Wales is undoubtedly one of the finest places to go walking in the UK. It’s a country blessed with incredible landscapes, from hills and mountains to coast and valleys. It’s home to three national parks – Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons and the Pembrokeshire Coast – and several spectacular long-distance trails.
This includes the Offa’s Dyke Path, a 177-mile National Trail that winds along the England-Wales border. There’s also the incredible 870-mile Wales Coast Path, one of the few trails in the world to follow the entire coastline of a country.
Wales boasts four designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including its most recent addition, the historic slate landscape of Northwest Wales, as well as numerous areas of outstanding natural beauty and some internationally renowned dark sky reserves.
Llwybrau: Wales by Trails
There’s never been a better time to explore it all. Why? Because 2023 is Visit Wales’s Year of Trails. It’s the perfect opportunity to make memories along paths and trails as you discover the nation’s attractions, activities, landscapes and coastlines.
You could head for North Wales, renowned for its mynydd a môr (mountains and sea), where many train stations act as gateways to iconic walking routes. Take in a stretch of the Wales Coast Path from Flint Castle, Rhyl’s golden beaches or Holyhead’s rugged cliffs. Alternatively, you could hop off at Prestatyn to explore a stand-out stretch of the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail that runs through the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley.
On the spectacular Llŷn Peninsula, the thriving market town of Pwllheli marks the end of the Cambrian train line and is right on the Wales Coast Path, from where you can carry on towards Llanbedrog and Abersoch.
In mid-Wales, the Wales Coast Path links up closely with the Cambrian line, as do various points along the route of the Offa’s Dyke Path. This makes it easy to buy a one-way train ticket and return on foot. Popular stops include the coastal towns of Aberystwyth and Borth, the historic market town of Machynlleth and the thriving seaside harbours of Aberdovey, on the Dyfi estuary, and Barmouth, on the Mawddach estuary.
Further inland, Welshpool offers easy access to a sprawling 50km stretch of the Offa’s Dyke Path all the way to Knighton, which is home to the Offa’s Dyke Centre. Another option is the moderate five-mile walk from Knucklas, which climbs steadily to Bailey Hill to meet another of Wales’ National Trails, Glyndwr’s Way – a good trail for walkers who love rugged and remote hill country.
The Wales Coast Path is also just a short walk from many train stations in South and West Wales, such as Tenby, Ferryside, Carmarthen, Fishguard, Goodwick, Swansea, Cardiff Bay, Barry Island and Chepstow, with its magnificent 600-year-old castle.
Similarly, train stations throughout the Welsh borders are ideally placed jumping-off points for day hikes along the Offa’s Dyke Path, as well as other popular walking destinations. This includes Craven Arms, the ‘Gateway to the Welsh Marches’ and home to the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre.
For a great 13km day walk along Offa’s Dyke that criss-crosses the border between England and Wales, start from either Ruabon or Chirk. This stretch is renowned for its panoramic views of Chirk Castle and the world heritage site of Pontycysyllte aqueduct.
From rail to trail
Wherever you choose to walk, getting to your start point has never been easier. There are easy connections on the South Wales Mainline from Swansea to Paddington via Bridgend, Cardiff, Newport and the Severn Tunnel, providing a seamless rail link between Cardiff and London.
The North Wales Mainline runs all the way from Holyhead to well-connected Crewe. Other trains across Wales link coastal communities and rural areas, enabling you to reach some of the most breathtaking scenery anywhere in Britain. So, there’s really no excuse not to leave the car at home and take the train the next time you want to explore Wales’s paths and trails.
Don’t forget, it’s a more sustainable way to travel too. Globally, rail travel makes up less than 1.8% of total carbon emissions for transport, compared to about 71% for road users. In fact, when it comes to cutting your carbon footprint, trains are nearly always the winning option over moderate-to-long distances. Taking the train instead of your car for medium-length trips could cut your emissions by up to 80%. It’s also a more relaxing way to travel – just sit back and enjoy the journey.
If you’re inspired to design your own rail to trail trip, Transport for Wales can help. There’s loads of useful information about the nation’s different trails, including the Wales Coast Path, and the easiest ways to get there. It’s your ticket to some of the most inspirational hiking in the UK, whether you’re planning a summer hillwalking holiday or just want shorter routes for an afternoon stroll.
For a more sustainable and relaxing getaway, plan your adventure at tfw.wales/trails