3 days in North Wales itinerary. Castles, standing stones, a lighthouse, gardens, and more to see in this beautiful country.
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Driving to Wales from Oxford
What You'll Find on This Page
We rented a car and drove to Wales from Oxford, stopping at Stow-on-the-Wold and Bourton-on-the-Water along the way. We highly recommend visiting both cities! Driving through the Cotswolds is beautiful!
One thing to be aware of, though, is that there is a funny little toll booth not far from Oxford that requires a 5 pence toll, in cash! Luckily one of my children had recently found just such a coin on the ground, so we were able to use that to pass through. My brother was once stuck there for a while with no change; eventually they waved him through.
So, if you take this route, make sure you have a 5 pence coin for the Swinford Eynsham Toll Bridge!
Itinerary for 3 Days in Wales
My son did a fantastic job of researching their different sites. First, he made a list of all of the sites that looked interesting. Then, he conducted a family poll to see which sites the most people wanted to see. Finally, he created an itinerary that would take us to as many sites as possible without being completely exhausting.
I’m working on writing up more details of these sites, and will update this post with links to those travel posts as I complete them.
Day 1: Penrhyn Castle and Beaumaris Castle
Penrhyn Castle was our first stop in Wales. This is a National Trust site, and we got in for free. Build in the 1800s, it was largely funded by the slave trade. Unfortunately, many huge architectural wonders like this are built through some sort of oppression. Visiting this site made for some good conversations on that topic with my children. You aren’t always able to enter the ornately carved and decorated castle, but we lucked out and were able to see everything. The exterior and gardens alone are definitely worth a visit, though.
This is the ultimate fantasy castle. Plan ahead so that you know how much of the site you will be able to see before arriving.
Our favorite feature of Beaumaris Castle was the moat with water in it. That was the first time we’d seen that in a castle! The castle is an imposing structure despite never being finished – as Scotland’s fight for independence distracted King Edward I.
Day 2: Bodnant Garden and Caernarfon Castle
A National Trust site, Bodnant Garden is a Grade I listed historic garden, and absolutely worth a visit! We spent several hours there, and didn’t come close to seeing everything in the 80 acres that make up the gardens. We loved the range of plants, all labeled with their scientific names. The garden also includes some stunning water features.
Our second stop, Caernarfon Castle, is another King Edward I construction. This castle sits right on the banks of the River Seiont. The massive castle is considered one of the greatest buildings of the Middle Ages. Like Beaumaris Castle, this is a Cadw Wales site.
Day 3: Roman Fortlet, Penrhos Feilw, Goleudy Ynys Lawd, Conwy Castle, and Conwy Suspension Bridge
Day three was busy!
First, we visited the Caer Gybi Roman Fortlet (Cadw Wales site). The walls of this fort date back to the 3rd century, although parts of it were rebuilt later. It was interesting, but a pretty quick stop and probably the thing I would cut first from this itinerary.
The Penrhos Feilw standing stones (another Cadw Wales site) were our next stop. Situation less than two miles from the fortlet, these are, in my opinion, well worth the stop.
Goleudy Ynys Lawd is a lighthouse (goleudy is Welsh for lighthouse; golau means light and ty means house). It was unfortunately closed the day we visited, which saved us the long set of stairs. It’s still worth seeing from a distance.
Cadw Wales site Conwy Castle was, like the three other castles we visited, built by King Edward I. Architect Master James of St. George (along with countless unnamed workers) built both the castle and the surrounding town walls (which you can still walk!) in 4 years – an unbelievable feet. Like Beaumaris and Caernarfon, this is a World Heritage site, and well worth a visit. All three medieval castles were enormous, but this was the one where I felt like I was getting lost just wandering the ruins.
A National Trust site, Conwy suspension bridge is right next to Conwy Castle. Like the lighthouse, it was closed the day we visited, but you can see it beautifully from the castle walls.
Remember, both the lighthouse and the suspension bridge were closed when we visited. I don’t think we could have crammed all of this into one day as easily otherwise, but it’s still doable if you need to. I think it’s worth visiting the bridge and the lighthouse even if they aren’t open.
Driving to Oxford from Wales
Snowdonia is an incredible national park in Wales. We were there in December, when a lot of the biggest attractions were closed. And we ran out of days! We compromised by driving home through the park, and I can’t recommend that experience highly enough. Every minute of the drive was absolutely beautiful.
Have you been to any of these places? What should our next Wales trip itinerary look like?
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