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Top ten summer walks

Discover the great outdoors on some of the best summer walks in our woodlands and National Nature Reserves

Man and woman walk across the Alwen dam

Your choice of routes

We’ve chosen ten routes to help you make the most of the long summer days.

Escape from the crowds and explore one of the most unusual gardens in Wales or follow in the footsteps of early tourists on a unique walk designed in the eighteenth century.

Keep the little ones entertained with a woodland puzzle trail or relax at a peaceful picnic spot where they can enjoy a paddle in the river.

School may be out for the summer but you can take older children for an outdoor history lesson in a forest park, or follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin at Wales’s first National Nature Reserve. 

If you set off for the seaside, make time to explore the natural beauty of our coastal National Nature Reserves on the Dune Walks at Ynyslas near Aberystwyth and at Oxwich on the beautiful Gower Peninsula.

Or, if you’d rather head for the hills, you can enjoy a gentle summer stroll in the foothills of Cadair Idris, one of Snowdonia National Park’s iconic peaks, followed by homemade refreshments in the visitor centre.

Plan your trip

  • You can download any of these routes free of charge onto your Apple or Android device from ViewRanger. (We recommend that you download routes and maps before leaving home so that you can use them without the need for a mobile signal)
  • The PlacesToGo app shows you where you can go and what you can do in Wales’s public forests and National Nature Reserves. The PlaceTales app includes audio trails and folk tales to bring these places to life. Find out how to download the free Places to go and Place Tales apps before you set off on your trip
  • Traveline Cymru is a one-stop-shop for information about travel by bus, coach and train in Wales. Find all the information you need about public transport in one place on the Traveline Cymru website

Enjoy your visit

The Countryside Code helps you respect, protect and enjoy the countryside, enabling you to get the most out of your visit.

It provides you with helpful advice about:

  • Preparing for your trip
  • Keeping yourself and others safe
  • Ensuring the countryside remains a beautiful place that everyone can enjoy

Pick your route

Route 1: Cwm Idwal Circuit, Cwm Idwal National Nature Reserve, North West Wales

Cwm IdwalCwm Idwal was the first National Nature Reserve in Wales and summer is the perfect time of year to explore this huge natural amphitheatre. Set off on the public footpath to the left of the visitor centre and get ready to enjoy one of the most dramatic walks in Wales. As you follow the footpaths on a circular route around the lake, you will come face to face with the legacy of the Ice Age and the huge glacier that once filled this space. Look out for the hanging valleys, massive polished boulders, huge scree slopes and jagged rock formations on the summit. Even the plants here are survivors from the age when ice was king. Summer is the best time to see the glorious colours of the rare arctic alpine plants which thrive on the ledges, beyond the reach of feral goats. This walk is also steeped in history. Charles Darwin made breakthrough observations about geological processes here, including the effects of glaciation, and Edmund Hillary was among the mountaineers who used the Idwal Slabs as a training ground.

  • Length: 3½ miles (5 kilometres)
  • Terrain: The circular route follows public footpaths around Llyn Idwal. You should take a map with you as the route is not waymarked. The terrain is steep and rocky in sections. There are several other walking and rock scrambling routes which lead up to higher ridges
  • Start and finish: The car park at the Cwm Idwal visitor centre

Find out more

Route 2: Severn-Break-its-Neck Trail, Hafren Forest, Mid Wales

Mother and child watching the waterfall from a bridgeTempt the family out into the fresh air with the promise of seeing Britain’s longest river plunge into its first waterfall. Known as Severn-Break-its-Neck, this waterfall is where the River Severn thunders down a gully as it makes its way through Hafren Forest. The short circular walking trail first meanders through a wildlife meadow and then goes into the forest where the citrus scent of Grand Fir, the largest of all fir trees, fills the air. The bridge over the dramatic waterfall is your final stopping point and, from here, you can gaze down on the cascades of water gushing into the yawning gully .Hafren Forest is also home to three other waymarked walking trails and numerous other public footpaths.

  • Length: 1½ miles (2.5 kilometres)
  • Terrain: The trail consists of steps, a boardwalk, forest paths and roads. There are three sections of boardwalk, two as you walk around the open meadow and one small section in the woodland
  • Start and finish: Rhyd y Benwch car park

Find out more

Route 3: Dune Walk, Dyfi: Ynyslas National Nature Reserve, Mid Wales

Burnet RoseWhen the sun shines, it’s tempting to head straight for the beach at Ynyslas but why not follow the Dune Walk and find out why this area was designated a National Nature Reserve? The waymarked route takes in a rich variety of landscapes from dune ridges and slacks to open beach and shoreline, along with stunning panoramic views along the coast. During the summer, the dunes are covered in a multi-coloured carpet of wild flowers which attract butterflies and moths – see if you can spot the common blue butterfly, the crimson winged cinnabar moth and the dark green fritillary. As you walk along the beach, look out for pretty shells and wading birds and, if you are really lucky, you might see a dolphin out at sea. If you fancy a longer walk, head for the submerged forest close to the nearby village of Borth where the remains of ancient tree stumps can be seen on the beach at low tide.

  • Length: 1 mile (2 kilometres)
  • Terrain: This is an easy walk which has a section that is accessible for wheelchairs
  • Start and finish: Ynyslas visitor centre

Find out more

Route 4: Animal Puzzle Trail, Garwnant Visitor Centre, South East Wales

Dragonfly sculptureIf you’re looking for ideas to entertain the little ones during the long summer holiday, this fun but educational trail at Garwnant Visitor Centre should be on your short-list. Set in woodland in the Brecon Beacons National Park and clearly signposted off the A470, the visitor centre caters well for younger visitors with playgrounds and junior mountain bike trails. Pick up a free Puzzle Trail leaflet from the visitor centre and then follow the waymarkers over the bridge and into the woodland. The leaflet contains a map and clues to help spot the animal sculptures hidden in the trees but you will need to keep your eyes peeled, too! This short trail is perfect for all the family and it’s not too tiring for little legs. There are plenty of picnic tables and barbecue stands around the car park plus a café in the visitor centre where you can relax and refuel after your woodland adventure.

  • Length: ½ mile (1 kilometre)
  • Terrain: The first part of the Animal Puzzle Trail follows an all ability path suitable for wheelchairs and buggies. The second part of the trail has a short climb through the woodland and then follows a forest road - this part is only suitable for robust off-road wheelchairs and buggies. Alternatively, after doing the first part of the Animal Sculpture Trail, you can continue on the all ability path and follow the Tree Trail (there are clues for the Tree Trail in the Puzzle Trail leaflet too)
  • Start and finish: Garwnant Visitor Centre

Find out more

Route 5: Beach and Dunes Walk, Oxwich National Nature Reserve, South West Wales

OxwichThe Gower coastline is a popular spot for tourists all year round and, in the summer months, Oxwich National Nature Reserve welcomes many bird and insect visitors too. Just over ten miles from Swansea, Oxwich is a small reserve which packs a lot in – beach, sand dunes, saltmarsh, freshwater lakes, woodland and limestone cliffs – and these different habitats support a diverse range of species. As you follow the Dune Walk, look out for colourful orchids and other plants in the slacks (the damp hollows between the dunes). Summer is the best time of year to spot dune gentian and round-leaved wintergreen and other rare plants as they are in flower during the warmer months. The birdlife is particularly impressive in summer, too, with rare visitors like Cetti's Warblers and Sedge Warblers. And watch out where you tread as Oxwich is home to less common insect species like Cepero's Groundhopper and the Beachcomber Beetle.

  • Length: 2 miles (3 kilometres)
  • Terrain: The path runs between the road and the beach and is easy to follow. The terrain is easy and flat on the beach except at high tide
  • Start and finish: The beach car park owned by the Penrice Estate

Find out more

Route 6: The Gentleman’s Walk, Hafod Estate, Mid Wales

Man and waterfallIf you are looking for a more challenging walk to make the most of the long summer days, then the spectacular Gentleman’s Walk near Aberystwyth could be for you. Designed in the late eighteenth century by Thomas Johnes, the Hafod Estate is recognised as one of the finest examples of a “Picturesque” landscape in Europe. It became an essential destination for early tourists to Wales who enjoyed the succession of views and landscape features on the two circular walks developed by Johnes. The Gentleman’s Walk is the longer of these two walks and the waymarked route takes in huge old beech trees, dramatic waterfalls, a stunning cascade within a cavern and several unusual bridges. It is a strenuous route with many steep climbs and descents but these are rewarded with wide-reaching views over farmland and mountains.

  • Length: 3.7 miles (6 kilometres). It is possible to shorten or lengthen the route by following various ‘link’ paths or other trackways
  • Terrain: This is a strenuous walk with many steep climbs and descents, and a good level of fitness is required. The surface is rough and may be wet in places. Walking boots with a good grip are recommended
  • Start and finish: Hafod Estate car park

Find out more

Route 7: Parkland Circuit, Cadair Idris National Nature Reserve, North West Wales

Cadair IdrisYou don't have to scale to the top to enjoy Cadair Idris, one of Snowdonia National Park’s iconic peaks, as you can enjoy a gentle summer stroll in the mountain’s foothills. The accessible path from the car park gate goes around the peaceful Dôl Idris Lake and then on a circuit of the parkland, taking in the visitor centre with its exhibition about the wildlife, geology and legends of the Cadair Idris National Nature Reserve. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for dragonflies patrolling their patches and listen out for the classic trio of oakwood birds – pied flycatcher, wood warbler and redstart – which return to Wales for the summer months. You can relax on picnic benches in the parkland or soak up the sunshine and enjoy homemade refreshments on the café’s terrace next to the visitor centre. From here, a network of paths lead up and around the reserve to the mountain’s summit.

  • Length: ½ mile (0.8 kilometres)
  • Terrain: The Parkland Circuit is an accessible, wide and even trail with picnic benches along the route
  • Start and finish: The Snowdonia National Park Authority car park on the B4405, just off the A487

Find out more

Route 8: Llyn Llywelyn Walk, Beddgelert Forest, Snowdonia National Park, North West Wales

Family at Beddgelert ForestPicnics and summer go hand in hand and the Llyn Llywelyn Walk takes you to a perfect spot for a picnic in a peaceful corner of Snowdonia National Park. The trail sets off through the woodland and heads for Llyn Llywelyn lake. Here you can unpack your goodies, relax by the water and enjoy the views. Listen out for the steam trains from the Old Welsh Highland Railway which run through Beddgelert Forest on their way from Caernarfon to Porthmadog. If you’d prefer to explore on two wheels, there are two circular cycle routes that follow forest roads. They both go past the lake so you can still enjoy a picnic!

  • Length: 2¾ miles (4.4 kilometres)
  • Terrain: This circular trail follows forest roads to the lake and climbs a total of 530ft/162m
  • Start and finish: Beddgelert Forest Park Visitor Centre

Find out more

Route 9: Alwen Trail, Hiraethog Forest, North East Wales

Alwen ReservoirIf you want to get away from the crowds this summer, head for a walk around the beautiful and remote upland above the Alwen reservoir . The Alwen Trail goes through the peaceful woodland of Hiraethog Forest and up onto the moorland where there are stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Along the way, watch out for hen harriers, black grouse and crossbills.  You may even be lucky enough to see a red squirrel or an osprey, or hear the sound of the elusive cuckoo.  Look out for cyclists, too, as this trail may be used by cyclists as well as walkers – why not come back another day and try the trail on two wheels?

  • Length: 7 miles (11½ kilometres)
  • Terrain: This walk has uneven surfaces and some uphill climbs. There are resting points along the trail that are ideal for picnics
  • Start and finish: The Alwen Reservoir car park. Please note walkers should walk the route in a clockwise direction and cyclists should follow it in an anticlockwise direction

Find out more

Route 10:  Tram and Train Trail, Ogof Ffynnon Ddu National Nature Reserve, Brecon Beacons National Park, South Wales

Hairy greenweedOne of the largest cave systems in Britain lies beneath your feet at Ogof Ffynnon Ddu National Nature Reserve but there is plenty to see above ground, too. Early summer is the best time to see the limestone-loving plants or enjoy a burst of colour in late summer when the heather is in flower amongst the bilberry, lichens and mosses on the open moorland. Look out for wood anemone, lily of the valley and black spleen wort in the deep cracks in the limestone pavements or see if you can spot the rare hairy greenweed, a yellow flowered relative of gorse and broom that is found at only two other places in Wales. There was once a thriving village with a quarry and brickworks, post office and pub here and you can discover some of the industrial remains on our waymarked walk.

  • Length: 1½ miles, 2.3 kilometres
  • Terrain: A moderate walk along bridleways around the reserve with the option of including a section of old railway line. The reserve is open access, but it’s safest to stay on the network of paths due to sink holes
  • Start and finish: Ogof Ffynnon Ddu National Nature Reserve car park

Find out more

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