Wales’s varied terrain lends itself to a whole host of activities, from the relaxing to the rather more vigorous. And whether you get on your bike, horse or surfboard, you are guaranteed a beautiful backdrop.
Abergavenny, which declares itself Wales’s capital of cycling, holds an annual
festival to prove it (8–14 July 2013). This includes the Iron Mountain Sportif,
with 20-, 50- and 100-mile courses through the Brecon Beacons, as well as a
leisure route for families. The Beacons also have regular cycling trails and 14
graded mountain-biking routes.
six purpose-built mountain-biking centres, among which Coed-y-Brenin Forest
Park near Dolgellau is the premier. Covering 3,600 hectares, it’s laced with 70
miles of trails divided into seven graded routes, from the MinorTaur to the
Beast of Brenin. Find your way with old-fashioned waterproof trail cards or
downloadable geocaches and MP3 audio files. You can hire
bikes from £25 a day.
Wales’s most popular long-distance rides, the Celtic Trail is part of the
National Cycle Network. A 220-mile route snaking from Fishguard along the
Pembrokeshire Coast and ending at Chepstow Castle, it provides glorious views.
You can tackle parts of the trail, but if you fancy attempting the whole thing,
allow yourself four days. End points are linked by train (Celtic Trail; NCN
Powerful tidal currents create huge waves between the Pembrokeshire Coast and
off-shore islands, making this one of the UK’s finest sea-kayaking areas for
seasoned enthusiasts. Freshwater Bay and Newgale beach are favourite locations,
where you can also explore coves and sea caves in calm weather. TYF, in St Davids,
offers various kayaking adventures (half-day £58).
Peninsula, with its broad butterscotch beaches and pounding breakers, is home
to the Welsh surfing industry. Hotspots include Caswell Bay, Mumbles, Langland
Bay and Oxwich Bay but the most impressive beach, and most popular with
surfers, is the three-mile sweep of Rhossili Bay. Access is via a path next to
the Worm’s Head Hotel. Sam’s Surf Shack hires boards and wetsuits, and provides
lessons (half-day board hire £12).
excellent National Watersports Centre, Plas Menai, is three miles outside
Caernarfon and has year-round water-based courses for all interests and
abilities. The sheltered waters of the Menai Straits are ideal for learning
dinghy sailing and windsurfing (plasmenai.co.uk; introductory courses from
£140). Once you’ve got the skills, head to nearby Rhosneigr, on the Isle of
Anglesey, which is establishing itself as a centre for windsurfing.
On a summer day Tenby’s beaches are packed with holidaymakers, but during the
night and at dawn it’s fishing territory, with bass, mullet, flounder, mackerel
and plaice on the menu. If you’re not up for working under the cloak of
darkness, Tenby Fishing offers sea-angling trips to Caldey Island – ideal for
beginners and families (£12).
Snowdon is Wales’s highest peak. Six routes of varying length and hiking
difficulty criss-cross it – Watkin Path (eight miles; eight hours) is the most
challenging, involving an ascent of more than 1,000m on its southerly approach
from Nantgwynant. The Snowdon Sherpa bus service connects all paths at the
base, allowing you to ascend via one and descend using another.
sandy beaches, rolling hills and dense forests are an attractive proposition
for horse riders. The 28-sq-mile Gwydyr Forest, planted since the 1920s with
oak, beech and ash, is home to Gwydir Stables, which arranges rides for all
abilities. It has more than 30 horses, and everything from a half-hour ride
(£19) to the Pub Ride (£50) – five hours with stops for a pint or two along the
Cardiff’s international airport receives flights from Edinburgh, Newcastle,
Glasgow, Belfast and Jersey with Flybe and Eastern Airways (from £80). Fast trains run to Cardiff from Bristol (one hour), Birmingham (two
hours) and London Paddington (two hours; from £24). London trains also stop at
Newport, Swansea, Bangor and Holyhead. National Express
runs services from most major UK cities. The Cambrian Mountains, Brecon Beacons
and Snowdonia create a north-south divide – it’s quicker to duck in and out of
England to get from the capital to the north.
Where to stay
Eco-conscious breakfasts and stacks of local information are served with a
smile at Tides Reach Guest House, a smart Victorian waterfront B&B in
Mumbles. Our favourite room is the suite-like attic (388 Mumbles Rd; from £70).
B&B, Llandudno’s first boutique b&b, has given its nine rooms a major
makeover. Each is individually themed – Retro Green, for example, has oak
flooring, a Conran sofa and G-Plan desk (48 Church Walks;
guesthouse in Snowdonia National Park, French antiques and ornate fireplaces
are mixed with chandeliers and claw- foot tubs. The lounge comes with books, an
honesty bar and a piano (Love Lane, Dolgellau; from
The article 'Mini guide to activities in Wales' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.