Wales In Winter

by Jul 20, 2020

WALES IN WINTER

If you plan to visit Wales in winter, there’s a good chance you’ll see it at its most magical. The days are short, the evenings long, the temperature drops but I’ve found over many visits that winter in Wales might be cold but it warms the soul rather wonderfully.

Wales in the winter is so special because the crystal-clear light makes the Welsh landscape stand out so beautifully. Many of the higher mountains in Wales have a coating of snow for much of the winter season, yet it’s also a great time to explore the Welsh coast, with low winter light and unforgettable sunsets.

Image of Pentre Ifan burial chamber in snow Pembrokeshire Wales UK
Pentre Ifan, a Neolithic burial chamber in Pembrokeshire, West Wales

Our guide to the best things to do in Wales in winter takes you all around the country, showing you everything from Snowdonia in winter to some of the best Welsh castles to visit. We’ll also point you in the direction of some of the best beaches in Wales, and some of the best walks on the 870-mile Wales Coast Path. There’s also Christmas in Wales, or some of the best museums and art galleries to explore. We’ll also tell you about some of the best places to stay in Wales in winter, and some of the best places to eat at each location. 

WALES IN WINTER – OUR TOP 5

Image of Yr Aran mountain and Llyn Gwynant lake in Snowdonia in winter
Yr Aran and Llyn Gwynant, an stunning lake near Beddgelert

Snowdonia in Winter – the country’s most dramatic mountains at their most beautiful in their white winter coat

The walk up Carn Llidi mountain from Whitesands Bay near St Davids – one of the most amazing views on the Pembrokeshire coast

Conwy Castle – the finest castle and most intriguing town in the country looks stunning with a white winter backdrop

Image of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast at Nash Point Wales UK
Nash Point in glorious late light

Rhossili Beach – this awesome beach was once voted one of the best sunset spots in the world – and winter is the best time to capture them

A cosy meal in a Welsh country pub – try the Plough and Harrow in Monknash after a walk along the breathtaking coastline around nearby Nash Point  

DOES IT SNOW IN WALES?

Image of the harbour at Borth-y-Gest in North Wales in winter
Sometimes the snow even settles on the coast – Borth-y_Gest, near Porthmadog

It certainly does, though you can never be sure when.  The weather in Wales is notoriously capricious. If you’re visiting Wales in winter you would expect to encounter snow between December and February, the main winter months. This often happens, but I’ve also seen years where there has been snowfall in late October – still very much autumn in Wales – and then no more of the white stuff until April, well into spring, when there has been snow more than two metres deep on the summit of Snowdon.

WHERE IS IT MOST LIKELY TO SNOW IN WALES?

Image of the Rhinog mountains in snow at sunset North Wales UK
Snowdonia is where you’re most likely to find snow in Wales

The places you are most likely to find snow are around the highest mountains in Wales. Snow in Snowdonia, in North Wales, is a common occurrence in winter, and the upper reaches of Cadair idris and the Cambrian Mountains of Mid Wales also get a coating most years. Further south, you can usually expect to find snow across much of the Brecon Beacons National Park, which includes the highest peak in southern Britain, Pen y Fan.

Snow often falls in the South Wales Valleys and, to the west, on the Preseli Hills in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park sometimes get a good dusting too. The low-lying coastal areas don’t tend to get much snow – it only settles in exceptionally cold conditions.

Winter Holidays In Wales

Image of Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons South Wales
The Brecon Beacons are hugely popular especially on winter weekends

Most visitors to Wales during the winter tend to come on short breaks, usually over weekends. Many hotels in Wales remain open through the year, and B&Bs in Betws-y-Coed, for example, open for weekends (Friday to Sunday nights) then close for the working week.

Snowdonia in Winter

Image of Mount Snowdon in snow from Llynnau Mymbyr lakes Snowdonia North Wales UK
Snowdon from Llynnau Mymbyr lakes in Capel Curig

My most memorable Wales winter trip was to the Snowdonia National Park, a few days after returning from the heat of an Australian summer. It’s one of the most beautiful areas in Wales regardless of the season, but the clarity of the winter light and air makes it possibly the best time of all to visit Snowdonia. I know several mountaineers who wholeheartedly agree!

If you’re not planning on mountaineering (for which you need full ice climbing equipment), my advice is to pack your camera, charge the battery to full and drive. At Capel Curig, a few miles up the road from Betws-y-Coed, the A5 heads into the splendid Ogwen Valley, with the sheer rock faces of Tryfan on the left and the high ridges of the Carneddau on the right.

Image of Tryfan mountain in snow in Snowdonia North Wales
Tryfan in the Ogwen Valley

The other option at Capel Curig is to follow the A4086 in the direction of Llanberis. After passing the Plas Y Brenin Outdoor Centre, one of the best views in Wales opens out before you, with Snowdon and its neighbouring peaks, sometimes reflected in the waters of the Llynnau Mymbyr lakes. The road climbs the Llanberis Pass before dropping down to the village of the same name. An alternative route takes you down the A498, passing Llyn Gwynant, in our opinion one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe, and pretty Llyn Dinas, before reaching Beddgelert, one of the loveliest villages in North Wales.

There are another two options at Beddgelert – continuing down the A48 towards Porthmadog and the coast, or heading north up the A4085 along the western flank of Snowdon. If you take the B4418 turn left at Rhyd Ddu, you’ll eventually be rewarded with an awesome view across Llyn Nantlle Uchaf lake to the western face of the highest mountain in Wales. 

Blaenau Ffestiniog

Image of Blaenau Ffestiniog in snow
Blaenau Ffestiniog on an awe-inspiring winter day

If I had been writing this article ten years ago, Blaenau – the slate quarrying town that roofed the world – wouldn’t have made it into this article. Much has changed. It’s now one of the best places to go for adventure activities in Wales.

Some of the best things to do in Blaenau Ffestiniog revolve around the Zip World attraction. Zip World Titan is a series of hair-raising zip-wire rides over the unique Blaenau Ffestiniog slate landscape. They also have a zip-wire course underground, in the fascinating Llechwedd Slate Caverns. You can also bounce on an underground trampoline at Bounce Below, a series of net trampolines in a spectacular setting in the Caverns.

Portmeirion Village

Portmeirion is one of the best places to visit in Wales in. winter. This part-Italianate fantasy village is a year-round attraction, open during the day and for stays all year round. The pastel-shaded houses give a welcome dose of colour after a spell of grey weather, and in winter, the village is quiet, with a fraction of the flow of visitors in summer.

One of the best things to do in Portmeirion is to stay at least one night. The Village was used as a film set for The Prisoner back in the 1960s, and wandering the Piazza and pathways at dusk is an incredible experience. The only place I’ve ever visited that remotely compares to it is Monsaraz, Portugal – a genuine fortified mountain-top village so exquisitely preserved it looks like it was built for filming.

It’s one of the best attractions of Wales and one of the most beautiful villages in Europe, and the accommodation is right up there with the best in Wales.

Places To Stay: Hotel Portmeirion, Castell Deudraeth and the rooms and cottages in the Village

Places to Eat: Both Hotel Portmeirion and Castell Deudraeth have excellent restaurants..

Llanddwyn Island

Image of Llanddwyn Island on Anglesey Wales UK
Llanddwyn Island in lovely low winter light

Santes Dwynwen is. the Welsh patron saint of lovers, and she is believed to have spent her latter days in a hermit’s cell on Llanddwyn Island, off the south-west coast of the island of Anglesey in North Wales. It’s a place of mesmerising beauty, with two beaches, two lighthouses and the staggering view across Caernarfon Bay to the jagged peaks of the Llŷn Peninsula.

Llanddwyn and neighbouring Newborough beach are among the most spectacular places to visit in Wales. Newborough beach can be reached from Newborough village, and Llanddwyn is a half-hour walk along the sands.

Where to stay: Chateau Rhianfa for the full Welsh romantic experience, otherwise Ye Olde Bulls Head in Beaumaris.

Where to Eat: The Marram Grass Café.

Conwy

Image of Conwy Castle at night in winter
Conwy Castle resplendent on a magnificent winter night

There are plenty of things to do in Conwy at any time of year, and in the winter you get the town largely to yourself.  UNESCO World Heritage Site Conwy Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Europe, its eight towers standing firm above the River Conwy shortly before it reaches the sea.

Image of Conwy town and Castle in winter
Conwy from the town walls in winter

Conwy town is a delight, albeit very different from summer when many sit on the quay enjoying the balmy evenings. In winter you cosy up by the fire, in a warm restaurant. You can also visit Plas Mawr, a superb Tudor townhouse on the high street, and walk the town walls. Across the river in Llandudno, Mostyn is one of the finest art galleries in Wales, with ongoing temporary exhibitions.

Where to stay: Castle Hotel, Conwy, or Quay Hotel Deganwy or The Groes, Rowen.

Where to Eat: At any of the above, or the Austrian Restaurant, Dwygyfylchi.

Betws-y-Coed

Image of Betws-y-Coed in North Wales in winter
The Pont-y-Pair in Betws-y-Coed

Betws-y-Coed is the main gateway to Snowdonia, a great base for exploring the National Park and the Conwy Valley, or even heading east to Llangollen. There are enough things to do around Betws-y-Coed itself to fill a day and more, but it’s best as a base. It’s often busy at weekends in winter, especially if there has been snowfall. Most of the B&Bs are open, and the hotels are usually busy. Take time to see the lovely old Pont-y-Pair stone bridge, and there are also walks up to Swallow Falls, two miles (3 km) away.

Where To Stay: The Royal Oak Hotel is ideal. It also has a small role in. Welsh history, as it’s where the Betws-y-Coed Artists Colony began to congregate in the 19th century. The Waterloo Hotel, on the edge of the village, is another good year-round option.

Where To Eat: The Royal Oak has a restaurant and bar food in the popular Stables Bar.

Harlech Castle

Image of Harlech Castle wales in winter
Harlech Castle and Snowdonia

Harlech Castle is one of the four Castles in Gwynedd that make up Wales’ first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its setting is incomparable, on a former sea cliff with the whole of the main Snowdonia range as a backdrop. It overlooks the endless sandy expanse of Harlech beach, one of the best beaches in North Wales, which has inspirational views of the mountains to the north, ideal for a bracing coastal walk.

Where To Stay: Crown Lodge, Byrdir House and Castle Cottage Restaurant With Rooms are all good options up in the village, and Y Branwen is a fine 4-star hotel located at the foot of the cliff below the Castle.

Pen Y Fan Walk In Winter

Image of the view from the summit of Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons Wales
The view from Pen y Fan to Cribyn on on e of the clearest days I’ve ever seen in the Welsh mountains

The short Pen y Fan climb is one of the most popular walks in Wales , a relatively easy gradual ascent from Pont ar Daf on the main A470 road. For most of the year it’s a pretty simple proposition, but in winter there’s often snow and ice around Pen y Fan and its sister summit, Corn Du.  It’s not one for sneakers and trainers – I’ve often seen people needing crampons around the summits. The rewards is one of the best views in. Wales, with the Bristol Channel in one direction, and the Cambrian Mountains of ±Mid wales in the other.

Where to Stay: There are some wonderful places to stay in the Brecon Beacons National Park,Including Peterstone Court and Gliffaes Country House Hotel.

Where to eat: The Felin Fach Griffin.

Caerphilly Castle

Image of Caerphilly Castle in snow Wales UK
Caerphilly Castle in snow

Caerphilly Castle is one of the easiest day trips from Cardiff, a 20-minute train ride to the southernmost town in the South Wales Valleys. It’s one of the finest castles in South Wales,, the second largest in the UK, a medieval concentric fortress surrounded by water defences.

It’s a great year-round destination, with recently added extras including a dragon’s lair for kids. In winter there are also Christmas Markets in the town and events and light shows in the Castle.

Where to Stay: Cardiff has many more options.

Cardiff Winter Wonderland and Christmas Markets

Image of Cardiff Castle in Christmas lights
Cardiff Castle at Christmas

Cardiff has the best Christmas Market in Wales, a huge range of stalls ranging from jewellery and arts and crafts to German sausages and Welsh cheeses (we highly recommend some of the latter, by the way). The Market is huddled around medieval St John’s Church, Cardiff Market, the Old Library, with some stalls on The Hayes, where most shopping in Cardiff is now done.

Image of Cardiff Castle at sunset Wales UK
A dramatic winter sunset at Cardiff Castle

Walk up past Cardiff Castle, one of the most visited castles in Wales, and through the subway to elegant Edwardian Cardiff City Hall. This is the backdrop to the Cardiff Winter Wonderland, with its ice rink, bars, food stalls and fairground rides. The city is one of the best places to visit in Wales, and there’s enough Cardiff sightseeing to detain you for at least a weekend   

Port Eynon to Rhossili Walk, Gower Peninsula

Image of the Knave rock formation on the Gower coast in Wales
The Knave and Horse Cliff, on the Port Eynon to Rhossili walk

The Gower Peninsula, immediately to the west of second city Swansea, was the first Wales landscape to attain Area of Outstanding Natural. Beauty status back in the 1950s. The walk from the seaside village of Port Eynon to windswept Rhossili, on the western edge of Gower, is the best place to see it in all its varied glory, from wild cliff scenery to an Iron Age hillfort above The Knave rock formation, to Mewslade Bay, one of the best hidden beaches in South Wales.

Image of the Helvetia shipwreck on the Gower Peninsula Wales
The Helvetia shipwreck and Worm’s Head at sunset

We made Rhossili Bay the top entry in our Wales bucket list, and we rate it one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. Despite its isolation it’s one of the most popular Gower beaches, and in winter many still make the trek down to the beach from the village. Another great Gower walk is the short climb up Rhossili Down, where there’s an outstanding vantage point close to the summit, looking out to Worm’s Head, one of the most spectacular of all welsh islands.

Where to Stay: There are surprisingly few Gower hotels, as it’s an area popular with campers and caravanners. The best bets are the Worm’s Head Hotel in Rhossili and the Oxwich Bay Hotel, overlooking another of the best beaches in South Wales.

Llyn Peninsula around Aberdaron

Image of Bardsey Island at sunset near Aberdaron Wales
You can’t get to Bardsey Island in winter but you can catch the sunset

The coastline around Aberdaron is among the most beautiful in Wales. It’s often called the Land’s End of Wales, and is also the departure point for nearby Bardsey Island, a major pilgrimage destination in the Middle Ages. Boats only run there between April and October, but you can easily see it from across Bardsey Sound. The Llŷn is one of the wildest landscapes in Wales, and there is some amazing cliff scenery around Braich y Pwll, the closest point on mainland Wales to Bardsey. Aberdaron is also home to some of the best Llŷn Peninsula beaches, with Porth Oer (Whistling Sands) and the remote surfers’ haunt at Hells Mouth (Porth Neigwl) close by. 

Where to Stay: Gwesty Ty Newydd Hotel backs onto the beach, and the food there is also very good.

Tenby

Image of TYenby North Beach Wales UK
Tenby North Beach at first light

Tenby is, for our money, the best seaside resort in Wales, with three brilliant beaches and a gorgeous harbour, and medieval town walls to boot. It’s much quieter in the off-season than in peak season, and many attractions are closed. But the core of the place remains the same, one of the most beautiful towns in the UK, still as enchanting in the shorter days and longer nights.

Image of St Catherine's Island Tenby Wales UK
St Catherine’s Island from South Beach Tenby

Some of the hotels and B&Bs remain open throughout the year, and Tenby is a great place to rest for a couple of days and shift the winter blues. It’s a perfect base for exploring the rest of Pembrokeshire, the westernmost county in Wales. Nearby, Narberth has a fine selection of independent shops on one of the best high streets in Wales.

Image of Ramsey Island near St Davids Wales
Ramsey Island from Carn Llidi, above Whitesands Bay

Virtually anywhere on the Pembrokeshire coast is within reach, including the tiny cathedral city of St Davids. This has some exhilarating coastal walks, especially around St Non’s Bay to the south and Whitesands Bay to the north-west.

Where to Stay: There are several good Tenby hotels including the Park Hotel, the Fourcroft Hotel, the Atlantic Hotel and, for something a little different, Penally Abbey Country House Hotel.

Where to eat: Our top pick is Plantagenet House, where we have dined many times. It’s best known for its seafood, and in our view it’s one of the best restaurants in Wales. Much of the building is medieval, including the Flemish chimney. It was once connected to the Tudor Merchant’s House next door – this is usually open during the summer season.

image of David Angel, the photographer/writer/creator of the Europe travel blog Delve into Europe

Let Me Help You Discover The Best Of Europe

Hi, I’m David Angel and I love Europe.   I’ve been fortunate to have spent every spare moment of the past 25 years travelling and photographing this extraordinary continent.  This site shares my best advice, tips and travel secrets for Europe.   And I hope my photos will encourage you to delve deeper and discover some less visited gems of Europe.  You can find out more about me here.

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