Wales is a fascinating country that has a great sense of national pride, heritage, and culture. It also has some of the most epic, dramatic, and stunning National Parks in the UK. In total, there are three National Parks in Wales – Snowdonia, the Pembrokeshire Coast, and the Brecon Beacons. Each is unique and offers a completely different experience. In this article, we look at the top things to do in Welsh National Parks, together with useful information about each one.
Snowdonia National Park
About Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia National Park lies in the north-west of Wales. It was established in 1951 as a National Park and is the third-oldest after the Peak District, and Lake District. In total, it covers an area of 872 square miles. The terrain in this national park is mainly mountainous and it is named after the epic Mount Snowdon.
Where to stay in Snowdonia National Park
There are a variety of places to stay both in the boundaries of Snowdonia National Park and surrounding it. On the outside, coastal locations like Porthmadog, Criccieth, Porth Merrion, and Llandudno are popular. Alternatively, you can stay inside the park boundaries at places like Llanberis, and Blaenau Ffestiniog.
There are also some unique places to stay here. For example, I stopped at the Old Snowdon Ranger Station. This historical building has been converted to a beautiful and comfortable holiday home for couples. It sits right at the start on one of the routes up to the summit of Snowdon – The Old Rangers Path.
Top Sites in Snowdonia National Park
There is so much to see in Snowdonia National Park. It is one of the most exhilarating places for walkers, hikers, and nature loves. It is also a place where you can challenge yourself and do something out of your comfort zone.
Climb Mount Snowdon
One of the top things to do in Welsh National Parks is of course to conquer Mount Snowdon. This is the tallest mountain in Wales, and the second-tallest in the UK after Ben Nevis. It stands at a lofty 1085m high and is part of a larger mountain chain.
Hiking to the top of Mount Snowdon is no small feat. There are an array of different routes, each of which presents it’s own challenges. Alternatively, if you are not a confident hiker, there is a railway that virtually travels to the summit of the mountain. It is a great way to see this amazing natural wonder if you are not quite ready for the trek.
Welsh Highland Railway – Caernarfon to Beddgelert
If you want a relaxing day and the chance to explore two fantastic places in Snowdonia National Park, the Welsh Highland Railway offers a great day out. This historic railway has multiple stops, and you can book return tickets that give you time at the end stop too.
I have travelled on the stretch from Caernarfon to Beddgelert and I can’t recommend it enough. The scenery along the railway line is sublime. You travel through some amazing countryside within the national park. Also, the steam engine itself and railway carriages are magnificent.
Caernarfon is an interesting place to visit with its immense castle. In contrast, Beddgelert is a smaller village with beautiful architecture and some peaceful river walks.
Zip World – Slate Caverns
Looking for something a little more action-packed? Why not head to Blaenau Ffestiniog and seek adventure at the Zip World Slate Caverns. While technically not in Snowdonia National Park, Blaenau Ffestiniog is right in the centre of the park and a popular tourist destination.
The Slate Caverns has a host of different adventure activities. First, there is the deep mine tour where you can explore some of the old slate mines. Next, there is the Bounce Below which is an immense underground net adventure packed with bouncy netting to climb through and have fun on.
Lastly, there is the epic Titan 2 zip line. This is a series of zip lines that dash through the slate quarry. You reach amazing speeds here and it is an exhilarating experience.
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
About Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
The Pembrokeshire Coast lies on the western edge of south Wales. It sits on both the St. George’s Channel, and the Bristol Channel. This rugged coastline has some amazing beaches and is similar in geographical makeup to Cornwall. It was established as a National Park in 1952, and convers an area of 239 square miles.
Where to stay in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is packed full of charming coastal and seaside towns. Notable places to stay include Tenby, Fishguard, and Milford Haven. This region of Wales is also a popular place for camping, caravans, and campervans and you can find many well-established campsites.
Top Things to Do in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
Pembrokeshire is a brilliant place for all types of people. If you want to relax, you can head to one of the many beaches. Alternatively, it has some amazing walking routes, and is also a great place to try water sports like coasteering and cliff jumping.
Walk the Pembrokeshire Coast Path
If you love walking, why not tackle a stretch of the immense Pembrokeshire Coast Path? This has been designated a National Trail and stretches for a ridiculous 186 miles. It is one of the best long distance walks in the UK. The southern end of the path is generally considered to be at Amroth, while the northern section ends at Poppit Sands.
Throughout this amazing path you can stop at a range of different locations, and the scenery is truly fantastic. If you are truly adventurous, you could consider an epic wild camping expedition to hike and camp along the entire length!
In the heart of Pembroke itself, you can find this well-preserved 11th century castle. It has an impressive keep, huge walls, and a series of restored towers and features. The location of the castle is also impressive as it sits on a corner of Pembroke River.
You could easily spend a day exploring the town of Pembroke and learning about the history of this ancient castle too.
Barafundle Bay Beach
This coastline is packed full of beautiful beaches. You can expect warmer temperatures and amazing golden sands. It is difficult to pick one particular beach. However, a great example is Barafundle Bay Beach.
This beach lies in the southern part of the National Park and is truly idyllic. There is a walk from the headland down to the beach, but you can enjoy a day of relaxation and fun here – it is certainly worth it.
Brecon Beacons National Park
About Brecon Beacons National Park
The Brecon Beacons is an expansive National Park located in the south of Wales. It lies above the major locations of Newport, Cardiff, and Swansea, and its eastern edges lie on the Wales/England border. This was the 10th UK National Park to be established and was first ratified in 1957.
It covers an area of 521 square miles and is another national park with plenty of mountains. The most prominent of these is Pen-Y-Fan, and this backbone of mountains gives this park its namesake – The Beacons.
Where to stay in Brecon Beacons National Park
The Brecon Beacons has a host of popular towns that lie within or close to it’s borders. These include Merthyr Tydfil, Abergavenny, and Brecon. This national park is also one of the best locations for wild camping in the UK.
Alternatively, you could opt to stop in one of the smaller villages within the park. For example, I have stopped in the small village of Cantref. I stopped in The Top Floor At Cantref House which was a perfect apartment with excellent accessibility to Pen-Y-Fan, and the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal.
Top Things to Do in Brecon Beacons National Park
It is difficult to choose the top things to do in Welsh National Parks, particularly one filled with as much wonder as The Beacons. It is a brilliant place for hiking, camping, and water sports. Also, it has a range of amazing castles, and the villages and towns are bursting with culture and history.
One of the most popular things to do is to climb to the top of Pen-Y-Fan. This is one of the more accessible mountains in the UK and its gentlest route is approximately a 4-mile round-trip. This route is started from either the Storey Arms Carp Park, or the Pont ar Daf Car Park which are only a short drive from each other.
Pen-Y-Fan is the tallest mountain in southern Wales, and it stands at a height of 886m. Be warned – it is highly popular, particularly during summer months and bank holidays!
Walk along the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal
The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal or Mon and Brec as it is also known is an amazing man-made canal that stretches for 35 miles through the Brecon Beacons National Park. Virtually all of the canal has a dedicated walking trail, and it offers a peaceful, scenic trek, with insight into canal life.
I walked a section of the canal from Pencelli to Talybont-on-Usk which was approximately a 5-mile round-trip. If you don’t want to trek up mountains, this is the perfect alternative.
Visit the National Botanical Gardens of Wales
If you love plant life, wildlife, and nature, there is no better place in The Brecon Beacons than the National Botanical Gardens of Wales. This expansive garden has it all – a butterfly house, a bird of prey centre, beautiful gardens, and a huge greenhouse dome with exotic plants. It is an excellent day out and looks simply fantastic during the spring and summer months.
See the Natural Beauty of Wales in its National Parks
The National Parks of Wales is just a small glimpse of what this amazing country has to offer. I have been lucky enough to explore both Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons and they are some of the most beautiful landscapes in the UK. In time, I also hope to visit Pembrokeshire and walk along much of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
Why don’t you head into Wales on your next trip? Stopping within one of these fantastic National Parks is guaranteed to provide you with some amazing memories. It should also allow you to see some of the best sites Wales has to offer such as the mighty Mount Snowdon, Pen-Y-Fan, The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, and Pembroke Castle.