Seasonal Planning for Wales Travel
Unless you are interested in a sporting activity or attending a specific festival, your decision about when to visit Wales will most likely be determined by seasonal weather. Wales' temperate maritime climate is generally cool to mild, wet, and highly changeable. Yet it's much milder than might be expected from its latitude, thanks to the North Atlantic Drift—an extension of the warm Gulf Stream from the Gulf of Mexico—which sweeps up the west coast of the British Isles. Palm trees grow along the Pembrokeshire coast!
Wales can be bathed in summer sun (particularly the coastal lowlands), although Welsh summers rarely sizzle. Winters can also be surprisingly mild, albeit rainy (October through January are the wettest months of the year). The upper mountain slopes are another matter, being very cold and usually blanketed in snow in winter. Even small elevation gains can make a massive difference in precipitation: At the foot of Snowdon, Llanberis is just seven miles (11 km) from (and only 500 feet higher) than Caernarfon but receives twice as much rainfall.
However, it's impossible to predict what the weather will be like month by month, or year by year, as any month can be rainy—explaining why Wales is always so green. Regardless of when you go, pack your raingear! Still, if you want a beach vacation, put your money on statistically sunnier, warmer, and drier summer months, although understandably, this is also the busiest time of the year. Late spring (especially May and June) and fall (particularly September) are the ideal times: they're quieter, with fewer crowds and reasonable weather, especially for outdoor activities.
|Seasons||Pros||Cons||Best for||Where to Visit|
|Spring (Mar-May)||Profusion of flowers; low-season, with fewer visitors to museums and popular tourist sites; lower prices||March can still be cold||Watching rugby, birdwatching||Cardiff for the Six Nations Championship, Hay-on-Wye for literary fans|
|Summer (Jun-Aug)||Warmest months and sunniest and longest days of the year||Peak travel season; beaches and main tourist sites can be crowded; prices are at their highest||Beaches, hiking upland areas, active outdoor adventures, whale-watching||Cardigan Bay for dolphins, Cardigan and St Davids for whale-watching trips, Llangollen for the Eisteddfod|
|Fall (Sep-Nov)||Mild weather in September; spectacular autumnal colors in October and November||October and November are typically cold and rainy||Exploring cities and museums||Swansea for the Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts|
|Winter (Dec-Feb)||Relatively few tourists and lower prices; uncrowded museums and popular tourist sites; mountain snows for winter sports||Cold, windy, and rainy, with occasional snow; very short days||Museums and indoor activities||Local pubs to watch the Six Nations Championship like a Cymry|
Spring in Wales (March to May)
Spring is shoulder season, with mild weather, relatively few visitors (except during Easter school break), and prices are considerably lower than summer. In all, a great time to visit, not least for culture vultures, as there are plenty of cultural events.
Welsh scenery appears at its best in spring when the hills are emerald green, waterfalls are gushing after winter rains, and wildflowers are in bloom as the first snowdrops give way to daffodils, crocuses, and bluebells. Plus, nesting birds can be seen on coastal clifftops as auks, guillemots, and razorbills arrive from their warm-weather winter quarters; swallows begin to arrive in late March, followed in April by cuckoos, house martins, and willow warblers. Newborn lambs play in the lush meadows, and baby foxes, rabbits, and hedgehogs emerge from their burrows by May.
March in Wales is typically cold and blustery and by April, the air is warming, and leaves are now in full bud and bloom, although the air is turbulent with thundery showers, and a late winter cold snap can bring April snow. Come May, nights can still be frosty, but the average daytime high has risen from 47°F (8.5°C) in March to 57°F (14°C) around the coastal lowlands. Rainfall stays consistent at an average of three inches (8 cm) for each month—the lowest of the year. Southern Wales is marginally warmer than the north, with similar rainfall, although March is somewhat wetter.
Events in spring
Six Nations Championship, Cardiff. In February and March, England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales go into the rugby scrum for the cup.
St David's Day, nationwide. March 1 is Wales' national day to celebrate its patron saint.
Sioe Flodau'r RHS Flower Show, Cardiff. In mid-April, a preview of London's Chelsea Flower Show kicks off in the Welsh capital.
Wonderwool Wales, Builth Wells. A two-day showcase on the last weekend of April of wool products and all things sheepish.
Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye. Britain's biggest and most beloved literary festival occurs from late May to early June.
St. Davids Cathedral Festival, St Davids, Pembrokeshire. Ten days of classical concerts and recitals from late May to early June.
Summer in Wales (July to August)
The peak tourist season is from mid-June through August—the driest and warmest time of year, with the best chance of sunshine. Llandudno, in northern Wales, has an average high temperature in July of 59°F (15°C), while Swansea, in the south, is only a degree hotter, but some days in the lowlands can easily top 80°F (27°C). Plus, the days are long, with twilight beginning by 4 am and lingering at night until well past 10 pm.
June weather can be unpredictable and highly variable, with some cold and wet days. July brings the "Dog Days" of summer, with plenty of sunny, sultry weather and clear blue skies (it all depends on the jet stream; there are no guarantees). The year's highest temperatures often occur in mid-August. Hence, this is the best weather for beach breaks though you'll certainly not have the beach to yourself. The most popular beaches can be crowded, especially on weekends, and hotel and other prices are at their highest. Still, Wales' rugged shoreline has hundreds of sheltered bays and coves, so it's relatively simple to find a beach.
At this time of year, nature lovers may spot dolphins frolicking in huge pods off the coast, while whale-watching trips often deliver sightings of basking sharks and many different whale species, from orcas to blue whales. Seals hang out on the Welsh shores, and meadows and mountains are a veritable artist's palette of summer wildflowers, including the Welsh poppy. Consequently, these months are the best of the year for hiking and other outdoor activities, while Welsh culture is showcased at some of the country's biggest festivals.
Events in Summer
Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye. Britain's biggest and most beloved literary festival runs from late May to early June.
Gower Festival, Gower. Two weeks of primarily classical music in July.
Llangollen International Eisteddfod, Llangollen. Around 4,000 performers in early July span the world's music and dance spectrum.
Royal Welsh Show, Builth Wells. In late July, Wales' largest agricultural show takes place, from sheep-shearing to falconry displays.
The Big Cheese, Caerphilly. A celebration of Caerphilly's cheese, with music, dance, and all the fun of the fair in late July.
National Eisteddfod, varies. Held over the last weekend in July and the first week in August. This is Wales' most significant celebration of Welsh music and poetry, with plenty of pageantry and history.
Brecon Jazz, Brecon. Three days of live jazz in Brecon.
Gŵyl Machynlleth, Machynlleth. A week-long annual celebration of Welsh and international music and culture on the last week in August.
Pride Cymru, Cardiff. Wales waves the rainbow flag with parades and parties at this LGBT+ event in late August.
Fall in Wales (September to November)
September is still relatively dry and warm, and there are still plenty of sunny days, with the fruit berries at their ripest. Early fall is ideal for a Wales visit as family vacationers are back at home after the end of the school holidays. By the end of September, days are almost two hours shorter than at the start of the month, the first frosts may appear at night, and the heather and trees are turning color. The average daytime high falls from 64°F (18°C) in September to 50°F (10°C) in November for Swansea, in southern Wales, and from 60°F (16°C) in September to 48°F (9°C) for Llandudno, in the north.
Early- to mid-autumn is an especially great time for hiking, with the forest and heathland trails a riot of reds, yellows, and oranges, while the pubs feel cozier than ever after a brisk walk along a coastal or mountain trail. These months are also popular with surfers and scuba divers, as decent swells can be expected, and the sea is still relatively warm.
Come October, the rains pick up considerably, although, in mid-month, there is often a long dry, sunny spell colloquially called "St Luke's Little Summer." The autumn foliage is at its most spectacular in October. And this is the deer-rutting season; you may come across fallow deer clashing antlers while walking countryside trails. November's reputation as being cloudy and wet (it's the rainiest month of the year) is only partly true; typically, mid-month is sunny, albeit with frosty nights and night fogs. The trees have mostly lost their leaves for the impending winter.
Events in autumn
Abergavenny Food Festival, Abergavenny. In mid-September, experience a weekend of culinary delights with celebrity chefs to whet your taste buds.
Porthcawl Elvis Festival, Porthcawl. Hard to believe, but this is the world's biggest festival on an Elvis theme in late September.
Tenby Arts Festival, Tenby. A week-long celebration in late September of music, dance and performance, and visual arts.
Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts, Swansea. Two weeks of classical and jazz concerts in October, plus ballet, opera, and theater by the world's leading orchestras, bands, and troupes.
Machynlleth Lantern Parade and Fireworks, Machynlleth. November 5 highlights the nationwide Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night) celebrations; community-run with lanterns and culminates in fireworks.
Winter in Wales (December to February)
In winter, Wales has a unique appeal when the mountains (and briefly the lowlands) are blanketed with snow. Yet don't let this season stop you from an active vacation if you fancy a brisk walk or mountain bike ride along a coastal trail. Even hiking in well-named Snowdonia is popular among experienced hikers. You simply need to dress warmly in layers.
These are the rainiest months nationwide, with south Wales receiving slightly more than the north. Needless to say, the winter months are also the coldest of the year, while days are short with sunset in the late afternoon. However, most travelers stay away to warm their feet by their home fires, so you get to explore popular tourist sites without the crowds. And hotel prices are at their lowest of the year.
December is prone to gales, but this month is slightly warmer than January and February. Temperatures begin to drop more sharply toward the month's end. A local saying suggests frost on December 21 (the shortest day) heralds a severe winter. This is a good time for exploring museums and other indoor activities and shopping in Christmas markets.
January—the coldest and cloudiest month—has the most predictable weather of all year, bringing high winds plus plenty of rain and snow. So pack your thermals! Temperatures remain more or less the same for February, averaging 39°F (4°C) for both January and February in Llandudno, in the north, and 41°F (5°C) for Swansea, in the south. Rainfall is less than in January, especially in southern Wales, with February the least rainy month.
Events in winter
New Year’s Day Swim, Abersoch in Gwynedd, Barry in Glamorgan, and Saundersfoot in Pembrokeshire. Not for the faint of heart. Locals dress in fancy costume for a frigid plunge in the ocean.
Saturnalia Beer Festival, Llanwrtyd Wells. Famous for its year-round roster of wacky events, the Mid Wales town of Llanwrtyd Wells hosts this winter beer fest on the second week in January, with plenty of real ales and walks on the old Roman road.
Six Nations Championship. England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales go into the rugby scrum for the cup in February and March.