Wales is a wonderful place to go for those after a quiet New Year. While there are certainly parts of the country, not least around Cardiff, that are more suited to those after a somewhat more boisterous time, Wales also offers wide expanses of beautiful and often surprisingly unpeopled countryside. These countryside destinations make ideal choices for anyone looking to relax and unwind after the sometimes rather stressful and exhausting Christmas period. A book could be filled with stunning Welsh rural locations, and indeed many books have been, but a few areas do stand out for travellers in search of a gentler pace of life during their winter holiday.
1. North Wales
Many people shy away from visiting the northern coastline of Wales as they are under the impression that the area contains little more than a string of ugly caravan parks at the eastern end and a collection of tourist seaside resorts further to the west which are great for energetic families but less so for those hoping for a peaceful break. However, those who travel a little way inland will be rewarded with both stunningly beautiful scenery and an altogether slower pace of life from that found on the shore itself. The small villages along the Conwy Valley are ideal for a week or two at a gentler pace of life: road links are sufficiently good to make a trip to the seaside or inland to the mighty mountains of Snowdonia a straightforward exercise, although caution should always be exercised in winter as to prevailing weather conditions. Meanwhile, those who prefer simply to remain still and calm will be delighted by the clean January air and gentle rolling hills of the Valley area itself.
Almost anywhere in central Wales would make a fine choice for a quiet holiday, as the area is thinly populated almost throughout, with only a few small market towns – Rhayader, Llandrindod Wells, Brecon – dotted here and there about the landscape, with Aberystwyth the only substantial resort on the central west coast. This part of Wales is in large part quite wild and untamed, and so long as visitors stay away from those tracts of land (for example in the Eppynt mountains) which are used for military training purposes, they can expect to have a truly tranquil experience. A major attraction of the sprawling county of Powys in particular is its wildlife, and in particular the emblem of this part of Wales, the beautiful Red Kite. This magnificent bird is now increasing in numbers after many years of decline, and simply to walk along the shores of one of Powys’ many reservoirs and watch a Kite soaring and circling above the possibly snow-capped hills beyond is an experience which ranks with any in Wales.
3. South Wales
It is necessary to work a little harder to find truly “away from it all” spots in the south of the country, simply because of its much denser population, but it is by no means impossible. In fact, some of the loveliest rural scenery can be found very close to the border with England, in the county of Monmouthshire. Away from the main roads, this is a place of startlingly green hills, quiet farmhouses (some of which offer bed and breakfast accommodation) and winding country lanes as enjoyable to explore on foot or by bicycle as they are to trace on an Ordnance Survey map. It is probably best to stay away from the Wye Valley itself, achingly beautiful as parts of it are, as the overwhelming majority of tourists in this area head there, making it by far the most crowded part of the region. However, this very concentration benefits the traveller looking for quiet, as heading even a couple of miles to the west will bring a remarkable transformation, with hardly a soul in sight and the loudest sound the bleating of sheep.