Lots of cultures celebrate May Day. The Romans had the festival of Flora, the Gaelic people had Beltain, while Germanic tribes enjoyed a spot of Walpurgisnacht.
The ancient Welsh festival goes by the rather lovely name of Calan Mai, in which we celebrate the arrival of summer; traditionally by drinking lots of mead. Nowadays, though, May bank holiday is more likely to be spent enjoying on a weekend break or a day out.
Here's some great ideas for things to do in Wales over May bank holiday.
Visit Magical Bluebell woods
The purple haze of bluebells is one of Wales’ greatest natural wonders. They peak in early May, so it's a great idea for a May Bank Holiday day out. It’s hard to pick a favourite place to see them, because they look spectacular in any ancient woodland setting - of which we’ve got plenty. The Woodland Trust’s hot tip is Coed Cefn Woods near Crickhowell, which has the added benefit of an Iron Age hill fort. No doubt our ancestors would have appreciated the bluebells, too, and not just because they’re gorgeous to look at: they used bluebell bulb glue to stick feathers in their arrows.
If you're heading to West Wales, there are several fabulous gardens you can visit with woodland bluebell trails including the impressive National Botanic Garden of Wales and the family-friendly Cae Hir Gardens near Lampeter.
There are more beautiful bluebell walks across Wales, check out our list of bluebell trails for further inspiration.
Have fun at Heatherton World of Activities
The clever thing about Heatherton World of Activities near Tenby is that it’s free to get in: you only pay for the activities you fancy. So older children might head straight for the high wires, go-karting and paintball, or the tree tops trail, while younger ones might prefer the adventure golf, soft play, a ride on the barrel train, mini-pedalos or play areas. There's family fun to be had on the dragon slide, bumper boats, giant inflatable zorbs, water wars, archery and much more. There are accessible features too. What's more, being dog-friendly, even the family pet can take part with the dog agility course.
Ride the Heart of Wales Railway
How about this for a weekend adventure? One of the top May bank holiday things to do is a train ride. These friendly little trains run for 121 miles between Swansea and Shrewsbury on the Heart of Wales line, one of Britain’s loveliest train routes. From lazy estuarine beginnings, it heads through the richly pastured Towy Valley and up into red kite country, where it rattles over mighty viaducts, and plunges into tunnels drilled deep into the mountains, before it emerges blinking into the sunlit uplands around the Mid Wales spa towns, and onwards to the border.
There are several great market towns along the way, but most of the stops are just simple platforms on the edge of rural hamlets. If you want to stretch your legs, the Heart of Wales Trail roughly follows the railway route.
Wander the Wales Coast Path
Get outdoors on the May Bank Holiday weekend and explore some of the 870 miles of the Wales Coast Path. You'll find short walks, which are great for family walks. What about the circular St Davids Head coastal walk, which is about 3.75 miles (6 km) or how about doing a 3 mile (5 km) circuit on the Llansteffan walk? There are some accessible sections on the Wales Coast Path, including the Millennium Coastal Path, a family friendly, mostly flat part of the path suitable for buggies, wheelchairs and cycling. There are also some great heritage walks, and plenty of places to see wonderful wildlife.
Make a splash at Cardiff International White Water
Have a family fun day out May Bank Holiday and plunge into the man-made wild waters of Cardiff International White Water. There are activities suitable for children over six, with special family adventure packages available. Have a weekend of fun with activities that include rafting, hydro-speed, standup paddleboarding (SUP), kayaking, hot-dogging and the high rope Air Trail.
Go wild at Welsh Mountain Zoo
If you're looking for things to do on the bank holiday, how about a trip to the Welsh Mountain Zoo? The Penguin Parade, Chimp Encounter and Sea Lion Feeding are twice-daily highlights at the zoo, set high above Colwyn Bay. There’s a strong conservation ethos to the zoo, which is helping in the fight to save endangered species from around the world, including the zoo’s own snow leopards, red pandas and Sumatran tigers. Younger kids will love the children's farm, plus there are four different animal encounters for age 7+ and there's keeper for a day experience for teens/adults 16+.
Apart from the animals, there are facilities for different all age groups, including a Jungle Adventureland and Tarzan Trail Adventure Playground for children to go wild in. The Welsh Mountain Zoo website includes detailed accessibility information to help you plan your visit.
See the red kites from the Carmarthenshire Fans
The Carmarthenshire Fans, that’s ‘fans’ pronounced ‘vans’, is a wildly wonderful western edge of the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) mountain range, and the least visited of its peaks. It’s a good family walk from the car park near Llanddeusant: hard enough to feel like a proper mountain, but easily doable in a morning. At the top, the jagged escarpment of Picws Du plunges down into the depths of Llyn y Fan Fach, home of the legendary Lady of the Lake. And if you don’t see a multitude of red kites along the way, we’ll give you a piggy-back down. Honest.
May bank holiday weekend break
There's so much to do during the month of May, with the three Bank Holidays and half term, why not making a weekend of it and book somewhere to stay? Take a well deserved relaxing break in Wales in a cottage. There are cottages suitable for people with pets and for those people with various accessibility requirements.
There are plenty of really great hotels to enjoy a family break or treat yourselves to a luxury hotel. Get close to nature and enjoy the freedom of camping and caravanning, or add a bit of luxury on a glamping break. If you have accessibility requirements there's a wealth of information on our accessible holidays section.