News How to best explore the National Parks in Wales

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How to best explore the National Parks in Wales

We know that travel is especially difficult right now. But alongside the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you’ll be ready.

Blessed with dramatic mountain peaks, beautiful beaches and islands brimming with wildlife, just about the whole country of Wales looks like a National Park. While this is breathtaking, it can also be a bit overwhelming when you’re deciding where to start.

To help you explore the many marvels of Welsh nature, we’ve gathered the things that make each one of the National Parks in Wales unique. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or craving some fun with your kids or friends, there’s a perfect park in Wales for you.

For a romantic couple’s getaway

Snowdonia National Park

Snowdonia National Park

Spanning 2,130 sq km in northwestern Wales, Snowdonia is so big it feels more like a pocket universe than a park. Home to the UK’s highest peaks outside of Scotland, Snowdonia National Park is a goldmine for adventurers and nature lovers. And it only adds to the romance of the place. From medieval castles perched on lush hills to retro-looking trains trundling past lakes and mountains, Snowdonia National Park is the perfect backdrop for your own fairytale.

The best activities for couples in Snowdonia National Park

Conquer a mountain together

If true love can move mountains, it should at least be able to conquer them. Test your stamina together by hiking the mountain of Cader Idris in Southern Snowdonia. Located between Dolgellau and Barmouth, the hike to the summit of Cader Idris and back will take 5-6 hours. There are four different paths you can take, depending how much climbing you actually want to do. Beware: the path that looks the easiest, Fox’s Path, is actually the most treacherous.

Go on a romantic train ride

Due to the sheer size of Snowdonia, several narrow gauge railways cross the park. All the trains are beautifully retro, traversing diverse landscapes. But the Snowdon Mountain Railway might just be the most romantic ride in Snowdonia National Park. The 100-year-old railway oozes Victorian charm, making its way to the summit of Snowdon Mountain at a leisurely five miles per hour – making it a cinch to capture it all on camera. Passing through cascading waterfalls and ancient forests dotted with fairytale lakes, the train finally reaches the mountain summit. There, panoramic views of the park will steal your heart.

Survey the land from your castle

Snowdonia National Park is not short on castles. There are eight of them dotting the park and the surrounding area, built in the 13th century by local princes and subsequently claimed by King Edward I when he conquered Wales. Start your romantic journey at the well-preserved Caernarfon Castle, which rises above the Menai Strait with its multicoloured stones. Take a scheduled walk along the walls or attend one of the exhibitions inside. Other chances to feel like medieval royalty come at Cricieth Castle, on a craggy hill above Tremadog Bay, and at Dolbadarn Castle, where you can climb up the tower to see the same landscape its medieval guards once saw. And just outside the northern edges of Snowdonia National Park, the eight round towers of Conwy Castle await in classic splendour.

For fun with the whole family

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Sprawling across the wild, maritime landscapes of the west of the country, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is the only Welsh National Park to consist purely of coastal terrain. Its 629 sq km size makes it the perfect playground for families to wander around impressive sea caves, have some water sports-fuelled fun and go fishing and foraging to sample everything that sea and land have to offer.

The best activities for families in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Spend a playful day at the beach

With more than 50 beaches to choose from, and a bigger ratio of Blue Flags and Green Coasts than any of the National Parks in Wales, your little ones will never get bored here. To be on the safe side, pick one of the beaches with lifeguards present: Broad Haven North, Freshwater West, Newgale (North and Central), Newport Sands, Poppit Sands, Saundersfoot Beach, Tenby South Beach, Tenby Castle Beach and Whitesands. If you have older children or are confident about everyone’s swimming abilities, there are many quiet coves where you can have the whole sandy strip to yourselves. Pack lunch and umbrellas, as they don’t offer any amenities.

Try adventurous water sports

Most beaches in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park are great for watersports. Join an adventure group like Tyf that organizes anything from kayaking and surfing to coasteering and SUP, providing all the equipment and guidance you’ll need.

Teach the little ones to fish and forage

Want to show your kiddos a good time and teach them to respect nature while receiving its bounty? Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is one of the best places to go fishing or foraging. There are a lot of European saltwater bass you can fish here but you’ll need to have a qualified saltwater angling guide with you. Otherwise, learn to forage responsibly: from chanterelle mushrooms and edible greens to wild herbs, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is a treasure trove of foods to try and gather.

For outdoor adventures with friends

Brecon Beacons National Park

Brecon Beacons National Park

From the Black Mountains to the east to the (unrelated by similarly named) Black Mountain to the west, the Brecon Beacons National Park is a diverse adventure land. Covering approximately 1,347 sq km in south and central Wales, the Brecon Beacons offer anything from wild nature and rare flora and fauna to 250 ancient monuments, including prehistoric and Roman sites. With exciting hiking paths and diverse cave and rock formations, the Brecon Beacons is the best national parks in Wales for exploring with friends.

The best activities for friends in the Brecon Beacons

Walk the Beacons Way

Stretching for 158 km, the official trail of the Brecon Beacons National Park offers a great ‘choose your adventure’ opportunity for groups of friends. You can opt to complete the whole trail in eight days or plan smaller, linear walks alongside it. In either case, you’ll be rewarded with challenging terrain and some 8500 feet of ascent, passing glacial lakes, ancient standing stones and churches along the way. There are several towns along the trail, so you can do all your hiking during the day and return to civilisation for the night. You’ll need to keep phones and cameras charged too, as the views along the Beacons Way are stunning.

Go geocaching

Ever tried geocaching, a kind of GPS-dictated hide-and-seek? Either way, you should be thrilled to know there are more than 180 geocaches in the Brecon Beacons National Park. It’s a great way to combine outdoor adventure with technology, by downloading the app and using your phone GPS to look for geocaches, treasure-hunt style. If you’re not sure where to begin, the geocaching website offers all relevant information. You can even go analogue and try geocaching with just a map and compass.

Go caving and gliding

The Brecon Beacons National Park is equally impressive both below ground and seen from above. Why not try both? Thanks to a bed of limestone created 370 million years ago, the park offers one of the longest cave networks in all of Europe. Make sure to have an accredited guide with you though, as it can be dangerous if you don’t know your way. And if you’d rather soar to the skies instead, the Brecon Beacons offer some of the best sites in the UK for paragliding and hang gliding, with its grassy fields and hilltops serving as excellent take-off and landing spots.

FAQ about National Parks in Wales

Wales National Park

We’ve answered all the questions you may have about the parks in one handy section.

How many National Parks are there in Wales?

There are three National Parks in Wales: Snowdonia, Pembrokeshire Coast and Brecon Beacons. Together they cover 20% percent of Wales, so you’ll always find something new to explore.

Snowdonia hotels: Is there any accommodation within Snowdonia?

Yes. Within the park and in the surrounding area you’ll find five-star Snowdonia hotels and self-catering Snowdonia holiday cottages. Find out which ones are currently open here.

Are all outdoor activities of Snowdonia National Park available?

Many of the more adventurous activities like zip-lining and mountain carting are only just reopening after having closed due to the pandemic. Check the COVID-19 updates of the park here.

What are the best sites in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park?

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park has many sites worth visiting although you may not be able to check all of them with kids in tow. Among the best sites in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park are:

-St Davids Cathedral (a place of pilgrimage since the 12th century)
-Pembroke Castle, on a rocky promontory overlooking Milford Haven
-Pentre Ifan, the largest and best preserved neolithic dolmen in Wales

Are any of the National Parks in Wales good for stargazing?

Yes. Almost 20% of the land in Wales is dark sky reservation, so all National Parks are great for stargazing. The Brecon Beacons in particular has some of the highest-quality dark skies in the UK. You can see the Milky Way, major constellations, bright nebulas and meteor showers. Check out their many stargazing events here.

Looking for more UK staycation inspiration?

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Discover where you can go

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