Glamorgan Heritage Coast coastal walks in South Wales

Forest to Coast: 12 of the Best Walks in South Wales

Glamorgan Heritage Coast coastal walks in South Wales

Forest to Coast: 12 of the Best Walks in South Wales

South Wales is a rambler’s paradise, with winding coastal paths, lush forest trails and exhilarating mountain hikes. Thanks to the abundance of scenic walking routes, there’s something to suit everyone.

Best of all, you’re never far from civilisation. Cardiff entices weary travellers with world-class restaurants and refreshing craft beers. Brecon and Hay-on-Wye are slightly more rural but equally well-equipped for people who love the best of both worlds. How about Swansea? It has bucket loads of family-friendly attractions.

Ready to lace your boots and grab your poles? Keep reading as we share some of the best South Wales walks to add to your holiday itinerary.

South Wales walks for better wellbeing

Before revealing some of the best walks in South Wales, let’s dive into the amazing benefits of getting outside in nature. Green spaces – from ancient woodlands to town parks – are an antidote to stress and worry. Expansive blue skies, thousand-year-old oaks and impenetrable mountain ranges have a way of putting your problems into perspective.

Physical activity also releases feel-good endorphins, decreasing the risk of mood-related disorders like depression. You don’t have to scale treacherous peaks to reap the rewards. Even the gentlest strolls trigger this soothing chemical reaction in the brain.

Lastly, South Wales walks improve sleep quality. Light exposure throughout the day dampens melatonin production, also known as the sleepy hormone. By the time night rolls around, you’ll be ready to rest after your day’s adventures. Best coastal walks in South Wales

Glamorgan Heritage Coast

The Glamorgan Heritage Coast trail is a gorgeous 11-mile route forming part of the Wales Coast Path. We suggest leaving from Dunraven Bay and scaling the cliff tops to Nash Point lighthouse and St Donat’s Castle. The terrain is mostly accessible with level footpaths. However, there are some short, steep climbs and stiles.

There’s plenty to see along the way. Nash Point Lighthouse has been standing proudly since 1832. Fun fact: it was the last light in Wales to be automated and the penultimate in the UK to be de-manned. How cool is that? You’ll also find a quaint café here, serving tasty treats and cold beverages.

Continue after the lighthouse to reach the medieval St Donat’s castle. It’s the longest continually inhabited castle in Wales, standing above the Bristol Channel. Searching for a romantic getaway? The Hide at St Donats boasts luxury on-site accommodation with exquisite coastal views.

Wales Coast Path

Section of the Wales Coast Path

Fancy longer coastal walks in South Wales? The Glamorgan Heritage Coast trail is only a short part of the Wales Coast Path – an 870-mile route that takes six to seven weeks to complete. The southern part of the walk stretches from Chepstow to Swansea. However, you could continue via Tenby and Pembroke to Cardigan.

The Chepstow to Swansea section is less rugged than the trails further north. Nevertheless, it’s still beautiful and highly recommended. One highlight is the pleasant amble from Ogmore-by-Sea to Barry Island. The golden, sandy beaches and dramatic cliffs look like something out of the most exotic holiday brochure. Love wildlife? Watch out for seals and porpoises in the waves below.

Barry Island is a family-friendly seaside resort and the ideal place to for a pitstop. Little kids and big kids alike will love Barry Island Pleasure Park. Cool down on the log flume or test your bravery on the Aerospace roller coaster. Prefer to keep both feet on the ground? Drink in the area’s outstanding natural beauty at Porthkerry Country Park instead.

Pembrokeshire Coast Path

South Wales walks don’t get much better than the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. The 186-mile trail showcases some of the most sublime seaside scenery in the country. One of our favourite routes covers Tenby to Saundersfoot. Although it’s only five miles, you’ll need a reasonable level of fitness to surmount the undulating paths.

The hard work is well worth it. You’ll leave Tenby and wander past Paragon Beach, Castle Beach and St Catherine’s Island. The latter is a Grade II listed 19th-century Palmerston Fort. Then, you’ll stumble across Tenby Castle – a glorious relic of Norman times. Did we mention history buffs will be in their element?

After the ruins, the trail passes Monkstone Beach, Lodge Valley and Rhode Wood. Finally, it reaches Saundersfoot. Saundersfoot Beach is the perfect place to kick back and rest your weary feet. Nearby, you’ll find countless restaurants and pubs for a well-deserved meal.

Best mountain walks in South Wales

Garth Mountain

We can’t round up the best walks in South Wales without spotlighting some of the UK’s most awe-inspiring peaks. Mountain hikes are slightly less accessible. But you’ll still find several easier options for older adults and younger children.

The Garth Mountain walk is brilliantly modifiable. The trail is about two miles long with an elevation of 155 metres. Park along Cardiff Road and walk up Route des Alpes, which runs along the base of Garth Hill. Cross the River Taff and follow the map towards Gwaelod-y-Garth Inn. There will be signposts so you won’t get lost.

The walk technically starts here. The easy route passes the cattle grid and follows Mountain Road along pretty country lanes. The harder route takes one of the narrow, windy footpaths on the right after the cattle grid. Whichever you choose, you’re guaranteed sensational views from the summit.

Pen y Fan

Admittedly, Garth Mountain is really just a big hill. If you’re looking for something more challenging, try Pen y Fan instead. It’s the highest peak in South Wales, nestled in the glorious Brecon Beacons National Park. With 886 metres of elevation, the scenes from the top are breathtaking.

Like any mountain trek, you must always stick to the marked trails and proceed with caution. Even the simplest route takes around four hours to complete. Stop for regular breaks and marvel at the wild, open moorland. In the skies above, spot circling red kites and buzzards hunting for their next meal.

Horseshoe Ridge is the most difficult path to the summit. Bring a mat, compass, whistle and torch because the weather is unpredictable. Terrain-wise, expect scrambles and narrow ridges that often appear unexpectedly from unmade footpaths. It’s fantastic preparation if you’re planning to ascend Snowdon at a later date.

Skirrid Mountain

Skirrid Mountain south Wales walk

Skirrid is a humble mountain in the eastern area of the Brecon Beacons, with an elevation of 486m. Despite its modest size, it’s one of the most memorable mountain walks in South Wales. You’ll journey through glorious woodlands onto the open mountainside before scaling the crest.

Most people complete the beginner-friendly route within two hours. Thanks to its popularity, you’ll meet plenty of like-minded hikers along the way. On top of this, the signposts are easy-to-navigate for extra peace of mind.

Start from the car park along Old Ross Road and follow a gravel path to Pont Skirred Wood. After crossing a stile, continue through the untouched woodlands until you reach the eastern slopes of the hill. You’ll know you’re near the top when you come across St Michael’s Chapel – a medieval church marking the skyline.

Best forest walks in South Wales

Afan Forest Park

Afan Forest Park near Port Talbot is a goldmine of natural treasures. It’s a fantastic haven for ramblers and one of Britain’s most celebrated mountain bike destinations. Pick up a map of trail routes from the visitor centre then head to the café. Here you can decide which you prefer over a delicious cup of coffee and homemade cake.

Want something challenging but not unbearable? We recommend the moderately strenuous path along the river and railway. After all, you might not want to work up a sweat while on holiday. This mostly flat walk traverses the beautiful River Afan, where herons and kingfishers patrol the shallows.

Otherwise, tackle the Gyfylchi Ridgetop – a 250-metre climb across forest roads, stony tracks and steep paths. The surrounding conifers are home to a stunning collection of birds, such as crossbills and siskins.

Brechfa Forest

Brechfa Forest in Carmarthenshire offers magical walks through large, coniferous groves, giant redwoods and sessile oaks. While densely packed, the trails are clearly waymarked for convenience. You can even find makeshift picnic tables between the towering pines and mountainside slopes. Remember to bring your sandwiches!

The Forest Garden trail takes around three hours to complete from start to finish. It’s part of a special site that tests how certain trees grow in forest settings. There are 89 plots along the route featuring different species. Notably, giant redwoods from California, eucalyptus from Australia and nothofagus from South America.

Carmel National Nature Reserve

Some of the most attractive forest walks in South Wales combine woodlands with flower-sprinkled grasslands and meadows. Carmel National Nature Reserve is a brilliant example. The rich tapestry of habitats attracts butterflies, birds and mammals. The landscape also has a rich cultural history. On the horizon, you can still see two large limestone quarries and several old kilns.

Although there aren’t as many trails as the previous forest walks, the stunning routes around the quarries make up for the lack of choice. The brave might choose a short, steep scramble up loose stone paths to the lofty viewpoints. Don’t fancy vertical climbs? How about a circular route through deciduous woodland? The forest floor comes alive with delicate bluebells in spring.

Best circular walks in South Wales

Cardiff Bay Circular

Cardiff Bay at night - best walks in South Wales

Circular walks in South Wales are some of the most accessible because they tend to be shorter and flatter. Plus, you don’t have to worry about finding your way back. The Cardiff Bay Circular is around six miles long, looping across to the seaside town of Penarth via Pont Y Werin.

What will you see? Iconic landmarks include the Norwegian Church, Wales Millennium Centre and Senedd. There’s no need to rush, so press pause and dive deeper into the capital’s best-loved tourist destinations.

Penarth is a unique seaside town with a Victorian pier and Art Deco pavilion. Enjoy an ice cream on the pebble stone beach before finishing the loop. The views over the Severn Estuary promise to keep you entertained. The mudbanks, saltmarshes and rocky reefs provide an important habitat for diverse wildlife.

Valeways Millennium Heritage Trail

The Valeways Millennium Heritage Trail is a circular route around the Vale of Glamorgan. It’s approximately 62 miles long, but you can pick and choose where to start and finish. Local maps split the path into 16 easy-to-follow sections, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost.

The best way to approach this walk is via a camping holiday. Set aside a week to complete the whole thing and pitch your tent when night falls. Remember, you need permission from landowners to wild camp, so it’s easier to book legitimate sites.

The terrain is varied and fascinating. It covers coastal paths, farmland and prehistoric sites such as Tinkinswood and the St Lythans burial chambers. Around every corner, there’s another gem just waiting to be uncovered. Our favourites include the Welsh Folk Museum near St Fagans and Ely Valley.

Gwent Levels

The Gwent Levels is an intricate web of footpaths, bridleways and green lanes sandwiched between the South Wales hills and Severn Estuary. You could spend hours here exploring the rich landscape. The saltmarshes and mudflats provide a tasty feast for dunlin, avocets and bar-tailed godwits. Feeling lucky? Look out for bearded tits and bitterns skulking in the reeds.

There are countless routes for every fitness level. The longest circular walk is the Newport Wetlands and Goldcliff Loop. Start from the Newport Wetlands visitor centre and stroll past the East Usk Lighthouse on the Wales Coast Path. You’ll finish at the beautiful churches of St Mary’s at Goldcliff and St Mary’s at Nash.

Book your dream adventure holiday today

South Wales walks are some of the best activities for adventurous families and intrepid explorers. However, there’s plenty more to do and see in the region, including splash-tastic water sports and pretty country parks. Browse our website for more activity ideas and itineraries.