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Like most of Europe, once the festive season is out of the way, most of Wales experiences post-Christmas blues in January, but what exactly is it like to visit during the first month of the new year?
January in Wales is one of the coldest and wettest months with temperatures around 4℃ and an average of 18 rainy days. After New Year celebrations, January is the quietest month, however, many attractions and resorts will remain closed. Hikers can enjoy snow-covered mountains in the national parks and surfers can experience strong waves from the Atlantic.
So, have I piqued your interest? Read on to find out in detail what you can expect from Wales in January including what to pack, where to go, and some unmissable events.
What Will the Weather Be Like?
If you’re thinking about travelling to Wales in January, you can expect it to be cold and windy. With it being the depths of Winter, temperatures average out around a chilly 4℃1 (source: Weather Spark)– that’s big coat territory for sure! It’s also one of the wettest months, with an average of 18 rainy days between 2015 and 2022 (although this can be anywhere between 13 and 23)2 (source: Statistic).
January is also the windiest month to spend in Wales. The Winter storms swell up in the Atlantic and make their way across to the gorgeous coastline of Wales. It can make it feel a lot colder than it is, but if you’re visiting Wales for watersports, this makes for some excellent surfing conditions.
For those of you looking for cosy nights, January has approximately 8.2 hours of daylight – the second shortest in the entire year, so be prepared for it to start getting dark around 4pm3 (source: Sunrise / Sunset Times).
Prefer to visit when it’s warm? The best time to visit Wales for the weather is between June and August, however, this is also the busiest season and can be more expensive too.
What Should I Expect?
With the weather not being ideal, January is a pretty quiet time in Wales. There aren’t a ton of tourists so many seaside towns and holiday resorts are closed down for the season. This can limit your options, but for the accommodations that are still open, you can expect prices to be low during January.
If you’re thinking of heading to a university town or city in Wales, such as Aberystwyth or Bangor, keep in mind that it’ll be a lot busier than in December due to the students coming back after the Christmas break.
Thinking about hiking in Eryri (Snowdonia) in January? While it is possible, it’s almost guaranteed that there is going to be snow on the peaks. Make sure you have all the necessary gear and experience to make it up the mountain and back down again – mountain rescue are likely to be working overtime at this time of year!
Now, this might sound like a bit of a dud month to visit Wales, but it’s a beautiful time of year to visit, and you’re probably going to have the main sights all to yourself. Cardigan Bay in January, although bitterly cold, is beautiful and calm, unlike in Summer when there are hordes of tourists covering every last patch of sand. Enjoy the calm that comes with the cold!
What to Pack
As it’s so cold, layers are going to be essential. A thick, waterproof coat is also going to be your best friend and will help keep the wind off you. You’ll need all the necessary woollen accessories; gloves, hats, scarves, thick socks, etc. I’d also suggest a sturdy pair of walking boots – there can be snow and ice in Wales this time of year, so minimise your chances of slipping.
Best Things To Do in Wales in January
Here are some of my favourite activities to do in Wales in January:
1. Hike in the Brecon Beacons
It’s no secret that Wales is full of amazing mountain ranges and sweeping valleys to explore. The Brecon Beacons combine the majesty of the mighty Northern mountains, with the lush green valleys of the South. January is a perfect time to visit and the inland location of the area may prove less blustery than other Welsh coastal hotspots.
2. Birdwatch in the Cambrian Mountains
If you want to check out the wonderful Welsh wildlife as you explore the country’s natural attractions, head to mid-Wales and the Cambrian Mountain range4 (source: RSPB). Despite its name, you can wander from mountainous terrain to forested landscapes to valley hills in no time.
It’s much wilder and less touristy than Eryri or the Brecon Beacons and home to some of Wales’s most beautiful and elusive birds, including the red kite. The lack of tourists and clear skies of January make it the ideal time to spot these wonderful feathered friends.
3. Look to the stars at the Dark Sky Reserves of Eryri (Snowdonia)
With some crisp and clear nights comes the perfect opportunity for stargazing. Thanks to the sheer amount of wild and protected spaces across Wales, there are a lot of great places to look up and explore without a telescope. That being said, you can find a designated Dark Sky Reserve at Eryri (Snowdonia)5 (source: Snowdonia National Park).
Due to the lack of light in the surrounding area and the earlier nights in January, it’s the ideal combination for stargazing. Just remember to bring torches to help you find your way around the trails!
4. Take a New Years’ dip at Barry Island
Want to ring in the New Year with a splash – literally? At the South Welsh seaside resort of Barry Island, you can join a crowd of locals who run into the icy January sea on New Year’s Day to celebrate fresh starts, new beginnings, and just generally have a great time! These New Year dips happen all along the Welsh coasts, but Barry Island’s is a favourite.
5. Drink up a storm at the Saturnalia Beer Festival
Looking for a warming local tipple to keep you toasty in the frosty January climes? Head to the quirky Roman town of Llanwrtyd Wells for their annual Saturnalia Beer Festival on the second week of January6 (source: The Guardian).
Now, this town has a whole host of weird and wonderful festivals and events throughout the year, and this beer festival with an Ancient Roman twist cannot be missed if you’re in the area.
6. Ride the waves at Aberdaron
Consider yourself a surfer or windsurfer? Head to Wales’s Atlantic coast in January for some classic Winter swells. Definitely not a time for beginners to experience surfing, January offers bone-chilling overhead waves, at pretty regular intervals.
Bring your thickest wetsuit, boots, and hood, and get yourself to Aberdaron on the tip of the Llyn Peninsula. Porth Neigwl (Hells Mouth) is a popular spot with locals and visitors alike.
7. Celebrate love with the Welsh equivalent to Valentines Day
Before the more worldwide Valentine’s Day hits in February, Dydd Santes Dwynwen is the Welsh equivalent, celebrated in January. Instead of celebrating St. Valentine, Dydd Santes Dwynwen celebrates a princess named Dwynwen who was unlucky in love. She became a nun and established a convent on the gorgeous Llanddwyn Island on the isle of Anglesey 7 (source: Visit Wales).
Today, you can visit the island where you’ll find the ruins of the church of St Dwynwen along with an old lighthouse and other unique landmarks.
Events in January
Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Wales Guidebook. Originally from rural Mid-Wales, he has lived all over the country from Cardiff to Wrexham. A true Welshman, Kieren created this site to share his passion for Wales and help others discover this beautiful country.