Doesn’t the rat race get you oh so weary? Isn’t there more to life beyond the desk and doors of the office? Is your bedroom window offering nothing but views of concrete on concrete? Urban suffocation got you breathing difficult? Sometimes, you don’t have to hop on a plane to enjoy the serenity and splendour of sheer, unadulterated countryside and all the relaxation and recharge that brings.
If you’re looking for something unfamiliar, untapped but most importantly, doable in a day, then cast your covetous glances west, to Wales, and the still, calm beauty you’ve been dreaming of. Once there, you’ll need a plan. Here’s a start; our 5 IDEAL activities to enjoy in rural Wales.
HIKE THE GLYDERS, SNOWDONIA
Sure, we could dedicate a whole article to walks in Snowdonia (hey editor! I have an idea), but we’re in the business of narrowing things down, so here goes; The Glyders offers arguably Wales’ finest one day hike, and that’s reason enough to visit, right? You won’t find anywhere this striking, this rugged and this rural just four hours (and another seven miles hiking of course) from London by car, and that’s for sure.
We say hike, but part of this ascent of Wales’ fifth tallest point is more of a scramble. That’s fine by us, we love to get stuck in. It’s a near 1’200 metre climb of three peaks, Tryfan, Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr, but you’ll be rewarded with views which verge on the brutal, but are certainly brilliant too.
When you mention the words beach and Wales together, it’s usually a more troubling image of the world’s largest marine mammal that comes to mind. But to play word association like this would be to miss out on the largely undiscovered, wholly beautiful beaches of the country. That’s a country with 157 miles of coastline, much of which is rugged and arresting in equal measure.
Head to Pembrokeshire in the south (just under two hours from the capital) for a selection of the finest stretches of sand and surf; both Broad Haven beach and Barafundle beach have been bestowed with the Blue Flag award which celebrates water quality and environmental protection of beauty spots worldwide. What’s more, in 2017 the latter was named as one of the world’s best beaches by Passport Magazine. You’ll never want to leave.
If you’re intending to turn your visit into more of a holiday than day trip, there are some truly splendid cottages in Wales to choose from close to the revered West Coast.
FINE DINING SOUTH OF SNOWDONIA
A drive full of spectacular scenery, a deep dive into rural Wales and a restaurant regarded as one of the UK’s very best? Yes, yes and yes. Please. Just south of Snowdonia National Park is Michelin starred Ynyshir, chef Gareth Ward’s temple to meat, salt and fat. If you’re after a very unique (over twenty courses of protein proud, profoundly flavoursome feasting) then this is where you should head. So good, it was recently announced as the UK’s 4th finest in the highly influential Good Food Guide. It’s just 45 minutes from Cardiff, but very much in the countryside, meaning the only obstacle to your eating is whether you’re able to secure an exclusive seat.
Even closer to the capital – twenty minutes by car – is Restaurant James Sommerin, another Michelin star holder with cooking of a more classical, but no less delicious, bent. If you’re heading over from England intent on a good meal before exploring the rest of the country, then just over the border is another award winning eatery, the Whitebrook in Monmouthshire. Again, the surrounds are as rural and serene as you could imagine, and the menu dictated by what’s good locally.
GO WINE TASTING AT CWM DERI, PEMBROKESHIRE
British wine is having a real moment right now, spurred on by some quality sparkling vintages of late. In Britain there’s always been a strong tradition of making fruit and flower flavoured wines and the guys at Cwm Deri Vineyard in Pembrokeshire are staying true to this age-old practice. Surrounded by the Pembrokeshire National Park, Cwm Deri Vineyard produces fruit and flower wines and liquors to the highest standard possible.
The best time to visit the vineyards here is between summer and late autumn where the fruit can be seen maturing into tightly-packed bunches of wine-making grapes ready for harvesting before the first winter frosts. The estate itself boasts stunning views across the vineyard and beyond, all the way to the national park from its patio and terrace; the perfect place to enjoy the liquid bounty of local fruits. Chin chin!
HORSE RIDING IN THE BRECON BEACONS, WALES
That sense of freedom you’re craving, with the wind in your hair and fresh air in your lungs, could be satisfied with a spot of horse riding. The U.K seems to have an affinity with all things equestrian, and Wales is no exception. The Brecon Beacons, in particular, boasts some of the best opportunities for horse-based holidays, partly owing to a network of bridleways meaning you can steer well clear of any busy roads. Great stuff. There are three dedicated centres offering bespoke, tailor-made trips, so whether you’re after a gallop or trot, you’ll be covered.