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7 Reasons Wales Should Be On Your Winter Travel Bucketlist

Nia Knott

It's not the obvious choice for a winter trip; not quite north or continental enough to get guaranteed snow or northern lights ( though Wales does see both frequently through the Winter); the Autumn winds have stripped the trees bare and the sun barely lifts its head above the horizon... it's dark, mystical and the perfect time to uncover the real Wales... Here are seven reasons to make a winter escape to Wales. 

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What to pack for a trip to Wales

Nia Knott

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You've booked your trip now all that's left to do is pack! Packing to visit a country with such a range of sights and unpredictable climate can be pretty daunting, but don't worry, we've got your packing covered. 

What to Wear

First things first, packing the right clothes can make or break your time in Wales. We recommend packing layers so that you can change with the weather. A couple of t-shirts, warm jumper or sweater, and whatever you do don't forget a waterproof coat, even if you're visiting Wales in Summer. Quick-dry trousers or waterproof over trousers may not win you many style points but you'll feel pretty pleased with yourself when everyone else gets caught out in a downpour in jeans! 

If you're visiting October - March you may want a woolly hat, scarf and gloves and if you're visiting April - September bring a hat and sunscreen. Sunglasses are useful year-round, because of the low angle of the sun in winter.

If you're spending any time exploring some of Wales' amazing countryside - whether it's the coastline or mountains then hiking boots will keep you supported and help to prevent injuries. If you're planning to explore cities, towns & castles then some lighter shoes are also a good idea. Wales isn't only about the outdoors though; our towns and cities have some brilliant nightlife so you might want to bring something to dress up for the evening. 

Travel essentials

All the usual travel essentials apply when visiting Wales. You'll really regret not bringing your 'proper' camera if you have one as Wales is a photographer's paradise, though phones do the job pretty well now too and make sharing photos so much easier, so if you're short on space just pack your phone (and charger!). Wales has pretty good wifi in most places now, so you can keep connected on the road. 

Most essentials like toiletries and over the counter medications can be picked up in Cardiff, Swansea, Bangor etc and even smaller towns will have places to stock up, so you can pack travel size toiletries then pick up more when you're here. 

Be a responsible traveller and bring a reusable water bottle - if you ask in pubs or cafes most will be happy to refill your bottle for you which cuts down on unnecessary plastic waste. 

We still love a good hard copy of a guidebook. Lonely Planet & Rough Guides both have Wales-specific guidebooks, and don't miss the official Wales Coast Path guide books - you can pick them up online before your trip or at most book shops here. 

These are our packing recommendations but we'd love to hear from you - what would you pack for Wales - tell us in the comments below! 

Is Spring the best time to travel to Wales?

Nia Knott

After a pretty dark, wet December and New Year, we've been treated to some really beautiful weather in Wales the last couple of weeks - some heavy snow, clear skies, starry nights, stunning sunrises and sunsets, and crisp frosty mornings. Winter proper has arrived! It's a beautiful time to be in Wales.

But we can't help looking forward to the return of the light, a little heat in the sun, green shoots and leaves and spring flowers, lambs in the fields. Yes, we're pretty excited about the things to come in Spring in Wales this year! Why? Because March will see our first group tours going out, and we get to share all these things with our guests! We couldn't be more excited! 

So, if the above isn't enough to make you want to book your trip before you even get to the end of this post, read on. Wales in Spring sees longer, lighter and sunny days. The roads and beaches are still empty, and as for some crazy reason it's considered the off-season, taking your break in Wales in the Spring means you'll be able to take advantage of lower prices. Don't just take our word for it - check out the gallery below and have a look at our range of small group tours

Photos courtesy of www.mariowenphotography.com or Real Wales Tours

Autumn in Wales

Nia Knott

We've had an incredible Autumn here in Wales. The days have been warm and sunny, the nights have been starlight with some pretty special celestial occurrences including a supermoon eclipse and the Draconoids and Orionoids meteor showers.


The Autumn colours have been amazing this year - we've had the full rainbow. Beaches, hiking trails and mountains are all fairly quiet at this time of year, so it's the perfect time to explore. In fact Autumn is a very special time to be in Wales. 

 

It starts at the Autumn Equinox - now known as Mabon, named after Mabon, a welsh legendary figure that appears in Wales' most famous text, the Mabinogion, a collection of Medieval welsh prose  of folklore, myth & legend. Mabon is a harvest festival, as traditionally at this time of year most of the harvest is over. One of the traditions associated with the festival includes dressing the last remaining corn sheaf in fine clothes, then setting it alight to release the spirit of the corn. Mabon isn't as widely celebrated as some of the other Autumn festivals nowadays, but it is still important to Wicca, Neodruids, and Neopagans.  

Halloween has become a huge festival the world over, and Wales is no exception. In Wales Halloween is thought to derive from the Celtic festival Samhain, or, in Welsh, 'Calan Gaef', marking the end of Summer and beginning of Winter. It also marked the beginning of the New Year. Traditionally at this time of year bonfires were lit, animals were slaughtered and preserved for the winter ahead, and it was a celebration of the dead, a time when spirits were on the loose! Long before pumpkins were carved, lanterns were made out of turnips in Wales. Today, Halloween is celebrated widely, with fancy dress, games, ghost stories, pumpkin carving, and trick or treating - and many of the same customs that are seen the world over. Want to celebrate Halloween in Wales? Try a ghost tour of one of Wales' many supposedly haunted castles and manor houses; run through a corn maze being chased by locals dressed up as zombies and witches; or cosy up next to the log fire in one of Wales' oldest pubs for some ghost stories from a traditional storyteller. 

A more recent festival is Bonfire Night, held on November 5th every year. It marks the foiled Gunpowder plot of 1605 to blow up the Houses of Parliment. An effigy of one of the plotters, Guy Fawkes, is traditionally made from clothes stuffed with straw, and burnt on top of the bonfire. Today, huge fireworks displays are held up and down the country; and traditional Autumn food such as hog roast, toffee apples and jacket potatoes. 

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Aside from the important Autumn celebrations in Wales, there are many quieter, casual customs that form part of people's lives in the Autumn in Wales. One of the most loved activities is blackberry picking - these deliciously sweet berries can be eaten raw straight off the bush, or cooked into one of the UK's best loved dishes - the fruit crumble, served with custard, naturally. They also make a tasty jam (preserve) or even better, home-brewed wine! 

If you're in Britain at this time of year, you'll probably notice groups of children gathered under large Horse Chesnut trees. What are they doing? Well, they are more than likely hunting for the largest, roundest,shiniest 'conker' they can find. Conkers are the seeds of the Horse Chesnut tree, which are drilled through the middle, threaded onto a string, and knotted, to make a toy to be used in battles against another. Players take it in turns to batter the opponent's conkers with their own - whichever breaks last wins. There aren't many people who grew up in Wales who didn't get a black eye or bloody lip from playing conkers.  

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Autumn is a magical, mystical, and mischievous time in Wales.He wasn't talking about Autumn when he wrote 'Do not go gentle into that good night' but to borrow the words of famous Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, everything and everyone seems to 'rage, rage, against the dying of the light'.