This month I headed off for my first trip to the United Kingdom as part of a trip I won from Visit Britain at a sponsored Toronto Travel Massive event. I only went for one week, and I’m sure a lot of you are wondering how I even saw a sliver of Great Britain in only one week—well the truth is, I didn’t. I had a jam-packed itinerary that included three days in England and three days in Wales. Although I was short on time, and obviously didn’t see the majority of these countries, I still saw quite a lot, and I for sure will need to go back (hopefully for longer) to see even more! Below are some of my highlights from my one-week in Wales and England.
Pulteney Bridge in Bath
Built in 1774 the Pulteney Bridge is often compared to the Ponte Vecchio Bridge in Florence, Italy. Being someone who has been to both bridges, I’m not sure if this one compares to Florence’s in size, and in “wow-factor” but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this bridge is absolutely stunning. Surrounded by parks, and lined with cute little cafes and shops, this was definitely a view worth seeing in Bath.
Dinner at Bordeaux Quay in Bristol
Bordeaux Quay is a restaurant and cooking school located on the hustle and bustle of the harbourside in Bristol. This restaurant served up one of my favourite meals from the entire trip. I had beetroot salmon salad to start, and a pea and mint risotto for my main course, which both were to die for. Plus the prices aren’t super unreasonable for great service and a delicious meal. (Note: There are two restaurants in this building, we ate at the one on the ground floor – The Brasserie)
I was slightly disappointed that I missed high tea at The Angel Hotel in Abergavenny as it’s said to be one of the best outside of London, but I managed to catch high tea at the Gliffaes Hotel in the uplands of the Brecon Beacon National Park. There’s something about drinking tea out of cute china, and eating tiny little sandwiches and sweets that truly makes you feel like you’re in Britain.
Read about the three amazing hotels I stayed at while in the UK here
Driving down the Gospel Pass in South Wales
With super narrow streets, sometimes steep roadsides, and hedges and trees that formed a tunnel of greenery around the street—driving down the Gospel Pass was truly something I won’t forget. Plus, I can’t forget to mention how gorgeous the scenery was.
Staying in the deluxe room at The Queensberry Hotel in Bath
This hotel was my first hotel in England and was definitely my favourite. The Queensberry Hotel is a boutique hotel that shined bright from the moment I stepped in the door and was greeted by four different friendly faces. Our room was upgraded to a deluxe suite that was bigger than my apartment in Toronto, and made us not want to leave the hotel! I loved the character of our room and the old hotel, although this isn’t in most peoples budgets (including my own), it was such a treat and a highlight of the trip.
Everything about this little town won over my heart. Although I was probably the youngest person or tourist in the town visiting, I still loved it. The streets were lined with cute little shops selling mainly antiques, artsy home decor, and books on books on books. Hay-on-Wye is known as the town of books and it definitely lives up to its title. It was the highlight of my trip exploring each bookstore and looking at books from every era imaginable.
Staying among Brecon Beacon at the Gliffaes Hotel
Brecon Beacon’s is a mountain range in South Wales and with its rolling green hills and breathtaking countryside views, you probably couldn’t think of something better than staying amongst the scenery in a gorgeous hotel that dates back to 1234. The Gliffaes Hotel is set among the Brecon Beacon and had beautiful terraces, hiking paths, and was filled with character and history.
Checking out the street art in Stokes Croft, Bristol
Living in a city that is lined with street art (Toronto), I was excited to go explore Stokes Croft—a neighbourhood in Bristol that was known to be the home of some great street art, including one of Britain’s famed street artists, Banksy. Although we felt a bit out of place in this different/hipster-esque part of the city, the street art that was hidden among the alleyways, streets, doorways, and everywhere in between was amazing!
Read my guide to Bristol here
Imagining life as a princess at the Cardiff Castle
When you visit places like Wales, you start to get less and less amazed by the castles and priories that you come across along your travels. After all, Wales is home to over 600 castles. Despite visiting this castle on my last day of my travels, the Cardiff Castle was definitely an amazing one (and worth the pricey entry fee). The rooms were absolutely amazing to witness, and you even get to explore the dining room that in its later years served as a dinner spot for people like Obama and the Spice Girls.
Trying out the ciders of Britain (and beyond)
I had no idea that Britain was so well known for their ciders, maybe it was due to my poor research, or the fact that I never really thought about where cider I drink comes from, but the cider selection in Britain was a cider-lovers dream. Many restaurants and pubs even held a longer list of ciders available than beers, and although there were some local must-tries, even the selection of international ciders was far more impressive (and tasty) then the short lists you see in bars in Canada.
Tintern Abbey in Tintern
One of our first stops in Wales, and an impressive one. Tintern Abbey is a priory that currently has remains covering a 400-year period between 1131 to 1536. All that stands today is what’s left of the walls of the priory, but that doesn’t stop it from being stunning, and fascinating among the Welsh countryside. We even got a great tour from a fellow Canadian who was working there (thanks Moira)!
Read my post on going off-the-beaten path in Wales here
Bath Abbey in Bath
This church truly is a centre of Bath, England. Despite Bath basically only consisting of gorgeous medieval architecture, this church still stood out among the towns skyline. Founded in the 7th century, but rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries, this church now seats 1,200 people and is a stunning, must-visit site in Bath.
Having lunch with the locals at Plough & Harrow
On our last day in Wales we were driving between spots on the Coastal Path when it was time for lunch. When you are driving among these roads, you really need to be with a local as there isn’t much around, and you truly feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully our guide knew just the spot for us to get some cider, and a ploughman’s platter (sampling board with meats, cheeses, and pickled goods)—The Plough & Harrow. The building that houses this local watering hole dates back to the 14th century and it really was an awesome, local experience.
Tasting sheep milk ice cream
When you think of great ice cream, your mind automatically jumps to places like Italy, but I was surprised to learn that Wales is actually a hidden gem among the world of great ice cream. The must try icy treat? Their sheep milk ice cream. We tried ours at the Shepherds Cafe in Hay-on-Wye! I got the ginger ice cream on a homemade waffle cone, and our guide was right—Wales does know how to make a good ice cream.
Read about my full experience in Hay-on-Wye here
Visiting the Roman Baths in Bath
Although I’m not one to take lengthy historical tours on trips, I skipped the handheld audio tour, and jumped straight towards the baths themselves. To me, this was the most amazing part of the whole museum-like touristy trap they built around it. The baths are gorgeous, historical and the bright blue waters make you want to jump in with a glass of champagne (if only this was allowed). Built in 1897, the historical roman baths are definitely worth seeing (I mean, the town is named Bath after all).
Read my full experience in Bath here
*Note: These are highlights from my one-week in Great Britain visiting Bath, Bristol, and Southern Wales. I realize there are probably a million other highlights in these countries, but you can’t see everything in one week!