Adventure activities in Wales
What comes to mind when you think of Wales?
I used to think about the vibrant capital city of Cardiff, the beautiful nature with striking mountains, and the medieval history.
For me, Wales always seemed like a great place to go hiking and see castles.
And that’s not wrong. In fact, Wales has some of the best medieval castles in the UK and you won’t be disappointed if you make a trip to see the Welsh Castles built by King Edward I – including Conwy Castle, which I wrote about last week.
But, as I discovered on a recent trip, there’s another side to Wales that has emerged in recent years. Wales is now a hotspot for adventure activities!
Wales is blessed with some incredible natural sites and some of the most epic adventures use them as the stage. But there are also heaps of manmade adventures – from zip lines, to toboggans, and even inland surfing.
I was lucky enough to be able to try a bunch of them and, I’ve got to admit, I was a bit nervous before some of these adventure activities. But every single epic activity turned out to be so much fun.
Of course, a trip to Wales doesn’t have to be only about adventure. Even in just a few days, I was able to explore some of the country’s history, visit some quaint scenic spots, and eat plenty of great food.
But if you’re up for a bit of adrenaline, then here are my tips for some of the best adventure activities in Wales.
Much of Wales is surrounded by coast and this is where you’ll find many of the country’s best sights, including the castles of Edward I.
But for the ultimate Welsh adventure activity, you can try jumping off the coast!
Wales claims to have invented the sport of ‘coasteering’, which is where you make your way along the coastline through a mixture of scrambling over rocks, swimming in the water, and climbing along cliffs.
The idea terrified me and this wasn’t helped by the thought of freezing-cold water. But it turned out I shouldn’t have been worried. It was exhilarating – and I even got used to the cold water quite quickly.
Jumping off the cliffs and into the deep water was certainly one of the most thrilling moments, but even crashing through the waves and climbing up onto rocks was a blast.
It’s not nearly as dangerous as it sounds but you’ll still head out with a helmet and life jacket, just in case. There are quite a few companies that take coasteering tours and you can see a list of them here.
Now, surfing is also something you normally associate with the coast – but not here in Wales. There aren’t really many good surf spots in the sea… so they’ve created one on the land!
At Surf Snowdonia, you’ll find an enormous pool the size of a stadium with artificial waves for surfing. The machine creates a wave that peels perfectly for about 150 metres before breaking softly as it reaches the shore. And there’s a new wave every 90 seconds.
It really is quite incredible to see!
What I think is really clever about Surf Snowdonia’s design is that the wave offers something for every level of experience as it moves through the pool and there are separate areas for surfers from beginner to expert.
Of course, I head for the beginner area to take part in a lesson. It doesn’t matter at all that I’ve done hardly any surfing before. This is the perfect place to learn, with a consistent wave and an easy way for the teacher to give instructions.
This is a really fun activity for any age and would work for a family or a group of friends.
BONUS: Wales Coast Walk
Also, seeing as we’re talking about the coast, it’s worth mentioning there’s a new trail that lets you continuously walk the entire coastline of Wales! It’s called the Wales Coast Path and it makes Wales the only country in the world to have a continuous path along the coastline.
At 1400 kilometres, it’s extremely long and there aren’t too many people with the time or inclination to tackle the whole things. However, you can easily do a few stretches over however many days take your fancy. The longer you go, the more adventurous it comes.
There’s a good official website with lots of information to help with any planning.
For the true adventure seeker, there is one thing in Wales you can’t miss – the Velocity 2 zip line!
The Velocity 2 is the fastest zip line in the world and the longest in Europe. You get up to 100 kilometres an hour within 10 seconds and you’ll fly through the sky for a full minute!
What makes the experience even more spectacular is the view. The zip line goes over the top of an old quarry that now has a lake in it. You can see mountains around you and all the way to the coast in one direction.
The whole experience takes a while, adding to the anticipation and excitement. First, you’ll do a smaller zip line near the headquarters where you’re fitted out with the safety equipment.
Then there’s a truck ride up the mountain for 15 minutes to the start of the main zip line. There’s still a chance to chicken out at this point – but I wouldn’t recommend it!
You’ll find the Velocity 2 zip line at Zip World at Penrhyn Quarry. It’s worth booking in advance if you can.
Zip World has a couple of other locations with some other cool adventure activities, which I’ll tell you a bit about now.
If you still haven’t satiated your need for speed, then Zip World Fforest (yes, it’s supposed to have 2 f’s) could have your next thrill.
It’s here that you’ll find the Fforest Coaster, a toboggan track that’s a kilometre long (including 700 metres of fast downhill).
With a basic ticket, you’ll get three rides and each one lasts for about six minute. You’ll go up to 40 kilometres an hour as you hurtle down the windy track that goes between the trees of the forest.
There are actually heaps of adventure activities at Zip World Fforest, with something for every age.
There are some more zip lines here (although much shorter and slower than the Velocity 2) plus some treetop netting to play in, a skyride swing and a climbing course through the trees.
I’ve talked a lot about the coast so far but I want to also quickly make mention of the most important adventure site inland in Wales. It’s the dramatic peak that the enormous Snowdonia National Park gets its name – Mount Snowdon.
Mount Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales (and England, for that matter) and is a true feather in the cap for British hikers and climbers. Although its heigh of 1085 metres means it is hardly a giant by international standards, there is still something strikingly beautiful about its imposing presence.
Now, I have to admit that I didn’t climb Mount Snowdon myself (so I’ve just included photos I took of other mountains in the area) but I would catch sight of it in the distance as we drove around northern Wales to the other adventure activities that I have mentioned here. And each time I felt a stirring of excitement.
It’s something you should consider as an option if you’re looking for an adventure. There are six routes that you can take to get to the top. The easiest is the Llanberis Path and it’s a 14.5 kilometre round trip that takes about 6 hours.
You can find out more information about the different routes here. Although it’s a relatively safe hike, you definitely need to prepared and take some care. This is not a gentle stroll through the sunshine!
BONUS: Llanddwyn Island Lighthouse
If you feel like stretching your legs but the idea of spending all day hiking up Mount Snowdon doesn’t appeal, then there’s another option. I wouldn’t really describe it as ‘adventure’ but it’s so lovely I wanted to mention it as a bonus.
Head to the Newborough Forest, a large protected area on the island of Anglesey, where there are various tracks that you can walk (or cycle). What makes it so special is that you will come out at a long beach that you can also walk along.
And if you keep going far enough, you’ll hit the Llanddwyn Island Lighthouse with its dramatic position and photogenic design.
I hope some of these suggestions for adventure activities in Wales are helpful and inspire you to experience the country in a way that goes beyond the obvious. I have found a new appreciation for Wales, a racing heart that comes from passion and adrenaline.
If you’re looking for even more, there are a few extra bonus things here you may like to try:
- Whitewater rafting on the River Dee
- River Tubing Adventure in Llangollen
- Gorge Adventure in the Brecon Beacons
- Llangollen Climbing and Abseiling Taster Session
- Gorge Walking in Llangollen
- Paintballing in Cardiff
But whatever you choose, I’m sure you’ll have a Wales of a time! 🙂
Time Travel Turtle was a guest of Visit Wales but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.