Now that all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Royal Wedding has passed, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge can finally settle into a quieter life – well, sort of – dividing their time between two British pads. The first being the prime London digs known as Kensington Palace, and the second a residence in Wales, where the Prince pilots search-and-rescue copters for the Royal Air Force.
When most people think of vacationing in the U.K., Wales isn’t the first word that typically comes to mind. But the country, located just two hours by train or car from London, is a surprisingly diverse destination for all sorts of visitors – adventurers and royal watchers alike. And even if you don’t catch a glimpse of the Duchess, you can still get your fill of all things King and Queen: Wales houses 641 castles, outpacing all other European countries in the royal residence department.
In 1295, King Edward I erected his modest, 16-tower country escape, Beaumaris Castle, here. If you’d rather room like a royal, the five-star Plas Dinas Country House, in Snowdonia, hosted Princess Margaret on weekend getaways. (Guess who slept in the honeymoon suite.)
Snowdonia also happens to be home base for Wales’s equivalent of Mount Everest. In fact, Sir Edmund Hillary finessed his scaling skills on the 3,560-foot Mount Snowdon prior to his historic summit of Everest. On the way to Snowdonia National Park, make a pit stop at the popular mountaineer’s hotel, Pen-y-Gwryd, where Hillary artifacts grace the walls.
Of course, you don’t need the stamina and training of an expert climber to explore the raw, virgin landscape that makes up the more than 800-square-mile park, where feral goats outnumber hikers and the sky seems infinitely grander. In addition to hiking, biking, walking, and archaeological trails, the park also has a steam train that traverses to the top.