March, Mis Mawrth, comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. On the 20th of the month each year the spring equinox marks the moment when day and night are an equal twelve hours each, and no matter where you are on the planet the sun rises due east and sets due west.
Wales is peppered with beautiful and historically significant places, perfect for watching the sun rise. Set your alarm early and take along a hot flask, and you will be rewarded with a special moment of calm. Welcome the spring, connect with the local heritage, and snap a perfect photo.
Castell Dinas Bran, Llangollen
Medieval arches and angry giants
On the northern outskirts of Llangollen is a pointy hill crowned with the ruins of a medieval castle. It’s clearly a summit that needs to be conquered – there’s proof that beneath the ruins are remains of a timber stronghold, and an iron age hillfort too.
The castle was in use for just twelve short years. In this time, according to legend, the princess Myfanwy Fychan lived here. The famous song ‘Myfanwy’, often sung by Welsh male voice choirs, was written about her.
Castell Dinas Bran is also mentioned in a 12th century story. A band of Norman knights dare to stay overnight in the haunted ruins and defeat the tyrannical giant Gogmagog. He apparently left behind treasure, so keep an eye out.
The climb is steep but short, and the panoramic view from the top is well worth it. Enjoy the sunrise framed by the arches, then back down for a coffee in town and the comforting knowledge that spring is on the way.
Read more: Castles of Wales with the strangest stories
St Lythan’s burial chamber, Cardiff
Whirling stones and the return of the sun
This 6000-year-old burial chamber near Cardiff is older than Stonehenge and the pyramids. The stones were part of a Neolithic long barrow, aligned due east/west. During equinoxes the sun rises directly ahead of the entrance, and would have penetrated the length of the chamber. It is suggested that the barrow signifies a ceremonial womb.
St Lythan's enormous four-metre capstone is still balanced above three tall upright stones. This is unvarnished history – there are no facilities, and the site has never been excavated. Just park in a layby, trek the short way across the field and enjoy the quiet sunrise: just you, the stones, and whatever lies beneath.
There are other good times to visit the chamber. On midsummer’s eve the capstone apparently whirls around three times while the other stones go down to the river to bathe! And should you visit at Halloween, whisper a wish to the stones and it will be granted.
Bardsey Island, Gwynedd
Meditative calm and sunrise over the sea
Out at the end of the Llŷn Peninsula is Bardsey Island, Ynys Enlli, a much-loved off-grid pilgrimage destination. It is famously supposed to be the resting place of 20,000 saints, and has great multi-faith spiritual meaning.
The saints were pilgrims who’d made the difficult crossing to Bardsey at the end of their lives. They would gaze into the sunset in the west, and the promise of the next world. But to see the sun come up you have to climb the little island’s single hill. Look back over the steep cliff and rough channel to the curve of Cardigan Bay. This is one of the few places in Wales where you can see the sun rise over the sea.
The Enlli houses have no electric lights, hot water, or mobile reception, so it’s the perfect place to stop and take stock, bidding farewell to the winter and welcoming in the summer.
The Golden Road, Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire
Jagged bluestones and magical pigs
The Golden Road is a seven-mile Neolithic route along the wild moorland of the Preseli ridge, between the jagged bluestone hilltops. It runs west to east, so an equinox walk would be truly golden. Head from Foel Eryr, the Place of the Eagle, into the path of the rising sun.
There’s a lot to contemplate while you walk, as the route passes many burial cairns of Bronze Age VIPs, the impressive long-inhabited Iron Age fort of Foel Drygarn, and the living museum fort of Castell Henllys. The area is steeped in Arthurian legend, and this path was stalked by the ‘wereboar’ Twrch Trwyth, the size of a battlehorse.
It may have been a trading route, for droving animals and carrying Irish gold to Wessex. It was perhaps also the route of the enormous bluestone slabs which became the inner circle of Stonehenge, 160 miles away.
Most excitingly of all, it was recently found that many bluestones ring like bells when hit with small hammer stones, suggesting a musical ritual, or a knees-up, 4000 years ago!
Cader Idris, Snowdonia, Gwynedd
Climb above the clouds
What better way to make yourself proud than with a sunrise summit challenge? Cader Idris is one of the best places to experience an inversion, when the sunlit summit stands proud of the cloud below. It’s several hours to the top, but sunrise on the Chair of the giant Idris makes the effort worthwhile.
The mountain has all sorts of bardic significance, and is thick with legends of the bard Taliesin. One of the most intriguing notions is that the position of the stars during the equinox are mirrored by the shapes of the mountain on the ground.
Climbing Cader in the pre-dawn is no mean feat and Wild Trails Wales' Nia Lloyd Knott advises doing a daytime recce climb of the mountain first. 'Because the base of the mountain is lower than that of Snowdon, it’s actually as big an ascent, of 800m or more. My advice is to suss out the walk in the light in advance, and choose a route that you are comfortable with.'
Read more: Climbing Cader Idris