Take a tour around Wales with our ten of the best ‘Castles, churches and chapels’ routes
- blog by Natural Resources Wales
Natural Resources Wales have worked with a number of partners to put together a series of routes some walking, some cycling and even a riding trail!
All the routes we have chosen, link with either the Wales Coast Path or one of our three stunning National Trails. They all have a link with history and local nature, have great views of the dramatic Welsh coast and countryside, and are free to download.
Making it easier for people to discover these routes and to enjoy the outdoors and the health benefits this brings are a key part of our aims at Natural Resources Wales. The added benefit of this is that encouraging recreation in Wales often provides a much needed economic boost for local communities.
Using tools like our interactive map Outdoor Wales onLine, reading our partners’ route descriptions, checking that the routes passed by churches, chapels and castles, and working with Visit Wales helped us pull all the information together. It was all a bit like spending days reading a tantalising menu but not getting to eat anything on it!
Having agreed a 10 of the Best Churches, Chapels and Castles routes with the partners who actually create, maintain and promote them in their areas, the next step was to send them to Visit Wales to publish them on their new website.
Side by side with this promotional work with Visit Wales, is our work with Viewranger to publish the routes so you can follow them on your smartphones and tablets, and we got our colleagues to test them out.
Route 1: Branwen Walk - 2.1 miles
Our tour of Wales starts over in north west Wales in the county of Gwynedd.
Harlech Castle is the setting for the 2-mile Branwen walk. Two members of our team Jill Meyer and Rachel Parry braved the Welsh weather to test this route using the Viewranger app. They chose a particularly wet and dreary day, which seemed to make the small town of Harlech seem cosier, perched on the side of a hill overlooking the Llyn Peninsua to the west, the mountains to the north and of course the horizontal rain in every direction.
They found that even with the reduced visibility, the walk still had spectacular views including the reward of the sweeping dunes and enormous beach of Morfa Harlech. The end of this walk is marked by a striking statue representing the story which tells of the rescue of Branwen from slavery in Ireland by her brother, the giant Bendigeidfran and which stands outside Harlech Castle. There is a detour for the Branwen walk, which means you can continue along the beach using the Wales Coast Path if you want to stretch your legs further.
Route 2: Conwy to Llandudno - 17.6 miles
The imposing Conwy Castle has been standing guard over the estuary waiting to defend the town from marauding intruders since the 13th century. The station car park is the starting point for this 17-mile cycle ride or walk (click here to view and follow it in ViewRanger). Your route will take you through Conwy down to the Victorian town of Llandudno with its pastel painted hotels and around the Great Orme home to vast numbers of seabirds. You can take a detour up to the top for stunning views out to Anglesey or content yourself with views of Conwy Castle and harbour that have been virtually unchanged for hundreds of years.
Route 3: Llangollen History Trail - 8 miles
Llangollen History Trail is next on your list. History is all around you on this 8-mile walk with the Horseshoe Falls, Llantysilio Church, Valle Crucis Abbey and Castell Dinas Bran.
This is the second route that Jill and Rachel chose to test. Rachel had worked on paths with Denbighshire Countryside Service before coming to work at NRW and already knew that autumn was a great time to see the Eglwyseg Escarpment, the Llangollen canal and the Dee Valley. But the contrasting colours, the white of the Eglwyseg limestone, the vibrant reds of the Rowan berries and the slate grey of the sky exceeded our expectations.
The route starts by following the Llangollen Canal which stops abruptly to the west of the town due to the drying up of funds to continue it into Wales. The trail connects with Offa’s Dyke Path (click here to see other Offas Dyke Path routes on ViewRanger) to head off up towards the Eglwyseg Escarpment and Castell Dinas Bran with its views across Llangollen.
Route 4: The Severn Way Newtown to Welshpool - 14.6 miles
Head on down towards Newtown for the next stop in your tour around Wales.
This time the Montgomery Canal and the Severn Way await you. Your start point for this relatively flat 14 1/2-mile walk is Newtown. It will take you along a peaceful canal that was once a hive of activity in its prime. You are now walking a section of the Severn Way, which takes you all the way to Welshpool and Powis Castle. From there you can join Glyndŵrs Way to experience one of Wales’ National Trails. Along the way you will pass many Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust reserves with a wealth of wildlife such as kingfishers, great crested grebes and woodpeckers. Although this is a linear route the public transport links are regular between Newtown and Welshpool.
Route 5: Dingestow Tread & Trot Trail - 4.5 miles
From Newtown your journey takes you to the small village of Dingestow in the Welsh Marshes. This area is steeped in history as there were many battles between the Marcher Lords of England and Wales. The Dingestow Discoveries Tread and Trot Trail is also used by horse riders as one of a series of Tread and Trot Trails so keep your eye out for horse riders. This trail takes you past Treowen house, which is possibly the tallest house in Monmouthshire and worthy of a photo op. In the distance you will see the Blorenge, Sugar Loaf, Skirrid and Hay Bluff, which are all a part of the Black Mountains. Your trail takes you along a section of Offa’s Dyke, which was created in the 8th century to form a physical barrier between England and the Wales.
Route 6: Church, College and Lighthouse walk - 8.8 miles
The Vale of Glamorgan and the Church, college and lighthouse 8 3/4-mile walk is your next point of call. Here you will connect with the Wales Coast Path. The Galilee Chapel at Llantwit Major dates back to the 15th century and is a part of St Illtuds church, which is considered to be the site of the oldest religious centre in Britain. Make sure you stop off here before or after your walk. The Glamorgan Heritage Coastline is a great place to visit and Tresilian Bay along your way gives the opportunity to see the Lias limestone and shale up close. The Nash Point lighthouse is another stop off point along your way. It isn’t manned any longer but you can still visit and climb the winding stairs to the top.
Route 7: Taff Trail - Cardiff to Pontypridd - 16 miles
Your tour of Wales takes you on now to Cardiff, the capital of Wales and the start of the 16-mile Cardiff to Pontypridd section of the Taff Trail. It is a multi-user route and an iconic route to walk or cycle in Wales.
Along the way you will pass by Llandaff Cathedral and Castell Coch, which was built in the Victorian era and worthy of a detour from your journey. This is a relatively flat route and is used by many different types of people from commuters going to the office and back to walkers out to stretch their legs and cyclists looking to cover a greater distance on their ride. On this section you will experience the built up areas of Cardiff along with leafy parks and quieter traffic free areas.
Route 8: Llanrhidian to Cheriton Walk - 7.5 miles
Swansea is our next step with the peaceful Llanrhidian to Cheriton walk. Another 8-mile stretch of the Wales Coast Path awaits you along with Llanrhidian church with its lookout tower overlooking the Bristol Channel and Weobley Castle which is now a CADW property. You will see ponies grazing on the saltmarsh and have an opportunity to buy local fresh cockles.
The stunningly beautiful Gower coast is a magnet for tourists and this part of it is no exception, however it is not as busy as some of the other areas of the Gower Coast which lends it an air of peace and quiet.
Route 9: St. Davids, St. Non's and Porth Clais East Route - 4.5 miles
Off now to the small city of St Davids where you can walk the 4 1/2-mile St Davids, St Non’s and Porth Clais east route. There is much to see on this short walk from the great St Davids Cathedral and Bishops Palace to St Non’s Well and supposed birthplace of Wales’ patron saint St David. You can’t fail to be impressed by the historical sights on this walk along with the small picturesque harbour of Porth Clais east.
Pause a while to capture photos and take in the beauty that surrounds you. If you do this short walk you will have not only joined a section of the Wales Coast Path but also walked a section of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
Route 10: Cardigan to Cilgerran Walk - 5.7 miles
Your final stop of this round Wales tour is the Cardigan to Cilgerran route, which can be done on foot or by bike. A treat awaits you here with the Welsh Wildlife Centre on the Teifi estuary where a glimpse of water buffalo can be found. This walk is particularly good for all the family as there is nature in abundance from otters, to kingfishers and hen harriers that all call the Teifi estuary home.
The historic 13th century castle of Cilgerran is ideally positioned above the Teifi Gorge to provide a perfect lookout for invaders coming up the estuary from the sea. This 5 1/2-mile route rounds off our whistle-stop tour of Wales and we hope you enjoy trying out all these routes.
All the routes are free to download onto ViewRanger GPS app.
Download the app for free direct from your device's app store (or click here), just search for 'ViewRanger GPS'. Once the app is installed on your smartphone or tablet you can download these trails either directly through the app (by searching for 'Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru Natural Resources Wales' in the 'By Brand' section of the in-app Store) or via the 'Get this route' button my.viewranger.com page to which the links above direct you. They you simple synch your my.viewranger account with your app and are really to go!
If you have any queries or suggestions as to how we can improve on these routes please let us know! You can get in touch with us by responding to this blog or leaving comments on our individual routes.
This is a new venture for Natural Resources Wales and we will be continuing to bring you good quality routes suitable for walkers and cyclists alike in the near future. We would welcome your feedback and hope you enjoying walking in some of Wales' most beautiful countryside.
Main image - walkers © Visit Wales
Route 1 - Branwen © Snowdonia National Park
Route 3 - Horseshoe Falls © Natural Resources Wales
Route 5 - image from Ruth Rourke © Momouthshire County Council
Route 7 - Pontypridd © Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council
Route 9 - St Davids © Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
Wild ponies © City and County of Swansea
For more information about the Wales Coast Path: www.walescoastpath.gov.uk
For more information about National Trails: www.nationaltrail.co.uk
For more information about Natural Resources Wales: www.naturalresourceswales.gov.uk