Walking In The UK

Family-Friendly Walking Holidays In Wales

Family-Friendly Walking Holidays In Wales
By Jeremy Head

Wales offers hundreds of marked trails from hardcore mountain hikes to placid beachside strolls. Here are three walks that are particularly suited for younger walkers.

Wales Snowdonia Castle of the Winds

Castle of the Winds, Snowdonia

Cwm Idwal, North Wales

Essential information

Length: 3 miles (4.8km)

Time: 2-3 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Who can do it? Kids aged 6 and up

Snowdonia National Park was Wales' first and its largest. It's home to a brace of granite mountains punctuated with glassy lakes, stretching out to the North West Wales coast. The most famous walk is to the summit of Snowdon. There are several trails but all can get very busy and are challenging for smaller feet.

Cwm Idwal is a perfect alternative for families. It offers an easy route right into the heart of Snowdonia's most spectacular scenery around a glacial lake protected by the craggy fingers of a series of high peaks. There's a short section at the start that's a little steeper, but the rest is flat. It's circular and should take three hours, so it makes an easy day's strolling with stops for exploring and a picnic lunch. There's a visitor centre and café and loos at the beginning/end as well.

The stone-surfaced path takes you uphill for that first steeper section, then meanders gently inland. Here the Darwin Idwal Boulders are ideal for a climb and scramble. Soon after you reach Llyn Idwal itself. The shimmering glacial lake is surrounded by jagged mountain peaks and the views are spectacular.

At the far end, the path leaves the water's edge. There's a high-level path here up towards Idwal Slabs, which was used as a training ascent by Everest conqueror Edmund Hillary. This route is only for experienced hill walkers as it's steep and rough. A little further you come to a series of stepping stones across streams that feed the lake with chilly mountain waters. Great fun for kids to hop and jump!

Perhaps the best viewpoint comes towards the end of the circuit. Descending slowly to the lakeshore you arrive at a shingle beach from where you can look out across the dazzling still waters to the vast space of the natural amphitheatre hewn over millennia by a long-gone glacier.

At the end of the lake circuit, retrace your steps back to the Visitor Centre.

Pen y fan

Pen y Fan mountain, Wales

Fan y Big, Mid Wales

Essential information

Length: 7 miles (11 km)

Time: 6 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Who can do it? Kids aged 10 and up

The Brecon Beacons don't feature the soaring peaks of Snowdonia, but many find the immense rolling escarpments, vast valleys and wild countryside more inspiring still. Here you're miles from civilisation - stargazers come to watch the skies in what's currently Wales' only dark sky reserve.

The honeypot is the highest peak Pen y Fan, which of course can get busy. It's also quite a climb. An alternative, that's not quite so steep and quieter too, is neighbouring Fan y Big (you have to love that name - it actually means 'point of the peak'). There's a fantastic photo-op as well - an iconic 'diving board' rock that sticks out above an escarpment.

This one is circular too and it's a solid day's hike, ideal for energetic teens and older primary school kids with a sense of adventure. It starts with an uphill yomp, but once you're up on the ridge it's easy walking with non-stop views.

Start your walk from the Blaen y Glyn Uchaf car park which is usually quiet and easy to find space. It’s a fairly stiff ascent up to the ridge, skirting a section of wood with the rush of waterfalls ringing in your ears. Once you're up on top, the scenery is spectacular as you walk along the ridge towards Fan y Big. A rolling row of peaks with Pen Y Fan and Corn Du in the background.

You're walking a huge circuit around a vast horseshoe-shaped valley. With Fan Y Big at its centre, this is a perfect halfway point to stop for a picnic lunch. Then make sure to find the diving board rock - close to the Trig point which marks the summit. Returning down the other side of the valley, the final sections are an easy walk downwards flanked by the pine trees of Taf Fechan Forest. Keep your eyes peeled for waterfalls too.

River Ogmore at sunset Wales

River Ogmore at sunset, South Wales

Ogmore by Sea, South Wales

Essential information

Length: 8 miles (13km) (shorter versions of 4 miles and 2 miles)

Time: 5 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Who can do it? Kids of any age

Wales is one of the few countries in the world that has a walking trail the full length of its coastline. You'd need weeks to walk the full 870 miles! There's huge variety - wide stretches of golden sand, soaring craggy cliffs, wild dunes and friendly seaside towns.

This flat family-friendly walk comes in several sizes, so take your pick. There are lots to see along the way for curious kids including two castles, stepping stones across the river an information centre about the coastline and several spots to stop for ice cream and rest tired feet in the sun.

Start at Ogmore beach car park walking up the estuary and inland along the river bank. Look out for the lane opposite the Pelican in her Piety pub which leads down to the remains of Ogmore castle which you can visit if you want to. Don't miss the stepping stones across the shallow Ewenny river perfect for a diversion.

Back up the track and you soon take a right across Ogmore Down - a section of limestone heathland alive with butterflies - to the little village of St Brides Major. There's plenty here to slow your progress including a pub, church and shops. Walk through the village following the road until you reach another pub (The Farmer's Arms) and then walk across more fields and through a lovely wooded valley which brings to you the sea again at Dunraven Bay.

The Heritage Coast Centre makes a great stop to learn about the Glamorgan coastline and Dunraven Castle with its flower-strewn walled gardens is a short walk to the left of the beach. Retrace your steps and walk the breezy section of the coast path back to Ogmore along the top of the cliffs with wide views out to the sparkling sea.

There's a shorter route of 4 to 5 miles across the fields to St Brides Major which misses out Ogmore Castle. For something shorter still stroll down the coast path to Dunraven and back. It's no more than a couple of miles.

Family-Friendly Walking Holidays In Wales

Jeremy Head

Freelance travel writer and photographer. His writing and photos are regularly published in the UK’s mainstream newspapers. Wales is one of his favourite destinations, particularly when he’s travelling with the family.

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