Exploring Wales' Three National Parks
With its rolling hills and lush green landscapes, Wales is a dream destination for all outdoor enthusiasts! Home to three must-visit, magnificent National Parks, it is an area of the UK that is well worth uncovering! With lofty mountains, lovable lowlands, magical coastlines and impressive offshore islands, it's not hard to see why the Welsh countryside is worth singing about – it has so many special qualities! Interestingly, approximately a quarter of the country's terrain lies within the boundaries of its three National Parks and revered five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Given this striking statistic, and in a bid to highlight just how charming the Welsh landscape is, we thought we'd delve a little deeper into the trio of National Parks hiding in its midst. If you're down to make some discoveries, read on...
A brief background: what are the 3 National Parks in Wales called and which is the most visited?
They say good things come in three, and that couldn't be more true when it comes to Wales' National Parks: Snowdonia, the Pembrokeshire Coast and the Brecon Beacons. Simply put, every one of these Parks, uniquely beautiful and breathtaking, is a wonder to behold. Together, they approximately attract a staggering 12 million visitors a year, with Snowdonia winning the crown as the most popular National Park – not only in Wales but the whole of the United Kingdom. In our opinion, all these millions of people are onto something! If you're wanting to get in on the action too, then stay tuned and let us help you get to know each location a little better...
Head north-west to the largest Welsh National Park: Snowdonia
We may as well start strong and begin with Wales' most frequented National Park – Snowdonia (or Eryri in Welsh). Spanning a mahoosive 823 square miles and encompassing Wales' largest lake, Snowdonia sits on Britain's west coast. The sheer expanse of its rugged, rocky landscape is mesmerising and, if you visit at the right time of year, you're sure to be bowled over by its verdant green crags. If you feel at peace in a totally natural environment, this place is for you! Despite its varied and noteworthy landscape, the Park is best known for the majestic mountain that lies at its heart... Snowdon. To discover more about this incredible incline, read our UK mountain guide! No visit here would be complete without conquering Wales' tallest mountain range, so come equipped with a backpack and hiking shoes! While renowned for its skyscraping peaks and spectacular high-up-in-the-heavens views, this National Park fosters some lesser-known gems too. Harlech Castle – a medieval coastal fortress that seemingly emerges out of a bed of rocks and that's accessible by a 'floating' footbridge – is a must-see site, and you'll want to seize the opportunity to saunter along the glimmering sands of Harlech beach too! Other beaches to put on your list while you're here are Porth Oer (known for its whistling sands that emit a high-pitched squeak under your feet), Porthdinllaen (occasionally visited by a dolphin or two) and Llanbedrog (vibrantly lined with colourful beach huts). All situated along the Llŷn Peninsula that benefits from a microclimate thanks to being shrouded by Snowdon, these sheltered beaches are the perfect place to strip down to your t-shirt and soak up the sunshine! If you're looking to submerge yourself in greenery, then a trip to the ten-thousand-year-old Celtic Rainforests is worth putting on your adventure itinerary too. Here, you'll encounter a variety of exquisite trees and catch sight of rare birds, butterflies and otters. And if all that wasn't enough, as well as being a place of extreme natural beauty, this populated and dynamic National Park overflows with history and culture, not least because it's home to thousands of Welsh speakers. If you're eager to head off to Wales, make Snowdonia your first port of call.
The best for seaside lovers: the Pembrokeshire Coast
The second Welsh National Park that deserves a spot on your travel bucket list is the Pembrokeshire Coast. If you're a bit of a thalassophile (a lover of the sea), a keen kayaker or a surfing pro, then this preserved area, running 420km along Wales' west coast, is one of those places you'll definitely want to discover! Although it's one of the UK's smallest National Parks, it's also the one that's perhaps the most enchanting. As well as harboring award-winning stretches of sand and the most Blue Flag beaches across the whole of Wales, it has many secret coves and bays that facilitate unique, one-on-one encounters with the sea! Highlights include Barabundle Bay and Tenby North Beach. If you're heading here in nice weather, then you may well want to bring along your sandals and swimwear. To take in the beauty of the waves one step removed though, you may wish to follow a section (the entire length may be quite a mission!) of the 186-mile long National Trail that shadows the coastline. Aptly named the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, it's been trekked by hundreds and thousands of people since its opening in 1970, and prospers from wildflowers and abundant bird life. What makes this particular National Park such a glorious natural environment to behold is its varied geography. As well as shimmering seas and golden beaches, it boasts limestone cliffs and red-tinged sandstone outcrops, volcanic rocks and flooded glacial valleys. Rich cultural heritage further adds to the Pembrokeshire Coast's bewitching spell. From the Neolithic stones of Pentre Ifan to the small cathedral city of St David's (named after Wales' patron saint), this location is brimming with history. With something to please everyone, where better to head this summer?
On the border of Mid-Wales and South Wales (if you were wondering where it is): the beautiful Brecon Beacons
Last but not least, the Brecon Beacons is Wales third and final National Park, encompassing the Brecon Beacons mountain range – to which it owes its name, and of which the highest peak is Pen y Fan. Covering 1340 square kilometres, the Park also envelopes the Black Mountains and Fforest Fawr within its boundaries. Designated a UNESCO Global Geopark in 2015, the latter is an expanse of upland with an impressive geology, bearing the marks of multiple ice ages before being indented by industrial mankind. On the whole, the Brecon Beacons is a green and grassy natural environment, composed of moorland, pastureland and scattered forests. While this National Park is sure to satisfy the whims of those who love scaling summits, there's a whole host of other things to see and do here aside from climbing mountains. To name but a few activities, mountain biking, hang-gliding, horse riding, canoeing and windsurfing are all pursuits that you can undertake in the Brecon Beacons! So, if you love exerting yourself and enjoy practicing your hobbies against a beautiful backdrop, then getting active in this idyllic location may well be a dream come true for you! Ambitious walkers can tread the Beacons Way – a long route stretching the entire length of the Park – and cycling enthusiasts can follow the Taff Trail, which skims the top of the Beacons and leads toward Cardiff. It's not all sports and fitness though! This National Park has many notable attractions that promise fun for all the family... Discover Dinosaur Park, featuring more than 200 life-sized dinosaur models and offering no end of entertainment. The kids will love it and the sizable collection of pre-historic creatures is mind-blowing even for adults. If coming face-to-face with a Tyrannosaurus Rex and climbing the Park's mountain ranges both seem a little daunting however, why not descend into the Brecon Beacons' depths instead, heading underground to explore the caverns of Dan-yr-Ogof, Cathedral Cave and Bone Cave? Just remember, temperatures underground dip quite dramatically, so be sure to take a fleece or padded gilet with you! If you're still left wanting, then a visit to the Norman ruins of Carreg Cennen Castle, perched upon a limestone cliff, is another people-pleasing option. A striking site in the daytime, it's also worth a visit at night. In 2013, the entirety of the Brecon Beacons was awarded the status of an International Dark Sky Reserve (meaning it offers an exceptional view of the starry night sky, free from light pollution) and Carreg Cennen Castle is purportedly one of the Park's top ten stargazing spots. Let's face it, this National Park has you spoilt for choice! With such scenic landscape and such variety of activities creating a killer combo, the Brecon Beacons deserves to be prioritised on a whistle-stop tour of Wales.
Visit Wales on your holidays and enjoy country parks galore!
From breathtaking beaches and giant mountains to heartwarming countryside, these Welsh National Parks have it all! Although there's only three of them, they each offer a wide range of things to see and do that will provide you, your friends and your family with great memories and an unforgettable holiday, no matter how short. From the soaring summits of Snowdon to the Pembrokeshire Coast's glistening sandy beaches, and the Brecon Beacons' plethora of fun activities, plan a trip and let yourself be won over by Wales' wow-factor National Parks.