Explore Wales’ hidden churches
Published: Thursday, March 4, 2021
Historic churches and chapels in Wales form part of new 'Experiences' tourism initiative.
As part of the National Churches Trust's support of churches and chapels, we are proud to announce the launch of 'Experiences by ExploreChurches' , a series of bespoke tours designed to offer travellers engaging and meaningful days out.
Over the last year, whilst armchair travel has been just about the only way to go on holiday, we have been working with churches and chapels in Wales to create new ways to attract visitors. Key is linking these beautiful buildings to Wales' sacred places and beauty spots to create tours and trails ready for when church and chapel doors can be open once again.
'Experiences by ExploreChurches' offers visitors fulfilling and meaningful travel experiences, when COVID-19 restrictions make days out and tourism possible again.
The best of Wales
From kayaking along the Pembrokeshire coast and cycling through Anglesey, exploring pilgrim churches en route, to churchyard stargazing and willow weaving workshops, our 'Experiences by ExploreChurches' reveal the very best of Wales’ rich culture, history, heritage and environment.
The tours, which will be hosted on our church tourism website ExploreChurches, come as Booking.com and Airbnb’s 2021 travel trends have revealed changes in the way people travel. After a year of living with the pandemic, many future travellers will not only be opting for staycations over international travel, but they will also be seeking out more pastoral, off the beaten track locations, where they can fully immerse themselves in the outdoors and avoid the potential for crowds.
With its impressive countryside and coastline, Wales is expected to grow in popularity as a staycation destination in 2021.
Each of the "Experiences by ExploreChurches' tours will shine a spotlight on some of Wales’ finest churches and chapels – among some of the most beautiful and ancient religious buildings anywhere in the world.
The itineraries appeal to a variety of audiences; from families to solo travellers, both young and old. These include hands on activities and themed visits, complete with visits to local pubs and restaurants for a full Welsh experience. We showcase a selection below.
Pilgrims from the Sea: Coasteer, Kayak & Surf
Outdoor lovers can enjoy a morning coasteering, kayaking and surfing around the Pembrokeshire coast followed by lunch in an ecolodge and an afternoon exploring the pilgrim churches on the ‘Saints and Stones’ trail – a route which takes visitors on a journey through the scenic beauty of Pembrokeshire’s beaches, mountains, and holy places, culminating at the famous Cathedral of St Davids.
Off the beaten track: Five Sacred Spaces on Ynys Môn
For cycling fans, a number of cycling experiences are available including a leisurely guided bike tour of the isle of Anglesey, delivered in partnership with Green Lane Bike Tours, which will give them the chance to enjoy spectacular views, while stopping off at some of the island’s smallest country churches and learning about their history and the region’s archaeology.
Medieval Tower Climb: St Giles Wrexham
History enthusiasts and thrill seekers will relish the experience of climbing the 135ft medieval tower of St Giles Wrexham – one of the Seven Wonders of Wales – where they see will see the 300-year-old church bells up close and learn the art of bellringing, all while enjoying stunning panoramic views of the surrounding region.
RS Thomas Poetry Reflection: Stations to the Untenanted Cross
Those looking to make the most of the calming presence of sacred places will enjoy a poetry reflection and meditation by candlelight inside St Hywyn’s church in Aberdaron. Moving around the building, guests will read through Thomas’ spiritual poetry, which connects with features within the church.
Sarah Crossland, Church Tourism Manager for National Churches Trust said:
"The churches and chapels of Wales are steeped in history, art, architecture and mythology – and have so much to offer visitors."
“The past year has encouraged many of us to search for greater meaning in our lives, with more people than ever practicing mindfulness, exploring their spirituality and revisiting their faith in whatever form that may take – or perhaps even discovering it for the first time. "
“There’s no doubt that our churches and chapels have played a fundamental role in shaping our national heritage, and continue to do so. We believe that encouraging more people to visit and experience their deep connections with landscape and community, is the key to securing their future.
“Wales is already famed for its majestic mountains, magnificent castles and folklore, and stunning coastline, but it’s high time its churches and chapels also received the recognition that they deserve. We want more people to discover these very special places. Thanks to the support of local travel providers, we have been able to put together some truly unique experiences that showcase the very best of Wales’ sacred history and heritage.”
All the experiences can be viewed on ExploreChurches. The website also showcases the fascinating history and stunning art and architecture of over 500 historic places of worship across Wales.
The project is supported by the National Churches Trust, the church buildings support charity, and managed by NCT Heritage Services Ltd in partnership with Visit Wales, the Church in Wales, Addoldai Cymru, Friends of Friendless Churches and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.
Experiencing Sacred Wales aims to attract UK and international visitors to visit the wonderful sacred heritage of Wales, particularly those along the The Wales Way.
This project has received funding via the Tourism Product Innovation Fund (TPIF) and supported through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Welsh Government, the Fund aims to encourage new innovative product ideas working in partnership which will have a greater impact and attract more visitors.