A culture deeply rooted in folklore and fiction, a mountainous landscape dominated by greys and greens and a language which fiercely distinguishes this Celtic nation from any other; Wales packs more beauty and personality into its compact mass of land than it would seem possible. From snow-drenched valleys in the north to white-washed surfing beaches in the south-west, this little country offers opportunities en masse to escape the heat of the city and bound, carefree, into the great outdoors.

Snowdonia and North Wales

Image via Hefin Owen

Where mighty mountains scrape sullen skies and gentle coast paths loftily ramble over golden sands, Snowdonia and North Wales hold close to their heart all that is Welsh about Wales. The peaks within this compact national park soar from the depths of glacial valleys and throw themselves into the sky, offering views to challenge any found in the Alps of France.

There is far more to North Wales than mountains, however mighty they may be; cross the Menai Strait to Anglesey to go in search of paradise beaches and sweet little fishing villages, don a wetsuit and beanie and SUP lakes filled with snow run-off or find a pew with views of the sea, or Strait, and dine on some of the finest seafood the British Isles has to offer. For those with a strong sense of adventure, there are opportunities to fly on zip-wires over, and below the ground, soar from cliff tops into turquoise lakes or even delve deep into mines to bounce on trampolines.

The skies, and seemingly the abyss, are the limit in North Wales, where there is no adventure too great, no endeavour too outrageous. But also the slow and mindful are celebrated here; North Wales is a place to breathe deeply, to reconnect with the soul as well as nature and to really, truly put all matters into perspective.

Where to stay: Eirianfa, Hinterland Cabin

Pembrokeshire and the West Coast

Image via grassrootsgroundswell

Wild and unruly, windswept and magnificent, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park sweeps the south western corner of Wales and envelops all the disorderly beauty it possibly can. Huge sea stacks and arches dominate the coastline, while inland burial chambers, ruins and castles can be found on top of moorlike hills and between lush valleys. Overhead, clouds of seabirds soar on thermals between an ever-changing swirl of weathers; clouds whip together by warm westerly winds, rain moves in a curtain of grey across that far-reaching horizon and sunshine beats down on golden beaches.

Rambling around almost every twist and turn of the coastline, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path winds along 186 miles of wondrous views and craggy paths. In spring, vibrant yellows and purples blanket clifftop fields, while surf well and truly pummels the beaches and coves below. After a hike in the summer heat, strip it all off and dive under the swell for a glimpse of Pembrokeshire’s thriving marine community. Seals, crabs, lobsters and dogfish are commonly seen in these waters, but keep eyes peeled for bright corals, the otherworldly peacock worm and colour-changing octopus.

And then there’s the vanishing and reappearing landscape of Newport (the coastal village, not the city), where curlews call and fishing boats stock the pubs with fresh fare and tales only to be told during early-morning lock-ins. Rolling with the rhythm of the tides and seasons, village life in Pembrokeshire is an idyllic one; grab yourself a gin and tonic, kick off those flip flops and allow sublime views to lull you into a state of bliss.

Where to stay: Florin, The Cable Hut, Seren Mor

The Brecon Beacons

Image via Nick

Flat-topped mountains and undulating rolls of purple heather, raging rivers and deep, glacier-scoured ravines, the Brecon Beacons ripple across southern Wales and all the way to the English border. Pen y Fan, the Brecon’s most famous and highest mountain at 886m above sea level, sees over 250,000 pairs of feet trek to its summit throughout the year. On a clear day, the summit offers views of the Cambrian Mountains, Gower, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset; when the sleet and snow are driving hard, a glimpse of the next peak can be somewhat ambitious.

With the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean blending the Brecons with England in a glorious sweep of green, there are plenty of sights and sounds to entertain those with a gentler disposition to gung-ho adrenaline seekers. Chase the sun from one side of the Wye to the other, having a drink on each bank in Symonds Yat, wander the grounds of Tintern Abbey and visit tangled, knotted woodlands where bumping into goblins could appear quite the ordinary occurrence.

The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal affords a smoother way to explore this area of Wales so often associated with mud-drenched hiking boots. Once an important transport route, now a lazy ebb and flow of narrow boats and beer gardens, this prettiest of Britain’s canals brings life back down to the slowest of paces. A few days spent drifting between mountains, chit-chatting with vagabonds living on the waterways and you’ll soon forget why you ever decided to reside between bricks and mortar on solid ground.

Where to stay: Faraway House, Charity, Apifera, The Wilds, Keepers and The Nightfly