Carreg Cennen Castle

4 Days travelling through Wales with Celtic Routes

Last month I headed on my first UK trip since returning home from travelling! I was so excited to get on the road again and start continuing my travels back in the UK. We started our journey from Leeds to Ceredigion, a county located on the West coast of Wales just above Pembrokeshire, and one of the areas for exploration with Celtic Routes. 

Celtic Routes is a partnership between six Irish and Welsh counties – Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Wicklow, Wexford and Waterford – with shared history, heritage, landscapes, ruins and nature. Together this has formed the Celtic Experience Collection, offering unique experiences and activities in the region to visitors. There are currently 78 different experiences to choose from including walks, pilgrimages, crafts, water sports, boat trips and coastal foraging which are all well worth checking out! I especially love how many of these experiences are led by local guides with knowledge of the Celtic spirit – and there are many activities that I have not come across before. We were lucky to follow a road trip through Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire where we took part in some activities from the Celtic Experience Collection, and were able to feel the history, Celtic spirit and passion from the local guides that showed us around. You can find a map of the area that we travelled here

I travelled on this journey on a kindly gifted press trip with Celtic Routes. However, this blog is entirely based on my own experience and thoughts to give you some ideas and inspiration on taking a similar trip through Wales.  

Our road trip began with a long drive, which took us through the north of Wales and along the beautiful coast of Ceredigion. Our accommodation, located on the border of Pembrokeshire, was at the picturesque Teifi Waterside Hotel located right on the bay, with wonderful views out to sea. We enjoyed an evening walk along the shore, taking in the scenery and getting ready for the adventure ahead. 

The Bay outside Teifi Waterside Hotel
View from Teifi Waterside Hotel
Pastel Houses in Cered
St Dogmaels

Day 1 – Experiencing a guided pilgrimage

Our first full day! Waking up to the sound of the sea, and stepping outside to enjoy the beautiful views over the bay was a special way to start the day. Our first experience was truly unique: a pilgrimage walk with Chris from Guided Pilgrimage. Although I have never intentionally set out on a pilgrimage before, many of us often embark on pilgrimage, even though we may not realise it at the time, a physical yet inward journey of discovering what matters to us and an experience of inner growth.

Our start point was at the 17th Century bridge of Llechryd, with around a 6 mile pilgrimage to St Dogmaels. As we stood at the bridge, Chris guided us through some intention setting for our journey ahead. This is not something that I often do – spending time really feeling what my intentions are, what I would like to feel from the experience that I am about to go on. I set myself the intention of feeling free and calm; after a turbulent month since returning home from travelling I wanted to feel some connection to nature again.

Our route followed the Teifi River from Llechryd where we soon started to walk along a gorge passing various old slate quarries, watching out for wildlife, listening to the sounds of the river and visiting the ruins of the 13th Century Cilgerran Castle.

Throughout the pilgrimage, Chris led us through some moments of silence as well as guided reflections which made this a really special experience. We arrived at our lunch spot at Wildlife Wetland Trust and enjoyed a tasty lunch overlooking the next part of our walk towards the town of Cardigan.

After our lunch break we carried on through Cardigan and ended our pilgrimage at St. Dogmaels Abbey which was founded in 1120. It is now a ruin but much of the old stone was repurposed in the 19th Century to build St Thomas the Apostle’s Church, where we concluded the day with further reflection. 

It was a truly memorable day! Special thanks to Chris who was the perfect guide. Chris offers both single-day and multi-day pilgrimages, and her non-profit business can be found here.

As we began our onward drive to our next hotel, we found ourselves driving through the beautiful scenery of Pembrokeshire, with sea views and landscapes that made us feel a million miles away from city life, and able to feel present in the nature around us.

Our accommodation for the next two nights was at the amazing Roch Castle which is part of the Retreats Group and a luxury hotel in Pembrokeshire with nearby partner hotels Twr y Felin and Penrhiw Hotel. As we arrived, driving through the gates and up to the castle, we could see panoramic views over the Preseli Hills and St Brides Bay. Roch Castle is incredible inside, having been restored with a modern interior with many pieces of artwork throughout. There are only a handful of beautiful rooms within, allowing for a personalised service for the guests and a shared lounge area and honesty bar. We stepped outside to watch the sunset from the balcony of the sun room – once the castle battlements – feeling truly grateful to be staying in such a beautiful place.

Day 2 – Our journey along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

With a forecast of rain, we prepared for the worst but as we left the hotel for our next adventure we were surprised for the sun to be shining for the whole day! Today’s itinerary was a coastal walk with Ewan and Laura from VIP Wales. Ewan and Laura’s local, family run business offers guided walks and tours sharing Celtic myths and legends and their local knowledge throughout. 

We drove from Roch Castle to the start point of our 6 mile hike along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. We walked from near to Whitesands Bay to St David’s (the smallest city in the UK!). Anyone who followed my journey hiking the Gower Coast Path last year will know how happy I was to arrive back on the Welsh coastline enjoying the stunning scenery, rugged cliffs and views over at the sandy beaches. We are so lucky to have such a stunning coastline in the UK – people come from all around the world to visit the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, which can be walked as day trips or as a 186-mile thru-hike. Ewan led us along this section of the trail near St David’s, sharing his wealth of knowledge about the local area and what wildlife can be seen. We looked out for seals, saw many oystercatchers and even a daytime bat!

 

As we approached St Justinian’s, Ewan pointed out the seaweed farms that are being created along the coastline in an effort toward ‘zero input’ farming to benefit the coastal environment.

As we continued we could see clearly over to Ramsey Island – one of the best places to see coastal birds in the UK. Ramsey Island is a nature reserve where you can spot birds such as the chough and Peregrine falcon. From April to September you can take a boat trip across to the island to see these birds up close. Definitely something that I will be looking to come back to do!

As we approached the end of the walk we made our way to St David’s where we had an amazing lunch and gin tasting at St David’s Gin and Kitchen with a view overlooking St David’s Cathedral. We were really grateful to Ewan and Laura for the guiding throughout the day. Thanks guys!

Day 3 - Carmarthenshire: castles and market towns.

As we set off from Roch Castle – after another AMAZING breakfast of gluten free pancakes! – we packed our bags and set off to our next stop, Llandeilo. Llandeilo is a picturesque market town overlooking the River Towy with small streets, independent shops and pastel painted houses. We walked down to the impressive single arch stone bridge with a great view up to the town, and also explored the park area with impressive views over Llandeilo and beyond. We were looking forward to staying in Llandeilo that night!

Llandeilo pastel coloured houses on the hill

We drove to The Warren, a sustainably-driven restaurant offering Sunday lunch which was much enjoyed (and my first roast dinner in 8 months, having been away travelling for so long!) After lunch we drove onwards to Carreg Cennen Castle, located right on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Such is the castle’s prominence, we started to be able to see its impressive silhouette about 15 minutes before arriving as it is located on a 90-metre limestone crag, breaking the skyline. When arriving at the castle car park there is about a 15-minute uphill walk to the entrance where you are able to explore the castle ruins. The history of the castle has roots in the 13th Century when the Welsh Princes of Deheubarth built the first castle at Carreg Cennen, though what remains today dates back to King Edward I’s momentous period of castle building in Wales. We were able to walk among the ruins and take in the views across to the Brecon Beacons and Carmarthenshire. This is truly a must-visit when in the area. And watch out for birds of prey and wildlife as we spotted many birds here!

Castle views from Carreg Cennen over Brecon Beacons
Carreg Cennen Castle
Carreg Cennen Castle

Day 4 – Aberglasney Gardens

As we left our final accommodation, The Cawdor Hotel in Llandeilo, we headed for our last activity, a visit to Aberglasney Gardens which is located only 10 minutes from Llandeilo. Aberglasney is a part of the Celtic Experience Collection and is one of Wales’ most beautiful gardens with a fully restored Elizabethan Cloister Garden. There are 10 acres in total, and more than 20 different types of gardens to explore. We enjoyed walking around the little trails, getting lost in paths of beautiful flowers, enjoying scenes of bluebells and daffodils, and the beautiful magnolia trees which had just started to bloom. I can only imagine how colourful this place must be in full spring bloom! There is a lovely little tea room in the gardens where we enjoyed a nice lunch in the sun. There is also a well-stocked gift shop for any souvenirs to take home. This made for a lovely end to our trip and a great morning activity before our drive home.

Coming to the end of writing this blog has given me time to reflect on how much we were able to see and do in such a short space of time, travelling through three Welsh counties. The hospitality of everyone we met made the experience extra special, and it would not have been the same without the expertise of the guides, the friendliness of our hosts and the enthusiasm with which they shared the Celtic spirit.

Other activities in the area:

The full Celtic Experience Collection can be found here, which alongside the experiences I have written about, includes 78 bookable experience types, many with local guides including:

– Hiking, cycling and golf 

– Pilgrimages

– Watersports

– Nature and wildlife tours

– Heritage sites

– Wellness and mindfulness activities

– Arts and crafts

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