Following seaside trails over rolling hills and strolling through medieval walled cities are among the delights offered by our Adventures in Wales trip. 10-time WT Adventurer Mary Chaffin chronicled her journey, which included visits to Dylan Thomas’ writing shed and summiting the tallest peak in Wales. Enjoy!
Our hiking adventure began in Cardiff, where we met the group and set off for our first hike. Beginning on Offa’s-Dyke Path, which traces the England-Wales border through the pastoral Wye Valley, we hiked from the English side, descending across the Wye River into Wales. After arriving, we spent the afternoon touring the masonry framework of Tintern Abbey, founded in 1131.
From our hotel, we rode to Brecon Beacons National Park to explore this enchanting region. We ascended through a wooded valley before stopping for a picnic lunch, then hiked above the tree line to Hay Bluff for beautiful views of the Wye Valley. From this vantage point, the pasturelands look like a patchwork quilt. After a steep descent to the van, we visited the book lovers’ paradise of Hay-on-Wye.
Heading west to Pembrokeshire National Park, we stopped to visit the village of Laugharne and strolled the Dylan Thomas Birthday Walk, a two-mile path based on one of Thomas’ works, “Poem in October.” We also visited his writing shed, home, and local watering hole. It was great to see where the acclaimed poet got some of his inspiration. In the afternoon, we toured the magnificent St. David’s Cathedral before continuing on to our charming hotel, Warpool Court, with its beautiful coastal views.
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path stretches some 186 miles, and we got to hike a portion of it in some of the most glorious weather. We began in St. Non’s Bay, traditionally accepted to be St. David’s birthplace (and named after his mother). After visiting St. Non’s well and chapel we started our hike along the rugged coast to Whitesands Bay. Passing beautiful fields of heather and gorse, watching sea birds glide over the cliffs, and feeling the warm sun on our backs created the perfect hiking day.
Everywhere we looked, we were overwhelmed by surreal vistas.
Today, we headed north to Snowdonia National Park and had a fun stop at the National Coracle Center, where a local enthusiast introduced us to coracles: simple boats, often covered with animal hide, that have been used since 8,000 BC. We arrived in the medieval walled town of Conwy in the mid-afternoon and walked along the town’s walls and nearby bridges. The stonework in this region was absolutely stunning.
It’s not a hiking adventure in Wales without a bit of rain! Our hike in Snowdonia National Park brought us through heather moorlands up to a mountain pass carved with lovely waterfalls that gave way to beautiful views. In the afternoon, we visited Llanrhychwyn Church, thought to be the oldest in Wales. The hike ended in the village of Trefriw, which boasts one of Wales’ remaining working wool mills. We’d earned the local wine and cheese tasting that we enjoyed that night.
Snowdon is the highest peak in Wales and England, and we had options about which way we wanted to summit it. Some of us opted to hike, others took the train up and hiked down, and some took the train both ways. No matter which you reached the summit, it was a beautiful day with spectacular views over the area. Even the gulls seemed to be enjoying the vista!
Our final day brought us to Caernarfon Castle, one of Edward I’s four castles built to control Wales. In 1969, the young Prince Charles was invested as The Prince of Wales here. In the afternoon, we headed to the island of Anglesey with a stop at the train station of the longest place name in Britain (can you pronounce it?). To top off our adventure, we enjoyed beautiful music from a local harpist and celebrated a fellow traveler’s birthday.
Altogether, it was a beautifully orchestrated journey, and one I will not soon forget.
—Text and photos by 10-time WT Adventurer Mary Chaffin, Adventures in Wales.