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Backpacker Magazine – June 2010

Hiking Wild Wales

Don't be fooled by the cozy pubs and low elevations. The birthplace of mountaineering overflows with challenges, from rugged peaks to history-laden coastal treks.

by: Steve Howe

 Harlech Castle, built by Edward I in the 1400s.(Steve Howe)
Harlech Castle, built by Edward I in the 1400s.(Steve Howe)

In recent years, Wales has chiefly made news for its young princes, William and Harry. But a century ago, the world knew this craggy, storm-blasted edge of the British Isles for its celebrity climbers. It was here that George Mallory, Sir Edmund Hillary, and other Himalayan pioneers honed their skills. We traveled to Wales for our 2009 Editors’ Choice Awards testing and discovered that, between gear-mangling storms, it’s also a hiker’s paradise. Follow our adventure guide, and you’ll traverse knife-edge ridges, skirt shoreline cliffs, and walk through King Arthur’s ancient stomping ground. Then step off the trail and into a pub. Any route that follows in the footsteps of these mountaineers rightfully ends with a pint.

Pembrokeshire Coast Path
Tiptoe along oceanside bluffs with views across the Irish Sea.

Snowdonia National Park

The highest peak. The wildest ridges. The largest lake. Find them all in Wales’s alpine heart.

Brecon Beacons National Park

Cross a sprawling preserve of broad mountains, lonely ridgelines, and lush river valleys. 

Offa’s Dyke Path

Follow a long-distance trail along the once-violent, now-bucolic border between England and Wales. 

Plan It: Wales

hiking wales
Get GPS tracklogs, photos, gear picks, photos, video, and more in our Wild Wales special section!

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Reader Rating: Star Star Star Star


Sep 28, 2012

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Aug 18, 2012

My grandson and I just completed a 67-day backpacking trip to Europe. We are already planning next summers backpacking trip and after reading your short post on "Hiking Wild Wales" we both agree that we need to put Wales on our itinerary. I hear there are some great castles to visit and some great hiking trails. Thanks.

Diane And Steve
Oct 01, 2011

Just spent 10 days in Wales the 1st part of September. Highly recommend visiting this little appreciated corner of the United Kingdom. Plane to London, rented a car. Drove to Hay-on-Wye, 2nd hand book capital of the world. Great little village, great B&B's. Pictuesque, quiet, friendly. Hiked on Offa's Dike through beautiful farmland. Only had one day to briefly hike in the beautiful Brecon Beacons with amazing wind swept views. Hiked Mt. Snowdown. Thought I saw Gandalf charging down the mountain to save the day in the valley below but no, just countless sheep and beautiful heather covering the lower hillsides. Never could understand how hiking on a 3500 ft. mountain could help hone your skills for Everest, but I have a little more appreciation now. I would say this mountain sits in the path of a lot of harsh weather, a lot like Mt. Washington I suppose. Was very windy and wet on the one nice day we hiked to the top but it just added to the fun. Local told us people always travel to Ireland, but Wales is very similar and just as beautiful. I was glad we visited Wales. Want to visit again.
October 1, 2011

Aug 09, 2010

Wales is wet, especially North Wales/Snodownia. Just completed a week with HF Holidays at Bryn Corach in Conwy. Great walks/three levels/good accommodations/foods/guided walks. However, there is water everywhere, with copious summer rains. Waterproofs are essential!

Karl Welsher
Jul 13, 2010

Cardiff is the best gateway into Wales. It is the capital, many great places to see...and from the US flights via Amsterdam are a good deal, especially when you consider transit from London, and Londen Hotel bills. Visit Wales this summer.

Jul 12, 2010

The city of Bristol is also a good gateway, especially if you're near a Continental hub. Newark-Bristol(EWR-BRS) is the flight routing. We used it from VA for a West Country trip. About 20-30 minutes through customs and passport lines. An express bus from the airport links to rail and coach services.

Bristol itself is worth a visit.


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