Wales: a sustainable trip for every season

Tamara Hinson

written by
Tamara Hinson

updated 22.03.2022

Wales is truly a year-round destination. To put it simply, there’s no bad time to visit this beautiful country – a place where changing landscapes are unveiled with every season, and where there’s plenty of fun to be had, whatever the weather (and no shortage of cosy pubs, hotels and restaurants to retreat to should it take a turn for the worse).

And, while you wait until your next Welsh escape rolls around, we’ve got the perfect reading material - our fantastic free ebook, The Rough Guide to Responsible Wales. You might also want to consider these five eco-friendly holiday ideas in Wales, and discover 10 places to stay in Wales for a sustainable trip.

One thing's for sure, Wales has lots to offer all types of traveller in every season, with plenty of practical ways to travel better in Wales, not least if you opt to go green off-the-beaten-track.

Wales in Spring

Dare Valley Country Park, South Wales © Valleys Regional Park

Dare Valley Country Park, South Wales © Valleys Regional Park

Wales is the ideal destination for a springtime escape – the perfect antidote for anyone craving wide open spaces after a long dark winter cooped up at home.

Anyone who’s overindulged over the festive period should opt for some pedal power in the South Wales Valleys. BikePark Wales is one of the best locations for some two-wheeled fun – it’s got the UK’s largest selection of all-weather mountain biking trails, and there are plenty of options for those taking to the saddle for the first time.

These include the brilliant Ticket to Ride packages, designed specifically with beginners in mind. There are more adrenaline fixes on offer at Zip World, which is one of many attractions which reflect Wales’ passion for giving former industrial sites new leases of life.

Located at the former Tower Colliery coal mine, Zip World Tower comprises multiple ziplines in two totally separate zones. The standout attraction is Phoenix, on which you can race friends and family - there are four side-by-side lines and it’s the world’s fastest seated zipline.

We also love the appropriately-named Dare Valley Country Park in the beautiful Cynon Valley. There are some wonderful cycling trails here – including several hair-raising ones at Dare Valley Gravity Park for more experienced mountain bikers – and there are dedicated sessions for beginners, children and over 50s.

The park is a popular destination for hikers, too. In spring, wildflowers add welcome bursts of colour, and it’s a great time to explore the walking trails which encircle the lake and meander to the top of the valley – a great place for watching the local peregrines. The views over the Brecon Beacons are spectacular, too.

Energy levels still high? Parc Bryn Bach is another example of a former industrial landscape which has been repurposed – the land here was once ravaged by the process of mineral extraction, but years of tender loving care have returned it to its natural glory. It’s perfect for younger visitors, who can sign up for a wide range of masterclasses covering everything from bushcraft and archery to caving, climbing and kayaking – all in the heart of a pristine nature reserve.

Parc Bryn Bach operates a number of innovative biodiversity projects designed to attract wildlife, which is why it’s such a great place to spot a wide range of creatures. There are kingfisher nesting boxes and bat boxes, and beehives dotted across the park. The owners have also planted several rare tree species and created wildflower meadows designed to provide foraging opportunities for animals such as foxes.

Finally, we also recommend the Summit Centre, one of Wales’ top climbing destinations, and a brilliant place to hone skills before tackling tougher ascents. There’s on-site accommodation for keen climbers who can’t bear to drag themselves away, and other activities on offer include bush craft sessions – which provide a useful grounding for anyone keen to explore Wales in a more sustainable way.

Wales in Summer

Aerial view of New Quay, Ceredigion © Crown Copyright 2022 Visit Wales

Aerial view of New Quay, Ceredigion © Crown Copyright 2022 Visit Wales

There’s no denying that the summer months are the busiest in Wales, which is why we regard this period as the best time to seek out the country’s lesser-known treasures.

Doing so won’t just save huge amounts of time (nobody wants to spend their holiday in a queue, after all), but money, too – attractions away from the tourist trail will often offer brilliant deals in a bid to lure visitors away from the country’s most famous sights. The best bit? Those who visit these areas will be helping the environment by lightening the load on the areas which experience the highest footfall.

It’s also the best time for sustainable getaways, such as stays in yurts or in shepherds’ huts (although don’t get us wrong, a stay in this type of accommodation is a guaranteed way to crank up the cosiness during autumn and winter, too).

Cardigan Bay is a fantastic option for a summer holiday – there are a wide range of boat trips on offer, and plenty of wallet-friendly accommodation, such as the Ty Cwch Boathouse, where guests stay in cosy pods surrounding a communal kitchen and dining area.

It’s just a few metres from Cwmtydu Beach, which is a fabulous water sports destination – it’s the departure point for various boat tours, and activities available include kayaking, diving, kitesurfing and windsurfing.

Nearby New Quay should be on the radar of anyone keen to see dolphins, seals and harbour porpoises – all of which put in regular appearances during the summer months. Britain’s largest group of dolphins lives in Cardigan Bay, so sightings are a common occurrence, although boat trips are the best option for anyone keen to see them. The majority of tours take in locations such as Aberporth, Mwnt, Cardigan Island and Cemaes Head.

Wildlife fans keen to learn more will love the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The centre organises regular wildlife-spotting boat trips (including Dolphin Survey Boat Trips, which are ideal for anyone keen to learn more about the finer details of dolphin conservation), and the visitor centre is filled with exhibits providing an unbeatable insight into Wales’ marine life and coastal geology.

The centre is supported by a dedicated team of passionate volunteers with various areas of expertise, ranging from sustainable fishing to seabird conservation.

Other great places for summertime visitors include the Glamorgan Heritage Coast – a 14-mile stretch of coastline between Aberthaw and Porthcawl. Photographers flock here to take pictures of the pounding surf - the tidal range here is the second highest in the world after Canada’s Bay of Fundy.

Equally notable are the cliffs, made of rock known as blue lias, made from a combination of limestone and soft clay, the cliffs dates back to the Triassic and early Jurassic periods, making this region prime fossil-hunting territory.

For many, the highlights of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast are the historic sites, such as Nash Point Lighthouse, St Donat’s Castle and St Illtud’s Church in Llantwit Major. Hide at St Donats doubles as a great home-from-home for those who can’t bear to leave – there are yurts and a shepherd’s hut to sleep in, and guests can book yoga, pilates and mindfulness sessions.

Wales in Autumn

Elan Valley, Mid Wales © Crown Copyright 2022 Visit Wales

Elan Valley, Mid Wales © Crown Copyright 2022 Visit Wales

Say hello to Wales’ most underrated season – one which is all about glorious weather, glorious wildlife-spotting and crowd-free explorations of Wales’ beautiful best bits. This is one of the best times to head to one of Wales’ islands, of which there are around 100. Skomer Island is just one example.

Autumn is actually the best time to visit Skomer Island – this is the best season to spot seal pups and Manx shearwaters, dove-sized seabirds known for their huge wingspans.

Securing accommodation is much easier, too – visitors stay in the cosy Old Farm self-catering accommodation, and there are regular talks from experts. Boats depart for the island from Martin’s Haven every day at 10am.

It’s often said that the rugged Cambrian Mountains look their finest during the autumn months, and for further proof look no further than the Elan Valley, where its thick forests and lakes are a photographers’ dream.

Drive along the road which passes the Garreg Ddu and Pen y Garreg reservoirs for some seriously spectacular photo opportunities – in the late afternoon light Craig Goch Dam, with its backdrop of bracken-covered mountains, looks absolutely gorgeous.

The Wye Valley is another brilliant spot for leaf-peeping, although perhaps best suited to early risers – in autumn, the most stunning time to admire the landscape is first thing in the morning, when mist lingers in the valley’s deepest recesses.

Photographers on the hunt for the shot of a lifetime should head to thirteenth-century Tintern Abbey – on a chilly Autumn morning, it looks fabulously eerie, with wisps of fog floating through its skeletal remains.

Finally, Autumn provides the perfect excuse to indulge in some warming Welsh cuisine, ideally in one of the cosy pubs and country houses scattered across its most scenic regions. Carmarthenshire is a brilliant starting point – not only is it a great place for an autumn walk (it’s the landscape which inspired Dylan Thomas’s Poem in October, after all), but it’s also a county which is famous for its food.

For the ultimate combo, visitors should bed down in one of Carmarthenshire’s beautiful country houses, such as the dog-friendly Tŷ Mawr Country Hotel, with its sprawling gardens and menus filled with local, organic produce.

Wales in Winter

Christmas shopping, Morgan Arcade, Cardiff © Crown Copyright 2022 Visit Wales

Christmas shopping, Morgan Arcade, Cardiff © Crown Copyright 2022 Visit Wales

As much as we love a snow-capped Welsh mountain, Wales’ cities are brilliant options for a wintery weekend away.

Cardiff has some great Christmas markets, and the main one, in the heart of the pedestrianised area, can easily be combined with a visit to the nearby National Museum Cardiff, with its world-class collection of natural history exhibits.

Once visitors have browsed the market stalls – many of which specialise in sustainable, local produce - they can splash some cash at the boutiques in the Victorian and Edwardian shopping arcades, famous for their beautiful Christmas decorations. There’s plenty of mulled wine for when energy levels dip, too.

Visitors shopping for hard-to-please loved ones should make a beeline for the Carmarthenshire town of Llandeilo, which is famous for its craft stores and independent stores. Retail hotspots include Carmarthen Street, which has Chess Menswear (the ties are particularly spectacular) and Y Pantri Glas, a zero-waste shop which specialises in organic food and beauty products.

Shoppers keen to ensure their gifts have a low carbon footprint will love Rhosmaen Street’s The Little Welsh Dresser, a treasure trove for anyone looking for unusual gifts and homeware produced in Wales.

For stunning winter scenery it’s hard to beat North Wales. During these months, it’s a region filled with frozen lakes, snow-dusted peaks and some of the best winter walks in the UK.

For bracing hikes and cobweb-banishing blasts of sea air, we prescribe a ramble along the Anglesey Coast Path, our favourite section of which is the Rhoscolyn Headland Walk, a circular trail which weaves through woodland and past deserted coves.

Snowdonia is a brilliant option for a winter walk, too – between November and March, crowds are few and far between, and the colder months provide fantastic opportunities for star-spotting. Shooting stars are common occurrences, and it’s one of the best places in the UK from which to admire the Milky Way.

Snowdon is also home to a giant underground cave trampoline — another great way to experience Wales in winter.

Top image: Dolbadarn Castle, Snowdonia, North Wales © Crown Copyright 2022 Visit Wales

Wales is a destination that’s big on responsible travel, and we’ve got the ultimate accessory for anyone planning an eco-friendly escape – download your free ebook, The Rough Guide to Responsible Wales here:

Tamara Hinson

written by
Tamara Hinson

updated 22.03.2022

Tamara is a former snowboard instructor who's been a freelance travel writer for 12 years. She loves snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking and scuba diving, and the regions she knows best are Asia, America and Africa. Europe-wise she knows Germany and France very well. In normal times she does two or three trips a month. Follow her on Twitter @tamarahinson

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