Inspirational scenery is around every bend of our National Trails. There are 1,368 miles (2,200km) of the finest walking in the world, with towns and villages along the way in which to relax and recharge.
Pembrokeshire Coast Path
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path twists and turns its way through 186 miles (300km) of the most breathtaking coastal scenery in Britain. From St Dogmaels in the north to Amroth in the south, the trail covers almost every kind of maritime landscape from rugged cliff tops and sheltered coves to wide-open beaches, winding estuaries, ancient harbours and fishing villages. It takes about two weeks to do the whole thing – but it’s easy to break into short hops, using the excellent local bus service.
Highlights of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path
The northern section has a couple of fascinating features: the giant collapsed sea cave called Pwll y Wrach (the Witches’ Cauldron), and the Blue Lagoon, an old slate quarry that’s been picturesquely swamped by the sea.
Head inland from the Roman harbour at Porth Clais and you’ll soon reach the little cathedral city of St David’s. On the opposite tip of St Bride’s Bay, the islands of Skomer and Skokholm are a wildlife paradise.
The 8th century King of Mercia built this mighty earthwork to keep the Welsh out (we’re a bit unruly, apparently) and it still roughly marks the present England-Wales border. The Offa's Dyke National Trail runs coast-to-coast for 177 miles (285km) through the beautiful borderlands, a changing landscape of mountain ranges and secluded valleys, dotted with some very fine market towns. The Offa’s Dyke Centre is at the mid-way point in Knighton; it’s run by the Offa's Dyke Association, who are a great source of info and inspiration.
Highlights of Offa’s Dyke
The trail rises to its highest point along Hatterall Ridge, which runs along the Black Mountains range in the Brecon Beacons, with Llanthony Priory below, and the classy book town of Hay-on-Wye ahead.
The official beer of the Offa’s Dyke Path is brewed in Montgomery by Monty's, so it would be a shame not to drop in for a pint. Two splendid stately homes, Powis Castle and Chirk Castle, are worth a diversion on the way to pretty Llangollen.
Owain Glyndŵr was the last native Welshman to hold the title Prince of Wales, leading a major rebellion against the English in the early 1400s. The 135-mile (217km) Glyndŵr's Way trail follows in his footsteps on a loop from Knighton to Welshpool, through rolling farmland and open moorland, past lakes and forests, through one of the least inhabited parts of Britain. The half-way point is Machylleth, where Glyndŵr held his first parliament in 1404.
Highlights of Glyndŵr’s Way
The moorland northwest of Knighton is a taste of things to come: apart from the wildlife, livestock and the occasional farmer, you’re likely to have the place to yourself. Look out for the remains of Cwmhir Abbey: it was once the biggest in Wales.
The stretch from Llanidloes runs up past Llyn Clywedog up to the highest point on the trail, Foel Fadian, which has splendid views down to Machylleth and the sea beyond. It’s worth taking a day off in Machynlleth – it’s got lots of good pubs and places to eat, and attractions include the MOMA art gallery and the Centre for Alternative Technology.
Wales Coast Path
In 2012 we created the world’s first uninterrupted route along a national coastline. The Wales Coast Path covers all the famous bits on its 870-mile (1,400km) odyssey: Gower, Pembrokeshire, the Cambrian Coast, the Llŷn Peninsula. There are numberless beaches, estuaries, cliff-tops and woodlands. City waterfronts, castles and the occasional industrial site among the nature reserves but that’s part of Wales; part of the voyage of discovery.
Highlights of the Wales Coast Path
Are we allowed to say, ‘All of it’? It seems unfair to pick coastal highlights. But life’s not fair, so… Conwy for the castle, Llanddwyn Island for romance, Porthdinllaen for a pint, Portmeirion for a potter, Aberystwyth for culture, New Quay for dolphins, Newport for food, Skomer for wildlife, Tenby for sandcastles, Three Cliffs for walks, Barry Island for chips … and you can pick a hundred more, for a hundred different reasons.