Top 10 things to do in Wales in December

If you’re planning to visit Wales in December you’re in for a real treat. It might be one of the coldest months of the year, but the Welsh landscape looks beautiful dusted with a little frost and snow. Plus, we’ve got plenty of activities and events to keep you toasty warm and full of festive cheer! Whether you want to embrace all things Christmassy, get out and explore some mountain landscapes, do some wildlife watching or plunge into chilly mid-winter seas, Wales has got just the thing for you!

Read on for our list of the top ten things to do in Wales in December.

1

Christmas shop until you drop

A visit to Wales in December is a chance to throw yourself into all things festive. There are fairs, festivals, markets and winter wonderlands happening up and down the country where you can have a great day out and shop for Christmas gifts at the same time. Here are some of our favourite festive locations:

2

They grow up so fast

While you can see seals on the beaches of Wales all year round, December is your last chance to spot baby seals in all their fuzzy, white, adorable glory before they take to the water and start growing up. Plus, in December, you can pair seal watching with the joys of walking on rugged Welsh beaches in blustery winter weather, which is a wonderful experience in itself.

You can spot these adorable animals on between September and December. Some of the best areas to try are the remote rocky beaches of North Pembrokeshire, the Marloes Peninsula, St David’s Head, Strumble Heads, and the Llyn Peninsula. Or get out on the water and head for the St Tudwals Islands, Bardsey or Skomer Island. And Ramsey Island, which is home to one of the largest populations of seals in Wales and sees around 600 pups born each year.

3

Run Santa run

Want to make sure you stay fit during all the festive indulgence? We’ve got the answer for that! Join a Santa Dash for the chance to run 5k while wearing a Santa suit and help some local charities while you’re at it.

  • Llandudno Santa Dash is a fun day for the whole family, including dogs! The 5k route takes you along the beautiful beachfront, and you’re welcome to run or walk it at your own pace. The entry fee includes the Santa costume if you don’t have one of your own, and all runners get a medal at the finish line.
  • Cardiff Santa and Elf Dash is the biggest fun run of its kind in the country. The Cardiff run attracts around 1500 people each year who come to participate or support from the sidelines dressed as Santas, elves, reindeer, turkeys, presents and Christmas trees. All the money raised goes to Calon, a charity dedicated to providing heart screening for young people.
  • Clwydians 5K Santa Dash leads through the dramatic scenery of the Clwydian Range of North Wales. And the Santas are provided with litter-picking kits to clean up the countryside as they go!
  • Rhyl Hope House Santa Dash, this children’s hospice charity organises Santa dashes across the UK and recently added Rhyl as a location.
4

Have a festive flutter

The day after boxing day sees the biggest horse racing event of the Welsh calendar, the Coral Welsh Grand National. What better way to kick the post-Christmas blues than an event that combines Welsh pride, competition, lingering festive cheer and prize money of a whopping Β£150,000?

This historic event has been taking place on Wales’ premier racecourse in Chepstow since 1949. It’s a fun day out for the whole family with food and drinks stalls, live music including a Christmas choir, entertainment for children and the chance to see history being made. In 2017 16-year-old James Bowen broke records by being the youngest-ever jockey to win the race. And in 2019, Welsh pride soared as a Welsh-trained horse took the win for the first time since 1973.

This prestigious Welsh Grand National demands stamina and fortitude from both horse and rider. Throw in 23 fences to be tackled and you’ve got all the ingredients for a festive cracker. Join thousands for this historic Chepstow event. The pride of Welsh racing, the Coral Welsh Grand National attracts some of the finest long-distance chasers to the premier racecourse in Wales to vie for the big prize. The roll of honour of winners of this great race carries some very special names, and features some who have gone on to win the Grand National itself at Aintree, including Silver Birch, Bindaree and Earth Summit.
5

Take a dip

Get your Christmas day off to a bracing start by plunging into the icy sea for Porthcawl’s annual Christmas Day Swim! Over a thousand people each year gather in fancy dress to participate in or support this chilly endeavour that raises money for charities such as the Wales Air Ambulance, Prostate Cymru, and the Welsh Alzheimer’s Society. It’s a great way to work up an appetite for your Christmas dinner.

If you’d rather wait till after Christmas Day, head to Tenby to take part in their similarly bonkers Boxing Day Swim. It’s guaranteed to sweep away any lethargy brought on by too much turkey! This one has been going on for 50 years and attracts hundreds of people kitted out in their fancy dress finery to plunge into the chilly waters before returning to the warmth of a beach bonfire and mugs of soup.

Alternatively, head for the Walrus Dip at Pembrey Country Park, Carmarthenshire. A boxing day event where you raise money for the charity of your choice. Or the Llandudno Boxing Day Sea Dip, where the water is an average of 9Β°C.

6

Let the light in

Throughout December, Christmas lights will be twinkling up and down the UK. But in Wales, we’ve got something a bit more special than a few fairy lights. From late November to early January, several castle grounds and parks turn into enchanted gardens full of light installations designed to delight the senses of viewers, young and old. Head to one of these locations to experience the magic for yourselves:

  • Margam Park, Neath: Follow a meandering path around the castle and gardens past magical lights and interactive displays set to atmospheric music. Stop for mulled wine and hot food along the way and finish by the fire pit for some marshmallow toasting!
  • Fonmon Castle, Barry: 32 acres of illuminations alongside Santa shows and a story trail populated by a costumed team of staff and magicians.
  • National Botanic Garden, Carmarthenshire: A mile-long trail of ethereal illuminations through the spectacular scenery of the Garden of Wales.
  • Bute Park, Cardiff: This beautiful park is a must-visit at any time of the year, but the addition of the festive light trail, fire garden, starlit boulevard, and light canyon, take it to a whole new level.
7

Scale icy peaks

Wales is not the most reliable winter sports destination, but – when the snow falls – there are a couple of locations perfect for winter climbing. There are some spots in the Brecon Beacons and a few even in South Wales if the temperatures drop far enough. But the biggest climbing playground is Snowdonia National Park, home to icy valleys, north-facing mountains and frozen waterfalls.

Check out PYB, who offers winter climbing courses that don’t require any previous experience and include accommodation, food, equipment and instruction. You’ll learn how to use crampons and ice axes, read the conditions, plan an excursion, and climb safely, all in the spectacular Snowdonia scenery.

If you already know what you’re doing, check out Snowdonia Adventures, who offer bespoke winter guiding for experienced climbers wanting to explore the Welsh terrain.

Please note: Winter climbing is dangerous and should only be done alongside experienced, qualified instructors or guides.


8

Seek out Santa

If you’re bored of visiting Santa in your local shopping centre, why not seek him out in a new location, or perhaps combine a Santa sighting with a day out or activity? Amazingly, in this, his busiest month of the year, Santa still finds time to pop up at all manner of weird and wonderful locations in Wales and you can visit him in these offbeat spots:

  • In a deep dark cave. Adventure sports centre Zip World is better known for its ziplines through forests and caves. But it also hosts Zipmas, where visitors can descend 500ft below ground in a cable car to meet Santa in an underground cavern.
  • On a reindeer safari. For a magical day out for the whole family visit the Reindeer Lodge. Take an immersive drive through fields of reindeer to find a hidden elf village and see Father Christmas working in his toyshop.
  • On a speedboat. For a low-energy Santa experience, visit Llandegfedd Lake, Monmouthshire, where Santa is scheduled to arrive by speedboat to delight and entertain the children. All while you relax and enjoy a leisurely brunch.
  • In the Royal Mint. The Christmas experience in the Royal Mint, Cardiff, is an excellent rainy-day activity. Kids can learn about the origins of putting coins in Christmas stockings, they can write letters to Santa, meet him in his cosy workshop and press their own coin as a souvenir.
  • On a steam train: it seems Santa has an affinity with steam trains as he’s riding them all over the country in December. Meet him on the Gwili Railway in Carmarthenshire, the Brecon Mountain Railway, and the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways through the spectacular scenery of Snowdonia National Park. Of course, all these festival train rides come complete with hot chocolate, mulled wine and mince pies!
  • 9

    She’s behind you!

    It’s pantomime season! What better way to get into the festive spirit than by taking the family to a performance of a fairy tale classic and booing as the villain takes the stage? Pantos take over theatres all over the country in December, so check out the big panto guide to find out which shows are happening near you.

    If hissing at bad guys isn’t your style, why not take in something a little more high-brow? Ballet productions of The Nutcracker, The Snow Queen and Swan Lake are common at Christmas time, as are classical carol concerts. Keep an eye on the websites of the Welsh National Opera, Ballet Cymru and National Orchestra of Wales to see what shows they’re performing throughout the country in December.

    10

    New Year’s Eve

    Of course, the last thing to do in Wales in December is to see the old year out in style! And in Wales, we’ve got a celebration to suit all tastes.

    If you want an unusual New Year’s Eve experience with its roots in Welsh history, head to Llangynwyd, Bridgend, or Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, where the communities celebrate the Welsh folk tradition of Mari Lwyd. This involves carrying a decorated horse’s head and calling at various establishments to sing traditional verses and demand admittance and refreshments. Strange? Yes. Fun? Most definitely.

    If you’d like to see the new year with a bit of physical exercise, consider the Nos Galan Road Races in Mountain Ash in the Cynon Valley. The races celebrate Guto Nyth BrΓ’n, a Welsh athlete from the 1700s who was said to be so fast he could catch birds in flight, and blow out a candle and be in bed before it was dark.

    The five kilometre race begins with the lighting of a torch which is then carried through the streets by a Mystery Runner. This is generally a famous sports personality, whose identity is withheld until the event itself.

    If you want a more traditional celebration, consider the fantastic fireworks extravaganza over Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey. Go classy with a masquerade ball at the famous Celtic Manor Resort. Or if you just want to party hard, we’d recommend heading to Cardiff, undoubtedly one of the best nights out in the country and home to the widest choice of pubs, bars and clubs. Fair warning, though, it’ll be busy, so head for your venue of choice well before midnight to ensure you get in before the bells toll!

    There you go

    These are our top 10 things to do in Wales in December. What do you think? Do you feel like celebrating Christmas or New Year’s Eve in Welsh style? Want to spot some seal pups, try ice climbing, or have a flutter on the horses? Whatever you fancy doing, be sure to book your accommodation in advance to avoid disappointment, and we’ll see you in December. Happy Christmas or should we say Nadolig Llawen!

    What about next month? Here’s our guide to the top 10 things to do in Wales in January.

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