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Wales is bursting with iconic locations, monuments and tourist attractions that are instantly recognisable. We thought it would be more fun to venture off the beaten track and find some ‘hidden gems’, those lesser-known locations that are certainly worth a visit and won’t be crammed full of tourists.
The Blue Lagoon is a unique stretch of water close to Abereiddi beach. Its distinctive blue-green colouring is caused by a build-up of minerals and it is a site particularly popular with adrenaline and adventure seekers. Many people choose to go diving in its waters of around 25m depth. There are organised cliff diving events held here throughout the year; the lagoon was even the home of the World Cliff Diving Championships in 2012 and 2013.
The lagoon is actually the remains of a small slate quarry that was flooded and broken in by sea water. It serves as a reminder of Pembrokeshire’s industrial past and was created more than a century ago when the outer wall was first breached.
The lagoon, along with most of the surrounding coast between Abereiddi and Porthgain, is now owned by the National Trust. Closer to Porthgain, you can find the ruins of a small group of houses known as The Street, that were built for the quarry workers and were abandoned in the early 20th Century.
Llyn y Fan Fach is one of two lakes below the ridge of the Black Mountain at the western extremity of the Brecon Beacons, near Llanddeusant in Carmarthenshire. It is a unique stretch of water, once featured in Lonely Planet’s list of the most unusual lakes.
It is also the home of the 13th-century folklore legend The Lady of the Lake. In the folktale, a young farmer spotted the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, emerge from the lake; she was a princess from the kingdom of fairies. He succeeded in winning her hand in marriage on the condition that if he hit her three times she would leave him. Over time, the farmer did hit his wife and as a consequence, she disappeared back into the lake, leaving the farmer with her sons. The sons grew up to become the Physicians of Myddfai, a dynasty of herbalists believed to carry magical powers.
There are two walking routes to choose from, stretching from Llanddeusant to Llyn y Fan Fach; the Green Walk, which is approximately 5km or the Red Walk for those looking for something lengthier, which is approximately 13km and takes 5-6 hours to complete. Get a copy of the walking route here.
St. Govan’s Chapel is a striking medieval church located half-way down the cliffs of a secluded headland. It is named after St. Govan, who resided on this lonely spot in the sixth century.
Many legends about the saint exist today; one suggested that pirates tried to capture him, but that the crevice opened up and then closed behind him to hide him. Once the pirates had left, the crevice opened once again to release him. There is a crevice in the chapel with rib-shaped impressions on the sides, supposedly a sign of where Govan had hidden from the pirates. Apparently, if you make a wish, enter inside and are able to turn your body around within it, the wish will be granted.
St. Govan’s Chapel is contained within the Pembrokeshire National Park, and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Trail runs along the nearby cliffs. You can access it by climbing down the 52 steep stone steps from the top of the cliff. The chapel is situated within a military firing range and can only be accessed when the firing range is open to the public.
The Plas Cadnant estate is a unique 200-acre private estate, set in a picturesque valley overlooking the Menai Straits and Snowdonia mountains. The history of the estate dates back almost a century and is home to its very own ‘hidden gardens’.
Work started on restoring the gardens and grounds back in 1997. These large areas of land had not been maintained for over seventy years, so it was a long and difficult task. Three different gardens have since been discovered, including an unusual walled garden with a pool, a secret valley garden with three waterfalls and river, and an upper woodland garden with stone outcrops.
The gardens are often described as one of the best-kept secrets in North Wales. Due to its specific location, at the side of the Menai Strait, it is hidden from public view near to the Menai Bridge on the Isle of Anglesey.
Llanddwyn Island is located near Newborough Warren and is part of the Newborough Warren National Nature Reserve, providing stunning views of Snowdonia and the Lleyn Peninsula. It is a small strip of land home to rolling dunes, large rock outcrops and historic buildings. Unlike its name would suggest, Llanddwyn is not quite an island as it remains attached to the mainland at all times, excluding when the tide gets particularly high.
The name Llanddwyn translates as The Church of St. Dwynwen. St Dwynwen is the Welsh patron saint of lovers, and is the Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine, celebrated each January 25th. Dwynwen lived during the 5th century AD. She fell in love with a young man named Maelon, but eventually prayed to be released from the unhappy relationship. She dreamt that she was given a potion to do this, which turned Maelon to ice. She prayed that she could be granted three wishes: that Maelon be revived, that all true lovers find happiness and that she would never again wish to be married. She then retreated to the solitude of Llanddwyn Island.
If you are ready to embark on a holiday to Wales, please visit the Discover Wales section of our blog, dedicated to bringing you useful hints, tips and advice prior to a holiday in this fascinating and beautiful country.
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