Activity vacations in Wales

It's all well and good knowing that this land of green valleys, Atlantic coast and wild open spaces is an escape hatch for office bound adventurers, but sometimes it can be slightly overwhelming when considering where to start. Claire Copeman, from our North Wales activity specialists, Adventure Tours UK, may well have the answer.

Claire and her husband, Jim are part of the outdoor adventure scene in North Wales. Jim grew up in the area and used to be the mountain bike officer for Denbighshire County Council. He helped to set up and plan many of the region's wild mountain biking routes. He knows loads of local guides and instructors who can look after small groups on active adventures, and not just mountain biking.

North Wales has several small companies offering individual activities like sea kayaking, coasteering, mountain biking or zip lining, but hardly any offering multiple activities in one trip. And that's where Claire and Jim come in. They work with the small activity companies, the local guides and the locally-owned accommodation hosts, to give visitors a complete multi-activity package. As Claire explains: “There are now lots of husband and wife businesses who are activity providers or welcoming people into their small guesthouses or boutique hotels. We know and work with a couple, Lianne and Ant, who run their own stand up paddle boarding (SUP) company. They're really passionate about the area and are just lovely people. They're now the top provider of white water stand up paddle boarding in the UK. They also host the White Water SUP Fest every year which brings loads of SUPers from all over the world to North Wales. That's one of the great things about our company, we can bring these small providers and accommodation owners together and offer their services to travelers as part of the same package.”

By providing multi activity tours, Claire and Jim have made it easier for people to come to the area for longer and get involved in a wide range of different activities, rather than having to sort out everything for themselves. Claire goes on to say: “We've sort of taken the barrier away for people who work in an office but really want to be outdoors having an adventure. You only get one or two weeks to take off work a year, so people don't want to have to take up lots of time contacting lots of different activity providers.”

Meanwhile, down south on the Pembrokeshire coast, Sophie Hurst, from our Welsh coastal activity experts, Preseli Venture, is also very much a part of the outdoor adventure community. Sophie, like Claire, understands the importance of working with people who’ve lived in the area their whole lives. As Sophie says: “We run sea kayaking, adventure weekends and family vacations in Pembrokeshire. The majority of our guides are from the local area and will take part in all of the activities that we offer. Some of our longer trips, such as the four day sea kayaking expedition, require specialist instructors and senior guides, like Tommy. He’s our head guide and has lived in Pembrokeshire for many years. Tommy knows the tides and the coastline very well.”

Where to get active in North Wales

Snowdonia National Park is a top place for outdoor activities in North Wales. Not only can you hike up to several of the country's tallest mountains – not just the crowded paths to Mount Snowdon – but you can also go packrafting, which is where you carry an inflatable raft on your back that you then use to cross lakes and rivers. Snowdonia is also the home of the world's fastest zipline, hundreds of single track mountain biking trails and a Dark Sky Reserve, which is always best enjoyed on an overnight camping trip with a mug of hot chocolate.

Llangollen is a lovely town in North Wales that sits right on the banks of the River Dee. The setting makes it ideal for getting out and exploring. You can go canyoning and abseiling down the waterfalls of Trawsfynedd gorge, as well as having the option to canoe over the highest aqueduct in the world at Pontcyscllte. If you fancy keeping your head in the clouds then try a hike on Eglwyseg Mountain with peregrine falcons and buzzards wheeling above. Of course, it would be a shame to miss out on the River Dee as it's on your doorstep, so why not go river rafting or river bugging (an individual inflatable that requires you to lie on your belly and use your arms to paddle and steer).

Claire Copeman, from our North Wales activity specialists, Adventure Tours UK, recommends one of her favourite local guest houses: “We know lots of local people who have great places to stay; Chris and Gavin, for instance. They run a restaurant with guest rooms. It's technically more of a boutique guest house, or small hotel. In fact, they've got two places to stay, one in Ruthin and one in Llangollen. They're great for guests who want to have a bit of comfort and luxury after a day spent having adventures outdoors.”

Where to get active in South Wales

Pembrokeshire's for those who love to get wet and wild. Sea kayaking and coasteering are just a couple of the activities that make this corner of southwest Wales such an exciting prospect. Staying at a 40-person eco-center is a great idea for families and small groups looking to explore the coast in the company of local guides and instructors. You'll also be able to arrive at activity sites in one vehicle, rather than all members of a group turning up in their own car.

Sophie Hurst, from our Pembrokeshire multi activity experts Preseli Venture, explains why South Wales is a great place to start sea kayaking: “Sea kayaking is very accessible, anyone can do it. We’ve had complete beginners start off on a half day expedition along the coast. It’s a wilderness experience where you’re alone with nature. You’ll be completely removed from your everyday normal environment. Even if you’re only kayaking for half a day, you’ll have loads of memories to treasure and keep. Once you’re off the water, we’ll head back to the center for hot drinks and a warm up by our wood burning stove.”

Our top Wales Vacation

Pembrokeshire activity holiday in Wales

Pembrokeshire activity vacation in Wales

Adventure and exploration on the wild Pembrokeshire Coast

From £775 6 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2023: 22 Oct
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Wales or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

When to go on an activity vacation in Wales

Here’s what Sophie Hurst has to say about when to go on an activity vacation in South Wales: “You can come and visit us all year round. The weather’s all over the place these days, it’s not as typically seasonal as it used to be. However, if you’re looking for seals then July to October is the best time to see them. What we recommend is that you don’t focus too heavily on the weather. It could be awful in August, for example, and a beautiful blue sky day in March. Where we go coasteering and sea kayaking is actually very sheltered, so we’re rarely affected by the elements. If we can’t do an activity, for whatever reason, we’ll simply do something else. There’s always something to do.”

North Wales, certainly Snowdonia, can get very busy in the summer. Claire Copeman from our local activity experts, Adventure Tours UK, believes timing is the best way to combat the crowds: “Our aim is to steer people away from coming to North Wales in July and August. We want to offer activity vacations at quieter times of the year when it's not so busy in the more popular areas, like Snowdonia. Families are tied to the school summer vacations, but I'd say May and June or September are the best times to come on an activity trip if you get the chance. Adults without kids still seem to want to come on a trip at the height of summer. I'm not sure why, perhaps it's just habit. What we want to do is shine a light on the times outside of summer when it's quieter. From my point of view, nothing beats a big fry up after an early morning run in the hills, no matter what time of year you do it.”
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: pxhere] [Intro: Adventure Tours UK] [Where to get active in North Wales: Greg Willson] [Where to get active in South Wales: Niklas Weiss] [When to go on an activity vacation in Wales: Andrew]