Wales is certainly a contender for the title of hidden gem of the United Kingdom. As an international visitor, I hadn’t heard much about this part of the UK, but was won over by its beautiful scenery and rich history.
There’s so much to do in Wales on holiday, whether a quick trip or a few weeks. And luckily some of the best attractions are very dog-friendly! Check out my recommendations for dog-friendly attractions in Wales, all vetted by my trusty side-kick, Schnitzel the Miniature Dachshund.
#1 Visit St Fagan’s National Museum of History
St Fagan’s National Museum of History, just outside of Cardiff, is an excellent open-air history museum. Its biggest attraction is its collection of historic buildings, that have been moved and re-erected onsite from various locations all around Wales.
It’s a great insight into Welsh history, particularly the examples of what homes looked like in different decades. Other buildings include an historical post office, former shops, a tannery and mill.
But don’t also miss the other side of the site, with the historic St Fagans Castle. This Elizabeth manor is surrounded by acres of gardens that are charming to explore. It’s easy to spend a full day at St Fagan’s.
St Fagan’s is a great family outing, as it’s free for all the family (although there is a charge for the car park). Note that it’s currently necessary to pre-book tickets. Dogs are also allowed, as long as they are kept on a short lead, except for inside the buildings.
#2 Stroll Around Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey is the best preserved medieval abbey in all of Wales. Not that any of the buildings are still intact: this Cistercian Abbey largely built in the 13th century is in ruins, the floor of the church carpeted with grass as the grand walls rise up around you, the sky visible overhead.
The abbey is a romantic attraction that has entranced visitors for centuries. It has appeared in paintings by such illustrious artists as J. M. W. Turner and Thomas Gainsborough, and mentioned in verse by William Wordsworth.
Tintern Abbey is located about 1hr east of Cardiff in South Wales, close to the English border. Allow an hour or two to explore the site. It’s also perfect for a stroll with your dog, as long as they’re kept on a leash. Note that it is requested they are kept on the ground floor levels only, for their own safety.
Tip: Check out the full list of Welsh historic sites that allow dogs. If you’re planning on visiting multiple sites, buying a pass is excellent value for human visitors (with four-legged visitors admitted for free).
#3 Go Underground at the National Showcaves Centre
Located just inside the Brecon Beacons National Park, the National Showcaves Centre is more than just pretty caves open to the public. Yes, there are two beautiful showcaves onsite, plus the historic Bone Cave, with mainly gentle walking trails taking you through them (one is reached through a steep incline inside).
But the site also features a huge range of life-size model dinosaurs, scattered around the grounds and surrounding forest. There’s even a regular “volcano” eruption. If you’re visiting with kids, they’ll love it!
Dogs are allowed both onto the main grounds and inside the caves, but must be kept on a short leash and naturally “doggy bags” are required. Dogs aren’t allowed into the adjacent Shire Horse Centre area, where the Farm, Play Areas and Millennium Stone Circles are located. The centre also notes that entry will be refused or dogs will be asked to return to your car if they become unsettled on site.
The caves are open from early April to early November, closing over the winter months. Currently, pre-booked tickets are required – double check in advance.
#4 Head to the Beach at Barafundle Bay
The gorgeous golden sand beach at Barafundle Beach is one of the best beaches in Wales or anywhere in the world. And as an Australian with plenty of access to lovely beaches that’s a serious compliment!
The wide stretch of sand is backed by a crescent of sheltering hills, making for a lovely micro-climate, especially on sunny days, although the water was still very chilly when I visited in June.
The beach is fairly remote, in the south-western corner of Wales in Pembrokeshire. A car is required to reach the nearby carpark, where there is a charge for all-day parking. Then it’s a short but scenic 10-minute walk down to the beach.
Best of, Barafundle Bay is one of the best dog-friendly beaches in the UK. Dogs are allowed on the beach all year round. Looking for more dog-friendly beaches in Wales? Also check out Ogmore by Sea and Traeth Llanddwyn on Anglesey Island.
#5 Enjoy a Drink at Ty Coch Inn
A simple inn located in northwestern Wales, just south of Anglesey, the Ty Coch Inn came to international fame after being named the “3rd best beach bar in the world” back in 2013. Note quite what you imagine when you think of a beach bar, however this historic hotel is located directly on the beach.
Located in the fishing village of Porthdinllaen, it’s about a 40 minute drive south of Caernarfon. Vehicular access to the village and inn is restricted to locals, so you’ll need to walk to reach the pub. Either park in the National Trust or golf club car parks (charges apply), then walk for 20 minute across the golf course (with dogs on lead, of course) or stroll along the beach, as long as it’s not high tide.
On the unseasonably sunny and warm spring day I visited, plenty of dogs had joined their families on the beach. (And some people had even ventured into the water!) Dogs are even allowed inside, as long as they’re on a leash and well-behaved, but when the weather is sunny you can’t beat the outdoor tables next to the sand.
#6 Go Hiking in Snowdonia
The interior of North Wales is mainly enclosed in Snowdonia National Park. With its gorgeous wild scenery and rugged peaks, including the highest peak in Wales (Mt Snowdon), it’s a mecca for hikers.
There’s a range of hiking opportunities, ranging from short walks to full day adventures. And best of all, dogs are allowed to join you on your walk. Just make sure that dogs are kept on a leash around livestock, particularly during the lambing season.
If you’re after a challenge for yourself and your dog, consider climbing to the top of Mt Snowdon with your dog. The highest mountain in Wales, it’s a tough all-day climb (and descent).
#7 Visit an Historic Castle
A group of four castles in northwestern Ireland have been added to the World Heritage List together, as the “Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd”. Out of these four castles, it’s possible to visit one with your dog, Harlech Castle.
The castle is magnificently situated in the town of Harlech, on a rocky crag overlooking the sweeping beach below, the peaks of Snowdonia in the backdrop. With a classic design, inside its four walls, now accessible along an elevated footpath, is a multi-level keep.
Harlech Castle is open daily, although the opening hours vary throughout the year, with longer opening hours over the summer months. Leashed dogs are welcome to join you inside the castle, but only on the ground floor levels – skip the wall walks!
#8 Explore Cardiff Castle and Bute Park
One of the key historical sights in Wales is Cardiff Castle. This medieval castle in the centre of the Welsh capital was built in the late 11th century, on the top of a Roman fort dating to the 3rd century. The adjacent museum is located in a Victorian Gothic revival mansion.
While dogs are not allowed inside the ticketed areas of the castle, they are free to enter the castle walls with you and visit the Public Square area. This large open space is located on the right hand side after you enter through the gates.
Next to the castle is the extensive Bute Park, once the private pleasure grounds associated with the castle. Dogs are welcome in the park, including off-leash in many areas, although there are some signposted areas where they need to be kept leashed.
Don’t miss the Cardiff Castle Animal Wall, which these days has been relocated to the southern boundary of Bute Park. Look up and view the beautiful animal sculptures when walking along Castle Street, day or night.
#9 Cruise on the Llangollen Canal
Another World Heritage site in North Wales is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal. An engineering marvel completed in the early 19th century, the aqueduct looms up above the surrounding countryside.
It’s possible to take a canal boat ride along various stretches of the 18km-long canal, including with your dog. Many canal boat cruises or self-drive canal boats allow dogs to join you.
One of the more unusual, yet still dog-friendly options, are the Horse Drawn Boat Trips operated by Llangollen Wharf. These leisurely 45-minute boat trips regularly depart every day from mid-March to the end of November, plus on selected dates over the winter. There is also a longer two-hour long trip to the Horseshoe Falls on selected dates over summer.
With indoor and outdoor seating, dogs are permitted on the Horse Drawn Boat Trips, plus on self-drive day hire boats from Llangollen Wharf. However, they are not allowed on the motorised aqueduct cruise.
#10 Go Walking in the Brecon Beacons
Another gorgeous stretch of countryside in South Wales are the Brecon Beacons, protected within the Brecon Beacons National Park. It’s the perfect destination for walking, including with your dog at your side.
There’s plenty of information on all the walks in the Brecon Beacons, with the option to view the walks by areas. Walks range from easy Grade 1 routes to demanding Grade 5 hikes, with the option to also view walks by grade.
The Brecon Beacons dog code requires dogs to kept on a leash when around or close to grazing animals. In particular, between 1st March and 31st July, dogs should be kept on paths and be kept on a short leash when in open countryside or when requested to do so. Also make sure you clean up after your dog and keep them wormed.
For more ideas of things to do with your dogs in the Brecon Beacons, check out the guide to dog-friendly activities, including dog-friendly cafes and accommodation.
#11 Explore Historic Blaenavon
During the 19th century, South Wales was better known as the world’s major producer of coal and iron, than for its beautiful countryside. You can still explore this part of Welsh history at the town of Blaenavon, which has been World Heritage listed.
I recommend visiting the Blaenavon Ironworks, a Cadw site. Wander through the ruins of the ironworks, including the furnaces, foundry and cast house. Leashed dogs are welcome throughout the site, except in the re-furnished workers cottages. If you are visiting with someone, take turns to explore them.
The impressive Big Pit National Coal Museum is nearby, with free entry including on its Underground Tour. However, pet dogs are not allowed onsite, except in outdoor areas. Only trained assistance dogs are allowed inside the buildings, although still not on the Underground Tour.
#12 Head to the Gower Peninsula
The Gower Peninsula in South Wales was the first area in the UK to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. With its sandy beaches and verdant woodlands, there’s plenty of things to do with your dog in the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
One of the top dog-friendly walks is the scenic Rhosili Headland Walk. This 3.5-mile (5.4km) long walking trail starts in the village of Rhossili. Passing behind Rhossili Beach, you’ll loop out towards Worm’s Head, passing the remains of an Iron Age fort, then return past Fall Bay.
Dogs are welcome to join you on the walk. They need to be kept under close control at all times, plus leashed when crossing farmland. Dogs are allowed on the 3-mile-long sandy expanse of Rhosili Beach year-round.
You May Also Like
- 15 Fun Dog-Friendly Things to Do in England
- 7 Fun Dog-Friendly Things to Do in Scotland
- The 7 Best Dog-Friendly National Parks in the UK
About the Author
Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.
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