Wales is off the beaten track for many visitors to the United Kingdom but should be on the must-visit list of every hiker. The principality boasts some of the most beautiful and challenging hiking trails in Britain. From the mountainous splendor of Snowdonia in the north to the windswept Brecon Beacons in the south, and a twisty, vertiginous 870 mile-long coast path, Wales packs into an area smaller than New Jersey a stunning variety of terrain for the long-distance hiker and the weekend walker alike.
With the help of our friends at Creoso Cymru/Visit Wales, we have selected ten of the most spectacular walks Wales has to offer. These hikes traverse 11 of the U.K.'s national nature reserves, five of its designated areas of outstanding natural beauty and three of its national parks — as well as the beach voted TripAdvisor’s 2014 Travelers’ Choice for the best in the U.K. They will also take you through some surprisingly remote areas for such a compact country.
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There is a hike for every landscape in Wales, whether coast, mountains, valleys or hills — with majestic views to match. You can hike up Mt. Snowden, the highest peak in England and Wales (we'd recommend the Rhyd Ddu Path ascent for serious hikers), or walk the 176-mile national trail along Offa's Dyke, an 8th century earthwork that marked the boundary between the English kingdom of Mercia and the Welsh kingdom of Powys. It is a 12-day end-to-end hike across a landscape that includes the forbidding Eglwyseg Rocks, a limestone escarpment popular with rock climbers.
Or head up Gadair Ridge to watch the sun set from the remote moorlands of the Black Mountains, and then look up for a clear view of constellations in some of the darkest skies in Britain. Last year, the Brecon Beacons National Park was declared only the world's fifth international dark sky reserve. Here are ten recommended spots for stargazing.
Wales is the only country to have an uninterrupted hiking trail the entire length of its coast. Completed in 2012 with the final linkup of a number of existing coastal paths, it runs from Queensferry in the north to Chepstow in the south east. The two towns are a 135 mile drive apart, but we recommend going the long way round by foot — all 870 miles of it. You will wind through seaside towns and remote coves, past castles and chapels, over high cliffs, along the great sweep of Cardigan Bay (Ceredigian in Welsh) with its bottlenose dolphins, and around the craggy Pembrokeshire peninsula. This drone video gives a flavor of the Pembrokeshire leg.
If that isn't enough hiking for you, you can head back north at Chepstow on the Offa's Dyke Path National Trail to complete a 1,030 mile continuous hike that will have taken you round almost the whole of the country.
Even if the Land of Song isn't on your travel itinerary this year (and this is a good year to go as it is the centenary of the poet Dylan Thomas' birth), these ten panoramic images of the wildest walks in Wales are sure to inspire you to lace up your hiking boots and get on the trail.
See also: 30 Great American Hikes