Royal Edinburgh Military TattooSt Michael's MountFanad Lighthouse in County Donegal, IrelandCaerphilly CastleInverary Highland GamesTower Bridge, LondonGuinness Storehouse, DublinPowis Castle and GardensScottish pipe bandBamburgh Castle, NorthumberlandGiant's CausewayFfestiniog RailwayGlenshane Country Farm

Winter in Wales

From the snowy peaks of Snowdonia, to the Christmas markets of Cardiff and Swansea, and from frosty Welsh castles in their festive finery, to roaring log fires in warm and welcoming hostelries, there is so much to enjoy on a tour of Wales in winter. Revel in the traditional Plygain carols at Christmastime and look out for Siôn Corn; discover Calennig at New Year and welcome in the eerie Mari Lwyd

Yr_Wyddfa_in_Winter_c_Visit_Wales.JPGYr Wyddfa (Snowdon) in winter © Hawlfraint y Goron / © Crown copyright (2022) Cymru Wales

A tour of Wales in winter can be exceptionally rewarding, even if you wouldn’t usually think of visiting at this time of year, as there so much going on – especially in the run up to Christmas. The weather is often mild (if damp!), there are few tourist crowds, and you’ll be assured of a warm welcome.

Those looking for adventure can do no better than a winter vacation in Wales. Picture-postcard Eryri (Snowdonia), and the breathtaking Brecon Beacons, for example, are ideal for bracing walks and longer hikes, with inviting inns, hotels and guest houses often close at hand for a hot drink, a tasty meal and a warm bed at the end of an exhilarating day.

Cadair_Idris_Walkers_c_Visit_Wales.jpgA bracing winter walk in Eryri (Snowdonia) © Hawlfraint y Goron / © Crown copyright (2022) Cymru Wales

Outdoor attractions such as ZipWorld, with its zip wires, climbing towers and tree top safaris, are open all year round (weather permitting), and there’s plenty to do underground too, from deep mine tours to underground golf and trampolining.

In the run up to Christmas, towns and cities come alive with seasonal festivities. Cardiff and Swansea are perhaps best known for their winter extravaganzas. Cardiff’s annual Winter Wonderland offers visitors a selection of activities including an ice rink, a fabulous ice walk with the castle’s 12th century Norman keep as a back drop, and a festive family fairground. Swansea’s Waterfront Wonderland also offers fairground rides, ice skating, an ice walk, and lots of food and drink stalls.

Christmas_attractions_in_Cardiff_c_Visit_Wales.jpgChristmas attractions in Cardiff © Hawlfraint y Goron / © Crown copyright (2022) Cymru Wales

Christmas markets spring up around the country in December, from magical Portmeirion in the north west to Chepstow in the south east, and villages large and small light up with twinkling Christmas displays. Don’t forget to look out for Siôn Corn on your travels! Siôn Corn is Santa Claus in Welsh and literally translates as 'Chimneypot John' – the person who comes down the chimney! You’re sure to bump into Santa at Christmas events all over Wales.

If you’re looking for a Christmas experience in a historic setting, then majestic Powis Castle is hard to beat. Each year, the magnificent State Rooms come alive with spectacular lights and decorations and, if you wrap up warm, you can enjoy an invigorating stroll in the world-famous garden - winter is the best time to appreciate its architectural beauty. 

Valle_Crucis_Abbey_in_Snow_c_Visit_Wales.jpgValle Crucis Abbey in the snow © Hawlfraint y Goron / © Crown copyright (2022) Cymru Wales

St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire is atmospheric at any time of year, but a Christmas service there is unforgettable. Or why not join the congregation at tiny St Teilo’s Church, at St Fagans National Museum of History, for a memorable Plygain service in Welsh?

Plygain is one of the oldest Christmas traditions in Wales dating back to at least the 13th century. Plygain is a unique form of unaccompanied carol singing characterised by close harmonies, and Plygain services were traditionally held early in the morning on Christmas Day. The Plygain tradition has seen a revival in recent years and now plays a role in dozens of Christmas and New Year events around the country.

Conwy_Castle_Christmas_c_Visit_Wales.jpgConwy Castle at Christmas © Hawlfraint y Goron / © Crown copyright (2022) Cymru Wales

If you’re in Wales on New Year’s Day, you may come across the old Welsh tradition of Cannelig. Cannelig is a Welsh word that means ‘first day of the month’ and involves children going door-to-door on New Year’s Day singing songs in return for ‘Cannelig’ – gifts of food, sweets (candy) or money. However, if you’re in the Welsh village of Cwm Gwaun in Pembrokshire on 13 January, you may be surprised to see Cannelig taking place. Keeping ancient traditions alive, the people of Cwm Gwaun celebrate New Year’s Day 13 days after everyone else, as they stick to the old Julian calendar, which is 13 days behind our Gregorian calendar.

And talking of traditions, you can still encounter the terrifying Mari Lwyd in parts of south Wales. Mari Lwyd means ‘grey mare’ and is a pre-Christian tradition that sees a horse’s skull on a pole, decorated with bells and colourful ribbons, paraded through the streets. Stopping at houses to chant and exchange rhymes, if the Mari is allowed inside, it is said to bring good luck.

Mari_Lwyd_c_Visit_Wales.jpegThe Mari Lwyd © Hawlfraint y Goron / © Crown copyright (2022) Cymru Wales

Of course, Wales isn’t all about tradition and there is plenty to suit everyone. Concerts and gigs take place regularly in towns and cities – whether contemporary, folk, classical, opera or musicals – and Wales regularly attracts international stars. Theatre remains popular, with family pantomimes around Christmas, and towns and cities offer nightlife for all tastes.

Sporting fixtures – especially rugby – take place week in week out, with the Six Nations rugby union internationals packing out the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on several dates in February and March. Most towns have their own football teams and soccer matches take place all winter at weekends and in the evenings.

Cardiff_rugby_c_Visit_Wales.jpgCardiff on match day © Hawlfraint y Goron / © Crown copyright (2022) Cymru Wales

One of the best ways to enjoy winter in Wales is on a steam train. Special Santa Trains run in December, creating a delightfully festive atmosphere for kids of all ages, but there is also a number of other winter services. Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway, for example, run Winter Wanderer trains, which allow passengers to sit back and enjoy the wonderful wintery landscape of Eryri.

Santa_train_c_Visit_Wales.jpgAll aboard the Santa Train! © Hawlfraint y Goron / © Crown copyright (2022) Cymru Wales

The romantic at heart shouldn’t miss visiting Wales for St Dwynwen’s Day on 25 January. Never mind Valentine's Day, this is the most romantic day of the year in Wales, when gifts are given to loved ones in memory of St Dwynwen, who became a nun after being forbidden from marrying the man she loved. As spring grows closer, a visit to Wales on St David’s Day - the Welsh national day on 1 March – is also well worthwhile, as parades and services take place across the country celebrating Wales and Welsh identity.

This is just a snapshot, of course, of the hundreds of activities that occur in Wales during the winter months. While not all attractions are open, many of them are (although sometimes with reduced hours), so there’s still lots to see and do, with plenty of places where you can enjoy the landscape, culture and heritage that makes Wales so special. There are first-class hotels, numerous restaurants serving the finest Welsh cuisine, and hundreds of enticing pubs and inns to while away the evenings with a Welsh whisky or a glass of locally-made wine. There really is a lot to say for a tour of Wales in winter!

If you or your group would like to enjoy a tailor-made winter tour of Wales, the UK or Ireland, please do contact our friendly team today. 

Tags: Winter vacation  Wales  Chistmas  

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