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Check out the top ten things to do in our woodlands...
Make the most of the long summer days on one of these walks
We’ve chosen ten walking routes to help you discover the great outdoors this summer in our woodlands and National Nature Reserves.
Escape from the crowds and enjoy displays of wildflowers or relax at a peaceful lakeside picnic spot.
Follow in the footsteps of early tourists on a walk created in the eighteenth century.
Keep the little ones entertained with a woodland puzzle trail or a walk through the sand dunes.
To help you pick a route near you, we’ve listed walks in north Wales first, then mid Wales and then south Wales.
If 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?
Cwm 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.
Picnics 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!
You 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.
Tempt 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.
When 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.
If 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.
Summer is the best time to enjoy the wildflower-rich meadow which is one of the best in mid Wales. Over 100 flowering plant species have been recorded here, including heath-spotted orchid, carnation sedge, lesser skullcap and sneezewort. The wildflowers attract lots of butterflies on warm, still days and damselflies and dragonflies can be spotted near the pond in summer, including larger species like the emperor and the southern hawker. The walking route goes alongside the wildflower meadow and follows the boardwalk through the swampy woodland.
If 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.
One 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.
Go to the Traveline Cymru website for information about travel by bus, coach and train in Wales.
See the Countryside Code for advice about preparing for your trip, keeping yourself and others safe and how you can help ensure that the countryside remains a beautiful place that everyone can enjoy.
Looking for somewhere else to visit? Go to our Places to Visit section.
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