Wales in spring – the best of Cymru when the weather warms up
Spring in Wales is very much a nature-filled affair. Attention turns to making the most of the great Welsh countryside, whether that means an exhilarating white-water rafting session in Snowdonia, walking among flowers in Cardiff's Bute Park or taking in the sea air and views on the north coast.
Witness the blooming lovely start
St David’s Day, the annual celebration of Wales’ patron saint, falls on 1 March and tends to denote the start of spring. As if like clockwork, carpets of daffodils (the country’s national flower) emerge just in time for the special day and hang around for at least a month. For definite daffy sightings, head to Powis Castle and Gardens in Welshpool, the riverbanks in Bute Park in Cardiff or Bodnant Garden in Conwy.
Flower power continues into the season; after the floods of yellow flowers come blankets of bluebells. At Coed y Wenallt, a large ancient woodland in Cardiff, they're thickly strewn and boldly coloured, often attracting great spotted woodpeckers to the trees above. Coed Cefn in Crickhowell is known as ‘Bluebell Woods’, so you can be sure it’ll live up to its namesake in April and May. The blue trail around Chirk Castle in Wrexham will also deliver what its name promises.
See wildlife emerge from the winter
It’s not just the flora that raise their heads in spring. Native animals awake from long periods of hibernation and others migrate here for the warmer half of the year. At Great Orme Country Park in Llandudno, up to 20 different types of butterfly can be seen fluttering over the headland. As a country with a strong agricultural industry, farmyard newborns are a common sight on hillsides across Wales. Some farms and petting zoos offer lamb feeding sessions, such as Cwmcrwth Farm in Llandeilo.
One place that is truly inundated with breeding pairs and migratory animals is Skomer Island in Pembrokeshire, which is reachable by boat trip from St Davidsbetween May and late July. Skomer Island typically has over 10,000 pairs of puffin and nearly 200,000 pairs of Manx shearwater in the spring, along with razorbills, guillemots and gannets. The surrounding waters are home to pods of dolphins, porpoises and grey seals, which boat tour operators help you to identify.
Power through rapids and over hills
For adventures of the more physical type, there are many options. The waters at the National White Water Centre in Bala are at their best in spring, so it’s the perfect time to go white-water rafting under the tree canopies. The rapids are fed from the Tryweryn River, a steep, fast-flowing Snowdonia river that’s controlled by a dam for guaranteed flow.
The Gower Peninsula, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, gets much busier when the sun comes out – mainly with keen walkers and people riding horses. Local route guides and pony trekking operators can show beginners the ropes and some of the breathtaking local scenery, from wide sandy beaches to craggy cliffs. If watersports take your fancy – maybe SUP, kayaking or canoeing – you can hire gear or have a lesson from a Visit Wales approved activity provider. With nearly 900 miles of coastline and hundreds of lakes, lagoons and rivers, the Welsh waterways are waiting to be enjoyed.
Cheer on the boys
Rugby is a huge deal in Wales. By spring, the Six Nations Championship is well under way. When it ends in late March, there’s still plenty of fire in the boys. One of the most exciting events for regional rugby is Judgement Day VII, which takes place on 27 April in 2019 at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff. The four rugby union teams (Cardiff Blues, Llanelli’s Scarlets, Newport Gwent Dragons and Swansea’s Ospreys) meet for a double-header fixture and a night of revelry in the capital city.
Cap it off with some culture
Book lovers can put two week-long events into their diaries. First is the Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival, running from 30 March to 7 April in 2019. While it’s aimed at children, the celebration of reading and imagination draws in lots of adults who want to be a part of the workshops and author talks in Cardiff Castle, Cardiff City Hall and Cardiff Central Library. In the so-called ‘Town of Books’, Hay-On-Wye, the annual Hay Festival runs from 23 May to 2 June 2019. Novelists, travel writers, children’s authors, comedians, journalists, screenwriters and winners of the Man Booker Prize, Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize are among the first batch of the line-up to be revealed, with nearly 600 others to be announced.
Over the May bank holiday (26–27 May 2019), Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival brings delicious produce to the quaint market town. As well as stalls selling farm-fresh meats, hunks of Welsh cheese, craft beers and delicatessen-style produce, there are live demos, street food stands and a wholly vegan area. On the same weekend is The Big Retreat Wales in Lawrenny, Pembrokeshire (24–27 May). The four-day festival combines different aspects of wellbeing – exercise, relaxation, food and thought – into a family-friendly event in a gorgeous rural setting. Both festivals are lovely ways to see out the season.