For some the idea of a vacation conjures up relaxing strolls, window shopping and long days of doing absolutely nothing. Others, not so much... If your perfect holiday includes white knuckles, Wales has a few things to show you.
Creativecommons.org/ My Photo Journeys
Anything with a superlative has to be good, and Zip World has two: it’s the longest zipline in Europe and the fastest in the world. Located in Snowdonia National Park, the 1750-metre-long line stretches above the oldest working slate mine in the world, hanging 213 metres above a giant, man-made lake. Your ride starts with a long journey through the quarry by truck, followed by a quick shot on the 450-metre-long “Little Zipper”. The shorter zipline takes you to the tower that starts the “Big Zipper” – the long wire. The long ride is a breathtaking soar over the quarry that takes you back to the car park.
The entire adventure lasts about two hours long, and if you still have breath in your body, Zip World just opened another set of ziplines a few miles away. Take an aerial tour of the Llechwedd slate caverns at Blaenau Ffestiniog on the three connecting lines, Anarchy, Bedlam and Chaos. Anarchy closes in the winter but the other two lines are usually open.
As you might expect there are size restrictions for riding the ziplines and very young children are not allowed. The only physical requirement is the ability to walk short distances and, of course, the ability to let go while standing at the top of a tall tower when only hooked to a thin wire.
Do you enjoy long, leisurely strolls along the shore.... on the water side? Coasteering is a physically intense sport that includes rock climbing, jumping and swimming in some of the roughest water along rocky coastlines. Participants don a wetsuit and a harness and spend several hours exploring the coastline while battling currents and climbing up and down rock walls. Some regions have underwater caves to explore, excellent diving cliffs and even water pools that rival a washing machine for turbulence.
Almost anyone can do this using a flotation device for extra buoyancy, a harness for security and minimizing hard climbs (and exciting jumps) on the rocks. A good organization will adjust the route depending on the skill and fitness of the participants.
Creativecommons.org/ Leon Wilson
There are many great mountain biking trails all over Wales and plenty of places to rent a bike if you haven’t brought your own. Whether you’re and expert or beginner, you’ll find great choices almost anywhere in the country.
If you really want to skip all that ‘riding uphill’ nonsense, BikePark Wales has you covered. You can get a day pass for the uplift vehicle and ride in comfort to the top of almost any trail. All the trails are marked for difficulty with a five level system that ranges from ‘easy’ to something like ‘you have lost your mind’. Badgers Run is easy enough for young children while Trail X is three huge jumps over 0.1 kilometres. In between you’ll find trails such as the Willy Waver, which feels harder than it is with several turns and a few jumps in rapid succession. The Wibbly Wobbly, on the other hand is just as hard as it seems, surprising riders with loose rocks and sudden switchbacks for 1.5 kilometres. The biggest jumps are in Enter The Dragon, a short but intense expert trail that forces you to build up speed quickly.
Nothin’ But Blue Skies
Creativecommons.org/ Ben Salter
If you’re scoffing at the previous ideas, why not try a riding a biplane. You know, those rickety looking, two-winged planes with a propeller in front? Not thrilling enough you say? Well, you won’t be riding on the inside.
Wing walking is just what it sounds like – you are on the top wing of a biplane with nothing between you and the sky in front of you. You get some brief instructions before you’re strapped into an incredibly small-looking but secure harness and the plane starts coasting down the runway. Using hand signals you learn during training (you were listening, right?) you communicate with your pilot and together you put on a display for the onlookers below.
It takes serious courage to agree to be strapped to the top of a plane and a bit of physical strength to move against the battering wind while flying. If you have both of these, get ready to earn your certificate and join the elite few who have actually completed the trip.
Wing walking is such a specialized activity that it requires good weather and is only offered in a few places. No one under 18 is allowed and older folk need to bring a physician’s note that they are approved for the activity.