We know that you know that Wales is a pretty good destination for walkers. After all, we’ve been welcoming them since the concept of walking for pleasure was invented by the Victorians. What’s more, with three National Parks – Snowdonia, Pembrokeshire and the Brecon Beacons – it could hardly be otherwise. And that’s without introducing into the picture our five designated ‘Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ on the Isle of Anglesey, around the Llŷn and Gower peninsulas, in the Wye Valley and up in the Clwydian Range of hills. Or the swathes of emptiness in the Cambrian Mountains, Mid Wales, the ‘great Welsh desert’ so-called because of its lack of people.
So it’s an established fact that Wales knows how to welcome walkers. But what is sometimes unappreciated is the sheer variety of terrain this small country manages to pack into its boundaries. Not everyone is a Ranulph Fiennes looking for the ultimate long-distance slog or roughest, toughest mountain to climb. Walking in Wales encompasses all kinds of outdoor experiences, from macho to mellow. Need convincing? Then here’s a snapshot of what you can get up to on two feet.
The Wales Coast Path, opened to great acclaim in 2012, is a world’s first – the first continuous coastal path of any country on the planet. We’re not suggesting you walk its entire 870 miles, nor the 186 miles of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path it incorporates. But if you want some of the most sensational sea-coast walking in the world – that’s what the Lonely Planet guidebook says, by the way – then you should head west to Pembrokeshire.
Pembrokeshire’s north coast, a succession of rugged headlands and snug little bays dusted in Celtic magic, is especially compelling. There’s a good choice of Rare Hideaways properties in Pembrokeshire, all within shouting distance of the coast (and some overlooking it). And because the walker-friendly people in Pembrokeshire run hop-on, hop-off bus services like the Strumble Shuttle and Coastal Cruiser, it’s easy to tackle bite-sized sections of the path without the hassle of cars.
Walking in North Wales means Snowdon, right? Not necessarily so. Although the ascent of the highest mountain in Wales and England is seen as a compulsory rite of passage by some, you don’t have to do it (you can always take the easy option and catch the Snowdon Mountain Railway to the top, then walk back down). The Snowdonia National Park brims with less testing outdoor experiences – like the beautiful forest walks in Betws-y-Coed, or the lakeside trails at Bala, a specially designated ‘Walkers are Welcome’ town.
Along the coast, the Llŷn Coast Path is especially spectacular, taking in the cliffs, wilds headlands and surfing beaches of this ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’.
Mid Wales, the country’s green, rolling heartland, is another region filled with seductive walking experiences. Go to the Elan Valleys, Wales’s very own lakelands, for woodland, hill and waterside walks – and keep your eyes open for the red kite, the endangered bird of prey that has made a spectacular comeback in these parts.
Along the historic border there’s another long-distance route to follow – the 168-mile Offa’s Dyke Path that follows the first official border between England and Wales created by King Offa of Mercia in the 8th century when he built his massive earthen dyke from north to south. Parts of this monumental engineering endeavour still survive – amazingly, some sections stand almost to their full original height even after exposure to over one thousand years’ of Welsh weather.
The dyke just about sums up the amazing wealth of walking experiences you’ll find in Wales. There are trails everywhere, long and short, rocky and sandy, challenging and gentle. Here’s a promise: whichever Rare Hideaways property you choose, you’ll be on the right path.