2020 is Wales’ Year of Outdoors, a celebration of the nation’s natural landscapes, rich history and distinctive culture. From the picturesque beauty of its three national parks to spying an abundance of wildlife along its beautifully diverse coastline, the country is a natural haven for adventure and unique outdoor experiences. Add in a host of new events and flavoursome food, and there’s a wealth of things to look forward to in Wales in 2020.
Experience the outdoors
Explore 870 miles of striking coastline along the Wales Coast Path, which showcases the best of the country’s diverse coastal regions. Discover everything from windswept beaches and dunes bristling with local wildlife to quaint fishing villages and bustling seaside resorts. Spy grey seals and porpoises off the Anglesey coast, watch for puffins and gannets in Pembrokeshire, and see Britain’s largest population of bottlenose dolphins in the scenic surroundings of Cardigan Bay. Wales Coast Path has created an array of short and longer walking itineraries, including mindfulness, cultural and family-friendly outings, so there’s something for every visitor to enjoy.
Having earned a place in National Geographic’s Top 25 places to visit in 2020, The Wales Way, a collection of three distinct touring routes that cross the country, takes in many of the nation’s diverse landscapes, showcasing history, culture and attractions in the process. The 300km-long Cambrian Way weaves from north to south following the backbone of Wales, while the Coastal Way follows much of the west coast. Lastly, the North Wales Way traces an ancient trading route along the north coast to Anglesey, passing seaside towns, magnificent castles and wildlife havens.
Wales also has numerous award-winning beaches to explore – 40 were given Blue Flag status in 2019, meaning there are more Blue Flag beaches per mile of coast than anywhere else in Britain. Green Coast Awards were granted to 18 beaches, recognising the hidden gems along the coastline that lack the supporting infrastructure, while a further 40 achieved the Seaside Award as a mark of good facilities and water quality. The sands of Barafundle, Rhossili Bay and Llanddwyn all featured among TripAdvisor’s Top 10 UK Beaches too, as voted for by thousands of travellers.
For a true flavour of the wilderness, head to one of Wales’ three national parks – Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and the Pembrokeshire Coast. In addition to their scenic beauty, both Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons are renowned for stargazing and hold the accolade of being International Dark Sky Reserves, of which there are only 15 locations globally. Discover the rugged landscapes of Snowdonia with a ride on the historic Snowdon Mountain Railway, reopening in March 2020, to the summit of Mount Snowdon. Zoom across Penrhyn Slate Quarry on Britain’s fastest zipline, Velocity 2, or get lost in the magic of Portmeirion. Alternatively, sample the latest concoctions at the Penderyn Distillery, sit back and relax aboard the Brecon Mountain Railway, or hike up Pen y Fan for a taste of the Brecon Beacons.
As it’s home to 600 castles, it’s impossible to talk about the Welsh outdoors without mentioning its historic monuments. From the imposing UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Caernarfon, Beaumaris, Conwy and Harlech, to the ruins of Raglan and the leaning tower at Caerphilly, every castle has its own story to tell. As the Year of Outdoors, 2020 is the time to discover more about the history behind them and the scenic landscapes where the great fortresses are built.
Taking sport to the extreme
From 23 to 24 May 2020, Wales will host the first Nitro World Games to be held outside of the USA, promising a high octane display of action sports. Cardiff’s Principality Stadium will see the world’s premium athletes in BMX, Skate, FMX and Scooter going head to head at the two-day festival, offering a feast of exciting action. Expect Freestyle Motocross, Skate Vert, BMX Triple Hit, BMX Best Trick and Scooter Best Trick events, as the prestigious sports stadium is transformed into a wonderland for adrenaline junkies.
A quest with an unforgettable backdrop
Quest Wales returns to the tranquil village of Betws-y-Coed in the heart of Snowdonia in June, offering competitors the chance to run, cycle and kayak through some of the country’s most scenic countryside. With three routes –23km Challenge, 38km Sport and 50km Expert – there’s something for all levels of fitness and abilities. Taking place on 20 June 2020, kayaks are provided and bicycles are available for hire for those wanting to give it a go. Alternatively, those not wishing to take part can always flock to the region to take in the event’s spectacular backdrop.
Mixing adventure with home comforts
Following the launch of Adrenaline Indoors at Adventure Parc Snowdonia in 2019, the venue is preparing to welcome a new Hilton Garden Inn hotel in 2020. Set to enhance the lifestyle and adventure destination, the development will include a host of hospitality facilities, as well as an indoor and outdoor wellbeing spa. Adrenaline Indoors already features an array of climbing walls and zip lines, the UK’s only kicker flight slide, a man-made cave system and an aerial assault course, as well as numerous other activities to get the heart pumping. An alternative is Surf Snowdonia, the site’s in-land surf lagoon, where visitors can learn to surf on beginner waves or perfect their skills on advanced waters.
Relax in award-winning pubs
Named Wales’ Dining Pub of the Year in the latest Good Pub Guide, The Bull in Beaumaris uses locally sourced ingredients in its brasserie to create a delectable food menu that includes Welsh sirloin steak, venison, fillet of hake, Anglesey lamb cutlets and wild mushroom pappardelle. Found near to the town’s historic castle, the 15th-century inn’s charming bar also features a roaring log fire. Alternatively, drop in to The Good Pub Guide’s Country Pub of the Year, The Harp at Old Radnor, an old Welsh longhouse inn perched on a hilltop in Powys. Sample cask-conditioned real ales against a backdrop of ancient slate floors and oak beams, before venturing outdoors to discover striking views and a host of activities from rally driving to fishing.
Uncover the nation’s history
Having recently completed the biggest redevelopment in its history, St Fagans National Museum of History has a wealth of new galleries and workshops that are set to transform the visitor experience. Awarded Art Fund Museum of the Year in 2019, it offers guests an opportunity to dive into the heritage and culture of Wales, exploring life in the country from the earliest humans to the present day through an array of historic and archaeological collections.
Welsh heritage distilled
South Wales’ first full-scale gin distillery is set to open its doors in January 2020, promising tours, tastings and a gin school. Hensol Castle Distillery, situated just outside Cardiff in the picturesque countryside of the Vale of Glamorgan, will create small batch craft gins from its home in the cellar of the 17th-century Hensol Castle. Visitors can learn the processes behind gin creation and have a go at making their own. Nestled in the heart of the North Wales countryside, Aber Falls Distillery is also launching a new visitor centre and restaurant in 2020, adding to its existing set of tours, masterclasses and lab experiences. The distillery’s first batch of whisky will be available from 2020.
Stay and forage
Twr y Felin, a restored windmill and the country’s first contemporary art hotel, mixes exclusive stays with unique experiences. Located in the small city of St Davids in Pembrokeshire, 20 new rooms are set to open in 2020, offering luxury and grandeur in addition to foraging adventures and wildlife breaks in the surrounding countryside. A seasonally-adapted menu in its Blas restaurant features dishes that reflect the region and its produce, providing an authentic taste of Welsh culture. As part of the Retreats Group, visitors can also enjoy luxurious stays in the dramatic surroundings of the Roch Castle and Penrhiw Priory hotels. In Abergavenny, the Angel Hotel offers group foraging trips, wine tasting and baking experiences in addition to its stays, ensuring guests enjoy a true flavour of the Welsh countryside.
Feast on fanciful food
Savour a celebration of the sea in late June at Pembrokeshire Fish Week, a set of more than 250 mouth-watering events taking place across the county. Alongside themed walks and foraging, expect food markets and demonstrations that showcase the region’s delicious seafood and rich maritime heritage. Another highlight of Britain’s food calendar is the Abergavenny Food Festival, which takes over the Welsh town on 19-20 September. Visitors can tuck into tastings and a menu of masterclasses from leading chefs, while enjoying a healthy dose of street entertainment.
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