If you want a taste of the real Wales, then there’s no better way to explore glorious Cymru than with a walk through its beautiful hills, valleys and coastal landscapes. Although the country has a population size of over 3 million people, it rarely feels crowded and there are miles of uninterrupted countryside for visitors and residents to enjoy. Whether you fancy a long hard slog along one of the National Trails, or would rather hike your way up a towering Welsh mountain in a day, there’s a path here to fit everybody’s walking style. Let’s take a look at some of the very best ones out there.
A 135 mile walk through history, Glyndwr’s Way is a recognised National Trail following in the footsteps of Owain Glyndwr, Prince of Wales during the 15th century and still a national hero to many. The trail begins in Knighton, just across the border from England, and ends in Welshpool, near to Powis Castle. If you choose to complete the entire trail, along the way you’ll encounter moorland, farmland, woodland and elevations of up to 500m.
The trail does involve a lot of up and down hill climbing so keep this in mind when deciding upon preparation for your trip; if this walk looks like the one for you, however, then that means you get to experience first-hand the lovely rise and fall of the Welsh landscape as you explore its peaks and valleys along the way. All in all, Glyndwr’s Way should take around 9 days to complete, although you can adjust this according to your own fitness level, the amount of time you’d like to spend sightseeing and the predicted weather forecast. In particularly gloomy conditions, you may need to ditch the guidebook and use a compass to navigate!
Offa’s Dyke Path
For a slightly bigger challenge, look to Offa’s Dyke Path, another historically-themed trail that stretches all the way from the south to the north of the country. Although it starts over the border in England (at Sedbury Cliffs near Chepstow), this is because it follows the line of the actual dyke that King Offa ordered built in the 8th century. Back then, he was ruler of the kingdom of Mercia, and the dyke was likely constructed to protect his land from that of his rivals. At 177 miles long, it isn’t a whole lot longer than the aforementioned Glyndwr’s Way; however, if you’d like to be able to say you walked the entire length of a country in just 2 weeks, then this is the path for you. The terrain of this trail is varied, but the overall skill level needed is not high; just be aware that you will encounter the same hills around Knighton as those mentioned above, so prepare accordingly for some hillwalking. Elevation on this walk can reach 700m, and if you complete the entire trail, you will have encountered 28,000ft of ascent which is the same as the height of Mount Everest!
Pembrokeshire Coast Path
Alright, so you want a real challenge? Then let’s take a look at the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Just like Glyndwr’s Way and Offa’s Dyke Path, this is an official National Trail but it comes in at a whopping 186 miles long. Unsurprisingly, it hugs the Welsh coast pretty closely, as its name suggests. The guidebook advises taking at least 12 days to complete the entire walk, but we would suggest pacing yourself over 2 weeks or longer to really take in all the sights. It is a challenging trail, not for the fainthearted, but represents a massive achievement once done. If you’re turning this into a proper expedition, then make sure to pack appropriately. Wet weather gear, a compass and the trail guidebook are all a must, but don’t forget your tech too. Mobile phones aren’t just for emergency calls, they can also provide vital information (the Met Office weather app is essential), entertainment for those long rainy evenings (platforms like PokerStarsCasino and BoredPanda can give you hours of indoor fun), and information on the world you see around you (for example PlantSnap and PlaceTales). Once you’ve spent a fortnight walking its sea border, you can really say that you’ve explored Wales.
The Watkin Path, Mount Snowdon
If you haven’t the time or patience for a multi-day walk, then perhaps mountain climbing will suit you better. Many say that the Watkin Path is the second most difficult ascent of Wales’ biggest mountain, Snowdon. It should take between 3.5 and 4 hours to complete the route, and it presents plenty of interesting sections to explore. Although the path has never actually been ‘finished’ since it was opened in 1892, it is still an official track and is certainly the most scenic way to climb this peak. Along the way, you’ll encounter waterfalls, forests, abandoned quarries and, famously, some scree. The final section of the path is an accident blackspot thanks to the nature of the scree; with this in mind, it is advisable to doublecheck the weather forecast before setting off and to take your time navigating particularly tricky sections of the trail. Even if you choose a different, easier path to the top of Snowdon (or opt for the even more difficult Crib Goch route), this crown of Snowdonia should certainly not be missed.