Offering walking trails for all abilities, mountain biking and several colourful market towns on the edge of the park, the Brecon Beacons makes for a great day out from Bristol.
If you’re a walker, trekking up the Sugar Loaf mountain is one of the most satisfying trails in the park. The top provides great views while remaining within the grasp of less-seasoned walkers – it measures in at just under 2000ft. The Pen y Fan trail is far more challenging, requiring a 10-mile walk through moorland before ascending the 2,907ft peak. Read more in Wanderlust’s useful guide to Brecon Beacon trails.
The market towns on the park’s outskirts are also well worth a visit. Brecon, Crickhowell and Hay on Wye are all packed with quaint shops and cosy BnBs. You might recognise the latter from the Hay Festival – you won’t be surprised to read that the town is packed full of bookshops!
Easily accessible from Cardiff, Caerphilly is home to the marvellous Caerphilly Castle. Built in 1268 to a size equivalent of three Principality Stadiums, second only to Windsor Castle in size. Visitors can wander through the Castle (including the Great Hall and a maze) and the grounds.
The Visitor Centre provides great views of the Castle, and the café does a mean slice of cake! The town is perhaps best known for its cheese, although the production of Caerphilly cheese has since moved to the West Country!
The Welsh capital is easily accessible from Bristol and makes for a great stop for a day. Plus, the city is small enough to cover on foot or using Cardiff’s bike-sharing scheme, nextbike.
Cardiff Castle is a good place to start. Located within walking distance of Cardiff Central train station, this medieval Castle has a well-preserved interior and a free public square. The Castle preserves several hundred years of history, from the Norman Keep to the lavishly decorated Castle Apartments.
Cardiff Bay is home to a selection of trendy bars and restaurants, plus the Senedd building (currently closed to visitors). And we’d be remiss not to mention St Fagan’s National Museum of History, located about five miles west of the city centre. Winner of the Art Fund Museum of the Year award in 2019, the open-air exhibition tells the story of Welsh life through the ages. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance to avoid overcrowding.
Straddling the border between England and Wales, the Wye Valley brings together lovely scenery and a history dating back to Iron Age tribes. The most accessible part of the valley from Bristol is Chepstow, around 50 minutes by train.
Chepstow marks the beginning of the Wye Valley Walk, a trail that runs through the entire valley. While we wouldn’t recommend attempting the entire 136-mile walk, the 17-mile stretch between Chepstow and Monmouth takes you through dense woodlands, green riverside paths and picturesque villages such as Tintern, home to a stunning medieval abbey.
If you fancy staying closer to home, Chepstow Castle is well-worth an afternoon’s visit. There are also plenty of lovely riverside pubs and restaurants in the town.
How to travel from Bristol to Wales
Most trains to Wales depart from Bristol Temple Meads station, running direct to Cardiff, Swansea and Newport on the South Wales Main Line. You can also travel to Wales from Bristol Parkway, a smaller station in the northern suburbs of the city, which usually makes for shorter journey times. Services are run by Great Western Railway and CrossCountry.
It suffices to say that it’s much easier to travel from Bristol to South Wales than areas in North Wales (sorry, Snowdonia fans)! The train from Bristol runs along the south coast, passing through Newport, Cardiff, Bridgend and Swansea. Journey times on direct services vary between 38 minutes and just under two hours:
|Bristol to Newport||0h 37m|
|Bristol to Cardiff||0h 48m|
|Bristol to Bridgend||1h 19m|
|Bristol to Swansea||1h 48m|
If you want to travel elsewhere in Wales, you will normally have to change at Cardiff (for services into the Valleys and North Wales) or Swansea (for services to Pembrokeshire). You can also hop on the Heart of Wales line at Swansea, a spectacular rural railway running through quaint 19th-century towns in beautiful Mid-Wales, all the way to Shrewsbury.
Taking a coach is another efficient (and sustainable) way to travel from Bristol to Wales. There are regular National Express services from Bristol to Cardiff, which take just over an hour.
Coaches depart from Bristol Coach Station, conveniently located next to the Bearpit Roundabout, and drop you off at the coach stop in Sophia Gardens. You can also catch Megabus services to Cardiff from the Bond Street Megabus stop.
Wales makes for an excellent day trip from Bristol. And if you’re staying for longer, why not check out our guide to North Wales, home to some of the most stunning scenery in the UK!