Well, Wales was different. Much like the Paddywagon tour of Ireland, I quite enjoyed it though dunno if I’d be in any mad rush to go back! Staying in hostels for the 2 nights of the tour was cool though as you get a better chance to get to know the other folks on the tour, especially with it only being 3 days!
The first day included a bit of a hike across to Wales out of the London traffic, especially with it all starting off at 7.15a.m! Across the Severn Bridge we stopped at Tintern Abbey which was a pretty cool ruined abbey, with the major external walls still standing. After that, it was off to Caerphilly for lunch by the castle, with the tower having a greater lean angle than the leaning tower of Pisa! Also, Caerphilly is meant to be the teenage pregnancy capital of Wales, and full of chavs!
The night in Abergavenny was okay with the pub quiz going down well, even though we ended plum bottom (not surprising since we weren’t exactly being too serious with our answers…), and then chatting with Jeff the quiz-master until late into the evening with his stories! The hostel was terrible though, and anyone looking at doing the Welsh Dragon tour with Haggis should be well aware of this! Only 2 toilets + showers, with one of those showers blocking up with the slighest amount of water meaning you’re standing with water to your ankles and need to wait an age to clear from the previous person’s shower! Cramped kitchen + dining area didn’t help either.
But, onto Hay-on-the-Wye, the 2nd hand book capital of the world or something, and later on in the afternoon to Castell-y-Bere. This was a Welsh castle, one of their largest built, and one of the last to be taken by the English. The ruins stand quite nicely and give excellent views of the surrounding valleys. Most people enjoyed the sunshine + quiet!
We drove right through the Snowdonia National Park, and just about got to see Snowdon itself through the hazy sunshine which was nice, though even though our bus wasn’t the largest I’ve been in for a tour, it certainly caused some problems on the roads and in little towns especially! I could fully understand the other motorists getting annoyed, and as much as I appreciated being driven around the national park, I felt at some points the roads just weren’t designed for such vehicles and was a little irresponsible to drive on them.
Our 2nd night was in Caernafon, and I really liked this little town. The hostel was a world’s apart from Abergavenny – eletronic front door lock, nice open, light + breezy 6-person dorms, 2-4 huge power showers on each level for between 6-12 people, etc. We ate at the Floating Restaurant, seen in on the river in front of the castle in the photo, though we didn’t join in the night-life. A few others did and found it lacking, though enjoyed laughing at the locals!
I didn’t know where the idea of the Prince of Wales came from to the current day, and we were told the story – how the Welsh were tricked into having the representative they required actually being the king’s son, and thus bringing the tradition of the king’s 1st child being classed as Prince of Wales. The ceremony is still held in Caernafon castle, and is where Prince William will be crowned when Prince Charles takes his seat as King.
The 3rd day started out early again at 8a.m, and signalled a lot of driving. We headed over onto the isle of Anglesy for the longest place name in Europe. Yup, a right mouthful! There’s a nice phonetic spelling on the photo here, though even then it’s all a mumble of letters!
After a big hike, we stopped off in Stratford-upon-Avon to check out some of the sights of Shakespear’s home town which I wasn’t impressed with. No real desire to go for a wander with so many people packing the streets. Another long hike brought us back into London around 7.30p.m, which basically finished off a very long day of driving!
Overall, the tour was a nice overview of Wales, but it all seemed so rushed. Why they try to cram it into 3 days, I’m not too sure. Making it 4 days would be much better, and cut down on the long drive back to London. As much as I really got along with our tour guide, Marie, who knew all the Welsh history spot-on too, it did seem to kinda spoil things by being driven around Wales with an English guide. In Scotland + Ireland, you seemed to get a bit more passion + pride with the stories and legends, which was a bit lacking here. Again, Marie was great and have no arguments with her as the tour guide, but I feel this trip might have been better served with a Welsh guide. But, guess it’s not really a big enough seller to warrant a dedicated driver 🙂
But, other than the first hostel in Abergavenny which everyone, including Marie, agreed was terrible, the Welsh Dragon tour would be nice for anyone over to the UK touring. Although I still maintain it’s nice for us Brits to tour our own country, I wouldn’t say it was quite worth it unless you from abroad as it just didn’t feel like much of a holiday or experience, nor give a good idea as to the history like I got in Scotland + Ireland.
Anyone after some more photos can check out the Welsh Dragon album in the photo gallery!