Wales, the mythical land of castles, dragons, song and sheep, has a beautifully rugged landscape, brimming with countless walking trails ready to be explored. From a windswept coastal jaunt to a brutal, yet rewarding, slog up the country’s highest mountain, there’s plenty of routes available for every calibre of hiker.
What’s more, when you’re done with all the walking, you’re guaranteed to find a cosy pub to relax in, with a roaring fire and plenty of friendly locals to regale with tales of that day’s adventures.
When it comes to landscape, culture, history, food and (most importantly) pubs, Wales really does have it all. Plus, being in the middle of the UK, it’s really not that hard to get to compared to other spots (we’re thinking the remote Scottish Highlands). The ultimate destination for your next staycation? We certainly think so!
If you see somewhere you like, start your next adventure with one of our Wales holiday cottages. If you’ve left everything a little late, worry not, just check out on of our last-minute Wales cottages.
The best short walks in Wales
Cwm Idwal Walk
Time: Three hours
Distance: Three miles
Set in the oldest National Nature Reserve in Wales, this great little circular walk will take you through the beautiful Cwm Idwal. Hollowed out by ice, this already striking natural formation is made even more so by the panorama of rugged crags surrounding it and the crystalline waters of Llyn Idwal which fill the base.
Beginning at the Ogwen Cottage, the route takes you over the bridge to the Snowdonia National Park Visitor Centre building, where you can find out more about the park itself. From here you’ll climb up from the centre, along heather-lined walking trails and over wooden bridges until you reach Llyn Idwal (the lake).
Upon arrival at the lake, you’ll be faced with a choice: which way to walk around the lake. Either way, you’re not going to miss anything so just flip a coin and get going!
On your way around, make sure you take a look at the famous Idwal Slabs – a really popular spot with climbers. Back in the day, Edmund Hillary used these routes to train for his Everest mission. Charles Darwin is another of Cwm Idwal’s famous guests, visiting the area in 1831 (before On the Origin of Species was published) and again 10 years later.
Another interesting feature to keep an eye out for on your gentle ramble around the lake is the ‘Devil’s Kitchen’, where a long dark crack splits the rock of Clogwyn y Geifr and a plume of steam can often be seen rising from it.
Once you’ve completed the lake circuit you can trace your steps back to Ogwen Cottage, where you can enjoy a hot drink and a sweet treat at the centre café.
Top tip: the National Trust café is only open from the 1st April to 10th September, so bear this in mind if you’re visiting outside of these months
See the best holiday cottages in Bethesda
Time: One and a half hours
Distance: Three and a half miles
If you’re near the Gower Peninsula, then a walk along the breathtaking Rhossili Headland is a must. One of the best walks in South Wales, this lovely circular route starts and ends in the little village of Rhossili, starting near the carpark of the Worm’s Head Hotel. You pass through here and on by the National Trust Shop & Visitor Centre, where you can browse for gifts and also pick up some information about the local area.
From here you’ll already be able to catch a glimpse of the famous Rhossili Bay. The bay may be stunningly picturesque, but it is also deadly. Due to the strong tides swirling around the area and treacherous sands it was the cause of many a shipwreck. The remains of one, Helvetia, can still be seen at low tide to this day – a beautiful, but eerie, sight.
The path leads you along the headland, past a series of Iron Age Forts (Iron Age builders definitely had an eye for a good view!) and on by ‘the Vile’ – what remains of the medieval open field strip system brought in by the Normans (but we’re not quite sure where the name came from…).
From here, you’ll carry on along the path, taking a sharp left just before Middleton and ending up back in the village. We’d recommend finishing it off with a nice cold pint at the Worm’s Head Hotel – seeing as you’re passing by anyway… plus they do have phenomenal views of the headland from where they are.
Top tip: be careful as you make your descent after passing ‘The Vile’ as the stones are very well worn and can often be slippery
See the best holiday cottages in Gower Peninsula
Stuck on where to stay? Find out the best towns to stay in Wales
The best long walks in Wales
Snowdon Walking Route
Time: Six hours
Distance: Eight miles
One of the most famous mountains in the UK, Snowdon is the tallest peak in the British Isles outside the Scottish Highlands. The mountain stands at a towering 1,085 metres above sea level and is located in the beautiful Snowdonia National Park (named after it, in case you hadn’t clocked onto that).
Generally speaking, the park itself is one of the best places to walk in Wales, but if you do have the time and energy then tackling the country’s whilst peak should definitely be on your holiday ‘to-do list’.
There are many routes up Snowdon, with ranging levels of difficulty. If you’re looking for a gentle ascent then Llanberis Path is the easiest (and longest, which makes sense) option. If you’re a more experienced hiker, then start from Pen y Pass and take the Miners Track or Pyg Track up to the top.
Any route you choose will still reward you with the same ruggedly beautiful mountain scenery and sense of achievement once you finally reach the top.
If you’re not really into walking, but still want to enjoy the views from Wale’s highest peak, then there’s the Snowdon Mountain Railway which will take you all the way from Llanberis to the summit.
Top tip: be extremely careful if you’re climbing Snowdon in winter – the weather can change very quickly up there, so make sure you bring all the appropriate kit with you and are prepared in case of emergencies
See the best holiday cottages in Snowdonia
Time: Five hours
Distance: Nine and a half miles
The lovely Mawddach Trail follows an old disused railway track, edging along the stunning Mawddach Estuary over in the southern part of Snowdonia National Park. One of the finest railway paths the UK has to offer and can be walked, cycled or (if you’re feeling very energetic) ran along.
The walk begins in a car park in Dolgellau – a pretty market town on the banks of the River Wnion. From here you meander with the river all the way down to the famous beauty spot of Mawddach Estuary, which is gently nestled in the foothills of Cadair Idris.
At the mouth of the estuary is the town of Barmouth, which you’ll need to cross the iconic railway bridge to get to. Here you can refresh yourself after a long day with a well-earned pint and pub dinner.
If you’re walking with a dog then we recommend The Last Inn as a fantastic dog-friendly pub (they also make an effort to be as environmentally-friendly as possible which we’re sure all nature lovers will applaud). Or else, if it’s a glorious afternoon then why not make use of the beer garden at The Royal?
Top tip: if you don’t fancy doing the whole thing then you can just pick a little part of it – the path itself is generally wide and flat, making it ideal for wheelchair users or less experienced walkers
See the best holiday cottages in Dolgellau
Travelling with the pooch? See the best last-minute pet-friendly cottages in Wales
The best coastal walks in Wales
St David’s Head Coastal Walk
Time: Two hours
Distance: Four miles
One of the loveliest coastal walks around, this gentle jaunt takes in some of Pembrokeshire’s most stunning coastal scenes, as well as pretty towns and prehistoric settlements to boot.
The walk begins at Whitesands Beach – a beautiful stretch of white sandy beach (yes, you probably would have guessed that from the name), which you’ll definitely want to put aside a couple of hours to explore/relax upon – and passing the site of St Patrick’s Chapel before climbing up to a path on the cliffs.
From here you’ll strike out inland for a while, descending into the valley and reaching a spring just above the tiny cove of Porthmelgan, before looping back around and following the coastline to the headland.
As you walk along the cliff path, keep your eyes peeled for the rugged silhouette of Ramsey Island and the ‘Bishops and Clarks’ (a little group of islets, one which houses a working lighthouse). The particularly eagle-eyed may well be able to spot porpoise or dolphins frolicking in the waters on the horizon (but perhaps don’t make this a promise to any younger members of the group).
Carry on rambling and you’ll eventually pass a structure made of great slabs of rocks rising from the earth. This is Coetan Arthur: the remains of a Neolithic burial chamber which dates back to about 3,000 BC.
From here you’ll return along the path to Porthmelgan and eventually retrace your steps back to the glorious Whitesand Beach. Perhaps now it’s time to have that picnic you’ve been promising everyone.
Top tip: keen birdwatchers will want to keep an eye out for glimpses of birds like stonechats, meadow pipits and skylarks, flitting in and out of the trees and undergrowth
See the best holiday cottages in Pembrokeshire
Glamorgan Heritage Coast Trail
Time: Four and a half hours
Distance: Nine miles
The Glamorgan Heritage Coast walk follows a small section of the 870-mile long Wales Coast Path, which winds its way along Wales’ coast. Beginning in the town of Llantwit Major, hikers can choose to start or finish their adventure (as the walk is circular) with a look around Llanilltud Church, one of the oldest Parish Churches in Wales.
Once you’re safely on your merry way, there’s plenty of sights and sounds to appreciate along the Glamorgan Heritage Coast. The dramatic cliffs rising from out of the sea, the secret caves burrowed into the rock, the great swathes of pebble-covered beaches and the sound of gently lapping waves all play a part in the landscape and soundscape of the area.
Keep an eye out for Nash Point Lighthouse at the heart of Glamorgan Heritage Coast. Set on Nash Point headland, this towering white behemoth has saved many lives over the year. Back in 1831, the paddle steamer Frolic, was shipwrecked on Nash Sands causing the deaths of 78 people.
This tragedy prompted the building of two lighthouses on Nash Point. If you time your walk on the first Saturday or third Sunday of the month then you’ll be able to hear the Lighthouse’s foghorn in action.
When you’re back in Llantwit Major, you’ll have the choice of 21 pubs, 5 restaurants and 26 shops (pretty good going for a population of under 15k). If you’re looking for a dog-friendly spot then you can’t go wrong with The Old Swan Inn. And if you’re hiking with smaller kids then Cafe Unwind is an excellent option.
Top tip: part of the walk is along the clifftops with steep drops so keep dogs on a leash and a close eye on any younger members of the group. Remember to always walk with caution and stay back from the edge
See the best holiday cottages in Llantwit Major
Love history? Did you know Wales has more castles per square mile than any other country in Europe. Find the very best of them in our list of Wales’ top 10 castles
The best winter walks in Wales
Sugar Loaf Mountain
Time: Four hours
Distance: Four miles
Probably our favourite mountain name ever, a walk up Sugar Loaf in Monmouthshire is not to be missed. Although this is a great hike whatever the season, it’s especially lovely in the winter, when frost crackles underfoot and the surrounding area is bathed in a silvery light.
Although the word ‘mountain’ sounds a little daunting, don’t be put off! The ascent up Sugar Loaf is generally pretty gentle (apart from a couple of steep parts) and it is also the perfect length for those winter months, when you’re looking to maximise the pub-and-roaring-fire section of the walk.
The walk begins at Llanwenarth car park, from here you’ll walk along grassy paths and through magical woodland, before climbing out of the valley and getting up to the ridge of Sugar Loaf (the first steep part).
The final summit of Sugar Loaf is also quite steep and rocky, so take it slow and be careful where you’re placing your feet. It’s completely worth it once you’re up there though: the panoramic views of the surrounding countryside are phenomenal.
When you’re finished walking, the lovely market town of Abergavenny awaits. Just two miles away from Sugar Loaf mountain, the place is brimming with plenty of lovely bars, restaurants and pubs to stop by and warm up in.
Top tip: winters in Wales can be quite wet and the weather can turn quite quickly so make sure you pack plenty of layers and are prepared
See the best holiday cottages in Monmouthshire
Pen y Fan and Corn Du Circular Walk
Time: Two and a half hours
Distance: Four miles
Difficulty: Moderate – Advanced
A little more on the strenuous side of things, this stroll up Pen y Fan will definitely get the circulation going and the cheeks rosy, even in the deepest darkest depths of winter. Set in the heart of the Brecon Beacons, the walk begins at Pont ar Daf car park and climbs steadily upwards to Bwlch Duwynt (which translates to ‘Windy Pass’ in Welsh).
Carry on from here and admire the spectacular views of the surrounding countryside when you reach the point between saddle between Corn Du and Pen y Fan. Now there’s a last push left, up to the summit of Pen y Fan – which is actually Southern Britain’s highest peak, sitting at a majestic 2906 feet.
The paths along this route are very well made, making it a good choice for a winter walk, but it’s always best to be aware of the conditions and pack full winter gear. It is also advisable to have an experienced winter hiker in your party.
Top tip: not only are the views breathtaking at the top, the summit is actually also home to a Bronze Age burial chamber (look for the cairn)
See the best holiday cottages in The Brecon Beacons
Ready to see what else Wales has to offer? Check out the ultimate can find our Wales travel guide