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Awe walks – seeking wonder in the landscapes of North Wales

Published on 3 May 2021 by Amy Bowers

Poets and philosophers have long acknowledged the power of awe – that feeling of being overwhelmed by a sense of wonder at the beauty or vastness of something you can’t easily understand or explain. A mighty dark mountain, a starry dark night, a roaring spring tide. Awe walks…….

Well now, scientists have finally confirmed its value. In a recent study published by the American Psychological Association, adults who took a weekly ‘awe walk’ reported a significant increase of positive emotions in their lives, and a decrease in anxiety and distress.

And let’s face it, that’s something we could all do with an extra dose of right now.

The ‘awe’ study involved two groups of adults, with one group asked to take a weekly stroll, and the other told to walk, but urged to seek something to be awed by along their route. 

“Awe can be found almost anywhere, but it is most likely to occur in places that involve two key features: physical vastness and novelty,” they were told. Mountains, coast, sunset, sea and the sky – there are plenty of places we can contemplate to experience awe.

After eight weeks, the participants who had been coached on consciously seeking awe reported that they were feeling significantly more positive emotions, such as compassion and gratitude, compared with the control group. 

There were also signs that this group’s sense of their place in the world had changed. 

As well as the mental health benefits, scientists noticed differences in the walkers’ selfies, which increasingly showed pictures of their awesome surroundings rather than of themselves, and measurably broader smiles towards the end of the eight-week study.

We know that seeking or experiencing awe is not a new phenomenon, but perhaps the value of this study is to remind us all to take our time to raise our eyes and shift our energy and attention outward, and to consciously seek to be amazed and delighted by all the wonderful things this beautiful world has to offer us.

A last note to end on: one of our favourite lines from the great romantic poet William Blake:

Great things are done when men and mountains meet,

This is not done by jostling in the street.

We couldn’t agree more. Let’s go meet some mountains for awe walks.

Awe walks – seeking wonder in the landscapes of North Wales

Looking for some awesome walks in North Wales? An off-the-beaten track mountain is a great place to start.  Here are three of our favourites.

Moel Ysgyfarnogod

Step into the wild heart of Snowdonia to explore this hidden gem. Off the beaten track, and a great alternative to Snowdon and the busier peaks of North Wales. Moel Ysgyfarnogod is the most northerly of the Rhinog mountains, a short drive from Harlech, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Criccieth and Beddgelert. 

Yr Eifl

From the summit of Yr Eifl on a clear day you can expect to see as far as the Isle of Man, to the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland and over to the Cumbrian peaks of the Lake District. And you’ll get a fantastic view right down the full sweep of the beautiful Cardigan Bay too. It’s stunning. Yr Eifl is on the north coast of the Llŷn Peninsula.

Moel Hebog

Moel Hebog is Beddgelert’s own mountain, and one of the great awe walks of North Wales. A worthy day of walking will reward you with superb 360 views of Snowdon, Snowdonia and the North Wales coast. On a clear day it is simply sublime. Close to Beddgelert.

 
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