As Wales starts to open up again, Sarah Baxter recommends the best walking trails to enjoy that showcase its natural splendour.

wales walks

The acclaimed amble: Rhossili, Swansea

Distance: 5 km; 2-3 hours

The Ramblers’ Association voted this little bimble one of its top 10 coastal walks, so who are we to argue? Short but very sweet, it takes in the western edge of the Gower Peninsula, heading out past ancient earthworks towards the tidal isle of Worm’s Head – accessible on foot around low tide (check times before crossing), and a haven for seabirds. The route continues along the cliffs above Fall Bay and Mewslade Bay, returning to Rhossili via a nature reserve.

The engineering options: Llangollen, Denbighshire

Distance: 7 km / 16 km; 2.5 / 5 hours

There’s a lot going on around the outdoorsy town of Llangollen, including interesting ways to mix up walks. For instance, a 16 km route runs via the ruins of Castell Dinas Bran and Offa’s Dyke to reach Trefor and Pontcysyllte, Telford’s awesome aqueduct, before returning to Llangollen via the canal. But if your legs aren’t up for all that, just make the short, flat canal walk to Pontcysyllte, and head back to Llangollen by horse-drawn barge.;,

The castle caper: Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire

Distance: 8 km; 2-3 hours

Lovely Llandeilo, a halt on the Heart of Wales Line railway, is a good base for a leg-stretch. After strolling around the town, pick up a picnic from the delectable Ginhaus deli and set off, via the River Towy and abandoned Llandyfeisant Church, into Dinefwr Park. This National Trust-owned estate is a gem, home to hundreds of ancient oaks (some over 400 years old), a herd of fallow deer, a 17th-century mansion and the dramatic ruins of medieval Dinefwr Castle.

The most picturesque: Chepstow, Monmouthshire

Distance: 10 km; 4-5 hours

It’s been 250 years since clergyman William Gilpin made his “Wye Tour”- a two-day boat trip from Ross to Chepstow; his subsequent book about it not only popularised the staycation but prescribed what British travellers should consider “properly picturesque”. The viewpoints of Piercefield Park, overlooking the River Wye, were designed for these 18th-century tourists. On a walk from Chepstow Castle, take in these old lookouts, including the Grotto, the Giant’s Cave, and the Eagle’s Nest, where you can see Victorian graffiti.

The Snowdon-alike: Cadair Idris, Gwynedd

Distance: 10 km; 5 hours

Don’t want to join the masses on Snowdon? Opt for 893 m Cadair Idris instead, which has a similar geology but sees far fewer people. It’s also laced with legends, allegedly home of Idris the giant and hunting ground of Annwn, Lord of the Celtic Underworld. Arguably the best route up the mountain is the Minffordd Path, which climbs through a wooded gorge, passes the navy waters of Llyn Cau and scrambles to the ridge before finally reaching the top.,

The wildlife wander: Stackpole, Pembrokeshire

Distance: 10 km; 4 hours

Pick any part of seaside Pembrokeshire and you’re assured a wonderful walk. A 299 km National Trail hugs the whole coast – recommended, if you have time. But if you’ve only got one day, try a habitat-hopping loop from Stackpole. You’ll pass Barafundle (possibly the most beautiful beach in Wales) and then the seabird-busy cliffs at Stackpole Head. Next, the Warrens – a riot of wildflowers and butterflies – before Bosherston Lakes and lily ponds, where birdlife is rife and otters might be spotted.

The hidden valley: Ewyas, Monmouthshire

Distance: 14.5 km; 6 hours

There’s a secretive feel to the Vale of Ewyas, a spectacular steep-sided dale on the edge of the Black Mountains, and home to the ruins of Llanthony Priory. Make a loop from this atmospheric 12th-century survivor (now a hotel): hike up onto Hatterrall Ridge, follow Offa’s Dyke and drop to the hamlet of Capel-y-Ffin home to one of the country’s smallest churches. Then amble via sheep-nibbled farms to trace the ridge back to Llanthony.

The overlooked icon: Glyndwr’s Way, Powys

Distance: 43 km / 217 km; 2 / 9-10 days

A poll in June 2020 to determine the country’s favourite National Trail put Glyndwr’s Way near bottom, with just 0.4 per cent of the vote. But that’s all the more reason to take this wild wander across mid-Wales, to get some distance from the crowds. The route honours medieval noble and nationalist Owain Glyndwr, linking Knighton and Welshpool via hills, valleys, moorland and woodland, the Clywedog Valley, Lake Vyrnwy and Machynlleth (Glyndwr’s former home). Short on time? Llanidloes to Machynlleth (43 km) makes an excellent walking weekend.

The spiritual stroll: Llyn Peninsula, Gwynedd

Distance: 116 km; 6-7 days

At moments of crisis, many start searching for a different path. And pilgrimages offer just that, mentally and literally. So, in these troubling times, consider the Lleyn Pilgrims’ Trail, based on an ancient route pilgrims followed to reach Aberdaron, in order to sail to Ynys Enlli (Bardsey), the “Island of 20,000 Saints”. The route follows quiet coastal paths, passing wild beaches, traditional villages, a huge Iron Age hill fort, sixth-century churches and hilltops boasting big views to Snowdonia and over the Irish Sea.

The industrial escape: Snowdonia Slate Trail, Gwynedd

Distance: 134 km; 7 days

Only opened in 2017, this hike-cum-history lesson heads into some of the lesser-known reaches of Snowdonia National Park, exploring the area’s slate heritage. The result is a diverse mix of remote villages, remoter moors, forest trails, drovers’ roads, cavernous quarries and views to Snowdonia’s highest peaks. The reopening of the Welsh Highland and Ffestiniog Railways (from 20 July) widens the possibilities for day-hikes too – for example the 8 km stretch from Rhyd Ddu to Beddgelert, with both stops on the line.

(Article source: Inews)

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