Top universities for the great outdoors – Wales

Wide-angle shot overlooking Snowdonia national park
Wales offers some stunning locations for students who like outdoor pursuits.

The Welsh countryside is a land of myths, legends and excellent landscapes that treat the eye and can also challenge human endurance, strength and agility. But not all of its walks and climbs need be difficult. There are plenty of easier routes should you want to spend a few hours away from it all and under the sky.

Aberystwyth University

This coastal university is within a reasonable drive of the Snowdonia National Park – one of the most beautiful outdoor spaces in the UK.

Most people think of Mount Snowdon when they think of this area. But nearer to Aberystwyth at the southern end of the park is Cader Idris, whose high peak is hugely popular with walkers and mountaineers. It’s full of very picturesque glacial features, such as the enchanting Glas Llyn, a lake carved out of the rock by ice and whose water is often blue.

For trips further north, the sea-cliffs at Gogarth on the western edge of Anglesey are described by hardened climbers as the stuff of legends.

Clubs and facilities:

  • Clubs for canoeing and kayaking, caving, expeditions, hiking, mountaineering, mountain biking, and sailing.
  • University climbing wall.

Bangor University

Bangor is ideal for serious hill walking, sea-cliff climbing and mountaineering, given that it nestles on the north coast of Wales at the foot of the Snowdonia National Park.

There are walks for everyone in the park, from gentle circular strolls to the Watkins Path – one of the hardest trails up Snowdon, with steep drops and a journey across loose scree towards the top. The National Park is home to ospreys, falcons and wild goats, as well as honeysuckle, birch, hawthorne and yellow Welsh poppies.

And then, of course, there are the climbs… up some of the finest mountain crags in the country, particularly off the Llanberis Path.

Clubs and facilities:

  • Clubs for canoeing, mountaineering, mountain biking, mountain walking and sailing.
  • ‘Livingstone Wall’, an indoor climbing facility with over 30 routes.

Cardiff University

The capital city of Wales is in a good location for minibus drives taking student hikers and climbers to the Brecon Beacons and its Black Mountain range. To the west is the Gower Peninsula, the Pembrokeshire coast and the Preseli Mountains. But the closest crag to the University of Cardiff is a mere ten-minute drive from its student union.

Just along the coast is a challenging climb up the limestone cliffs just outside Ogmore by Sea. Once you've finished you can celebrate at the Pelican In Her Piety, a charming pub near the castle at Ogmore. If you're still feeling energetic you can cross the river to the castle via a series of stepping stones.

Clubs and facilities

  • Clubs for caving and canyoning, cycling, kayaking, mountaineering, mountain biking, rambling and hiking, sailing, scuba diving and windsurfing.
  • Large climbing wall in Cardiff open to the public.

Other options

The universities above are particularly well regarded by sports and outdoor bodies such as the British Mountaineering Society. But Swansea University and the University of South Wales (at Newport) have popular outdoor clubs and compare with Cardiff in terms of proximity to the great Welsh outdoors.

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