Top 10 Hiking Trails in Wales


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Top 10 Hiking Trails in Wales

With its sometimes rugged terrain and beautiful valleys, Wales should be on the map for anyone who wants to do a multi-day hike.

Though not as high as the Munros of Scotland, the climbs and descents over a one-to-two week hike won’t leave your legs asking for more at the end.

Some of the walks we detail here ascend the highest mountains in the country, but the coastal paths are no less challenging or beautiful.

In this list we look at some routes that date back to Roman times in parts but others that have only recently been developed.

For all you will need to be equipped for different conditions and should be well versed in paper and GPS navigation.

That said, you don’t have to spend two weeks in a tent and carrying 30kg of gear. In many cases you will find companies and organisations that can help you walk between hotels and B&Bs, allowing you just to carry the gear you need for the day on the hills/mountains.

Even if B&B hopping, be ready for some long days and sore legs from your adventures across this astoundingly beautiful, yet under-rated country!

Snowdonia Challenge

Length of route: 86 kilometres
Average time to complete: 1-3 days
Difficulty: 4/5
Starts at: Llanberis
Finishes at: Llanberis
Ascent: 6753 metres
Best for: All 24 peaks of Snowdonia – can you handle it?!

The walk is also recognised as the Heart of Snowdonia 24 Peaks Challenge.

The three day version of the 24 Peaks Challenge is a wilderness hike with the odd chance to refuel at a cafe – bring all the gear you need for three days on the hill.

We grade this as the hardest walk on this list despite its relative shortness, as it involves a lot of climbing and descents at a fair clip, and is only for someone who can hack a hard pace at a fairly constant level.

Day One from Llanberis to the base of Cnicht is 17 miles with 2,386m of ascents.

This is the day you fight your way through tourists on Snowdon and then get out into the wilderness for the next two, no less brutal days.

Day 2 takes you over five peaks (Cnicht, Moel Druman, Allt-Fawr, Carnedd Moel Siabod, Pen Llithrig y Wrach) over 17.4 miles and 1890 metres of ascent.

You will get in touch with just you and the mountains for much of the rest of the walk.

The final 19.4 miles (31km) involves 2,477m of ascents and a whopping 11 peaks (Pen yr Helgi Du, Carnedd Llywelyn, Carnedd Dafydd, Pen yr Ole Wen, Tryfan, Glyder Fach, Glyder Fawr, Y Garn, Foel-goch, Carnedd y Filiast, Elidir Fawr).

Climbing Sinister Gulley up Bristley Ridge on Glyder Fach can be a hairy moment with good balance required on jellied legs if you are carrying your wilderness gear as you go.

The peak at Elidir Fawr is the last one before you descend to Llanberis, fantasising about beer and a bath!

Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Length of route: 312 kilometres
Average time to complete: 2 weeks (including two rest days)
Difficulty: 3/5
Starts at: St Dogmaels
Finishes at: Amroth Castle
Ascent: 10,668 metres
Best for: Appreciating one of the wildest coasts in the UK

You must start on a Sunday or Monday to do the whole walk as the 13th stage crosses a firing range only open to the public at weekends!

The walk around Pembrokeshire’s coast involves almost every type of coastline you will see in the UK – high cliffs, long beaches and craggy inlets to surprise you all the way.

From an ancient history perspective you will see Neolithic cromlechs and Iron Age promontory forts as well the churches and chapels of the seafaring early Celtic saints and their followers.

Modern life hasn’t changed a lot for local residents. You will see working fishing villages and isolated farms as you go, all once connected to the world only by sea.

Unlike many of the routes we detail here, the route is well signposted and even has its own website that gives news of any diversions or issues with the route.

You need to be quite experienced to do the walk end to end as there are challenging parts.

Heading south from St Dogmaels you will find the hardest days early in the walk.

This stage can be broken into two with a 0.8 mile diversion inland to Moylgrove from from Ceibwr.

Between Pwll Deri and Porthgain the path is in a zone of erosion and is periodically moved inland for safety. Be responsible and follow any diversions.

Two days later you get to Whitesands Bay – a famous local surfing beach just half an hour’s walk from the cathedral city of St Davids, founded by the Patron Saint of Wales.

Day 10 will require some local research – at low tide you can shave a day’s walking by crossing the causeway between Dale and Musselwick at low tide.

Day 13 you must cross a military firing range at Broad Haven that is also one of Europe’s most important nature reserves (nothing like a bit of heavy weaponry to protect the environment!).

The last two days are undulating but pass along some of the best beaches in Europe – and are nothing as crowded as those in warmer climes!

The Beacons Way

Length of route: 159 kilometres
Average time to complete: 8 days
Difficulty: 3.5/5
Starts at: Abergavenny
Finishes at: Bethlehem (the Welsh one)
Ascent: 5910 metres
Best for: Seeing the Brecon Beacons at their best

You cover similar total ascent on far longer walks in this article, with one day climbing 1110 metres on a leg killing, hard day on the mountains.

We add half a point to the difficulty as the Beacons Way isn’t the best signposted route and you will find navigation challenging at times.

You will be rewarded for your navigation by seeing bits of this range that few others get to do.

Elite soldiers from the British Army do fitness train in the Brecon Beacons, and though this means you may see young upstarts with far heavier backpacks than you going like the clappers on some of this walk, the fact they use this region is testament to its difficulty at times.

Starting in the lowlands of the Brecon Beacons National Park you head from Abergavenny to Llanthony on day one, warming your legs for the next few days on the trail.

From Llanthony you enter the Black Mountains and with some harsh but rewarding climbs get to pause in Crickhowell, for many the gateway to the Brecons.

Day 4 from Llangynidr to Storey Arms is one of the most isolated stretches with no villages or towns from end to end – just you, the mountains and the occasional road crossing.

It also involves 1110 metres of ascents, including to the highest peak in Southern Britain, Pen Y Fan – a steep but stunning piece of wilderness that makes the leg killing stage well worth your time.

Day 7 is notable in that though the climbs aren’t so brutal, you are on open moorland and this requires careful navigation as you could end up in trouble from poor nav skills.

Though B&B hopping is possible on the route, be equipped for sudden weather changes and to take a break rather than push on regardless.

As a final note, the route was changed in 2005, adding some miles, and it is advisable to use the Breacon Beacons website to get the exact details.

The Dyfi Valley Way

Length of route:163 kilometres
Average time to complete: 2 weeks
Difficulty: 2.5/5
Starts at: Aberdovey
Finishes at: Borth
Ascent: 6650 metres
Best for: One of the most beautiful rivers in Wales

Not the best known of walks but nonetheless one of the most beautiful and steeped in legend of King Arthur.

From the outset you are climbing mountains and being rewarded with upland views of forested lowlands.

The Dyfi Valley Way follows the River Dyfi up from the estuary to its source at Lake Bala, turns back and heads to the coast path and to Borth on the southern side of the estuary.

Close to the midpoint of the walk at the lake-source of the River Dyffi are two important sites – Camlan, where King Arthur is supposed to have had his last battle.

This is followed by a hard climb up Aran Fawddwy, which at 2,971 ft (906 metres) is the highest peak south of Snowdon in the UK.

On Day 5, from ridge walking and hill climbs, the route takes you through the Western forest outside Pennal.

Day 6 brings you through the Eastern forest and down the slopes to the coast at Borth.

One thing to note – this is the poorest-marked route in this article and you will only do it with strong navigational skills and good planning – thus the added difficulty we show in the summary.

The Wye Valley Walk

Length of route: 218 kilometres
Average time to complete: 9 days (including two rest days)
Difficulty: 2.5/5
Starts at: Chepstow
Finishes at: Plynlimon
Descent: 680 metres (though you will climb and descend far more than that!)
Best for: Walking the stunning Wye Valley from the sea to the mountain spring.

This route isn’t for beginner long distance walkers.

Starting at sea level with some harsh climbs, you will end up high in the Welsh Uplands where the river emerges from the mountainside.

The longest river entirely in Wales, this is also one of the most beautiful with its forests breaking into agricultural lands and ultimately into the barren uplands.

Day one begins the walk through forest tracks up to the ruined Tintern Abbey (definitely worth a pause) before finishing in Monmouth.

Day three from Ross-on-Wye to Hereford is your first difficult day thanks to some quite tough climbing and descents.

If you get time, do drop into Hereford Cathedral to see the Mappa Mundi, the world’s first map of the planet – a fanciful interpretation but no less intriguing.

Days 5-7 you move from the rural, agricultural landscape and into the uplands.

The walking gets tough at times, with some steep climbs close to the end of stages that could bring tears to tired eyes!

The whole climb from estuary to spring shows in a nutshell what Wales has on offer from the where the river joins the Severn Estuary to the uplands.

Though you will be tired at the end, this is one of the best long-distance walking routes in the country.

Offa’s Dyke Path

Length of route: 285 kilometres
Average time to complete: 2 weeks
Difficulty: 1/5
Starts at: Chepstow
Finishes at: Prestatyn
Ascent: 8500 metres
Best for: Seeing Wales in all its inland glory

Walking from Wales’ south coast at Chepstow to its north coast at Prestatyn, you will ascend a similar distance to the height of Everest in this two week hike!

As long distance walks go, a newbie to walking day-in, day-out would find this a good taster of longer walks.

The route largely follows a ditch (a ‘dyke’) dug in the 8th Century for King Offa to keep out the Mercian enemy. This is one of the great Middle Ages pieces of military engineering.

Opened in 1971 as a walk, it is one of the best ways to appreciate the countryside of this wild and wonderful country in one hit.

Starting in Chepstow and walking along the Wye Valley, you will ascend gently for the first few days until you have passed Monmouth on day 2.

After Monmouth you climb to the uplands of the Black Mountains as you head to Hay on Wye.

Come Day 6 you will be in the hardest terrain on the walk in the Shropshire Hills with the steep path switching back as you clamber up the steep hills.

Days 8 and 9 you’re back in the low, agricultural lands again, sometimes following a canal towpath.

The last day involves some climbing into the Clwydian Range and a gentle descent to the sea at Prestatyn.

The Monmouthshire Way

Length of route: 187 kilometres
Average time to complete: 12 days including a rest day
Difficulty: 2/5
Starts at: Abergavenny
Finishes at: Abergavenny
Ascent: 5873 metres
Best for: Appreciating the varied terrain of Monmouthshire and the Forest of Dean

Starting and finishing at the base of the iconic Sugarloaf mountain, and quickly climbing the Skirrid (learning about a deal done with Satan as you do so!) you will enjoy the different natural and man-made terrain of the county of Monmouthshire on this route.

You will visit the towns of Chepstow, Monmouth, Abergavenny, Pontypool and Usk, following parts of the Rivers Wye and Usk as you go.

From Abergavenny you head north east up into the Black Mountains and then down Offa’s Dyke past the Forest of Dean and to Chepstow, before looping along the Coast Path back into the mountainous terrain of the Welsh Valleys.

This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, remembering the ‘Forgotten Landscape’ near Blaenavon, that was altered so much by the Industrial Revolution’s hunger for the resources under the land.

You will appreciate the old mining towns as well as the lush agricultural land as you explore the county, with peaks at Chwarel y Fan and on the last day, a climb over the Sugarloaf to your walk’s end.

Glyndŵr’s Way

Length of route: 217 kilometres
Average time to complete: 17 days
Difficulty: 1.5/5
Starts at: Knighton
Finishes at: Welshpool
Best for: Appreciating the rebellious history of the Welsh

Prince Glyndŵr was a 15th Century Welsh prince who led a revolt and a bid for independence from the English.

Though he fought bravely and well, his army was ill-equipped against the English army and navy.

Consequently the last Welsh Prince of Wales was defeated by King Henry V.

Unlike many a revolutionary against the British Crown (such as Lady Diana, Guido Fawkes and Lord Monmouth!), Prince Glyndŵr didn’t end up dead for crossing the English King, but was never betrayed and died, three years after the rebellion was repressed, in freedom.

A wholly inland route, Glyndŵr’s Way is probably the least challenging trek in this article, but follows the Prince’s travels and explores the history of his failed bid to break free from England.

Starting at Knighton close to Offa’s Dyke the walk starts in lush agricultural land in a gentle six mile hike.

You then head up to heather moorland on day 2, which in summer is a sea of purple flowers.

Another gentle day on the hills with just 7.5 miles takes you past Castell y Blaidd, an earthen fort from the history of the rebellion.

Day 6 passes the monastery at Abbeycwmhir that Henry V’s great grandson Henry VIII destroyed.

Day 10 takes you through the Clywedog Gorge and up to the summit of Foel Fadian and the moorland below.

Day 11 takes you into Machynlleth after a hard walk, which was Owain Glyndŵr’s seat of power having been crowned Prince of Wales there in 1404.

The 14th stage of the route is the last hard day as you pass through the popular Dyfnant forest and come to the dam at Lake Vyrnwy.

Three more stages of gentle strolling takes you into Welshpool.

The Rebellion Ultra Marathon follows the same route with competitors aiming at completing in 72 hours.

The suggested route we have seen says around eight miles a day but if you’re into long distance trekking then there’s every reason to believe you can do the walk in significantly less with the odd day hitting close to 20 miles.

The North Wales Pilgrims Way

Length of route: 219 kilometres
Average time to complete: 2 weeks
Difficulty: 1.5/5
Starts at: Basingwerk Abbey
Finishes at: Bardsey Island
Ascent: 5130 metres
Best for: Appreciating inner peace and ancient religious relics

Wales has a deep human history, and religious relics are often the most obvious among them.

This is a pilgrimage route that has been updated for modern times.

That does mean you will see a lot of churches and chapels, and may be part of a deeper religious experience as you walk from Basingwerk Abbey to one of the holiest islands off the Welsh coast.

Walkers often find longer distance a meditative experience, and it could be just half a step to a religious one.

Along the route are small chapels for rest and prayer, for you to use as thousands have through the Centuries.

One of the key pauses is to see the thousand year old 12 foot high cross at Maen Achwyfan that has Celtic religious symbols as well as Christian decoration as the Faith brought in new followers from the locality.

Crossing mountains and lowlands you will find religious relics and iconography every day, for you to engage with the religious world of our forefathers.

At the end is a short boat ride to Bardsey Island where St Cadfan set up a religious community over 1,500 years ago.

Among the forgotten saints on the island, King Arthur is supposed to be buried on Bardsey Island.

It is said that two trips along this route amounted to the same as a pilgrimage to Rome – now that’s a challenge!

Anglesea Circuit

Length of route: 199.5 kilometres
Average time to complete: 12 days
Difficulty: 2/5
Starts at: St Cybi’s Church, Holyhead
Finishes at: St Cybi’s Church, Holyhead
Ascent: 4174 metres
Best for: Appreciating Anglesea in one hit!

With 20 towns and villages on this route, you’ll never get thirsty or hungry as you ramble the days away around this wonderful island just across the Menai Strait from North Wales.

The scenery and terrain varies from sand dunes to high cliffs, and you will see a wide variety of wildlife from peregrine falcons to porpoises as you explore this hidden gem of Wales’ coastline.

Holyhead, where the walk starts, is technically on a separate island (Holy Island) but this is connected by manmade causeway to the main island.

Ahead of Day 2 do look at this website to see if you can take the coastal or inland route as during shooting season some of the route is shut and diverted.

Day 2 takes you over a tough, 2700ft of ascents around Carmel Head, one of the remotest and wildest sections of the walk.

After the harsh climbs of the cliffs, Day 6 takes you in a race with the tide along the shoreline!

This is rewarded with fine farmland views.

On Day 7, do take the time to stop by the Anglesea village with the longest name in the UK – Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (or Llanfair PG for short!).

The name means, in English, “St Mary’s church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the fierce whirlpool of St Tysilio of the red cave.”

Bit of a mouthful…

You stay at that village and move on around the Menai Straits length of the island on Day 8.

Days 9 and 10 are on the sea-coast again, walking along dunes and beaches as you go.

You get back to Holy Island for the southern leg of the circuit of the islet back to your starting point on your 11th day.

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