As a country with a reputation for being rainy, Wales is awash with wonderful things to do regardless of the weather, and that’s as true in winter as at any other time of year.

Hunker down in a cozy cabin, discover deserted beaches, explore wild woodlands or sit back with a drink by the fire in a friendly pub. Come to Cymru in winter and you won’t be disappointed.

Editor's note: during COVID-19, there are restrictions on travel, and some attractions may be temporarily closed or require pre-booking. Always check before departure, and be sure to follow local health guidance.

Sgwd yr Eira, a horseshoe waterfall, plunges into a pool
Sgwd-yr-Eira, the Snow Waterfall in the Brecon Beacons National Park © Martyn Ferry / Getty Images

Brecon Beacons – waterfalls, walks and whisky

With spectacular scenery and endless paths for wintery walks, Brecon Beacons National Park feels like it was made for the cold season. Bring walking boots to cope with the demands of the terrain and head for wonderful natural attractions such as Sgwd yr Eira waterfall. The three-hour route leads directly behind the fall, which looks spectacular whether the water is fast-flowing or frozen into spiky icicles. Penderyn Distillery is close by, ideal for warming yourself up with a taste of Welsh whisky made on the premises.

For ultimate coziness when it comes to somewhere to stay, opt for a cottage. There's Old Crofftau, a countryside cottage with great access to Brecon's amenities, views of both Pen-Y-Fan and the Black Mountains and a wood burner for lazing beside. For some Georgian elegance book a room with a view at Peterstone Court, reserving a table in the excellent restaurant at the same time.

The Hardwick, Abergavenny, Wales © Myles New  / Lonely Planet
Go on, you deserve it. Dessert at the acclaimed restaurant in The Hardwick © Myles New / Lonely Planet

Other great food options abound in Abergavenny, a small town with a big reputation as a gourmet haven. Fuel up with award-winning afternoon tea in The Angel Hotel or enjoy country pub delights at The Hardwick or The King's Arms. Just north of Brecon is Talgarth Flour Mill, a restored watermill with a bakery and breadmaking courses that operate through winter. The Felin Fach Griffin is nearby, a lovely spot for a gastropub meal made using ingredients grown in the on-site garden.

Penarth Pier, Wales Amy Pay / Lonely Planet
Take a stroll along Penarth Pier or a longer hike along the Wales Coast Path © Amy Pay / Lonely Planet

Penarth – cliff-top trails 

In the southeast of the country, just across Cardiff Bay from the capital, is Penarth, a seaside town with all the charm and none of the gimmicks of similar places. At the tip of the Vale of Glamorgan, it's an ideal rural base from which you can walk the Wales Coastal Path to neighboring towns and villages, blowing away the cobwebs as you stroll on the cliffs, hills or even just along the pier. After an activity-filled day, you can choose to spend the night in the area – stroll uphill to Holm House Hotel, a modern building with luxury accommodation, landscaped gardens with sweeping sea views, and a spa – or head back to explore bustling, compact Cardiff.

Abereiddy Beach, Wales © Amy Pay / Lonely Planet
Brave Abereiddy beach in winter and you might have it all to yourself © Amy Pay / Lonely Planet

Pembrokeshire – pick a beach, any beach

Sprawling hills for blustery walks, local pubs with great beer and open fireplaces, little villages and towns to hide away in and stretches of sand that are beautiful come rain or shine – Pembrokeshire has all this and, in winter, none of the peak season crowds.

With over 50 beaches here, there’s a high chance you’ll find one to claim as your own. Cwm yr Eglwys is a sheltered low tide beach, with a pebbly cove hidden behind the western part of the main beach, where you can search for marine life in the rockpools. Abereiddy beach is long, with stretches of pebbles and dark slate sand, while the harbor to the north, known as the Blue Lagoon, is a breached quarry filled with azure water that's worth clambering over the hilltop for. 

To be near amenities, stick to the small urban centers like Tenby, St Davids, Fishguard and Narberth. Perfect for a special occasion if visiting the latter is The Grove, a Georgian hotel with huge private gardens, plush lounges, an award-winning restaurant and easy transport links. Alternatively, you could stay in one of Fforest's apartments on Cardigan Quayside and enjoy a meal in an historic setting at 1176 in Cardigan Castle. Or historic St Davids has sights, sleeping and eating options aplenty if the weather turns really bad. Check out the cathedral, peruse the many independent shops and then retire to Tŵr y Felin, Wales’ first contemporary art hotel.

A vast space filled with wires and netting. People wearing brightly colored jump suits are making their way along suspended walkways. Slate Caverns, Wales © Visit Wales
No matter what the weather outside, there's trampolining in the Slate Caverns © Visit Wales

Snowdownia – underground activities and sky-high views

If you want action and relaxation, North Wales has both. Vast Snowdonia National Park is a natural playground, with many small businesses offering year-round activities including horse riding, mountain biking, white water kayaking and guided walks and climbs.

For thrill-seekers, there are multiple Zip World sites (all temporarily closed until February 2021). Penrhyn Slate Quarry, located near Bethesda, is home to the world's fastest zip line – speeds can reach a face-wobbling 100mph. A ride on it will give you a bird's-eye view over the dramatic mountainside quarry and extensive surrounding countryside. If you want an escape from the elements, the all-weather Slate Caverns in Blaenau Ffestiniog have a trampoline park deep inside a former Victorian mine, and an underground rope course with zip lines, tunnels, climbs and descents through caverns.

There are dozens of affordable B&Bs in the Conwy area. Gwynfryn is a top choice, right in the town center. Or stay near the fairy tale waterway of the Menai Strait at the Black Boy Inn, one of the oldest in North Wales.


Winter safety when hiking

Though winter can be beautiful in Wales, it can also be dangerous if you're heading into the mountains or for a long hike in an isolated area. Check conditions and talk to local tour operators before setting off. Be sure to take all-weather gear with you, as things can swiftly change along the coast and in the mountains.

You might also like:

UK's top 10 natural wonders  
10 great day hikes in Wales  
Why North Wales is the UK’s new must-visit destination  

Article first published in January 2018, and last updated in November 2020

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This article was first published Jan 19, 2018 and updated Nov 13, 2020.

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