We love winter! Firstly, there’s the exciting festivities, the plentiful food, the smell of chimney smoke and then to really top it all off, the snow speckled National Park and a back garden full of wild adventures to be had!
There’s one thing even better than winter, and that’s winter in Wales! We know we could be classed as slightly biased, but at this wonderful time of year the views are incredibly pretty, the meadows have a crisp coating of frost to crunch through in your wellies lined with thick socks, the sheep's woolly coats are capped with snow and it’s the perfect temperature to wrap up warmly in your favourite cosy knits before heading back and to drink a hot cocoa or a warming brandy by the fire.
From the Wales Coast path to the heady heights of Snowdonia in North Wales, you are sure to discover some winter magic and some untouched snow. So, without further ado, here we take a look at some of the very best walking opportunities to be had in Wales this winter.
Talgarth Waterfalls and Woodland
The tiny, ancient market town of Talgarth is worth a visit in its own right, with Talgarth Mill sitting prominently alongside a delightful café perfect for stopping by to grab a refreshing cup of tea and a freshly baked loaf of bread. Talgarth is also home to one of the best local butchers in the area and provides an excellent gateway to the Black Mountains.
The walking routes from Talgarth are mostly undiscovered and worth the detour. Starting in the main car park this walk is approximately eight miles in length and should take you no longer than three or four hours, depending on your speed. From this starting point, an uphill jaunt will lead you past the pretty St Gwendonline’s Church, across three fields, over a stile and through a grassy track until you find yourself at the beautiful Rhos Fawr Common (it sounds fancy but it really means Big Moor!). Some steps will soon take you down to Pwll-y-Wrach Falls, where, according to local legend, used to be where they’d take the older local women to see if they were witches! This is a circular route so you will end where you started, you’ve definitely earned that cup of tea now!
Cwm Idwal walk
Soak up the dramatic mountainous scenery on this particularly challenging walk through the ice-sculpted Cwm Idwal, a unique bowl-shaped hanging valley which is surrounded by some of the highest peaks in Snowdonia. This fascinating spectacle is filled with the frozen waters of Llyn Idwal, a beautiful sight to behold on a cold, crisp winter’s day!
Although not a walk for the faint-hearted, it is most certainly worth the trek due to the striking views over the oldest National Nature Reserve in Wales which you will be rewarded with on route to the top. This preserved site is world famous for its rock formations, fragile plant life including alpine species and botanical specialities.
The Walk begins in the main car park of Ogwen Warden Centre and leads you up a winding path allowing you to enjoy the splendid view of the mountain peaks and sharp ridges along your way to Llyn Idwal. As the path levels out you will be positioned perfectly to admire the view of Nant Ffrancon and the slate village of Bethesda. The path will naturally take veer you off to the left, which will align you with the lake, the mounds which you will see on the Northern side of the water are moraines which were left behind when the glaciers melted – according to legend these are the burial mounds of Idwal and his men.
After walking the length of the lake, the walk will take you up some steep steps and across the scree towards Twll Du, crossing a small waterfall at one point. the path will continue to transport you down to the shores of the lake and then onto the bridge which will eventually place you back at the car park where you started.
Pen y Fan
The highest mountain in South Wales, Pen y Fan is truly rewarding at any time of year, but once winter hits it takes on another kind of magic! It offers a steep climb and a strenuous mountain walk to the summit and you can extend it even further if you wish with the longer ‘horseshoe walk’ available to easily add on.
The views from the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons National Park are so spectacular you’ll want to return again and again! The high altitude provided by of one of Wales’ most iconic mountains makes it the perfect route for a real seasonal walk as the chances to be greeted with snow, frost and glistening ice are very high.
Pont Ar Daf car park is your starting place for this walk. A footpath at the southern end of the car park will take you through the woods, pass the kissing gate, across a wooden footbridge over the river, uphill towards Bwlch Duwynt (meaning windy pass in Welsh) and over the southern slopes of Corn Du before reaching the saddle between Corn Du and Pen y Fan. From this vantage point you can admire the stunning views to the south, down the Neuadd Valley to the reservoirs above Merthyr Tydfil, the town of Brecon can also be seen on a clear day, along with the summit of Cadair Idris, Sugar Loaf mountain and the Bristol Channel at Porthcawl.
Once you’ve finished taking in the sights, retrace your steps to the saddle and make your way up the pitched path to the summit plateau of Corn Du, before leaving from the northern end and climbing down the steep descent towards the heather clad Y Gyrn – here you might catch a glimpse of grazing sheep, ponies and red grouse. Continuously following the path will take you back to the car park.
…And now after all that walking, you can head back to a cosy cottage, pop your feet up, put the kettle on and bask in the glow of a winter day well spent.