In the heyday of the mail coaches, Holyhead (confusingly pronounced 'holly head') was the vital terminus of the London road and the main hub for onward boats to Ireland. The coming of the railway only increased the flow of people through the town, but the recent rise of cheap flights has reduced the demand for ferries and Holyhead has fallen on hard times.
Chepstow is an attractive market town nestled in a great S-bend in the River Wye, with a splendid Norman castle perched dramatically on a cliff above the water. The town is also home to one of Britain's best known racecourses. Chepstow was first developed as a base for the Norman conquest of southeast Wales, later prospering as a port for the timber and wine trades.
Dolgellau (dol-ge-khlye) is a charming little market town, steeped in history and boasting the highest concentration of listed buildings in Wales (over 200). It was a regional centre for Wales’ prosperous wool industry in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and many of its finest buildings, sturdy and unadorned, were built at that time.
Vale of Glamorgan
You'll need your own car to get here and preferably a detailed road map. Head west of the city to Culverhouse Cross and continue west on the A48 to St Nicholas, where the sites are signposted. Turn left at the lights and look for a parking area to the right of the road where you can walk across the field to the Tinkinswood chamber.
Perched on a headland between its modern ferry port and former fishing harbour, Fishguard is often overlooked by travellers, most of them passing through on their way to or from Ireland. It doesn't have any sights as such, but it's an appealing little town with some good eating and drinking options.
Despite a few rough edges, busy little Porthmadog (port-mad-uk) has an attractive estuarine setting and a conspicuously friendly, mainly Welsh-speaking populace. It straddles both the Llŷn Peninsula and Snowdonia National Park, and has the fantastical village of Portmeirion at its doorstep.
South Wales Valleys
The valleys fanning northwards from Cardiff and Newport were once the heart of industrial Wales. Although the coal, iron and steel industries have withered, the valley names – Rhondda, Cynon, Rhymney, Ebbw – still evoke a world of tight-knit working-class communities, male voice choirs and rows of neat terraced houses set amid a scarred, coal-blackened landscape.
Gower Peninsula (y gŵyr)
With its broad butterscotch beaches, pounding surf, precipitous clifftop walks and rugged, untamed uplands, the Gower Peninsula feels a million miles from Swansea's urban bustle – yet it's just on the doorstep. This 15-mile-long thumb of land stretching west from Mumbles was designated the UK's first official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1956.
Carmarthenshire's county town is a place of legend and ancient provenance, but it's not the kind of place you'll feel inclined to linger in. It's a handy transport and shopping hub, but there's not a lot to see. The Romans built a town here, complete with a fort and amphitheatre.
Anglesey's prettiest town offers a winning combination of a waterfront location, ever-present views of the mountains, a romantic castle lording it over en elegant collection of mainly Georgian buildings, and a burgeoning number of boutiques, galleries, smart hotels and chic eateries.