Inspo for seven days exploring Wales’ best bits, including a detailed road trip itinerary, places to go and campsite and car park recommendations.
Before we set up Calico Campers, myself and Mark hadn’t managed to squeeze in a road trip time in ‘DANI’ before she started her life as a rental campervan. So selfishly, we booked her out for ourselves and we’re just back from a wonderful seven day trip through Wales.
Naturally we thought it only right to document where we went, the best (and worst!) roads to drive on, where we slept (or pulled over), and most importantly, the best things to see and do along the way.
Our adventure was shared with two of our friends, Dane and Jennie Smith, who run Riverbank Coffee in Urmston, Manchester. They had rented another campervan and we road-tripped in convoy. The best bit about this was the purchase of walkie talkies, which we used to communicate with each other whilst on the road (passenger to passenger of course) even in places with no phone signal.
We’re going to outline our trip in a bit of detail, but we’ve bolded the highlights for you quick-readers. You’ll see that we’re not really the planning type – but this did come with it’s downsides and a few missed opportunities, as you’ll discover as you read on.
As always if you ever want experienced recommendations of places to visit, or help planning your own trip, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Love, Calico Campers X
Seven Days South Wales Circular Route
The road trip started with a drive from Chester to the New Inn pub and campsite (Ystradfellte, CF44 9JE) which took around 3 hours. This was the only campsite we had pre-booked and we were glad we did, as not only was it a lovely, well-kept site, it was quite busy on Saturday night!
The site has almost all the amenities you need; two toilets, recycling, outdoor sink (no hot tap), a drinking water tap and absolutely NO phone signal! No showers but that didn’t bother us as ‘DANI’ comes with an outdoor power shower! We’d pre-booked two pitches with electricity, both were nice and flat, limited hard-standing pitches so the site could be tricky for bigger campers and motorhomes on the grass in the winter.
We had booked a table in the New Inn pub for dinner that night and what a gorgeous pub it is. The guy who runs the pub also manages the campsite and he and his team were so friendly. The food was great, we recommend the halloumi fries and garlic prawns.
The main reason we had set up camp in Ystradfellte was to take on the infamous Four Waterfalls Walk. We started the walk in the Gwaun Hepste car park – it’s £5 to park and they take cash or card. There’s a very cute little coffee cart there called Cherry Cuppa so make sure you grab a brew and snacks for the hike. We set our FitBits and it tracked just under 10km of walking, which took us 3.5 hours. We did stop a few times for lunch and an attempted swim.
Prepare to get wet!
I can’t speak more highly about this walk and experience, the fourth and last waterfall in particular is spectacular. You can walk behind the waterfall. It was unbelievable. If you like a moderate-difficult walk, with lots of ups and downs, but lots of beauty along the way, this is for you. We saw plenty of kids doing it too, most people’s dogs were on leads because of the steepness of the edges. PLEASE wear walking boots though. Whilst there, four people took pretty serious falls and all were wearing everyday trainers or even pumps, crazy!
Our hope was to visit the National Showcaves on the way down to the Mumbles, but the caves were fully booked and so we missed out. This is where a little bit more planning and preparation for this road trip would have benefitted us, because we were looking forward to them and they’re only 30 minutes from our campsite. So if you fancy seeing the caves, then make sure you book online.
Instead, we took a lovely drive down the A4067 stopping in the Abercraf Hub – the village shop/post office/cafe for a brew. We arrived in The Mumbles via Swansea in under two hours.
Car park tip!
Being in two long-wheel base vans meant that parking was a bit tricky in some of the places we visited, and The Mumbles was one of those. We avoided all the early car parks and went straight to the end of the pier and secured spots there. Cheap to park, just be mindful that if your campervan or motorhome encompasses more than one bay to buy more than one pay and display ticket.
In The Mumbles, we had lunch at Verdi’s on the seafront, we highly recommend the antipasto platter for two people to share. We then head two for one cocktails in The White Rose and walked all through the parks and along the high street. The place has crazy golf and the pier arcades for the kids and lots of lovely independent bars for the grown ups. We decided to stay the night in the 24/7 car park, which we managed to get a sea view on. It’s just £6 for the night and there’s public toilets there too.
We rounded off a lovely day with dinner at Pierre Bistro and cocktails at Elywn.
I couldn’t resist a short morning run up and down the promenade of The Mumbles, it was so lovely to run alongside the seafront. After a naughty Greggs breakfast we were back to the road trip, and we decided to break the day’s journey up with a visit to the WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre.
The centre was opened by David Attenborough and is much bigger than we expected! Of course we bought the bird feed in the hope that the resident flamingoes would be hungry…they weren’t. Neither were the ducks for that matter. BUT we did see a very rare bird – a Long-billed Dowitcher. Apparently, this bird hasn’t been seen for nearly 80 years according to the lovely gentleman who was beside himself with excitement.
A highlight- the canoe safari
The best bit of the Llanelli Wetland Centre is the canoe safari– four grown adults taking on two canoes through the wetlands and marshland, it was great fun.
Our camping spot was Laugharne Camp Site – beautifully situated on a hill with incredible views. Immaculate site, nice and quiet spot, hot showers, on-site bar (only opened three nights a week) and fantastic cleaning facilities. We had a BBQ on the campsite for tea and watched the sun set.
After a lazy morning, we set off for St. Govan’s Chapel. We took the A477 down through Pembroke but you could incorporate a stop off in Tenby or Barafundle Bay Beach along the way. We couldn’t get to Barafundle Bay as the car park was full. The roads here are beautiful but quite narrow, still doable in a motorhome but there are some single track areas.
St. Govan’s Chapel is well worth a visit. Free parking (and plenty of it) and a very lovely easy walk to the secret Chapel and then a walk over the cliff tops. We stopped for lunch at St. Govan’s Country Inn (Bosherston, Pembroke SA71 5DN) – please try the Welsh Cawl it was superb!
A highlight- The Pembrokeshire Coast
After plenty of fresh air and lovely local food we hit the road again up to the Pembrokeshire Coast, with a spot waiting for us on the Newgale Campsite. The site is literally opposite Newgale Beach, but it’s definitely not a spot if you like a quiet site- we loved the festival vibes! Wood-fired pizzas (which sorted us out for dinner) and breakfast bits available on site, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh pub. We managed to nab a hill spot which gave us gorgeous sea views. The site also hires out firepits, logs and marshmallows, which we took advantage of and thought it was a really nice touch.
The smallest city in Britain
We’d read about how lovely St. David’s was to visit, so we headed there with it only being 15 minutes away. Unfortunately it turned out to be so small a place that parking was a bit of a nightmare, especially for two large vans! They only have 8 bays for campers/motorhomes so if they’re full you are stuck. But we managed to get one and we spent a couple of hours exploring the smallest city in Britain. Quite touristy but with a gorgeous Cathedral with free entry. We did enjoy the “best fish and chips ever” according to Mark from Peters Plaice.
The Blue Lagoon and Porthgain
The road trip carried on with a few other stop-offs along the Pembrokeshire coast; the Blue Lagoon, perfect for swimming in. Porthgain – again well worth a visit if you can nab a parking spot. The Shed is meant to serve fantastic food but was fully booked, so we grabbed a drink at The Sloop Inn – a quirky little pub with great views of the harbour. We’d seen signs for freshly caught lobster and crab from the red house, which turned out to be just someone’s house that is painted red! It belongs to the local fisherman who put together a whole lobster (de-shelled) and a full crab. It was stunning and we’d go back to him again.
Our last pull-over was New Quay Wales, via the A487, our favourite road to drive on throughout this whole trip. There they have plenty of campsites, all fully booked (are you seeing the pattern of not planning in August!). This meant another 24/7 overnight car park. We loved it, the only issue is that it is VERY slanted. If you have chocks you will be absolutely fine.
We enjoyed the sunset in New Quay with a chinese takeaway from Dragon Palace- if we hadn’t had fish and chips earlier, the harbour here had a lovely looking chippy.
We started our morning in New Quay with coffee and breakfast at The Bluebell Bistro; the BLT and Eggs Benedict and Eggs Norwegian were delicious! The sun came out so we spent some time on the beach and if we had more time we’d have loved to have done a dolphin boat trip (although we did see them literally in the harbour bay). Soon enough we hit the road again, this time making our way into the incredible Snowdonia National Park via our favourite A487 again. Along this road you should make a stop at The Shack – a very cute roadside food and drink pod.
Then on to Barmouth as The Smiths had never been. Jennie flew a kite on the beach – quickly learning to next time, make sure no one is anywhere near! We grabbed some fresh cockles and mussels (alive alive oh) and made our way to our final overnight spot; Torrent Walk Campsite. By far our most expensive campsite (£35 per night with electricity). Although there wasn’t anything there, no bar or food options, it was a well kept site.
The last supper
For our final supper we went to Gatehouse Steakhouse (cash only!) and devoured two 36oz tomahawk steaks. We.Love.Steak. The food was excellent and really reasonably priced too.
The Road Home
We want to mention that the road trip home doesn’t always have to be boring or sad. It literally can’t be when your route home is through the Snowdonia National Park. Mark is a confident driver so we opted to take the A470 through the Coed y Brenin Forest Park. I could have made him pull over to take photos of the views a hundred times. It was stunning and a fantastic way to get back home!