Wales has not escaped the infiltration of high street chains, but independent shops certainly hold their ground more here than in England. Local artists and craftsmen sell handmade gifts such as jewellery and pottery. The town centre of Chepstow has some lovely independent shops, including regular craft and food markets; while Monmouth, Cardigan and Abergavenny also have pleasant high streets.
Up in Snowdonia, the idyllic towns of here are a picture of rural charm. Betws-y-coed is home to the Trefriw Woollen Mills which produces the famous Welsh tapestry textiles. Buy waistcoasts, bedspreads and throws here, for distinctive souvenirs. In the larger town of Llandudno you’ll find cute boutiques selling handmade items – try the Craft Cymru shop which stocks authentic Welsh produce and crafts. Back towards the southwest, the lush beaches of the Gower peninsula may be a surfer’s paradise, but it’s the brownies from Gower Cottage (www.gowercottagebrownies.co.uk) that you won’t forget in a hurry. Book lovers should head to Hay on Wye near the Welsh border. Known as the home of the UK’s largest literary festival, it is home to around 40 second hand bookshops, earning it the nickname ‘town of books’.
Cardiff is the city with the biggest choice and the big names. If you like big-name brands or late night opening, then the city centre is the place to visit. Here you’ll find the majority of the shops highly concentrated within arcades rather than the high streets. Market lovers mustn’t miss the St Mary street market for its mixture of vintage clothing and antique furniture, whilst the recently created Cardiff Fashion Quarter, houses a treasure trove of independent stalls. For surprising shopping experiences, meander through the byways and highways of the Welsh hills and valleys and veer off the trodden path to explore small villages and craft centres.