Real talk – who doesn’t love the outdoors? Whether you might love strolling through the woods, or morning swims in the sea, nature offers something everyone can enjoy. So why not take it a step further (no pun intended) and go hiking?
During these corona-times, it is the perfect way to stay in shape and while still social distancing! For those of you who are avid hikers, hiking in Wales is definitely at the top of your bucket list. While your main goal may be to explore the trails of North Wales, especially Snowdonia National Park, you may have forgotten that South Wales has some of the most underrated hiking trails which are waiting to be explored! Consider hiring a campervan for a weekend and enjoying the numerous free overnight parking spots in Wales.
So without further ado, here are the five best walking paths in South Wales.
It is also worth noting that while many trails are open, some may be closed in accordance to local COVID-19 regulations, so make sure trails are accessible before embarking on a trip.
1. Bishop’s Palace, St. David’s Cathedral Loop:
Although one of the longer walks on this blog post, this is definitely worth every step. This path is rich with marvelous historical and natural sites, so you’ll never get bored! Although the ruins on this path have religious significance, their history and timeless appearance can be appreciated by everyone. You’ll be seeing monumental historical sites along this Pembrokeshire walk!
You can kick off your walk from Nun street bus station and hike to the Chapel of St. Non. This place is believed to be the birthplace of St. David. However, this site isn’t like any of the others you’ll see -- while most chapels (and other ruins) tend to be aligned East-West, the Chapel of St. Non is mysteriously aligned North-South. Interestingly, the ruins cannot be dated either, although there is a large stone with an engraved cross which is believed to date back to the 7th or 8th century.
The next two stops on the hike will remind you of the breathtaking beauty of nature. As you hike along among the cliffs that tower over the coast, you’ll find a beautiful natural rock arch. I know, it might sound a little ridiculous, after all, what’s so special about rocks? But I promise you, because of erosion they now have interesting patterns and shapes. The rocks further complemented by the contrasting blue sea they jut out from.
If anything, this serves as a reminder that there is beauty where you least expect it. There are more formations and arches as you walk along, so be sure to keep an eye out for them!
Along the path, you’ll find a straight where you can catch a glimpse of some spectacular waves. If you’re lucky, you might see some seals splashing about in the water! Overall, this is an excellent spot to take a break and enjoy the peaceful nature.
The second to last stop is Bishop’s Palace. This site is believed to date back to the 6th century, however most of the ruins were built in the 13th century. Upon seeing the ruins, you can truly appreciate the historical architecture, and picture it in its former glory. It is worth noting that you do need to buy tickets (4 pounds for children, 11 for adults) to see the ruins, but it is definitely worth every penny.
And finally, head to St. David’s Cathedral to wrap up your hike. The construction of this cathedral began in 1181, and has since undergone restoration numerous times. Aside from its admirable architecture, the cathedral has a treasury with numerous historical religious artifacts. There is also a library filled with books, both old and new. It is completely free to enter, so be sure to pass by! The final stop is conveniently closely situated to Nun Street bus stop, so you can easily head to your next destination.
2. Seal Spotting:
Distance: 11.3 km
If you were looking for a more relaxing Pembrokeshire walks, then consider this path! Although this might seem a little dull in comparison to the Bishop’s Palace because it lacks historical ruins, it is still equally enjoyable, especially if you stick around for the sunset. This trail is an excellent way to enjoy the natural wildlife Pembrokeshire has to offer.
Starting off at West Hook farm, follow the trail for about 1.3 kilometers, and you’ll find yourself overlooking two bays. This is the first stop of your trip – you’ll get to watch the seals swimming about! If you look carefully, you might even spot some white baby seals rolling around on the sandy beach. On a good day, you can even spot some bottlenose dolphins (with the help of binoculars) in the distance.
The second (and final) stop of this hike is Marloes Sands Beach, the perfect place to cool off after a walk! At lower tides, you can explore the beach’s numerous hidden coves and rock pools. Don’t forget to stick around to watch the sunset – after all there is no better way to finish off your short adventure than watching the sky’s marvelous colour changes. While hiking in Wales may not sound like the most romantic thing to you, you can add a romantic twist to this walking path – pack up a picnic for you and your to enjoy with a glass of wine during the sunset.
3. Four Falls trail:
Distance: 7.13 km
Location: Brecon Beacons
Let’s be honest for a second; you can’t go to Brecon Beacons and not see any of the waterfalls in the area. If you’re looking for a short and doable hike to see the famous four waterfalls, then strap on your hiking shoes and get ready to follow this route! This Brecon Beacons waterfall walk is considered to be one of the best waterfall hikes in all of Britain, so I can promise you won’t regret going.
Kick off your hike at Cwm Porth car park, and follow the trail towards the River Afon Mellte. A short while later, you’ll find yourself at the first waterfall of the trip: Sgwd Clun-Gwyn (which means Fall of the White Meadow). Here, the river Mellte cascades of two ledges among a 40ft drop, resulting in a beautiful cascade of water. Because this is a popular site for canyoning, you might spot some brave souls trying the rushing waters of this waterfall.
Head back to the trail, and continue walking towards the second waterfall of the trip: Sgwd Isaf Clun Gwyn (translating to lower fall of the white meadow). Although smaller than Sgwd Clun-Gwyn, this waterfall is equally beautiful, with water cascade among mossy jagged rocks. The rocks also have interesting formations, so be sure to keep an eye out for those!
The third stop on this waterfall walk is Sgwd y Pannwr (translating to fall of the fuller, or fall of the woolen washer) which is the lowermost of the three falls of the River Mellte. Although most enjoyable in the spring or after rainfall, the serenity of this secluded waterfall and its surrounding trees can still be enjoyed year round.
And as always, the best is saved for last: Sgwd Yr Eira (which means fall of snow) waterfall is the final part of this journey. Unlike the waterfalls you visited earlier, the cascading waters are from the River Heste. This is also one of the larger waterfalls on this route, meaning you can walk behind the waterfall! Before you do this, keep in mind that the rocks can be slippery, especially when the ice begins to thaw towards the end of winter.
4. Fox Hole-Pennard Castle Ruins Loop from Penmaen:
Distance: 7.8 km
This is arguably the most serene walk on this list – crashing waves, lush green hills, and gentle chirping of birds. It’s the perfect walk in South Wales to disconnect from your busy life and admire the grand nature of the area.
Starting at St. John the Baptist’s bus station, head out to Three Cliffs View. Be sure to take your time there, and really enjoy the spectacular views of the beach and cliffs. If you’re interested in seeing some of the local wildlife and landscape, be sure to grab a pair of binoculars! You’ll get to see some beautiful birds, and some crashing waves on the beach below. The views are especially beautiful during autumn, because the changing colours of leaves creates a colourful palette.
The next stop on this trip is Foxhole Cove, a charming little beach backed by rocks and cliffs. The beach can be accessed by steep paths, so be careful walking down! If the beach is too busy for your taste, you can head east of the beach to Minchin Hole, which is one of the largest caves in the area.
The final stop of your hike walk are the Pennard Castle ruins. Built in the 12th century (with its walls rebuilt in the 13th and 14th century), the castle is conveniently situated on a hill distantly overlooking the sea. That means it’s the perfect spot to take some pictures to show your friends and family! The walk back to St. John the Baptist’s is a couple kilometres away from the ruins, so you can easily head off on your next journey.
5. Walking above the clouds – Pen y Fan Summit Loop from Torpantau:
Distance: 17.5 km
Location: Brecon Becons National Park
This is easily the most difficult trail on this post, but also one of the remarkable walks in South Wales, because you can (quite literally) walk above the clouds. However, this is a very long walk that should only be taken on by those of you who frequently hike. It definitely is worth the challenge, and this hike is probably going to be the best one you’ve been on yet. However it is worth noting that the path can be a little dangerous if visibility is not clear, so be sure to check the weather beforehand!
Kick off your hike from the Torpantau train station to the Lower Neuadd reservoir. Although a reservoir may not sound very exciting, the nature here is absolutely spectacular! Nestled between the hearts of towering green hills, and framed by different shades of greenery, this stop is an excellent place to take a peaceful break.
After you rest up, continue walking along the path and you’ll find a scramble route that is quite steep. This is a little risky to climb, so be careful (or skip it altogether), so be especially careful when climbing up the scramble that leads up to Graig fan Ddu. There are a lot of loose rocks and slates along the path so do mind your step! There is a pile of rock at the top to let you know you’ve made it, and of course you’ll be rewarded with phenomenal views of the area.
The next stop on your walk is the Corn Du Summit. This is the second highest summit in South Wales which is usually climbed for the primary goal of getting to Pen-y-fan. That isn’t to say there aren’t any views from this point – on a good day, you’ll be able to see all of Brecon Beacons National Park! It is definitely an exhausting climb, but also an incredibly scenic spot to take a break.
As you continue walking along to Pen y Fan summit, you’ll find yourselves walking above the clouds! And how many people can say that they’ve walked through a cloud, let alone above one? Through the breaks, you’ll be able to see the green landscape scattered below, a sight I guarantee you won’t find anywhere. It is worth noting that this might not be guaranteed depending on weather conditions, so be sure to check the forecast before you head out!
Shortly after, you’ll reach the Pen y Fan summit, the second highest peak in South Wales. The reward of reaching the top makes it worth every step of the way, so be sure to bask in your success. You’ll find that the summit is marked by a plaque from the National Trust. But the plaque marks more than just a peak – it stands on a historical spot. While the stones around the plaque might look recently stacked, they’re actually part of a well-preserved Bronze Age cairn which has a central stone cist (stone coffin), where the plaque rests on. It is believed that the cist contained ashes or other remnants of a dead person(s), aside from the discovered grave goods.
And finally, make your way to Cribyn summit, which although lower than Pen y Fan and Corn Du, offers equally enjoyable views. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot some of the local mountain birds such as Peregrine falcons, or Red Kites. But don’t worry if you can’t spot any of the wildlife – you can still make up for it by taking some stunning photographs of the views (and yourself) so you can brag about your hike during the next family dinner.
Afterwards, you can circle back to the Torpantau train station, and head back for a (well deserved) meal.
Now that you’ve gotten an insider’s perspective on the best walks in South Wales, be pack up your hiking gear and hit the trails! No matter which route you decide to take, you are guaranteed immense feelings of satisfaction and awe at the beauty of nature. Liked all the hikes, and unsure which ones to explore?
Consider making it a road trip through Wales and walk all of your favourite trails. There are campsites open all year in Wales, situated conveniently close to the walking paths mentioned above, so you’ll easily find accommodation.
If you’re looking for transportation, you can organise with motorhome hire with Goboony. Motorhome hire in Wales is the best way to explore this stunning country. From the Brecon Becons waterfall walk, to the hike around the historic Bishop’s palace, you’ll get more out of hiking in Wales than you’d expect.
After all, as John Muir said, “In every walk in nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”