3 Best National Parks in Wales
The entire country of Wales looks like a National Park with its dramatic mountain peaks, beautiful beaches and islands bustling with wildlife. Although the scenes and wildlife here are stunning, they can be overwhelming for visitors trying to find out where to start your tour of Wales.
Welsh National Parks are among the best places to start your visit. Even though Wales has only three national parks, each of them is unique, offering exceptional features and fantastic experiences. The parks cater to visitors looking for varying experiences from romantic getaways to fun and adventurous activities for you, your kids, friends and family. All you have to do is find the right park for the activities you have in mind.
1. Snowdonia National Park
Designated as a national park in 1951, Snowdonia National Parks is one of the largest parks in the region, spanning 2,176km2. Located in Gwynedd and Conwy, the park is brimming with numerous activities for adventure and nature lovers and also has plenty of romantic activities and getaways.
The park offers 60km of coastline, 700kmof rivers, 2,411km of footpaths and 264km of Bridleways. With so much to do, it’s no wonder that Snowdonia National Park is one of the most popular in Wales. The common activities in the park are climbing and hiking owing to the park’s unique selection of rugged peaks.
Snowdonia is home to mighty Snowdon, the highest peak south of Scotland and the knife-edged Crib Goch, which is one of the hairiest routes to the peak in the country.
Snowdonia has outstanding picturesque villages, steep river gorges, waterfalls, peatlands, moorland, and wooded valleys other than the mountains.
Considering its diversity and magnificence, it’s no wonder that Snowdonia has been featured in various films like the Highlander, Tarzan, Clash of the Titans and the Tomb Raider.
Must-Try Activities in Snowdonia
Climbing and Hiking
When in Snowdonia, you’re spoilt for choice on the number of walking and hiking trails to choose. Whether you’re interested in a low-level, scenic and romantic route or looking to challenge yourself on the mighty Crib Goch, Snowdonia has something for you. The mountain of Cader Idris hike is also a must-try.
There are several narrow gauge railways that snake across the park. Train rides are an excellent way to get around the park when you’re looking to maximise your time year. These are not just any trains but retro trains that traverse the diverse landscapes.
The most impressive of all is the Snowdon Mountain railway. The 100-year old railway is overflowing with Victorian charm and works its way to the peak of Snowdon at a relaxing five miles per hour.
Don’t forget to check out the magnificent Caernarfon Castle, Conwy Castle and Cricieth Castle while in Snowdonia National Park.
2. Brecon Beacons National Park
Located in Carmarthenshire, Powys and Monmouthshire, Wales, the Brecon Beacons National Park is a 1,347 sq km paradise that was established in 1957. The park is best known for its spectacular upland formation and an impressive collection of glacial lakes, high moors, rolling heathlands and thundering waterfalls, most notable among them the Henrhyd Falls – the tallest waterfall in Wales.
On the northwest side of the park lies another marvel – the Llyn Fan y Fach, which is a 20,000-year-old glacial lake that featured in 2007’s Stardust movie.
What makes Brecon Beacons Park such an excellent place is its diversity. Other than stunning natural lakes and falls, the park also has a dark sky reserve that offers extraordinary night skies, perfect for stargazers. The area is protected from human encroachment, so you’re always assured of an excellent view every time you visit the park. There are only 13 other dark sky reserves in the world, with two of them in Wales.
The park is an excellent choice when looking for adventure with family and friends. Some of the activities to take part in while here include:
- The Beacons Way – This 150km stretch is the official trail of the Brecon Beacons National park. It offers a great selection of activities for groups, including completing the entire trail in eight days or taking smaller and more linear walks. In total, the trails cover over 4,500 feet of ascent, glacial lakes, ancient standing stones and churches along the way.
- Caving and gliding – If you think the park looks great from the ground, wait until you see it from above. You can visit some of the longest cave networks in the world created over 370 million years ago from the ground. You can also take part in paragliding to catch some excellent views of the park from above.
3. Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is perfect for family fun. It’s the only park in Wales to have a purely coastal terrain within its 629sq km. It makes the perfect playground for families looking to have fun in its expansive sea caves and variety of water sports.
While here, you can go finishing or foraging to sample everything the coastal line has to offer. The park’s 299km coast path that winds along the lighthouses, lagoons, dramatic headlands and surf-beaten cliffs with a superb collection of beaches to cater to the needs of every visitor who gives this exceptional park a chance.
Pembrokeshire is not just limited to the beaches and the coastline. It’s also thriving with wildlife too. The range of wildlife includes everything from cliff-tops, seabirds, puffins, grassholm, Stockholm, skomers and Ramseys.
On a clear sunny day, you can also catch the dolphins and seals as they play close to the shore. What makes the Pembrokeshire trail remarkable is you don’t have to walk the entire trail. There’s a year-round bus that traces the coast, so walkers can pick up the trail at their preferred locations instead of walking the entire trail.
There’s plenty to go around while here. But if one great, picturesque beach is all you’re after, no one can fault you if you decide to stick to one location for your entire stay.
For beach chasers, Barafundle Bay and Whitesands are a must-see while here. Freshwater West also incorporates a vast range of activities, including surfing and for some sailing, you can head down to Dale, while Newgale beach is perfect for kitesurfing.
Despite having a mere three national parks, the country of Wales sits right at the top with some of the best destinations in the UK in terms of experience. The expansive parks offer plenty of activities and diversity of nature for everyone that comes to pay them a visit.