doorstep and my husband’s work base is Shrewsbury but he covers all of North Wales. You’ve captured the beauty, mystery and diversity of the area perfectly in your photos. PS maybe you could organise our next road trip!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Shambrook Post author

      Thanks, Diana, it really helped us appreciate just what is on our doorstep – now we want to travel further afield! Lol, yes, I should be a travel planner!

      Reply
  2. Miranda Kate (@PurpleQueenNL)

    I’ve only just discovered this wonderful blog post! (through the other you were recently featured on) Wow, Wales looks so mystical! I went there as a child, to various places, but don’t have many memories of it – and not many good ones (family related). I did go as an adult to stay with a friend living by Snowdonia and it was stunning indeed. Now you have made me want to go again! I will be favouriting this for later reference! xx

    Reply
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