In Europe, Life as an Expat, Travel

Wales in the Winter: What to Pack

David’s recent business trip brought him to Wales the first weekend in February. At that point we’d only been living in the UK for just under one month, so I was eager to see as much of it as possible. Even if that meant heading to Wales during a very off-peak time.

While Wales is its own country, it’s also part of the United Kingdom—along with Scotland and England. This means that English residents can enter it the same way Americans travel from state to state. This also means that we could bring our dog Spark without any of the hassles of international travel.

Now, early February in Wales is not exactly peak tourist season. This time of year is cold, wet, and blustery. Not exactly what most holidaymakers are looking for in a winter getaway.

However, I will say that it is entirely worth making a visit to Wales in the winter, as you’re likely to experience this enchanting country in a completely different way than you might in midsummer when the throngs descend upon the Welsh seaside.

But the contents of your suitcase are also going to look different in the middle of winter than it will during beach season, too.

Here’s what you should bring for you and, if you’re bringing them, for your four-legged family members as well.

For Humans

1. A warm coat, preferably wind- and water-proof

Trust me on this one. Having a down parka with a hood was the only reason I was able to enjoy exploring Wales in February. The geography of Pembrokeshire, where we were staying, is such that you are going to spend time outside. From ancient castles to beautiful beaches, much of the area can only be properly explored on foot, so you’re going to need to bundle up in order to stay warm and dry—while there was no snow in Wales when we visited, it did rain several times off-and-on.

2. Waterproof boots with good traction

Not only is Wales wet, but it’s also very muddy. Many walking areas are unpaved, meaning you’re going to be navigating some very saturated grassy plains. This is where the traction comes in. Tempting as it may be, don’t wear your cutest or most expensive boots in Wales, they’ll be drenched (as will your feet) and ruined by the end of the day. Wear dark, water-resistant boots that can get muddy.

3. Scarf, gloves and a hat

Again, it may seem obvious to pack cold weather gear for your winter trip to Wales, but make sure you have extras. The unpredictable conditions this time of year mean you may very well end up with a soaking wet beanie or very muddy gloves. Wales is absolutely breathtaking—you’re going to want to take photos—so make sure you bring gloves that are touch-screen compatible or have a fingerless option.

4. Binoculars

Driving across Wales, you’re likely to spot a lot of amazing sights. Why not bring a pair of binoculars just in case you want to identify a far-off animal, seaside building, or other Welsh landmarks? We didn’t have any binoculars with us and regretted it several times throughout our trip.

5. Blankets

If you’re visiting a less-populated area of Wales (i.e. not Cardiff or Swansea), you’re not likely to be staying in a traditional hotel. Most accommodation in rural Wales consists of inns, bed and breakfasts, and converted barns. Ours was the latter—a beautiful stone barn converted into a cozy cottage. However, the popular stone construction of Wales means you’re likely to still catch a chill in the dead of winter. An extra blanket or two will come in handy.

For Dogs

Like I said, our dog accompanied us on our trip to Wales and she absolutely loved it. If you’re in the position of debating whether or not to bring your canine pal, I would definitely recommend it. Wales’ outdoor activities are well-suited for most active dogs and many of its accommodations and pubs will accept doggie patrons as well.

That being said, there are a few things you should remember to pack so your dog can have as much fun as you in the Welsh winter wonderland.

1. A sweater or fleec

As I’ve mentioned, Wales in the winter isn’t warm. The dampness combined with the chilly temps means your pup is likely to get a bit cold too. So bring an extra layer for them to wear, just in case. We love Spark’s Dog Suit from Equafleece for this type of excursion as it helps keep the water and mud off of her fur and our car!

2. Paw wipes or towels

On our journey around Wales, we alternated between driving and hiking around the Pembrokshire coast. This meant that every time we got back in the car, we had to wipe down Spark’s paws to keep unwanted mud and water off of the car seats. Make sure to bring something to clean off your dog in the car and it’d probably be a good idea to bring a blanket or towel to help protect your seats from muddy paws, too.

3. Extra snacks and water

Wales’ cold weather and rugged terrain means a good deal of exercise for both you and your pup. In order to keep them hydrated and energized, bring some extra treats or kibble on the road with you. A doggie water bottle or bowl is also a good idea.

Long story short, go to Wales in the winter. It’s beautiful and quiet. Pack the above items and you’ll be perfectly prepared to enjoy a lovely Welsh holiday!

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