Just because the nights are getting closer, it doesn’t mean we have to hibernate. From hiking, snowshoeing and cycling on traffic-free trails to relaxing in your own luxurious luxury retreat, here are five ideas for inspiring Welsh adventures that will brighten your winter.
Sky is the limit
If your eyes could use a good break, there’s no better antidote to the blue light emitted from electronic devices than staring up at the night sky and watching the stars emerge from the darkness. And in the winter, early sunsets mean you don’t have to be a night owl to admire the constellations. The best sights are seen in places far from light pollution – locations of which there are abundance in Wales. The mountains and valleys of Snowdonia National Park are recognized as an International Dark Sky Reserve (one of only 20 in the world) for extensive stargazing opportunities, so you can spend a day visiting the hills by watching the magnificent night sky. The Isle of Anglesey (Ynys Môn) is home to Penmon Point, a great spot for wildlife and heavenly wonders. The Elan Valley, in central Wales, is a recognized World Dark Sky Park, which means that 18,200 hectares (45,000 acres) are protected from light pollution. Located in the Brecon Beacons just over an hour’s drive from Swansea (an hour and a half from Cardiff), Usk Reservoir is a dark-sky spotting site and is open late, allowing you to go for a sunset stroll and stay for the natural light viewing.
Walk on the wild side
There is no need to hang up your hiking boots with the onset of winter. Dropping temperatures mean that waterlogged fields have become a frozen wonderland, sunrises can be enjoyed even after lying down, and sunsets can be seen even on short hikes. Winter outings don’t get any more relaxing than a walk along the coast, and many of the hotspots are easily accessible from the major cities of Wales. Rosselly Bay is on the Gower Peninsula, with three miles of golden sand, just a scenic bus ride from Swansea. Meanwhile from Cardiff you can reach the seaside town of Penarth in under 15 minutes or take the train to Llantwit Major in an hour to enjoy the Vale of Glamorgan’s Heritage coast – including the southernmost point in the country at Rhoose Point. After a spell of rain, head to Henrhyd Falls in the Brecon Beacons to marvel at the awe of the rushing waters. Or, after a snowfall, try hiking to Cwm Idwal in Snowdonia to see the water freeze under the snow-capped mountains.
Winter puts no end to the two-wheeled fun in Wales. Coed Llandegla – just a 20-minute drive from Chester – is perhaps the most accessible collection of mountain bike trails in the north, offering a range of graded trails for beginners to professionals. There is also Antur Stiniog Bike Park in Blaenau Ffestiniog, which also runs a regular lift service (which means more time riding and less time pushing uphill). While it has even hosted the British Downhill Championships, there are plenty of blue trails for beginners. In the south are Brechfa near Carmarthen and BikePark Wales near Merthyr Tydfil, both of which offer green, blue, red, black and pro trails to suit all cyclists. For a relaxed ride, there are a range of trails on the National Cycling Network to sample: Monmouth’s 7.5-mile Peregrine Trail, mainly traffic-free, follows the River Wye to Symonds Yat and is popular with families; And Llanelli’s Swiss Valley Cycle Route takes over 10 miles of peaceful cycling, following an abandoned railway line.
where is the work
Rivers, mountains, caves, coasts, forests… With a good selection of terrain, Wales offers high-octane adventures for those who like to stay active no matter the season. Water kids will be in their element at Bala, home to the National White Water Centre, which offers tasting sessions and full adventures on weekends with all equipment provided. Hell’s Mouth on the Llŷn Peninsula, despite its name, is actually a great place for surfers of all levels. Speed fiends will want to try ziplining the world’s fastest one at Zip World Penrhyn Quarry in Snowdonia, and kids and adults alike will love the underground trampoline course at Bounce Below.
Switch on the glamp
Whether it’s a treat after a long walk or a long year ahead, there is magic in finding your little one bosom (comfortable area) and relax amidst the wonderful Welsh scenery. Sparkle options let you sleep alongside nature in total comfort. Mid-Wales is home to the certified organic Treberfedd Farm, just 20 minutes from Cardigan Bay, which offers eco-cabins, made from local timber and powered by green energy, with wood-fired hot tubs. In Monmouthshire, you can relax in a tent in front of your wood-burning stove at Penhein Glamping, on a site that also offers under-floor heating and monsoon showers, or take a dip in a roll-top bath. For romantics, a wooden tree house in the Welsh border can be lifted out of a fairy tale – only this one has hammocks and hot tubs. To go a bit wild, there are safari-style tents (with hot tubs, naturally) in Welshpool, or in Powys you’ll find ‘conkers’ you can sleep in while watching the resident red kites soar through the sky. For those who just want a simple life in the woods, there’s Walden Lodge in St Donats, a four-person cabin just minutes’ walk from the stunning coastline.
Find inspiration for your winter holiday at Visit Wales